There was undoubtedly a strong prophetic anointing on the words of Malcolm Muggeridge—he perceived God’s perspective on the movements in society long before they were obvious to the majority. On a recent Ravi Zacharias podacst I heard him quoting these words of Muggeridge,
“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
Malcolm Muggeridge, Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society
It is for the simple, but not the stupid.
AW Tozer opens chapter 10 of his book, Delighted in God, by saying this,
The challenge before me is to describe that which cannot be described. When describing God, who is unlimited in every aspect, we are challenged by our human limitations. God makes the greatest demand on our intelligence and imagination and powers of reason, requiring us to pocture a mode of being that we are not familiar with, a mode of being wholly beyond ourselves, a mode of being unlike anything we have ever known.
Most Christians try to dumb down God, to make him more like us. Most sermons or teaching series do much the same. Maybe we are denuding God of his reality, maybe such words at worst might be considered heresy?
Os Guinness in his book Impossible People (p29) offers this challenge to Western Christians regarding their faithful witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
And what of us in the West? Are we showing that we too are prepared to follow Jesus and his authority at any cost? When an imperceptible bow would have saved Daniel’s three friends, they defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s idolatry at the threat of being burned alive. When simply closing a window and drawing his curtains could have saved Daniel himself, he chose to risk the lions rather than mute his allegiance to God. When a mere whiff of incense would have saved their lives, early Christians refused to acknowledge Caesar as lord rather than Jesus and were made human torches or the evening meal for wild animals. When it seemed quixotic to take on the emperor, the empress and all the empire, Athanasius took his stand for truth contra mundum (against the world) and was exiled five times for his faithfulness. When he was told he was arrogant or out of his mind to follow his conscience and defy the consensus of tradition, Martin Luther stood firm in the face of the fiery stake that had cremated Jan Hus before him. When his closest friends urged him to save himself for the important work of his future scholarship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to reenter Hitler’s lair and ignore the looming specter of the gallows.
Bowing to the passions of modern society’s claims of authority is an easy option, “Be quiet and keep your head down.”
Yet for the genuine follower of Jesus Christ such a course is never an option. As a result the accusations of being both “arrogant” and “out of our minds” will come.
What about you?
A significant quote for your perusal:
Richard John Neuhaus died on January 8, 2009. He posited this idea,
“I’ll presume to call it Neuhaus’s Law: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.“
Undoubtedly we live in challenging times when much of what has been considered “true” and foundational for civilisation for centuries is now not only questioned but ridiculed. The consideration for believers is quite simple, “do you know what you believe, and do you know why you believe it?”
1 Corinthians 10:12, (NIV)
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
For many years I have loved this quote about Hudson Taylor the famous missionary pioneer (I recently re-read it here),
To him, the secret of overcoming lay in daily, hourly fellowship with God; and this, he found, could only be maintained by secret prayer and feeding upon the Word through which He reveals Himself to the waiting soul.
It was not easy for Mr Taylor to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital. Well do the writers remember travelling with him month after month in northern China, by cart and wheelbarrow, with the poorest of inns at night. Often with only one large room for [laborers] and travelers alike, they would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight which told that Mr Taylor, however weary, was poring over his little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four A.M. was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time when he could be most sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God. That flicker of candlelight has meant more to them than all they have read or heard on secret prayer; it meant reality, not preaching but practice.
The hardest part of a missionary career, Mr Taylor found, is to maintain regular, prayerful Bible study.“Satan will always find you something to do,” he would say, “when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind.”
Howard Taylor, from, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret.
For a few years I worshipped as part of Trinity Methodist Church in Shifnal, Shropshire. An undoubted highlight of each new year was the opportunity to pray the prayer below. Full of the glorious call of the Gospel and contrary to much that is valued and espoused in modern Western church life, it remains one of my favourite prayers.
The Methodist Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
I have a singular ambition in life: to love and serve Jesus Christ with all my heart soul, mind and strength.
It all seems so simple, and so biblical.
Yet all too often it is far from what Christianity (seemingly) represents in this age.
Ravi Zacharias in his book Why Jesus? offers this helpful comment.
I remember a statement made by the president of the ill fated PTL. Commenting on the icons they had become in the eyes of the masses and the material success that oozed from their gains in wealth and fame, he said, “We became less than what we were meant to be.”
Zacharias then says, “That statement is profound.” It is indeed.
My concern when being asked to seek God for success, wealth , possessions and the like is just this—that I will become something less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ has already made me.