|Sunday, June 14, 2020|
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
uestions are often asked for different reasons; to obtain knowledge, to seek for clarification, to challenge a notion, or as a posture of defiance. However, there are instances in the Scripture when God asked questions. Obviously, He was not asking the questions because of lack of knowledge: "He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not He know?" "Shall any teach God knowledge? Seeing he judgeth those that are high" (Psalm 94:10, Job 21:22). Upon that very premise we come to grapple with the question the Lord Jesus asked; "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Clearly, this was not a question for which the LORD anticipated a hurried response; it was a question that communicates a deep concern.
We will recall the Scripture reveals three divine realities; Faith, Hope and Love, the crowning glory of the three entities being Love (1 Cor. 13:13). The LORD was not bothered whether He would meet Hope and Love when He returns; what He was concerned with was whether He would meet Faith. We are also careful to note that the concern of the LORD is placed at a specific time frame; when He comes back to the earth or in a language better suited to our destiny calendar, the end time.
Without any doubt, Satan's assault will be unsparing of the three divine realities in the last days, a precarious time for people who followed Christ. With His eyes on the future, the Lord Jesus painted a disturbing picture of what is to happen to His own people as the world nears its end. Specifically, there is a glimpse of what happens to Love which is laid bare in Matthew 24:12: "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold." The Holy Spirit would further illuminate this prophecy in the Epistles, stressing how Love will be so disrobed of its divine essence and re-invented to feed self-interest, bolstering human ambition and appetite. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves……., high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God..." (1Timothy 3: 1-4). A disciple named Demas was publicly identified as a victim of this satanic deluge. He left the glorious and eternal company of an apostolic team to find his own way because of love for "this present world" (2Timothy 4:10). Weightless as Love seems to have become in our time, God has given it as a credit to receive a crown of righteousness on the LORD's Convocation Day because someone loves the appearing of Christ. (2Timothy 4:8). Do you love His appearing? Do you anticipate His return? There you are; you are already qualified for a crown. However, no way any Christian would love Christ returning if their love is already attached to this world in any form or shape. Scripture has indicated the friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).
But what happens to Hope? Well, it appears Hope has its dynamism woven into Faith. The Scripture defines faith as substance of things hoped for... (Hebrews 11:1) Hope, as it were, stands only when Faith is still active. The protective gear of Faith from the beginning is Love (faith works by love - Gal. 5:6). It simply means the ground upon which our faith works is the love we have for God who is the center of our faith. But with Love so emasculated, Faith comes on a direct firing line from the enemy.
The battle is intense, and the field is littered with strewn bodies of erstwhile giants of faith, whose love for God turned to self-love, who turned their back on the Father of the spirits to form alliance with spirits of the Father. Even before the world is locked down by the current pandemic, the Church, the only restraining force against the devil in this world was already infiltrated. Seducing spirits have overwhelmed the Holy Spirit and with many "Men of God" becoming the "Gods of men", it is fearful watching the descent of the Church into irrelevance. The decline in character, the disregard of obedience to the holy writ, and the substitute of form for substance, have all served as index of a Church that has lost its saltiness.
Like Samson, the Church has tinkered with "anointing", ignoring the underlying covenant, and has now become a sport in the arena of a prowling, untiring enemy. With eyes plucked out and vision lost, the Church like Samson must now grind at the mills of its enemies. The Church, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15), because of utter disregard and contempt for the Holy God must now be tied like Samson, to a pillar of shame holding the fortress of amusement and vanity. But how did Samson get this far out? Were there no warnings? Were there no true prophets; brave and courageous prophets like Elijah and Micaiah who could stand out from the crowd of merchants of Baal, and declare "Thus says the LORD"? Oh, I am sorry; why should we even be bothered about Samson when the Church is the current focus of intense demonic attack? Has the Church been abandoned by its Founder? Has the Holy Spirit ceased from speaking out loud against a Church that is bent on self-destruction? Hummn.
There exist some disturbing parallels between the children of Israel and the Church which seriously call for our introspection. Let me bring two instances to support this. In Numbers 14:40-45, we were confronted with a people who did not hide their cynicism of God's Promised Land that remained at best to them, illusive, preferring a return trip back to Egypt to a certain bondage and servitude but with guaranteed daily meal as the gain. It was one of the many episodes of heated confrontation between God and the children of Israel which obviously tore terribly at the patience of God. Moses spoke to the people how God felt about their petulance, and the people thinking they could impress God, rose with one consent to move on to the Promised Land. "So, they got up early the next morning and got ready to head toward the hill country of Canaan. They said, "We were wrong to complain about the LORD. Let's go into the land that he promised us." (Numbers 14:40). Self-willed and haughty, they rose with one accord, heading in the direction of their shared destiny relying on God's promise but leaving God who made the promise behind. I wonder at the arrogance of the present-day Church which stands on the irrevocable promises of God while alienated from God. But Moses warned them of their newly found fervour; "Don't go up, for the LORD isn't with you. Don't be struck down before your enemies." (Numbers 14:42). You see, all that matters in this journey is the presence of God, and Moses despite his encounters with God, would not joke with it. It was the same Moses who begged God, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here." (Exodus 33:15). They went anyways but what a painful defeat in the hands of die-hard enemies!
This is my second instance. The ark of the covenant was the physical evidence of God's presence among the children of Israel. For all their years in Egypt, they never had this benefit until they left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and on the way to God's Promised Land. God would visit them through His prophets but never abode with them while in Egypt. From the moment the ark was reared up, it replaced the leading by pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. God has decided to tabernacle with His people in the journey of hope and led them by Himself. But sooner they became so familiar with the ark of the covenant that they could determine by themselves when it was needed and when it was not. In the episode earlier mentioned, the Scripture says, "But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless, the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp." (Numbers 14:44).
The Church is out of sync with the Holy Spirit and the resulting consequences are hidden in plain sight. Even though there are always remnants who stand true to their call at certain points in time, walking in integrity and the fear of God, God would have to defend His own holiness by not allowing the wicked to have the last laugh. As for Samson, in his contrition, the presence of God returned to him and was empowered to slay in record number enemies that put him out of commission. Similarly, God honoured His own covenant in the ark and caused it to destroy the gods of the Philistines and vast number of the people who held the ark captive. Where His people failed, God has never failed to defend His name. The Lord Jesus has spoken; the Gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18). By now, it must be a painful admission for Satan, that no matter how much he exerts his viciousness to decimate the Church, it would only be a scratch; Christ has taken all the beating on the cross, never will affliction rise the second time! (Nahum 1:9)
Let's get back to our theme. The Lord Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. It is clear, true faith is grounded on love for Christ. Peter knew that enquiry was a laser probe, judging from his two notable failings. First, he had denied Christ as soon as He was arrested and second, he had led other disciples to return to fishing after the crucifixion. The LORD's question was intrusive, scanning the crannies of Peter's heart to see if he was indeed in touch with what destiny had in store for him, far beyond paddling canoes across Jordan river in search of fingerlings. In the ensuing Corvid-19 pandemic, the LORD may not be bothered as to whether you love Him or not; He already foresaw the mood of the time - a time of waning love because of rampant iniquities. What the LORD is asking you is; Would He meet you with faith at His return?
There are two sides of this faith worthy of mention: faith as a lifeline and faith as the power to obtain divine help for earthly needs. The former strengthens the latter. Faith as a lifeline which is the core of our divine connection with God has been put to the test during this corona virus pandemic. The longer Christians stay away from one another due to lockdown which prevented local churches from meeting, the degree to which the constituent of their faith is exposed. There are likely three elements in our modern-day church service - entertainment, fellowship and communion.
No matter how long this lockdown lasts, a true Christian may miss the first two, but will not miss communion with the heavenly Father. In fact, the lockdown provides the ample time for the believer to stay in God's presence and deepen their faith in Him. Isolation was the ground upon which the last Book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation was revealed and written by Apostle John. Mere church goers do not even know what communion is, so they are bound to lose in all three. They are candidates for re-evangelising when the lockdown is lifted.
A church where the love of the truth is absent, where emotion and sentimentalism are elevated to sedate people and make them high on the opiate of crafted revelation and lying wonders, the end product cannot be anything but a faith grounded in illusion. True salvation and strong faith are strictly tied to the love of the truth and a willingness to obey God. The coming of antichrist is to be heralded by powerful signs and wonders with the intent to deceive the people of God. Christians whose faith-life is built on erratic prophecies or principles to achieve happiness or greatness in this world have their feet planted in a sinking sand.
Faith that is not grounded on the revealed knowledge of God through the Scripture and the finished work of Christ on the cross is mere fantasy. The Scripture warned us beforehand how we must be careful of the basis of our faith; "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought." (1 Cor.2:4-6) Clearly, faith that is built with its tackles on this world is bound to be swept away with the world but faith built on Christ will withstand any tempest. It is the faith that can guarantee your victory in the ensuing crisis and get you ready for His return.