A Voice in the
In a recent communication from a friend the comment came forth something to the effect, Of all years, this year it seems like "religion is the IN thing" for everybody. This, after holiday visits with unregenerate relatives; and everybody had included "manger scenes" along with their festive decorations.
Indeed! In TV channel hopping, the theme this year seemed to be "angels" as well. As a "bonus" it seemed like Roma Downey (star of "Touched by an Angel") was popping up all over the place; hosting this, narrating that, visiting with talk show hosts. And the ever-popular, timeless "angel" show, "It's a Wonderful Life." Public TV, usually the bastion of atheism, was one of the prime presenters of programs commemorating of the birth of Christ. Everybody was on TV; the pope from Rome, the Canadian brass with the Mormons, and various other assorted sundry presentations.
In a recent local evening news cast a local "Russian Baptist" church was featured. Apparently they've built a new building and have already "filled" it, and it made quite a splash. As I first heard it, my ears perked up. I'm always keeping an eye-n-ear out for a possible place to attend for fellowship under the Word of God... Knowing of Russia's "underground Church" and hearing that this was "Russian" I was curious to see if it would possibly be a place that might also have English-speaking services. As they interviewed some English-speaking members; there was NOT ONE WORD about worshiping God, of learning from God's Word. But there was much about it being a place where people could come to be comforted, and have fellowship amongst fellow-Slovaks. And the whole thing was summed up by the anchor, in glowing face absolutely excitedly, that this was a place which was providing unity, finally, for the local Russian community who were "so far away from their homeland." Aaaah, yes. "Unity." Ecumenism.
Not having caught the whole story the first time the segment aired, I got out the phone book, to see if I could find them listed in the yellow pages. It's been a few years since I've looked for churches in the yellow pages... And "how" they present themselves! "A Friendly Bible church" "Church in a whole new light" "exciting Bible preaching" "the people place" "After a week like yours... you need a church like ours. Definitely NOT Boring! Warm accepting people - contemporary - positive - action-packed - exciting - dynamic" Oh! And here's the one that first caught my eye, in full-color, "The Recreational Family Alternative." This one has a photo of a family splashing around in a Swimming Pool, having a great ol' time. Yes... if your jaw just dropped on that one, it's advertising a "church"!! ...not swimming pools! (I wonder if the pastor "dives" into his sermons!?!) This is in what used to be good ol' "conservative" Spokane, WA.
The first of the programs that aired, that I watched, was Robert Shaw from Atlanta. You who know music, and know my background, will understand when I tell you that my e-mail writing of the moment went "on hold" while I cranked up the stereo when "Lo, How a Rose" came on. And then as they sang, "King of kings, and Lord of lords, forever, hallelujah...for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" with the volume cranked ever slightly more, I was caught up in the awe of our God Almighty, the Most High, Who came in human form and "took upon Himself the form of a servant...He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death...therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name..." (Phil2:6-9)
And here's the part I have been in WONDERMENT "this" Nativity season. All these groups singing and proclaiming the birth of Christ, singing words of His purpose in coming, that Mary "bore a Savior." That He came to save His people from their sins. All these groups on TV...UNREGENERATE! They sing and proclaim "a Savior" Even Robert Shaw, turning around, facing the audience and in his rich narrative voice reading from Luke 2, "For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (vs11) (I've never heard that he might be a Believing Christian)
Paul goes on, "..that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and that EVERY TONGUE SHOULD CONFESS that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil2:11)
Modern-day angels proclaim that "man is just as good as God." The "angel of light" (2Cor11:14) so perverts religion that churches now openly advertise themselves as being "in a [new] light." Modern beliefs follow the occult near-death, out-of-body experiences where angels proclaim love, peace and light. Of this Paul warns, "even if..an angel from Heaven preach a gospel to you beside what we preached...let him be accursed." (Gal1:8) Now-a-days it's no longer JUST the Mormons with their angel who visited Joseph Smith. EVERYBODY is following angels. ...from charismatics doing spiritual warfare, casting out demons, to the unregenerate praying to their guardian angels. You see, it's like my friend said, "it's the -IN- thing."
"But the [Holy] Spirit expressly says that IN THE LATTER TIMES some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings [doctrines] of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, being seared in their own conscience.." (1Tm4:1-2) Remember, folks, that DEMONS are "fallen" ANGELS.(Rev12:4) They still have the appearance and abilities of the "good" angels. Until the "dragon" and "his angels" (vs7,9) are cast out of heaven, they still have access to the heavenlies. Since the "dragon" is "Lucifer" ("shining star")(Is14:12) it is to be EXPECTED that he will be presented as "light." His counterfeits will appear as "ministers of righteousness." (2Cor11:15)
OK. Is there a "point" to all these ramblings? Yes. God's Sovereignty. His holiness. His righteousness. And mostly, His "WITNESS" of Himself to all of humanity. And it's really quite a "clever" scheme of things...
The unrighteousness of men "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom1:18) They follow their "angel of light." They establish "churches" for all sorts of reasons "under the sun." (Eccl) They pursue "unity" while elevating man's "self." And in many cases, churches purposely deny God Most High, as they worship man. God "doesn't exist" in a Scriptural sense. We are all ..."gods."
However, God does not leave Himself without witness. He provided creation for man's examination. (Rom1:20) He provides the daily necessities for sustenance. (Acts14:17) And, God Who [IS] the Word (Jn1:1) provides ready accessibility to His Word. "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it. (De30:14) This word "goes out of [God's] mouth" (Is55:11) accomplishing what it is sent for. It does "not return..void."
Men try to suppress the truth, but they cannot escape God. Atheistic Public TV was proclaiming Christ's birth all season, through the songs of Christ's nativity. When I was buying stamps for the January postal mailing, over the intercom was playing "Hark the herald angels sing...glory to the newborn King." "God" and "Jesus Christ" have supposedly been legislated out of public life and government buildings, and yet it was there at the post office. While I thought of making a smart-aleck remark about the song of Christ being played in a "public place", I kept my mouth shut, lest they would take notice, and actually turn it off.
Back to Robert Shaw, now...as tears were welling up in my eyes over God's glory and majesty. There were those marvelous musicians performing gloriously, and likely 99% of them don't know the Christ of whom they sing. Even though they rebel against God, "every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." God's Word is near, in the mouth and in the heart...as people sing of His birth and His gift of salvation. While they deny Him, they sing His praises. Unbeknownst to them, they "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord..."
This fact does not save them. Merely singing of Jesus does not save. Believing that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and that, historically, He died on a Roman cross...does not save. Religion and church does not save.
But you see... when "the dead, the small and the great, stand before God.." (Rev20:12) ...they will be WITHOUT EXCUSE. They will not be able to claim, "I didn't know... if only I had known!!" Not only did they reject "creation" ...the "Word" was in their hearts. Not only did God provide a "conscience" (see: Feb's article for Romans 2), He also planted His Word, Himself, into each individual, so that He might be known. Man was made in God's "image." (Gen1:27) And to the "heathen" Paul proclaimed, "He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.." (Acts17:27-28) "..by Him all things consist." (Col1:17)
However, having this "connection" to God does not save, unless there is "righteousness of faith." (Rom9:30) God's righteousness is revealed from faith. (Rom1:17) "Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is [exists] and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb11:6)
"Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Is55:6-7)