Dear Church Family,
I know that many of you are looking forward to the July 4th weekend, and in anticipation you may be gearing up to launch some fireworks, eat some hot dogs and hamburgers, wave the flag, light up a sparkler, spend some time with family, and maybe even have some good ‘ol fashioned applied pie. Time with family is valuable and something to which I hold close to my heart.
Unfortunately, with me, there is not much about this weekend to get excited about any more, except to be with you all on Sunday and preach the gospel—for that reason, I live. I need to address something—there is a storm cloud above us—I saw this cloud rising over America years ago, I was forewarned, and yes, years before this current administration. As your pastor, I want to encourage you and give you some advice, which has helped me; clearly this is not exhaustive.
1. God Is Sovereign, Have No Fear.
God has the last word, not man, not government. We must remember that God is the One who raises up kingdoms and tears them down, for His purpose, plan, and glory. We should not be surprised when unregenerate man finds God’s laws and ways unethical, immoral, or lacking any relativity. Should we be surprised? No, we shouldn’t. I learned years ago that God’s ways are not like humanity’s (Is. 55). Call me a visionary or whatever you may, but I know what I saw and believe it with it all of my heart—it is comforting to know that God is in control. Times will surely get much, much worse for the church. The body of Christ should be prepared to live counter-cultural. To live [and to love] with conviction, peace, and contentment.
Assuredly, Daniel and his three friends must have thought the world was over when they were taken into captivity, to Babylon. But I bet their fears were subsided a little knowing that prophets had foretold of the doom to come. Daniel, even though he went through many trials and tribulation, endured and did some great things for God. Daniel was steadfast. And now, more than ever in your life, the tides have shifted in a land that you once called home (you are a citizen of heaven)—they will get much worse here, before they get better—I read the Book’s ending. Mark my words. But do not lose hope, do not lose heart, and do not lose love.
Jesus declared, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7 ESV).
2. Christ Is Eternal
I learned a long time ago that I am great sinner and in need of the masterful and merciful Savior, who is filled with all grace. Likewise, my objective in life, knowing that I fail, is the gospel. I know that I will have good days and bad days, but Christ is eternal, my hope is found in Him. I also know that there is a lost and hurting world out there—much like I was. One which has no idea of the amount of love that my Savior has for them, and yet, this will not sway me from trying to plant more churches, heal more wounds, encourage more people, and stay optimistic about the salvation of Christ.
The gospel is the key. God incarnate came down from heaven, not to condemn the world, but to save it. The gospel not only saves us, but sustains us—it is more than hope, it is eternal. Jesus overcame sin and death and has risen from the dead; this is good news! This means that the resurrected Jesus has not only declared life, but shown us life, with a visible and tangible body. You and I, and all who believe and proclaim the gospel as truth, have eternal life with Him, and will have a resurrected body, some day.
As the Apostle John wrote, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 21:3-4, 6a ESV). Jesus Christ is eternal.
3. The Church Cannot Be Silenced
Jesus is the head of the church. The church cannot be silenced because Christ cannot be silenced—for He is Lord and God. Christ, as the head of the church, rules and reigns the cosmos and this earth—He is still in charge. And yet, some Christians are worried about man-made laws, decisions, and opinions. Jesus told Peter and the disciples, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18 ESV).
But let us get one thing clear—culture is not the enemy. People are not the enemy and governing bodies are not the enemy. The enemy is Satan and the wicked forces of evil, which follow him (Eph. 6). However, God more powerful than he. And God is love. We should be reminded that the early church did not have a government that thought kindly of them, and they expanded exponentially. Evil is conquered by love. True love. Man cannot know love without God. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV). We know love because God showed us love.
One of the best passages concerning love is 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). At weddings, I recite this, not because it’s all warm and fuzzy, but because God is love, and without God there is no love; hence, there is no marriage or unity without God. But, if we love God, we will be diligent to show others that true love—that God did not come to condemn, but to save.
4. The Whole World Is Our Mission Field
John Wesley, who was removed of his congregation from the Church of England, never allowed it to deter him. He declared, “I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to…” As believers in Christ, our bounden duty is also to talk about Jesus Christ, more specifically, to proclaim the good news to those who are hurting, lost, and desperate. Now more than ever, when the Western world is seeking its own style of love, when it seeks out a bottomless vacuum of void, there will be nothing to fill it, and yet, you and I possess the solution. I pray that we’re there. Now more than ever, God has allowed us to be alive and present on this world stage of events—to proclaim with love and compassion that God heals the broken hearted, saves the lost, and woos the rebelliously prideful back to him. It is by grace that we are saved.
The early church was filled with drunkards, prostitutes, liars, thieves, homosexuals, fornicators, and idolaters. I see no difference today. There is nothing new under the sun, and “Jesus Christ, [is] the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). The entire first-century gentile church was filled with sinners and somehow, God prevailed—imagine that—the message of the gospel was “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
So, let us not lose heart and let us not lose focus. Christ is our Shepherd, God is Almighty, and the Holy Spirit is active. Stand fast, church. Hold your ground. We are only sharing in the tribulations of the saints, as Paul proclaimed, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
With much love…His servant & Yours, Pastor Matt