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Into All the World

Into all the World

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Discouraging Statistics?

Recently I was sitting at a table and talking to about ten people from various backgrounds about what has been labeled the “culture wars” in this country.  One young lady who had lived in New York City observed that being a Christian or even discussing Christianity was very unpopular in that city.  I also recently saw a Catholic bishop bemoan the fact that for every person they convert to Catholicism, six Catholics are leaving the faith.  Other denominations seem to be experiencing a similar decline.  Yet when we talk about the church Jesus established (Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16) we are not talking about a human organization, but rather the kingdom of God, which is unshakable (Hebrews 12:28).  So let’s put some things in context:

  • In the Bible there were times that the faithful declined in number, even sharply in number, i.e. during the time of Noah (1 Peter 3:20).  Or, in the time of Elijah (Romans 11:5). 
  • There have been times when faithfulness severely declined even among God’s professed people.  During the time of Isaiah, God speaks of His professed people as an “offspring of evildoers” (Isaiah 1:4). 
  • During the time of both Isaiah and Jeremiah, these prophets who preached among God’s professed people found an audience which had no interest in truth, or the old paths; who instead wanted illusions (Isaiah 30:9-10; Jeremiah 6:16).
  • Various passages in the New Testament warned God’s people in the First Century of a coming apostasy in which many would depart from the faith (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:1ff; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3). 
  • In fact, such a departure was already happening when the apostles were preaching (Galatians 1:6).
  • In the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:11-15), Jesus warned His disciples in advance that there would be people, who after they obeyed the gospel, would also depart from the gospel. 

What this means is that there have been many movements away from the truth in the past (Judges 2:10; Romans 1:18ff; the golden calf; Jeroboam’s golden calves---just to name a few).  Yet believers always existed in that generation and continued into the next.  There always was a remnant.  God continued to work His plan and His message continued to find good and honest hearts.  And the work of those who labored during such times, men like Isaiah and Jeremiah, their work was never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).  In fact, while the disobedience of the time is long past, and the names of the unfaithful are forgotten, the work of Isaiah and Jeremiah continues to bear fruit as honest hearts written what God revealed through them. 

The Same Needs Exist

Someone noted that even when it seems that a good section of the population or the next generation is moving away from the gospel, this does not mean that the familiar questions which have confronted the human race, i.e., “Who am I”, “What is my purpose here?” “What is the meaning of life”, etc…are gone.  All those questions still persist.  Even when people move away from God, this does not mean that they are satisfied with how they are living.  People can often put on a cheerful face, but the reality behind that face is often far different.  In 2 Samuel chapter 11, David commits adultery and yet nothing is said about how David is feeling on the inside.  From that chapter it looks like David is off the hook, has avoided scandal and has moved on with his life.  Yet in Psalm 32 we discover that during the time between the adultery and being confronted by Nathan the prophet, David was absolutely dying on the inside:

  • “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away, through my groaning all day long.  For day and night, Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (32:3-4).

We have a similar statement in the book of Isaiah concerning the impact of guilt upon the human conscience:

“We hope for light, but behold, darkness, for brightness, but we walk in gloom.  We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.  All of us growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves” (Isaiah 59:10-11).

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for our souls.  For my yoke is easy and My burden is light”.

What an amazing invitation!  Yet, so many people are skeptical or resistant.  What Jesus said here simply agrees with reality:

  • Trying to live by my wits is exhausting.
  • The yoke that I have made for myself—or that others have made for me is incredibility heavy, impractical or completely unless.
  • Trying to figure it all out on my own, living by trial and error, stubbornly following the same old path and getting the same old predictable results, and living chained to all my moral failures and deep dark secrets, is a burden that no one can carry for long without experiencing severe side effects.

 The Same Sins Exist

We certainly consider ourselves “modern” and “enlightened” and yet this does not mean that human knowledge or our solutions have liberated us from the darkness.  All the same sins mentioned in the Old and New Testament still exist today, with all the same predictable consequences, fallout, drama, physical consequences, etc….  No matter when you live, what the Bible says about sin is still true (Galatians 6:7; John 8:32).   Recently I was impressed with the following comments concerning what are called “vices” or “sins”:

  • Vice isn’t romantic.  Often Satan or those who do his will attempt to sell vice as something incredibly amazing and passionate, yet the reality is that vice brings lots of complications and problems.  Consider what Solomon said about adultery, “Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out” (Proverbs 6:33).
  • Solomon equally takes the romance out of an illicit relationship when he says, “For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain.  Her house is the way of Sheol, descending to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:26-27). 
  • Vice brings a lot of suffering.  “But the way of the treacherous is hard”(Proverbs 13:15).  “Receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (Romans 1:27).

There is Nothing New

We might be tempted to think that what is happening in our time is unprecedented, yet many of the trends of the present day have surfaced, risen, become popular, and then collapsed in the past:

  • People who want to redefine good as evil and evil as good (Isaiah 5:20).
  • Rejecting absolute truth and wanting to do what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25).
  • Basing our decisions upon feelings (Proverbs 16:25).
  • Doing what feels good at the moment (Philippians 3:19).
  • Wanting the Bible to be watered down so it sounds good to us (2 Timothy 4:3).
  • The lack of any kind of sexual restraint (Romans 1:26-27; Genesis 19:4-5).
  • Thinking we are smarter than all previous generations (Proverbs 30:11-12).