Does it seem like it is increasingly harder and harder to find a good church? I’m not talking about the mega-church with its own zip code and parking attendants, but the kind that when you worship, you feel the presence of God in your midst. Where the Gospel is not abandoned for flowery upbeat, self-help sermons on how to be a better you, but the kind that puts the old rugged cross at the crossroads of every man and woman’s life.
Increasingly, as we see the end approaching, we see the apostasy and heresy that have always been present to varying extents within Christendom, start to take over, and what was once a nuisance, is now a serious threat to the very Gospel we cling to. More and more born-again believers are departing their churches for worship in homes or with friends, rather than part-taking in the emergent or ecumenical movements that are sweeping across the land. For this, the born-again believer has become increasingly isolated.
“The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Saviour glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglected. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this, he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart. It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God."
-AW Tozer: The Saint Must Walk Alone
It’s hard not to feel some sense of isolation here in this day and age when so many churches run lukewarm. My intent here is not to expose some new shocking detail about the cults or the pseudo-quasi religions masquerading as Christianity, but to encourage those of you who find it increasingly difficult to find commonality amongst other people, especially Christians, in these waning days as we wait upon the Lord to return. It seems the longer we wait, the fewer people we find that simply hold to the simplicity of the Gospel. Paul stated THIS was the gospel he preached and the ONLY one that saved:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6
Because the Gospel we hold to runs so counter-intuitive to anything the world offers, it continually separates us from the expanding theological persuasion that there are many paths to God or that God is in everything. It (the world) is forcing us either to assimilate or face destitution. Surely, our growing cultural isolationism is a testament to the lateness of the hour in which we find ourselves. Not only are those who oppose the Gospel message more numerous, but they do so now with increased vitriol and hostility.
This is not just in the Muslim world, where there was always a certain level of intolerance, but in the “Christian” westernized nations that have church histories dating back many centuries have all but shunned the evangelical Christian. But this is no surprise to the biblically literate, as it is stated in numerous places that we would increasingly find ourselves at odds with the world (1 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 2-3) Jesus said:
If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:18-19
We find it harder and harder to find pleasure these days, so dedicated to the god of this world. Nothing is sacred anymore, nothing is so pure or innocent that it can’t be tainted by some scandal or depravity.
While our longing to be with Christ goes on day after day as seemingly unanswered, many lose faith and wander off seeking enlightenment elsewhere. Then there are those who remain so fixed on our deliverance, that they move from event to event, hoping that it means some more conclusive sign that our enthusiasm is not misplaced. Quite often they are disappointed that the Lord did not come at some appointed time they had figured out.
But our hope isn’t in the Rapture itself, although we look forward to that day with much anticipation, it is in the person who is doing the catching up.
If we have faith in who Jesus is, then we know that His promise (Jn 14:1-3) is not delayed for the sake of delaying. We know that His delay is so that all the men and women that could be saved, would be (2 Peter 3:9). But even though the knowledge of that delay is justified still does not fully satisfy our desire to leave this fallen world and be with our Redeemer. It just makes the understanding a little more tolerable to bear.
I believe that the reason the Bible spends so much time emphasizing that we love one another is that Jesus knew how difficult this world would be for the believer. We are sojourners in this world, pilgrims passing through (1 Peter 2:11). Many, who have gone before us did not see the promise of the Messiah within their lifetimes, and they often struggled with profound difficulties we here in modern America could barely fathom.
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:36-40
We are the arms for the Body of Christ here on this earth now. Having received our salvation by the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ, and being sealed unto the day of promise by the Holy Spirit, we are to reach out to our brothers and sisters showing them a true, genuine concern and caring, that the world is incapable of offering. In lifting each other up, we strengthen and encourage the remaining body of Christ as a whole here. This shows the world something that is so strange and obscure that they can’t wrap their mind around it. That our hope is not based on money, government handouts, entitlement programs, or anything else on this earth. Our hope doesn’t even lie in this realm of life. We realize that our life, even if to 120 years of age, is a blemish on a grain of sand compared to eternity (Ps 103:15). Our reward is forever in the company of the Creator of this universe.
Don’t lose hope, even though our world is growing darker. It only means your light will shine that much brighter. It will draw some, but it also makes us an easier target to spot by those who hate Christianity in the world. As time continues on, it will seem like the darkness is threatening to engulf us all and swallow us up in an ocean of violence and depravity, it is at times like these that we must stand together. We must build each other up and pray for brothers and sisters in Christ, to stand strong and not lose hope. It is always darkest before dawn, and when our day of redemption does come, all these troubles will be over for us as we rule and reign with our Lord and Savior forever. Hold fast to this promise:
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Revelation 3:10
By the way, in case you were wondering, Currahee is a Cherokee word that means "we stand alone together," which is a fitting motto for us believers here in the last days. Hold fast to the faith, and keep running for that crown. Our family may dwindle in size, but God always has His remnant.
Author's note: Originally published on Monday, September 26, 2011, at the beginning of my time with the Omega Letter. Prior to the writing of this, I spent four glorious years with the 101st Airborne in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, of which, the Fourth Brigade Combat Team (formerly known as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment [of the HBO miniseries 'Band of Brothers' fame] had the unit moniker of "Currahee." You can read their history here if you want.
As an aside, I found the image of the lone platoon running up Mt. Currahee similar to our current struggle as Christians in these last days. We are not just running the race, but we are doing so uphill, alone, and oftentimes, in varying states of misery. Just keep in mind that this race is almost over, and that trumpet is about to sound. Keep running, never quit, and know that we might be alone, but we are "alone together."