Each year at around this time various periodicals, newspapers, blogs, they begin to summarize the key events that have taken place in this past year, and they try to predict, somehow, the trends that will appear in the year to come. In my lesson this morning I'd like to comment on some of these, and show that in a fast changing world, where technological and social pressures are remaking the society that we all live in, our faith in God through Christ, is still the mighty rock where we can find security and peace, no matter how much or how quickly things change.
A Changing World
First of all, let's look at the trends that are often mentioned, trends, the authors say, that will change the way we live in America and how we view other nations.
1. America is now the only superpower.
Despite what they say about these other countries, those people who are in the know, know that America is really the only superpower. For most of us growing up, we knew exactly who our enemies were. I mean, for the first half of the 20th century it was Germany and its allies. For most of the second half of the century it was communist Russia, the nation that former President Ronald Reagan called the evil empire. After 9/11 and up to this day the main threat has been from radical Islamic terrorism. The biggest problem faced by our military leaders is how do we prepare for the next threat? What kind of equipment should we have? How should we train our people? How do you defend against a terrorist who brings a catastrophic biological weapon into our country in a suitcase?
What is truly disturbing is that for many Americans the real enemy is our own government. The trust in politicians is at an all-time low, and no wonder, when most of what we hear and see from Washington is a never-ending battle for control and power, and very little effort to work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their party. There was a time when our fears were well-focused on a clearly defined enemy, but in the year 2017 the enemies are largely unseen, or may well be in the camp.
2. A multicultural society in America is now a reality.
There was a time in America where white anglo-saxon Protestantism was the norm, and the rest were exceptions. That time is no more. Today, one out of four Americans come from other nations, and as we head into the next year, that percentage will increase. This is according to the Migration Policy Institute. The multicultural society is now a reality. If you don't believe this, go to Los Angeles or New York or Texas or Atlanta or Miami, and you will see how ethnically diverse we are becoming.
Now it doesn't matter how the nation became this way: part of the reason slavery; part of the reason is a vigorous immigration policy for the last hundred years or so; part of the reason is prosperity and the millions of people who left the war and poverty of their own nations to find a better life here; part of the reason is that it's cold in Canada, but we won't discuss that now.
Whatever the reasons, America has become a multicultural society. How we deal with this reality will determine what type of society we have in the future. The biggest problem will be to accept the fact that the melting pot idea, where all nationalities automatically accepted white Christian traditions, that doesn't work anymore. The danger will be that many will assume white supremacy or priority, and this will cause problems. For a time, Native Americans assumed supremacy and priority, when the settlers first came, but soon were overcome and dispossessed.
In the years to come, America will become racially diverse and culturally mixed, and this will cause an identity crisis about who we really are and what we really stand for. And we're going to have to deal with that.
3. A shift to the information age.
As America goes from searching outer space to cruising cyberspace, we need to find a way to deal with the incredible amount of information that is overwhelming us through radio and television and magazines and books, and of course now the exploding field of internet communication. The average person in America is exposed to more information in one week than the average person was exposed to in a lifetime a hundred years ago. There was a time when if you had a PhD, you pretty much knew everything that you had to know about your very specific subject. No more. That time is gone.
All this is great, but what do you do with this mountain of facts and information that threatens to bury us? And the trend is to even more facts, more information coming at you even faster.
4. America is prosperous.
We are by far living in the most prosperous nation ever in the history of mankind. We are by far living more comfortably and enjoying more physical pleasures than any nation and most kings in all of history. We are so prosperous that our politicians fight over how to spend the tax money the government has or doesn't have. We are so prosperous that the number one problem that the average American faces on a daily basis is the struggle not to eat too much. Can you imagine that. We've got to be careful not to eat too much.
Unemployment's at 4%, inflation negligible, mortgage rates 4%, easy credit, easy payments, easy living. America is prosperous, but each year millions of babies are aborted, children shoot each other in cold blood, one in two families fall apart in divorce, sexually transmitted diseases spread at an endemic proportion.
America is prosperous, but there's a disconnect between what we have and what we feel, not the same. Our prosperity has made us wealthier, but not made us happier. And so, as economists continue to try to predict the future of our economy, the personal misery and emptiness of our nation goes largely unseen and without comment. The biggest news being the sexual misadventures of politicians and movie stars. I mean, really, is that what's going on in the world? I'm amazed when I can hear an entire news program and not a mention about what's going on in India. Can you imagine? You have a 30 minute news show and 11 of those minutes are about the sexual misadventures of politicians and movie stars. You mean there's no news coming out of India or Africa or Indonesia? Really? You call that world news?
So my lesson today is about the living Christ and how He is relevant to the trends and challenges that we face as a nation, as we head towards another year.
Our world is changing in ways we can barely understand, let alone control, but as Christians, we have a Lord who provides us with the resources we need to meet these changes with confidence.
A Changeless Faith
Yes, things are changing in the world, but we have a faith that does not change. In Romans chapter 10, verse 17, the Apostle says, "So faith comes "from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Christ gives us faith as we live in this changing world. Our changeless faith is what helps us survive every twist and turn of this world we live in.
1. The problem of power
We know that absolute power corrupts, especially when it is in the hands of sinful men, but not when it is in the hands of God. We know through faith that God knows how to wield His power, even if man does not know how to wield his power. We know that regardless of our military superiority, it is still God who keeps us safe.
In Psalm 127 the writer says, "Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain." As Christians we understand that the government is a servant of God on behalf of the people (Romans 13:1-7) and will be judged accordingly. As Christians, our faith teaches us that an orderly society begins with an orderly home and an orderly family. We know where power comes from and how it should be used. We also know that God holds the final power and the final judgment. Believe me, the judgment on politicians is not at the ballot box, it's at the throne of God. And He will exercise that judgment.
In this scary world of mindless violence and radical terrorism, it is our faith that leads us to the source of all power, and the only place where there is eternal safety and peace and justice.
Racial mix often brings about social strife, as each group vies for resources, acceptance, and a share in the decision-making process. With this clash of cultures and ideas brewing, it is more important than ever to promote the biblical truth that a nation whose 'God is the Lord' is blessed. It doesn't say in the Bible, a nation of similar cultures under God is blessed. It isn't having the same skin color that makes us blessed. It's a nation whose God is the Lord, that is blessed, regardless of culture. Isn't it wonderful that Christianity is not based on culture or language, but rather on love and grace and hope. Things that people of every race desperately need and are searching for.
Regardless of the social changes in our nation, our mission, you and I, our mission always remains the same. In the end, as Christians, we understand that the only way to live successfully and peacefully in a multicultural society is to evangelize it.
Our challenge is to develop means and ways to reach every tongue and every culture with the good news of Jesus Christ. The successful future of the nation rests not with language laws or immigration policies, but with an effort to re-evangelize America, so it can truly be one nation under God again.
3. The Information Age
In order to maintain our balance and perspective, while being deluged with information, we need to know what is true. David, the psalmist, said, "The sum of thy Word is truth." Psalm 19:160. Paul the Apostle says, "Every scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction" (II Timothy 3:16).
The danger of the information age is that it threatens to make cynics or doubters out of everybody. Our world informs us of changes, opinions, new discoveries, new ideas, at an ever-increasing rate, that it's becoming impossible to assimilate the information. We either shut it off or we become cynical and doubtful, thinking that there's no use accepting anything as true or lasting, because tomorrow something new will come along to displace it. That's a hard way to live. That's a scary way to think. But Isaiah the prophet says, "The grass "withers and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord lasts forever." (Isaiah 40:8).
In the face of the information avalanche, God's Word continues to lead us into salvation, to discern what is right, to comfort us in suffering, and provide a true hope for the future. Why? Because it is true. Why? Because it never changes. That's why. Jesus is the Lord today, tomorrow, yesterday, forever. That never changes. Belief in Him guarantees eternal life. That never changes.
Let's not be afraid or discouraged if we can't keep up. Through the gospel, we have learned the one important fact that we need, and that is Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. The information age will not swallow us up if we put our faith in the Word of God and not in the web.
Let us remember that along with great prosperity comes the temptation to forget. Wealth and abundance of material goods tempts us to forget God and focus on things. To forget the spirit and pursue the things of the flesh. To forget the poor in the quest of getting our share of the American Dream.
In this decade of incredible blessing, our faith teaches us to promote praise and thanksgiving each day in ourselves and in our children. It teaches us to manage the wealth for the good of not only ourselves, but for the well-being of other people. And it also teaches us to not become so involved with material things that they own us, rather than the other way around.
In Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus describes the great judgment scene, we are all warned that how we use or misuse our resources on behalf of others will be a key factor in our judgment. The era of great wealth will either be our opportunity to do great things in the name of the Lord, or it will be an occasion of stumbling into sin. We get to decide which one and which way we take. How we handle what God has provided, will determine the outcome. And our faith guides us in this area as well.
I want to be optimistic about the future. This lesson is not meant to be a doom and gloom sermon, taking the joy out of blessings and good times that we experience in our nation. God allowed a godless and violent nation like the Roman Empire to last for 500 years, because it suited His overall plan. He permits entire continents and entire cultures to survive and prosper for centuries, who do not recognize the name of Christ but bow down to other gods and other religious leaders. And God has blessed America with stunning growth and success for almost three centuries, and can sustain that position until the end of time if He wants to.
My lesson this morning is a reality check, a wake-up call to our little corner of the world. With the news that the world is changing, and our nation is changing, and these changes will put pressure on the church to change as well, in the face of this upheaval, we will survive and continue the course set for us by the Lord if we remember - the world, in its mad dash for cash may forget, but we must remember that our rock, our security, in good and bad times is Jesus Christ and His word.
We must always remember not to repeat the mistakes of others who denied Jesus or abandoned the church, like the Jews or Demas, when they were tempted or pressured by the world. And we must always remember the source of our blessings and give thanks and thought as to the best way to serve the Lord with what we have been given. Let us maintain the changeless faith of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David and Jesus and Peter and Paul, who through 5,000 years of change never wavered in their trust that God would be true to His promises.
And as we head toward the end of this year and into the beginning of a new one, let us also be the children of Abraham. Let us be the spiritual Israel. Let us be the true disciples of Christ and hold fast to the promise of God, that regardless of the times, He will never abandon us. He will never forsake us. And He also promises that all those who confess the name of His Son Jesus Christ in repentance and baptism, will be forgiven for all sin, will receive the Holy Spirit, and when Jesus returns, will ascend into heaven to be with Him forever. That is a promise for today, tomorrow, and every tomorrow.
Let us hold on to these promises brethren, and never let them go, no matter what. And let us, at every opportunity, hold out these promises to everyone who would have them.