Lies that lead us astray • Denison Forum

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Lies that lead us astray

May 23, 2024 -

Two men praying together. By Lydia/stock.adobe.com

Two men praying together. By Lydia/stock.adobe.com

Two men praying together. By Lydia/stock.adobe.com

“They have rejected the law of the Lᴏʀᴅ, and have not kept his statutes,

but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked.

So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem”

(Amos 2:4–5).

Is America a nation God can bless?

If not, what can America’s Christians do to be the salt and light we need (Matthew 5:14–16)?

Every spiritual awakening has been catalyzed by three imperatives:

  1. See the crisis.
  2. Seek God’s help.
  3. Share the truth.

Let’s discuss ways we can take these three steps and thus join God in advancing the spiritual movement our culture needs so desperately today.


Note: This article complements episode 8 of “Being Christian in today’s culture,” a Denison Forum Podcast series.

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(1) See the crisis

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

“Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

A nation God can bless stands on seven pillars:

  • Biblical truth and authority
  • The necessity of faith in Christ
  • The sanctity of life from conception to natural death
  • Biblical sexuality
  • Racial and gender equality
  • Political civility
  • Cultural engagement

Each of these is in crisis today:

  • Biblical truth and authority is rejected by postmodern relativism and our “post-truth” culture.
  • The necessity of faith in Christ is rejected by universalism and religious pluralism.
  • The sanctity of life is rejected by advocates for abortion and euthanasia.
  • Biblical sexuality is rejected by LGBTQ advocates.
  • Racial and gender equality are rejected by systemic injustice.
  • Political civility is rejected by “politics as religion” animosity.
  • Cultural engagement by the church is rejected by those who consider us to be irrelevant and even dangerous.

We see immorality and deceit among our national and corporate leaders, mirroring the crisis in ancient Judah: “Those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up” (Isaiah 9:16). Consequently, “Everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly” (v. 17). Such sinfulness degenerates and corrupts the civility essential to the common good: “Each devours the flesh of his own arm, Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah” (vv. 20–21).

The God who is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8) must judge sinful people and nations. His judgment is first permissive, allowing us the consequences of our sinful choices (cf. Romans 1:21–32). If we will not repent, his judgment must become punitive, responding directly to our sins (cf. Joel 3:2).

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it (Jeremiah 18:7–10).

This was true of his chosen people: “Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lᴏʀᴅ, defying his glorious presence” (Isaiah 3:8). How much more is it true of America today?

Every spiritual awakening began when God’s people saw the crisis of their day and understood that they needed to respond urgently and redemptively.

(2) Seek God’s help

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Human words cannot change human hearts. You and I cannot convict a single sinner of a single sin or save a single soul. This is the sovereign work of God’s Spirit as he moves in human hearts (cf. John 16:8).

This is why every spiritual awakening moves from seeing the crisis to seeking the Lord:

  • The Pentecost miracle began in Jerusalem as the first Christians “were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).
  • The First Great Awakening began as a prayer movement led by Theodore Frelinghuysen in colonial America.
  • The Second Great Awakening began as a call to prayer by Baptist minister Isaac Backus.
  • The Third Great Awakening began as a “businessman’s prayer meeting” movement.
  • The Fourth Great Awakening began in an all-night prayer meeting led by coal miner Evan Roberts.

Elisabeth Elliot observed, “Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between his will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.” D. A. T. Pierson was right: “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”

(3) Share the truth

“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace” (Zechariah 8:16).

“Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Transformative spiritual movements begin when God’s people see the crisis and seek God’s transformative help. However, they are empowered as well when we join God at work by speaking his truth to the people and sharing his grace.

  • The Pentecost miracle resulted from the proclamation of the gospel by the disciples (Acts 2:5–13) and Peter (vv. 14–36) and the practical ministry of the people (vv. 42–47).
  • The First Great Awakening was catalyzed by the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.
  • The Second Great Awakening was empowered by the camp meeting movement led by evangelists across the frontier.
  • The Third Great Awakening was preceded by the preaching of Charles Finney, Phoebe and Walter Palmer, and the leadership of Jeremiah Lanphier, then catalyzed by the “Businessman’s Prayer Meeting” movement and practical ministries.
  • The Fourth Great Awakening was sparked by the preaching of Evan Roberts and the ministries of those who responded.

How can you and I join God in advancing a fifth great awakening in our day?

Consider an analogy: When you have an opportunity to share your faith or otherwise stand for biblical truth, you can feel as though you’re on trial and the other person is the prosecutor looking for ways to discredit you. In fact, Jesus is on trial; Satan is the prosecutor; the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney; the person you’re engaging is the jury; and you’re simply a witness called to the stand. Your job is to obedient and leave the results of the trial to God.

Now let’s take this analogy further. I’m no lawyer, but I’ve watched enough courtroom dramas on television to know that the defense attorney typically has a “theory of the case,” an argument she wants to persuade the jury to believe. To this end, she calls you to the stand at the right time to offer testimony that will advance her argument.

Beforehand, she prepares you to answer her questions and to handle cross-examination by the prosecutor. As a result, when you are called to testify, you are ready to do what you can do best to help win the case.

In kingdom terms, this analogy means:

One: Identify your kingdom assignment. Know how your gifts, abilities, experiences, education, challenges, and opportunities have formed you to do what only you can do in serving your Lord. Pray and reflect until you can complete the sentence, “My ministry is _______________.”

Two: Submit to the Spirit at the start of each day (Ephesians 5:18). Pray with David: “Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8).

Three: Worship Jesus each day. We enter his empowering presence with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4). Take time to read his word, pray, give thanks, and offer your praise.

Four: Pray about the needs you meet. Ask God for his best for hurting people in the news and in your sphere of influence. Make Samuel’s commitment to his nation yours: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lᴏʀᴅ by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).

Five: Now do what comes naturally. Trust that the Spirit is guiding and using you as his witness in spiritual trials for eternal souls. St. Augustine advised us: “Love God and do what you will.”

Conclusion

It is estimated that 7 to 9 percent of America’s population is truly evangelical, committed to the truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven and the Bible is God’s authoritative word. This could be a movement of twenty-five million people who choose to think biblically and then use their cultural influence to act redemptively.

Imagine leaders in business, medicine, education, and our churches engaging and empowering such a movement within their spheres of influence. I believe this would be a necessary precursor to the spiritual awakening we need so desperately.

As we work, God works. When we speak and live God’s truth, his Spirit uses his word to change hearts and transform culture. Across our nation’s history, we have seen this pattern emerge again and again.

Now is the time for another movement of God’s people advancing God’s kingdom with God’s word in God’s power for God’s glory. Imagine the difference in our culture if every Christian took these steps every day. Now let’s be the difference we wish to see.

Oswald Chambers observed: “A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of his fullness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Consequently, he advised: “Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.”

How close to your Source is your soul today?

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