SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 BY GRAYSON GILBERT
I’ve had many varied, yet interrelated thoughts reeling in my mind over the past couple of days while our culture continues to swim down the drain at breakneck speed. As for what connects all the dots, so to speak, is that I believe that much of what we are seeing unfold before our eyes, not just in America, but around the world, is tied to the judgment of God. The reason I say this is fairly simple: the modern culture we live in has long abandoned any sense of biblical morality, and thereby forfeited even a general, common grace. There is mass confusion, division, and to put it bluntly, open rebellion, not only from the nations at large, but even within the church. The temptation is for people to look at all of this and either downplay the reality of what is transpiring, dismiss it altogether, or get wrapped up in a frenzy of sorts by looking every which way for a particular sign of what may come, yet judgment is designed toward a much simpler end: repentance. When we boil things down to the irreducible prerequisite for judgment, all it takes is for a culture, or world, to spurn the Lord for judgment to take place. All we need to look for to see if the judgment of God is at hand is the telltale debased mind, a la Romans 1. Yet there are practical examples that abound in this whole thing.
The fact that John MacArthur and even some less prominent churches in California have received nothing but contempt from many a Christian for remaining open during the pandemic, is a profound commentary on the state of the modern, American church. While I could be largely sympathetic in the beginning of what took place with the novel Coronavirus, we are at a point now where I wonder how in the world people are still treating this as if it is the next great plague. Two weeks to flatten the curve seems to have become an indefinite hiatus, even though folks like Nancy Pelosi can get them hairs did, because, well, she has power. The effects of the shut downs are coming rapidly, with the first wave of unintended consequences being that the world in on the brink of a hunger crisis. I understand people are afraid, despite the hypocritical lock-downs from politicians who can’t even abide their own standards, but the frenzy many have been driven into—where they are so afraid that their dying grandmother cannot even receive a visit—just does not sit well with me. At what point do we suck it up and realize there are far worse things than death?
I look at the response of many of MacArthur’s critics, and am disappointed to see how many double standards abound when the narrative pushed from Black Lives Matter is embraced and calls to gather for protests arise, yet not gathering at the church. I also continue to see how they are driven to the sort of apologetic against binding people’s consciences and preserving their witness to the culture, when in reality, many have simply bought into the notion that church is intended to be safe to begin with, when this, of course, was never promised to the church. There’s a sort of rich irony in this for me, because I get a sick delight in the fact that an old man (John MacArthur) who is in the age group defined to be at high risk for dying from Coronavirus, shows up a bunch of young men who ought to have a greater resolve. The irony is that these young men critique MacArthur from afar on nearly everything they can right now, yet it isn’t like MacArthur taking a stand is something new. What you have then are a bunch of light flyweights swinging big at a heavyweight, most of whom will never have their words even cross before MacArthur’s eyes because what he is doing will actually shape up to be quite the historic event, when you actually stop to think about what is going on. The old adage is true: I like his way of doing things much more than their way of not doing things.
We need more men of his caliber and boldness, especially at this point in the game. You may mock him for being a Dispensationalist, teetotaler, and whatever else you like—but I genuinely wonder how many within the broader church will continue to watch and lob arrows at the man at a time where we should be able to come alongside him and affirm what he is doing. This shouldn’t be a hard thing to do, but many seem content to roll over and accept whatever comes their way with regard to COVID, all the while seeking to fight well outside of their weight class. It would be humorous if it weren’t sad, but as has been the case over many controversies MacArthur has weathered, this is par for the course. Now, I could stop here, but the reality is that Coronavirus issues, debates over masks, abiding social distancing, saying we ought not to sing or take communion, and the like, is truly a small fish to fry when we take another step back to take a look at the bigger picture, because this is a time fraught with polluted worldviews making strides within the church.
Many of the same people who decry MacArthur are the same ones who will cry out against “police brutality,” and adopt every talking point concerning systemic and implied racism. This is all incredibly interesting to me because few have stopped to consult their brothers and sisters who are cops and ask their thoughts on the matter. Instead, people are literally driven to burn down large sections of a city all for the name of justice, even though minorities are the hardest hit from the riots. Here we find clear examples of an abuse of power against MacArthur from authorities, and innocents who have their livelihoods destroyed, yet the dog and pony show goes to organizations like Black Lives Matter, even though time and again the outcomes of these cases end up going in favor of the purportedly racist cops. Nearly all of the cases that Black Lives Matter uses as a pretense for unraveling the system of oppression that is America turn out to be ones in which the officers are cleared of all charges and walk free, not because the system is racist, but simply because even liberal prosecutors cannot peg them against the wall on trumped up charges.
These same people then downplay the fact that Planned Parenthood, who somehow managed to pull off the greatest eugenics long-haul con of all time by denying Margaret Sanger was racist—yet then gave her the boot when it became fashionable to cancel the dead in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement, has killed more black babies than the Klan ever dreamed of. They set up shop in poverty-stricken areas and invite people to come and sacrifice their children at the altar to Molech, all the while throwing some of the proceeds to Black Lives Matter. Who knows where all of that money ends up going, but it seems that anti-racism is a fairly lucrative business, even for white folks. It’s almost like there is a clear and consistent narrative that is largely based on manipulation of the details, and that’s not for a lack of the details being made available, but people simply reject them in favor of paying homage to the god of this age. This goes well beyond the holocaust that is abortion, by the way.
We see this evidently when you have police officers shot and killed (or even maimed) in the line of duty, namely, because there is an eerie silence from many and a sick schadenfreude from those who hate cops. The fact that two young police officers can be shot at point blank in Compton and all the bystanders do is film it in delight is sickening. It is worse than sickening that several others knew which hospital to block off entrance to, and chant that they hoped the officers would die. There will be no protests for these two officers. No looting. No burning buildings. No calls from activists for justice. No massive “Go Fund Me” campaigns like there were for Jacob Blake. No calls to “say their name,” nor will there be calls for the minorities fatally shot in Chicago over the weekend, nor even the woman that Jacob Blake was alleged to have sexually assaulted. You won’t find sermons on any of this from woke Christians either. Instead, all you will continue to see is the case being made to dismantle the justice system because it is fundamentally corrupt, and how white churches are not safe for minorities.
There are, of course, more problematic positions within the church than just the desire to dismantle the justice system as it relates to Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter, though arguably, this is no minor thing. However, all one has to do is go down the rabbit trail on Twitter with gentlemen like Jemar Tisby, Eric Mason, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Bradley, Kyle J. Howard, and some of the other popularizers. Much of the rhetoric that stems from these men would not be tolerated within the church if the reverse were to take place, and rightfully so (i.e. white men talking about black men like this). We don’t tolerate it with Kinists. I wouldn’t tolerate the kind of rhetoric that I see here from a white man in my own church; I’d call him to the carpet immediately on it and make our elders aware of it. He would receive one warning and be rejected after the second time, just like you are commanded do with divisive men (Tit. 3:10). I don’t know of a single person who would stand for it, so I am simply perplexed why so much of this, and the blatant twisting of Scripture, gets a free pass from places like The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, among others. The fact that many in the church want to link arms with a movement born out of a hatred for God Himself simply reinforces that the issue is one of conformity to this age. But again, this is not just on this issue, but many others, because while this is happening, you get another group who rises and defends their own pet idol.
This is perhaps no more clearly seen than in the recent escapade surrounding the sexualization of 11-year-olds, as even some professing Christians came to the defense in saying there was an overblown reaction to what was laid bare for the whole world to see. Most Christians automatically decried Cuties for its exploitation of these young girls, yet there were still some I saw defending it. That Christians can find arguments to minimize the wickedness of “Cuties” is detestable. I expect it from leftists, not because they are leftists, but simply because they are dead in their sins. I expect it even from the broader culture because it has so degraded any semblance of a proper sexuality that you can only continue to form new, twisted expressions of debauchery. How any Christian can compare the cries to boycott Netflix to other things in the past that were not well-received, is beyond worrisome to me. Yet I remain unsurprised because many of these people are the same that defended licentious shows under the auspices of Christian freedom. That is small pittance when compared to the guy I’ve loosely interacted with recently who tries to argue in support of polyamory, as a Reformed Christian no less. Again, I expect this from liberals, but when we see things like the grand upheaval of some 218 people in the SBC alone who were found to be criminal abusers of children, it is supremely easy to see the common theme being that many professing Christians are masters at making excuses and leaving room for grotesque forms of sin, which ultimately brings me to my next point.
The church in America is being brought to open shame and laid bare before the American culture, which is also being brought to open shame for her great deception. If you’re looking at everything going on and haven’t wondered if we are all seeing the judgment of God playing out before our eyes, I would say you haven’t paid close enough attention. Not just for the political and social unrest and natural disasters, but for the simple reason that the judgment of God is revealed in a culture being given over to a debased mind (Rom. 1), and the church is likewise being brought to task for a debased mind. We’re there. We’ve long been under judgment. Now it’s just getting to the point where it should be painfully obvious, and yet many are still somehow oblivious to the potential that the church and the world at large is under the judgment of God right now. Many prominent men have fallen in spectacular ways—all for making bedfellows with wickedness. How many purportedly good men have stood the test of time and have had their ministries validated by their upstanding moral character and conviction?
That men in the church want to quibble over what MacArthur is doing while they ignore many of these glaring issues is another sad commentary on the American church. Yet lest I leave out women, we’ve certainly seen our fair share of social media doxing, a grab for teaching and exercising authority from a multitude of women who claim to have an aptitude for teaching, yet can’t properly exegete 1 Timothy 2:12 to save their lives, and even the embrace of their own secular movements like the #MeToo campaign, the cancel culture, and more. Many a good man has been caught in the sights of the woman scorned, yet when you get a guy like Jerry Falwell Jr. or Bill Hybels, whose revelry and wickedness finally caught up to them, it almost gives the appearance of vindication for what these women are doing because they occasionally hit the target dead on. But God forbid men follow the Pence Rule, or the Billy Graham Rule. We wouldn’t want to establish some proper boundaries and leave room for there to be men above reproach, now would we? Much like in the days of Isaiah, many men gladly find their oppressors in children, have women rule over them, and joyfully have their blinded guides mislead them—and yet the broader church still doesn’t seem to understand the pattern from the prophets that the corrupt leaders are always the first to go and these things follow. Perhaps this is all born out of the fact that I have been heavily studying the Minor Prophets, but all of things we are seeing in the church is the same wickedness condemned in books Micah, where the wholesale wickedness of Israel finally catches up to them. Judgment begins at the house of God—but we always give the caveat, “Not us. Not our generation.” Are we really so bold as to think we are the exception to the rule? How very American of us.
Perhaps part of it is simply bound up in the reality that we continually heap these people up for ourselves over the years and continue to build the church’s brand, despite the hundreds of warnings from guys like Carl Trueman who are good at things like church history. Heck, his warnings to the young Reformed darlings has gone largely unheeded, but he’s just a curmudgeon from the OPC, so that stands to reason. The Brits are always going on about how bad American culture is anyhow. Another aspect is likely found in the fact that we are more prone to give so many ministers the proverbial one-two punch on social media instead of praying for them. We do this even with our civil authorities. Do you remember how many people got offended at the (good) prayer David Platt offered up for president Trump, that to his shame, he later apologized over because some people in the congregation and broader church got offended over it? Paul commands us to pray for our leaders, no matter what party they belong to and what sphere of authority they wield, so that we may live in peaceful times. Yet that peace is for a particular reason. It is not so we may lead comfortable, affluent lives free from hardships, but for the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
There is much that could be said on this, both for the political Left and the political Right, and wherever you may fall in between. Suffice it to say, based on people’s social media feeds and the countless #NotMyPresident hashtags offered up, I have sincere doubts that many Christians have been in fervent prayer for their leaders, from the top all the way down to their local leaders. I also have doubts because we have continued to see nothing but great unrest, and as I’ve already signaled above, I don’t see these things as unconnected, random events, especially when the apostle Paul connects these two things together in the flow of his argumentation. How much longer can we wonder if judgment is at hand as we look around and see the telltale signs of judgment all around us, especially when the sins we see in prevalence today is almost a one-to-one comparison to the reality laid bare in Israel’s history over and again? Do we need to see children start to get eaten before we get it?
We know in our heart of hearts that we are of those who could not be bothered to even pray that the wicked ruler who causes groaning so that they would lead in righteousness instead. As a quick aside, you know what MacArthur preached to a watching world and government agents as they watched his sermon? That they need to repent and believe the gospel so they can wield their authority rightly. He’s faithfully preaching a biblical message of repentance to the men who are looking to trap him, knowing that if they believe in Christ, it produces peace in whatever sphere of influence they wield. He likewise knows that these peace gives the church an easier time to preach the gospel freely, which is what we’ve enjoyed in our culture for some time now. He doesn’t rail against Gavin Newsom, nor any of the men who were documenting Grace Community Church’s service that day. He exposits their God-given purpose right before them in a manner of inviting them, yet at the same time, standing up before them without qualms and telling them they are liable to judgment because they do not pay homage to the Son.
We need to be passionate about spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ at all times, but especially in this hot mess because it is literally the only thing that will not only spare people from the judgment to come, but actually holds the transformative power to shift an entire culture to honor and love the Lord, and produce righteous rulers. The gospel is also the only means by which genuine peace will be realized, because that peace is realized in full at the second coming of Christ. Instead of finding ourselves busy with this task though, the church has wedded itself to ideologies and worldviews opposed to the Word of God and scratches their collective heads at why so many even within the church don’t even know the gospel. At a time where the church could come in with something meaningful and transformative simply by being faithful to the Great Commission, many are circling back to the government they openly despise to act as Savior. They are likewise found downplaying the reality accomplished at the cross to not only save sinners, but bring sinners into an active and present unity in Christ simply by being found in Him (Eph. 2). It is little wonder to me that those who downplay the gospel as a solution to things like ethnocentrism are also found to uplift things opposed to the gospel, and find more unity in them than the church.
Ideas have consequences though. When you highlight re-programmatic and restorative measures of social justice, you oppose the government maintaining its biblical role in being a terror to the evil doer. Yet these have more pernicious consequences than many see at first glance. Again, consider the two officers shot point blank in Compton just for being there. Consider the officers condemned for doing what they are not only called to do by law, but by the Scriptures even. Those in spheres of authority are literally called agents of God’s wrath, whose explicit purpose is to subdue evil by bringing down the sword upon the evil-doer. It should be naturally evident that bringing down the sword is not a pretty, peaceful, nor restorative endeavor, but one meant to put a stop to foolish and destructive behavior. That criminals have been made into martyrs and agents of wrath have been made into criminals is an astounding bait and switch. That violent looters and rioters have been given a free pass as the oppressed and the people who bear the brunt of their disdain are looked at as vile is amazing to me. It is an abomination that the wicked is justified and the righteous are condemned, and yet even many a professing Christian doesn’t even blush in doing so (Pro. 17:15). It is yet another contradiction of terms in what should be a relatively plain submission to biblical teaching on authority, but we ought not be surprised to see a rejection of civic authority when there’s a rejection of Scripture’s authority on the matter.
Behind all of this is the reality that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, even within the church where we find opposition. It is quite literally demonic opposition—and we need to remember that if we are going to be faithful to the Great Commission. The people on the “other side” are sinners who need redemption, just like you and I, yet they are sinners who are comfortable in the lap of Satan. The way 1 John 5:19 talks about the world being laying in the evil one describes a reality much like that of a child, wrapped-up contentedly in the lap of their parent. It’s a sobering depiction, but one I think gives us the reminder that we really do wrestle against these unseen powers and principalities that drive everything. It also radically simplifies things, in that we can reduce everything down to “two tribes,” or people groups: those in Christ and those who are not in Christ. The sole difference between the Christian and the one in the lap of the evil one is Christ. Yet we also need to remember this as we look ahead to what dark days may be in store for the church, both near and afar.
As this is a spiritual battle raging behind the scenes of things, it does us well to also remember that we are ultimately to leave room for the vengeance of God. Beyond the fact that this is a clear command, it is a simple matter of prudence because the wrath of God is what lights a fire under the butts of pew-contended Christians to live with ultimate reference to honoring Christ in both their own personal holiness, and the conversion of the nations. When the nations repent and the fullness of Gentiles comes in, and Israel is brought under due conviction and repents, Christ returns. This is ultimately what motivates us to be faithful Christians who bring the good news of the gospel to bear upon our enemies, rather than our weapons. There is a time for self-defense and a place for just war—don’t misunderstand me, but we ought to simply recognize that one day, all warfare will be done away with and the weapons of war will be made into tools for peaceful and prosperous times. Every man, woman, and child will lay down in the field without fear of any sort. Behind this reality is an avenging God who promises to return to judge the earth and renew creation, ushering us into a time of unparalleled and unbridled tranquility, harmony, and ultimately, joy in our Creator.
We know there is an end to all of the chaos and destruction in this world broken and distorted by sin, death, and Satan—yet we also know that God will leave no memory of the wicked. So, the final word on the matter is one of hope. We have a hope that endures through suffering, hardships, temptations, and the like, because we have a God who is faithful to all His promises—including those which speak toward His ultimate, pure, and holy vengeance being unleashed on the earth in perfect zeal. We have hope that even if the Lord disciplines the church, and He will because He disciplines those whom He loves, they will not be consumed by His wrath if they are genuine children. They may see judgment at hand, yet they will ultimately be preserved and kept safe. This ought to be a thing of great encouragement rather than a thing of embarrassment, namely because in Christ we find that God is our strong shelter—not simply from those who wish to do the people of God harm, but from His own wrath. Our ultimate joy then is bound up in the fact that we are kept safe under the shadow of His wings, which is the very same reason the nations will come to hate the people of God at the end of all days.
Yet for all of that beautiful truth, many have forgotten that this Utopian ideal will not be realized until Christ returns. Strive for unity; strive for peace; strive for the betterment of society at large, but recognize that all of these things cannot be realized outside of Christ, yet secondarily, they will not be had in full until the eschaton. This is perhaps where all of this aligns the most, in that there is a great deal of over-realized eschatology found within the social justice crowd, yet a minimizing of living with ultimate reference toward Christ from those who embrace all sorts of idolatry and wickedness. Neither are focusing clearly on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. This surely is not the foundational issue, but rather the product of a foundational issue, in that Christ and the Scriptures are “not enough” to formulate answers on the ailments of the worlds, let alone solve the world’s ailments. The truly pitiful thing in all of this is that we aren’t waiting for a priest like Hilkiah to find the book of the Law so we can read of it, come undone, and repent before the Lord in sackcloth and ashes. Most of us have unparalleled access to at least several copies of the Bible and find nearly every reason we can to avoid studying it. We’re not waiting for a king; our King has come. We have no king but Christ. We are simply waiting for His return, but it appears as if many young maidens have gone out with little oil and that likewise, many invitees are not looking to attend the wedding feast because there are more important matters to attend to. We know not the day nor the time, yet we do know the inevitability of the coming Day of Judgment, and likewise, the time of great apostasy. Perhaps we are there, perhaps we are not—nonetheless, we are one day closer.
There are lines being drawn now. Many of these lines were started years ago and are simply culminating into what we now see. If you’re observant, you’ve been seeing much of the writing on the walls for years. There are hills worthy of dying on that the church hasn’t, and other hills not worth dying on that the church has—yet I wonder if many have realized just how deep and mired in trouble we already seem to be. I may be wrong and genuinely hope that I am, but in another sense I hope that I’m not wrong simply because it will be an immensely purifying time because those who are Christian in name only will not be willing to pay the cost associated with proclaiming the Lordship of Christ. Immensely painful, yet nonetheless purifying for a broader church that in many ways has gone the way of a whore. However, the beautiful thing is that while the American church in so many ways is writhing and contorting herself to fit into a mold she was never intended to fit, the African and Asian church is blooming anew in the midst of incredible suffering for the sake of the gospel. One lamp starts to sputter while another is fanned into flame. The gates of Hell cannot prevail. The gospel goes forward while the Lord is at work in far greater things than our little minds can possibly comprehend. May whatever that work be in the American church bring a great purification in His people, by whatever means He deems necessary, and may we be found standing when it is all said and done.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.