Updated: Aug 17
If you are a Christian, you possess new affections.
If you are a Christian, you have a solemn responsibility.
If you are a Christian, you are free from the shackles of despair.
You may struggle, and you may fall; you may capitulate to various temptations and allurements, and times will come when you stray from the path of righteousness; but because of the new nature which now indwells your spirit, you cannot be dominated by such failings.
Even in the face of death, that doom which awaits of all men, we are possessors of a common hope that will avail us of our greatest fear. Even in the fiercest fire and the darkest desolation, there is comfort still to be found, if we are willing to humble ourselves before God, setting aside the supreme vanity of our own perceived might to cling to Christ in our all frailty and weakness.
In spite of the darkness that abounds all about us, we need not ever fear the future, for God indeed "is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6) Trials and tribulations will overtake all, but with the eyes of the seeing, wrought of God, we are now steadfastly aware that there is yet purpose and assurance and hope, which even in the direst peril can never be wholly lost to us.
The Worldview of the Wicked
Conversely, things could not be more different for the wicked and unrighteous man. Left to his own devices, without bonds and principles to stay him, he will consume not only himself but those of him in the vomit of his great vanity. The fruit of this mindset is acutely assessed in Job's description of the wicked to his mocking friends: "They say to God, 'Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of your ways." (Job 21:14)
Having purposed within his heart to remove the hope of God and dwell in defiant ignorance and stupidity for all his days, such a man must now place his faith in fallen men, to the detriment of them all. In of itself, the fallenness of our flesh can never truly breed long-standing monuments to a confident expectancy, before the very nature of that which first erected it, brings about its own destruction. The hope of men, therefore, is a counterfeit ruse, doomed from the very beginning to beget despair.
In the absence of light, darkness must pervade all. "The Light has," indeed, "come into the world," but "men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) When the one, true Light of Christ has been displaced from the hearts of men, no other alternative exists with which they might cast off the shadow of the dark. Only fear, the fear that they will lose the little they have left to them, remains. As a direct consequence of this defiance, the trials we face present a great danger to an unregenerate world.
To those blinded by egocentric self-interest to the Light of Christ, and thus, bound fully by the fraudulences of the flesh, there is always something dreadfully amiss; they fear what is to come and what will be.
To avail them in their need, the Unbeliever places merit in their riches and possessions and standing, determined to drown out the Truth with the inundations of the moment, but when faced with death, these things are rendered naught: for to such as these, Death is a horror and ever-present fear that cannot be undone till the world is mended.
Such claims, they may, of course, deny; but as many can now safely testify, our present circumstances (specifically the sheer panic that ensued on behalf of COVID-19) have assuredly brought to light their own self-deceit.
For the unsaved, there is no hope. There can be no hope. It is decreed by the very truths to which they declare themselves bound.
Our Unchanging Desire
Unlike the fallen philosophy of many who take up residence within the pews of our churches, we are not the world. We are indeed in the world, but not of the world. (John 17:14-19) If we were of this world, "the world would love its own," Christ reminds us, "but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." (John 15:19)
This is important to differentiate because it defines our chief purpose in this life. No longer do we serve the interests of self, but Christ alone, being ourselves Followers of Christ. Our devotion has been removed from a state of perpetual narcissism to one of selfless commitment to the will of an almighty God. Certainly, we are still susceptible to the enticements of the flesh, but because of the radical work of the spirit which has taken place within us, these are deviations from a standard, not the standard.
In short, our desires and affections have been thoroughly upended. We were born "haters of God" and lovers of that which is evil, but upon our conversion, these two sentiments were exchanged fully for one another. Our uttermost desire exists now for the glorification of a loving Saviour.
Evangelist and expositor Paul Washer articulates it in this fashion: "The closer you come to God, the more of the world you must leave behind. The two are polar opposites. Mutually exclusive. Incompatible."
As Followers of Christ, our chief desire should—no, it must—be to grow in the knowledge of the living God, and through that avenue, further our desire for Him. That is from where all our actions must stem. The more we grow in the knowledge of God and all that He has done, the more we will aspire to submit in faithful obedience to the full enormity of His will.
Washer, who is perhaps my favourite preacher to listen to, further encapsulates this monumental truth in the following words: "The goal of the Christian life is the pursuit of an intimate knowledge of God that leads to a greater estimation of His worth, a greater satisfaction and joy in His person, and a greater giving of oneself for His glory."
This is further affirmed in Daniel 11:32, where we are presented with an account of the future deeds of Antiochus (explicitly linked as a direct precursor to Antichrist): "By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action." (emphasis added)
The man known to many as the "Prince of Preachers," one Charles Haddon Spurgeon, openly declared: "There must be knowledge of God before there can be love to God: there must be a knowledge of divine things, as they are revealed, before there can be an enjoyment of them."
In 2 Peter 3:17-18, the apostle Peter ends his two books with this command: "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (emphasis added)
"Unless we know God deeply, we cannot love him deeply," contends the late R.C. Sproul. "Deepening knowledge must precede deepening affection."
The apostle Paul stresses the vast significance of this in his rebuke to the Corinthians: "Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." (1 Corinthians 15:34)
Similarly, Solomon's discourse between a loving father and his son in Proverbs 2 puts the "fear of the Lord" and the "knowledge of God" at the summit of all wisdom.
The desire for the manifold knowledge of God ought to be at the epicentre of our Christian walk in its entirety. If we wish to walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called, we need to better contemplate, ruminate, and meditate upon His glory and goodness. We must direct ourselves through prayer to search out the mysteries of all that is revealed to us through the Holy Word and study His many attributes, till all our thought is bent upon Christ and nothing but Christ.
To know Christ is to climb the threshold of understanding. It is the beginning of comprehension: the comprehension of the full glorious magnitude of what His sacrifice truly portends. To the one whose eyes have been opened like the blind man, such knowledge can only breed everlasting thankfulness, and joy, and gratitude.
For is that not our sole purpose on this earth? Ought that not to be the dominating mindset that masters all our wayward thoughts, binding them together for a higher yearning?
Indeed, so! affirms Paul in his letter to the Colossians, saying, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (emphasis added)
All that we say, all that we do is for Christ. This is the bottom line. That is the foremost duty of all of creation. Take 1 Corinthians 10:31, wherein we are commanded, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
As the great Paul Washer would counsel us, "Go to your studies!"
Our Unshirking Duty
It is for these reasons that we cannot shirk the responsibility laid upon us by our Lord, whom the Scripture calls the Father of Lights, most blessed of all. As bondservants of Christ, our solemn duty is not to follow our own hearts but Him and Him alone. As Christ has decreed, so we must act.
To what purpose, then are we called? The answer is simple: to obey God (Jeremiah 7:23; John 3:36; Acts 5:29). What does obeying God entail? Whatever he commands of us, chiefest of which are to I) abandon sin and its lusts, keeping Christ as the foremost priority in our hearts and minds, II) deepen our desire for heavenly things by increasing in the knowledge of God, and III) preaching the Gospel to all the nations, telling all of the wondrous nature of the blessed Saviour, and calling every man to repentance.
In these uncertain times, do then as you are called! Mourn not, and save the lamenting over perceived afflictions to the sons and daughters of the Kingdom of Darkness. Put an end to this madness, which dissuades you from your course. If you think yourself afflicted, read again of the works of the apostles and all they suffered for the sake of their Lord; and in light of that, all your many maladies and misfortunes will seem as naught. No longer can you languish in solitude and the self-pity of a despairing heart.
Rather, do as you ought: rejoicing and praising God for His goodness. Set aside your earthly wonts and practises, and persist instead in carrying out His will and bringing the Truth to the nations by whatever means made available to you. If you suffer and are afflicted, consider it all for the Glory of God.
Such a time should not diminish our calling. Nay, but such a time should perform the opposite extreme! Think to yourself: what an opportunity! What a beautiful, blessed opportunity to spread and scatter the seeds of righteousness that tell of the love and truth of Christ amid uncertain and wavering minds! What an opportunity to do as you are called!
So, get to it, Christian! Pray unceasingly and steadfastly, giving praise and thanksgiving in all things. Hold fast to Christ; never let go! Stray not into folly by trusting in the things of the flesh. Lean not on the philosophies of the world, which seem wise to men but are only foolishness to God.
Does your mind whither and fade in boredom or languor? Cease swiftly from such ways and meditate now upon the Word and the precepts of God! You cannot now claim the lack of opportunity deters you from such ends. You have a work and commission: do them!
Our Abiding Hope
These things, these trials, and tribulations, they are to be expected. They are the signs of what is: the portents of a breaking world: a fallen, utterly wretched creation calling out for aid, amidst the many tears of grief-riven hearts. They are the Bad that must transpire before the Good can arise to wash away the sin of the world.
Even darkness must pass. All this sadness, all this sorrow, it's all a passing thing. This wretched world is coming to an end. It and all of its much-vaunted attributes are passing away forever. But of the supreme glory of all the attributes of God, that shall never fade!
The Light of Christ is such that naught can hope to stand and endure before all the glorious wonder of His revealed majesty. Naught can ever hope to prevail. There is no balance between good and evil. The myth of a darkness that is matched as an equal force to the Light is just that: a myth, and wholly false. The Light of Christ is everything, and the Kingdom of Darkness is nothing. There is no alternative.
A time will come, yea, it is here even now, when the darkness will enshroud all and everything will seem altogether fraught with danger and peril and every evil thing. And in that time, you must return to the reading of the Word and steadfast prayer. You must remember above all else the hope that will yet avail us in our greatest need.
In time, this Shadow will pass, and the Light will shine again. The dawn is swiftly approaching, even as I write these words.
Soon there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and all our tears and fears shall be wiped away for all of eternity. Soon the taint of sin will be cleansed utterly, and we will sing and live and worship God in holiness and righteousness and every good thing. Soon the darkness will pass, and the Light will shine all the greater.
So, encourage because you have been encouraged. Give because you have been given. Lovingly reprove because you have been lovingly reproved.
Turn away from the deceits bred of our fallen kinsmen and fellow men. Turn away from darkness and despair and everything dour. Just as that marvellous hymn relates, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."
For the True Believer, there is hope. There has to be hope. It is decreed by the very Truth to which we know ourselves bound.
And this is the Truth, for this, we know, that we need not ever fear death: our majestic God has already conquered the Grim Reaper, setting a boundary that it cannot trespass, and He did so at the Cross.
So, turn away from deceit. Turn away from despair. Turn your eyes to Christ, and look full in His wonderful face.
For He alone is our salvation. He is our sole assurance. And that is our shining hope.