WAKING UP TO REALITY
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4
The Jewish disciples recognized that they were living amongst pagans in a polytheistic world, and intentionally stayed within their own Jewish communities. The Jewish communities were very self-sufficient and archegonial records show that they even crafted their own utensils, in many cases, in order to keep their lives separate from the influence of the world around them. We see this sort of lifestyle in some Mennonite communities in our modern world today. However, there are times that no matter how hard we try to disengage from the world around us, there comes a point in time that we are forced to engage with the dominant societal norms.
The Old Testament gives us example after example of how God intended for His people to be different from the rest of the world, yet God’s chosen people continued to run after the enticements offered by the cultures around them, including their foreign gods. After the Babylonian exile in 586 BC, we no longer hear about Jews actively worshipping idols. [This does not necessarily mean that none of the Jewish community participated in pagan practices, because some did.] The first century Jews were forced to interact with the Roman world around them through the payment of taxes (Matt. 22:21). It was natural that even the most devout Jews who kept the Sabbath and obeyed the Mosaic Law, believed that they were not obligated to interact with the rest of the world other than their minimal civic obligations.
They attended the synagogues on the sabbath and made sure to keep their traditional annual festivities. The average Jew understood the Torah and relied on the religious leaders to interpret its meaning. The Jews were in no way obligated to share their God with anyone else, even though they believed that Yahweh was the one true God. This type of isolation continued until Jesus commissioned Paul to reach out to Gentiles (Matt. 10:5-7). There were some moments when Jesus would perform miracles for the Gentiles that approached him, but he did not seek them out. His mission was to the “lost children of Israel.” (Matt. 15:21-28) not to the Gentiles. That mission field would later be given to the apostle Paul, for which he would suffer much (Acts 9:15-17). For the most part, this is the mission field that we have also been given in our world today.
Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples to the reality of demonic influence on not only the average person, but also those religious leaders that were charged with guiding the children of Israel to their God. No one was immune to demonic oppression and influence. This was the real world that they were living in, a world filled with demonic activity. A world where only the influence of the Creator could command these evil spirits to leave (Luke. 10:17). He also taught them that He, Jesus, was the only way to the Father and that all others would be condemned to hell (John 14:6). In other words, before Jesus came the disciples were just living their lives and minding their own business, much like many professing Christians do today. It was only after Jesus came, as a man, that the disciples realized the life and death reality that we live in, in this world. It was then that they began to grasp that Jesus expected them to help others to understand what was at stake. Their eyes were opened to the reality of an eternal destiny of either glory with the Creator, or eternal damnation of torment where there will no longer be any hope at all.
It is highly unfortunate, but the vast majority of today’s Christians are just as asleep at the wheel as Jesus’ disciples were in the first century. Fortunately for us, they did not remain asleep and once they realized the seriousness of the need for salvation through Jesus alone, they all risked their lives to get the word out. The one big difference between the westernized Christians of the twenty first century and the disciples of the first century, is that we will have no excuse for not calling out evil on this side of the cross because the Word of God is easily obtainable, and we have the privilege of knowing about the Holy Spirit. True Christians operate with the power of the Holy Spirit within them. If we shy away from life-saving conversations, we deny the power of God’s Holy Spirit. This shows a blatant lack of trust in God. It is basically denying Jesus’ command to go out into the world and make disciples (Matt. 28).
We need to make absolutely certain that we are not hiding from difficult situations, or ignoring a need because it is too inconvenient. Jesus gives a very harsh warning to those who hide in fear and do not speak up for God’s kingdom:
“…But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Cowards will have the same fate as the faithless. Wow! Perhaps that is because to be cowardly is to not trust in God’s power, therefore denying the Christ (Matt. 10:32-33). Could it also be that when we refuse to stand for truth because it is inconvenient or dangerous to do so, that we allow for those lost in sin or disillusionment, to remain thirsty for truth? We are in essence denying them the cup of water that they so desperately need (mark 9:41). Christian, our time is very short. It is perhaps time to test our faith by how much we actually trust in the power of God’s Spirit and step out into this hostile world and speak up for those who do not know how to.
Speak Truth and Bring the Light of Jesus to our dark world by pointing out the difference between true evil and true good – on God’s terms.