As we enter into 2019 and look back on 2018, there has been much that should cause the Church to far more fervently seek God and His will. To say that 2018 has been a tumultuous and turbulent year would be an understatement. 2018, by and large, has promoted and propagated new levels of flagrant displays of debauchery as seen in the following examples:
While the wicked acts of the world are concerning, they come as no surprise. The Word of God clearly declares that such things would transpire prior to Christ’s return.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” -2 Timothy 3:1-5
“Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.” -2 Peter 3:3
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” –Matthew 24:12
The reality that is most troublesome is not in witnessing the world’s adherence to such lawless debauchery, but of those who profess to be believers in Christ. Satan is actively at work in the worldly church, deceiving the minds of countless individuals under the guise of biblical Christianity. More and more so-called churches around the globe are openly partaking in worldly and sinful activities, as well as affirming sinful behavior. In an effort to gain acceptance of the world and under the guise of reaching the world, the apostate church has pandered to pagans and abandoned the preaching of the gospel. The apostle Paul boldly declares in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” When a professing church sees the gospel as foolishness or even too offensive to preach, we have ample evidence to know that it does not belong to God, but to Satan. This is yet another symptom of the times in which we live, for the Word of God declares in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” There are many today who claim to be followers of Christ but are sadly more concerned with acceptance and self-exaltation than committing themselves to humbly serving the Lord. There are more churches today that are afraid of offending sinners than they are of offending the Holy and sovereign God of the universe; this is evidenced by the way in which church worship takes place. Most churches today no longer have a pulpit from which the Word of God is preached, but instead they have large stages from which they put on theatrical productions and rock concerts to entertain rather than instruct the saints in the Word of truth causing the church to continue down this path of corruption. The church has catered to the flesh’s desire for comfort with cafés replacing foyers, theater seating replacing pews, and iPads (or nothing at all) replacing Bibles. Not to mention the illustrations/stunts continue to be more and more grandiose. Preaching in most churches have little to do with repentance and dying to self, but much to do with “being a better, more empowered, you.” Again, this falling away from biblical Christianity to worldliness is also to be expected:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” -1 Timothy 4:1
“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” –Matthew 24:10-11
If the church isn’t being enticed by worldly allures, it is distracted by futile efforts. While the prosperity gospel continues to be a prominent and powerful tool of the devil, Satan also has deceived devote believers into assuming that Christ’s return is anything but imminent. There is a growing trend in Christian circles to “redeem the culture” and relegate the passages previously mentioned, concerning times such as these, to the first century and the closing of the Old Covenant age. Each of these warnings are linked to the coming of Christ which the church was to be living in expectation of. The authors of the N.T. constantly wrote in regards to Christ’s “appearing” and always conveyed the sense that this event could happen at any moment:
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” -1 John 2:28;
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” -1 John 3:2
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”-Colossians 3:4
“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” -2 Timothy 4:8
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” -1 Peter 5:4
It certainly seems odd to assume that these watchful warnings of Christ’s return were in regards to what took place in AD 70 at the hands of the Romans. Rather, each of these passages refer to Christ’s physical return and coming on the clouds of heaven.
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” –Acts 1:9-11
The church in 2018 has become more divided with many seeking to participate in worldly efforts rather than in heavenly ones. As the author of Hebrews indicates, it is better to fix our eyes on heaven rather than the present world in which we are strangers.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” –Hebrews 11:13-16
To live as citizens of heaven rather than citizens of earth is the goal of the church. To live holy lives before our Holy God and to call out others to do the same. We are to go into all the world and make disciples as Christ declared before He departed to sit at the right hand of the Father:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” –Matthew 28:18-20
In other words, we as the church have been given the task to proclaim the gospel (Christ shedding His blood to redeem sinners) to all people, to make disciples of those who believe from all nations, and to teach them to observe the commands of Christ until then end of this present church age when He returns for His bride (the Church).
While 2018 has proved a trying time for the Church of Christ, we can expect the pressure from the world only to increase. 2019 surly will be a year of tests and trials for Christ’s bride, but we have great reason to rejoice as Christ’s soon return is closer than ever before! With all of this being said, I encourage the Church to remain faithful to Christ and to live holy in 2019 and beyond.
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.