A week ago we agreed that we wanted to become like the sons of Issachar who served in the army of King David. The Bible says they were men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32).
How should we understand our own times, and what should we do about them? In our last Window on the World I tried to show that we are living in apostolic times. We face many of the same obstacles and opportunities faced by the New Testament church. The apostolic times were religious, international, immoral and dangerous times. Like the first Christians, we live in a global village marked by religious pluralism and moral indifference.
What should Christians do when they live in apostolic times? At least four things.
First, because we live in religious times we must be biblical Christians. At the end of the second chapter of Acts we read that the first Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). If that sounds familiar it is because we still do the same thing down to this very day. Week after week, we come to hear the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments explained and applied. Day after day, we study the Word of God so that we can hear and obey God’s voice.
A biblical Christian—a Christian who is devoted to the apostles’ teaching—is not distracted by other religions. We live in an age of religious pluralism. Some modern theologians say that the mere existence of all those other religions denies the uniqueness of Christianity. They say that the more one knows about the religions of the world the more difficult it is to believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Nonsense. The claim that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation was never made in ignorance. The writers of the New Testament were well aware that there were other religions offering other kinds of salvation. The apostolic times were religious times, and it was just because they lived in religious times that the apostles insisted that there is only one true Savior: Jesus Christ.
Second, because we live in international times we must be world Christians. A world Christian has a passion for missions. A world Christian is concerned about the work of the church throughout the whole world.
The apostolic Christians were world Christians. The book of Acts is the story of their quest to take the gospel into all the world. This is such an urgent quest that Paul’s arrival in the great city of Rome comes as the climax of the book:
For two whole years Paul stayed [in Rome] in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:30-31).
The apostles had a heavy burden to share the gospel with the whole world, and they did not rest until that burden was lifted.
We carry the same burden. Active involvement in world missions is one of the things that gives Tenth Presbyterian Church its apostolic stamp. One of the catch-phrases of Generation X is “think global, act local.” That is not a choice we care to make. We think and act biblically, and that means thinking and acting locally and globally. Every time we share the love of Christ with international students, every time we put money in the offering plate for missions, every time we pray for our missionaries we are sharing in the world-wide work of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are world Christians.
Third, because we live in immoral times we must be holy Christians. That is what the apostle Paul told the first Christians to become when they were living in immoral times. He told them to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Tim. 2:2b). Christians are supposed to be different, especially in the city. We do not swear. We do not cheat on our taxes or our spouses. We do not worship money or sex. We do not resign ourselves to racism, we are committed to reconciliation. We do love our neighbors. We do care for the poor. We do defend widows orphans and the unborn. We do welcome strangers. We do cherish our families. The more immoral our times become, the more holy our lives ought to become.
This is especially true when times are dangerous. Because we live in dangerous times we must be bold Christians. We pointed out last week that this is the most dangerous century Christians have ever faced. But intimidation and persecution do not hinder the work of the church. In fact, danger tends to make Christians even bolder than they would otherwise be. This is why Tertullian said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” There was something a little bit reckless about the apostles, as if they enjoyed nothing more than being shipwrecked, or imprisoned, or roughed up by an angry mob, as long as they had a chance to share the good news about Jesus Christ. Dangerous times demand bold evangelism.
Are you a son or a daughter of Issachar? Do you understand the times? Do you know what to do? When you hear the voices of many religions, be a biblical Christian, holding fast to salvation in Christ alone. When you hear news of trouble in the world, be a world Christian, praying for the worldwide progress of the gospel. When you are tempted to sin, be a holy Christian, resisting temptation for the sake of Christ. And when you are frightened, be a bold Christian, living dangerously in your witness for Christ. We are living in apostolic times, and apostolic times call for an apostolic church.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org