The answer to the moral crisis of our day

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The answer to the moral crisis of our day

July 22, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

© serge_mos /stock.adobe.com

© serge_mos /stock.adobe.com

I am reading through Jeremiah in my personal Bible study these days and came across a statement that arrested my attention.

Jeremiah 3 finds God’s people in crisis. They have committed idolatry and spiritual adultery against their Lord (vv. 1–2). As a result, “the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come” (v. 3).

Their plight felt familiar to me. After decades of the “sexual revolution” and the growing immorality it is producing, our culture seems further from God’s word and will than ever. Additionally, we are caught in a “perfect storm” of the coronavirus pandemic, opioid addiction, “deaths of despair,” inflation, political divisiveness, and rising geopolitical threats. Only 13 percent of Americans say the country is on the right track.

Whether God is causing these conditions or allowing them, he intends to use them to draw us from ourselves to him, showing us our need for what only he can do.

How does he do this?

In verse 15, the Lord promises: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (v. 15). As a result, the nation “shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart” (v. 17). They would repent of their sin, acknowledging that “we have sinned against the Lᴏʀᴅ our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lᴏʀᴅ our God” (v. 25).

Such repentance would position them to receive the grace God wanted his people to experience.

Mud on our pants

“Shepherds” (ro-im in the Hebrew) are people who protect sheep and lead them to graze (cf. Psalm 23:1–3). But unlike everyday shepherds, God promises that these leaders would be “after my own heart,” meaning “like me in my inclinations, disposition, character, and thoughts.”

As a result, they would “feed” (“lead to pasture”) their spiritual sheep with “knowledge” (“wisdom”) and “understanding” (the application of that wisdom to life). They would teach the people to know God’s word and apply its truth to their daily lives and decisions.

This prayer in the Book of Common Prayer captures their calling: “O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand the things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them.”

When we teach God’s word and apply its truth to life, such insight becomes foundational to the repentance it produces.

A man was walking on a city sidewalk at night when a passing car splashed water from the street onto his trousers. He looked at his pants and decided they were fine. But as he walked under a streetlight and looked again, he saw the mud stains that caused him to return home to change clothes.

Secular people deserve to know what God says about their lives and culture. When they have no biblical truth against which to measure their moral decisions, it is unsurprising that they would continue as they are. But when we teach God’s word and apply it to the issues of our day, they are forced to see the “mud” in their lives. The Holy Spirit then works to bring conviction and repentance leading to the transformation and awakening our culture needs so desperately.

Planting trees we’ll never sit under

Three results follow.

One: Be encouraged in your calling.

God promises that his word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). When we teach and apply biblical truth, those who hear us cannot be the same. God’s Spirit then uses God’s word to bring about the conviction, repentance, and transformation that advances God’s kingdom.

As we work, God works. If we are faithful to our calling, God will be faithful to use us in ways we cannot imagine. We will “plant trees we’ll never sit under” (Alfred North Whitehead) and become catalysts for spiritual awakening in the purposes and providence of God.

Two: Seek God’s heart for your calling.

The shepherds God promised would be “after my own heart.” Their wisdom and knowledge would come from his Spirit. He would be the source of their compassion and power, their work and its results.

A power saw is made to need the power upon which it depends. A car is designed to run on the gasoline that fuels it. You and I are made to depend on the Spirit of God to speak the truth of God in the power of God. The more we rely on him, the more we are used by him.

Three: Be urgent in your calling.

While you and I are not responsible for the conviction of sin only the Holy Spirit can produce, we are responsible for speaking the truth the Spirit uses for such purposes. As Paul asked, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).

Paul testified, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). While God did the latter, Paul and Apollos were responsible for doing the former. So are we.

“Be ready in season and out of season”

One last note: speaking and applying God’s word is to be not just our Sunday vocation but our everyday lifestyle. Paul was insistent: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). We are to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

If you and I will seek and speak biblical truth wherever we have the opportunity, God will use us as catalysts for spiritual transformation. Like the shepherds of Jeremiah’s day, we will be God’s means to his eternal ends.

As I often note, the darker the room, the more powerful and urgent the light.

How visible will your light be today?

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