Human nature always wants to find a reason for things and point a finger (of blame) as to why something has happened. When we do that it sort of “lets us off the hook” and we feel better, even if only temporarily. I hear all kinds of things said today about why evil is running wild in our country and around the world. I’m sure you have also heard much in this arena of our day. It’s almost like sitting in the Coliseum watching gladiators duke it out. We take sides and if our side wins, we leave feeling like we are champions.
The one thing I hear a lot, is that the church, the believer, has done a poor job and has failed at every turn and that is why evil is growing and running over us like a train. I want to shout in defense of the body of Christ, “NO” that is not true. Jesus in Matthew 24 gave us a lengthy explanation as to what would happen before He returned a second time. If you take the time to read it, nowhere does Jesus say that the believer fails, does a poor job, or is held responsible for what is coming and what is at hand now. He says we are not to fear because He has overcome the world, even when we have tribulation and persecution (see John 16). When I read through the gospels and letters, I don’t read anywhere that the believer is the cause of evil growing. In fact, I read everywhere that the church, His body, is a glorious mystery revealed to the world because Jesus rose again, our sin put away forever and now we represent Him on earth. The “glorious gospel” has spread only because of the faithful obedience of sinners saved by grace. If the evil today is because we fail in all our weakness, then the church would have never grown in the first place given the disciples were weak, frail, and often failing people.
This thought that the church has failed miserably and that is why certain sinful events have happened, is only the plan and idea of the enemy – the father of lies – as Jesus called him (John 8:44). Satan has gotten the church primed to condemn itself by pointing a blaming finger at itself. Then, when this happens, the guilty/condemned, go about trying real hard to undo what it thinks it has done. It tries harder and harder to do good in order to get rid of the guilt it feels. This is not God’s way and what the Bible calls “dead works and self-effort.” This is the opposite of grace! When we judge each other and tell one another we have to “do a better job or else our society will be in ruin” is not the message of Scripture or the New Covenant.
If we are focused on what we do wrong, (or might be doing wrong even though we don’t know for sure) we will inevitably do the wrong we do not want to do. Just read Romans 7 for Paul’s example of that. If we are focused on “doing better,” we are focused on ourselves and that is just where the enemy wants us to be. That will motivate us to go do things that perhaps the Lord has not asked us to do. That type of work always ends in turmoil, striving and eventual failure. Being focused on our own works makes us unfocused on Jesus.
We should not be surprised that sinners sin. If we spend our time pointing out the obvious sins of others, whether believer or unbeliever, it’s because deep down we really want “those people” punished. (Of course it’s never us that needs correction)! Jonah experienced this first hand. He did not want God to forgive the people of Nineveh but instead wanted them punished. He did not want God to pour out mercy on them if they repented.
The gospel reality is we are all sinners and need a Savior, and, Jesus was that Savior. He alone took all the sin of the world. He alone took responsibility for ALL sin for ALL time. There is no more judgment for us who believe in His finished work on the cross. That’s why Jesus told us not to be afraid in the end days. Hebrews 9:28 states that when He comes back the second time it will be “without reference to sin.” Jesus already took ALL the punishment for sin – for everyone. He alone bore God’s judgment on the cross. When He said, “It is finished” He meant it! Let us not erroneously think that before He returns again that God is punishing us for not being better Christians. Even if it were our fault Jesus already paid for it at the cross!
Will God judge the world? Yes, when He returns a second time He will separate the sheep from the goats and all evil will be banished. Satan, the liar, will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity. He is the enemy and the reason sinful acts are growing on a daily basis. Jesus predicted this and never once blamed His body of believers for it! He foretold it before the church was even born. So let us not blame the believer for today’s ills. Paul says in Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another.” It is so easy to become consumed by talking about the news today and then trying to blame someone for what we see. The only way to avoid this is the next verse: “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
So what is happening today is not God’s hand judging us, but us experiencing the consequences (not judgment) of sin growing because of Satan’s work in the earth. We can’t blame the church. In fact, when Jesus pulled Saul – the big persecutor of the early church – down to the ground and spoke to him, He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (See Acts 9). Jesus considered the growing group of believers Himself and still does today.
So, you may ask, “What does this have to do with receiving all that Jesus died to give us?” Jesus died to take away all our bondage (to sin) that leads to fear – fears that exist today and fears of what is coming. (See Romans 8). When sin is totally removed and we know we are totally secure, resting in what Christ did for us, there is an inner peace and confidence that cannot be shaken in the midst of everything shaking around us. When we receive His forgiveness, His peace, His righteousness (not ours) and His grace, is when all fear is banished. Believer, rest knowing that Jesus already judged all sin at the cross. (He didn’t miss anything that is currently going on). What is happening today is not your fault. Let all guilt and condemnation go for it will only rob you of life and peace.
Do we do nothing then? Of course not. We do all we can in His strength, His power, His wisdom to curb all the ills of our culture. But if we do something out of guilt, thinking it’s all our fault and we have to “fix” it, we are doomed to fail. Instead, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Keep your eyes on Him as you do whatever He has asked you to do in the kingdom of God, but do it without guilt and do it with His love in your heart. Receive His love every day so that you have something for others.
Lord, I ask that you would make us great receivers of Your mercy, grace and love. Enlarge our minds and hearts to receive more and more so that we have love to give to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.