Jesus “unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” — Luke 4:17-21
It is no accident that Jesus kicked off his earthly ministry by reading from Isaiah to proclaim He had come to “set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). This was a staggering pronouncement that would take direct aim at a downtrodden, sin-soaked world that had experienced years of judgment, captivity and political oppression at the hands of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and even the wayward leadership of the Jews.
Not only was Jesus’ prophetic fulfillment “good news” to the poor, the blind, and the brokenhearted looking for relief from their various oppressors, but it was the unveiling of a new spiritual disposition of freedom that would show the depths of God’s love and mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ. As John Angell James once succinctly put it, “The very genius of Christianity is a spirit of freedom, and all its precepts are opposed to tyranny.”
The Gospel, you see, has bestowed upon believers, not only freedom from the tyranny of sin and death through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:18; 8:2), but also a deep and intimate understanding of the mechanism of demonic oppression that outwardly drives this world. We know, according to God’s word, that we spiritually wrestle against “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and yet we are also mindful of our need for deliverance from “unreasonable and wicked men” who thrive in that oppressive darkness (Ephesians 6:12; II Thessalonians 3:2). Because of this knowledge, we as Christians are of all people the most capable of seeing the necessity for Christ’s “spirit of freedom” to guide us in our temporal affairs as much as in our spiritual duties (John 8:32).
The “genius of Christianity,” as noted by John Angell James, is in spying out and eluding the traps of this oppressive world. This dynamic spiritual intellect which comes with the “renewal of the mind” (Romans 12:2) has prepared us to rightly oppose tyranny in all its forms whenever it infringes upon the abundant life given to us by our Creator with His great expectation for all people, made in the image of God, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:7). Hence, we join with the psalmist in asking our gracious Lord, “Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:134). (more…)
Are we seeing the rise of a new tyranny that will usher in the end-time brutality and fiery trials that test the “perseverance and faith of the saints” prior to Christ’s return (Revelation 13:10)?
Undoubtedly, the current pandemic, now in its second year, has created a mass hysteria of panic and fear which has led to an increasing authoritarianism around the globe that is gladly embraced by frantic worldlings looking for safety and security. For Christians, however, who rest in the knowledge that they are guided and protected by the rod and staff of their Great Shepherd, there is no such panic (Psalm 23:4). They are, by faith, spiritually immune to the blind fear that has gripped the world and thus are able to calmly identify any signs of political malfeasance being implemented for the sake of a fleeting, synthetic peace.
The picture being shown isn’t pretty. In this latest scene from the directors of the pandemic, we are witnessing the forced establishment of a “New Normal” where strict control of human beings is the key component. People in some parts of the world, including America, must now show their “papers” to access the most basic needs of humanity, like fundamental medical care, gathering for worship, or permission to enter a supermarket for food. Clearly, this is a disturbing acceleration of globalized authoritarianism that should be of great concern to everyone, but especially to Christians who are sensitive to worldly disruptions stirred up by “the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” that will effectuate the “schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
As writer C. J. Hopkins sees it, “It feels like things are about to get ugly. Very ugly. Extremely ugly.” And the reason for this dreadful feeling? Because, according to Hopkins, the “global-capitalist ruling establishment” is using the pandemic to seize more power, and implement “a new, more openly totalitarian structure of society and method of rule. They are revoking our constitutional and human rights, transferring power out of sovereign governments and democratic institutions into unaccountable global entities that have no allegiance to any nation or its people.” The New Normal, he solemnly reports, is doing “precisely what every totalitarian movement in history has done before it, right by the numbers.” (more…)
The 18th century Anglican minister, Richard Cecil once wrote, “Self-will is so ardent and active that it will break a world to pieces to make a stool to sit on.” No doubt such a wry observation by Cecil was informed by the conspicuous facts of his day, and yet it is almost as if he looked forward in time to our present-day predicament. Indeed we live in a dangerous age ruled by the zealous nature of the SELF where it demands that the world conform to its every whim or else be smashed to bits.
This time, however, it is not the world at risk, but more precisely, the REALITY of the world which has been targeted for destruction by the willful rebels of our day. As Cecil so superbly couched it, these stiff-necked people want to use the world to build a “stool to sit on,” and so the ageless scheme to enthrone themselves above God is still playing out, if not more so. Even now, the self-centered masses are ardently seeking to dismantle God’s established reality and then construct from the rubble a brand-new “reality” where the desires of their flesh can enjoy the most comfortable seat.
Certainly this is the shocking scenario lately set before our eyes. The current agenda of our wayward culture appears hellbent on eliminating any notion of an independent reality outside of mankind’s will. Witness, for example, the utter insanity that is currently taking place to deny one of the most simple facts of our world: the biological distinction of two human genders. How could we have guessed that this clear-cut truth would soon fall victim to a rampant intellectual dishonesty devised purely to legitimize sexual degradation? Yet this is what is being done when they insist that gender is “fluid” and no longer a scientific and moral absolute established by God. (more…)
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a prevailing postmodern philosophy of deconstructionism has magnified our metaphysical fears and propelled our American society into a panic of epic proportion. It is distressing enough when many in our nation are trying to deny or “deconstruct” the established facts of God’s creation, like those involving gender, sexuality, or the sanctity of life. But now this novel virus, the current plague of the day, has brought the delusional masses face-to-face with the reality of their collective mortality, and they don’t like it one bit. It has interfered with their desperate attempts at self-actualization and the frantic building of lavish castles in the air where death has no lodging.
They were led to believe by our cultural institutions that digital consumerism, universal health care and Silicon Valley would protect them from having to grapple with their inevitable demise in this shiny, transhumanistic world-in-the-making. To the public’s shock, however, the presumptuous coronavirus had other plans and brazenly jammed a monkey wrench into their carefully-constructed illusions of immortality. Its sudden appearance on the world stage easily stoked the underlying fear of death which has beset mankind since the days of Adam and Eve, and it quickly produced from those primal embers the flames of existential angst.
This response, of course, was to be expected, at least by those students of history, human nature, and the teachings of the Bible. As Soren Kierkegaard rightly observed, both the account of the Garden of Eden and the emergence of modern psychology have confirmed this one undeniable fact: “Death is man’s particular and greatest anxiety.” (more…)
“…It is ours to reflect the light.. and to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” — C.H. Spurgeon, 1879
It is not until you’ve been forced to wear a mask during a pandemic that you truly value the power of your face. No sooner have you exchanged glances with someone that you suddenly realize they can’t see your hidden smile, and you in turn have no idea what they might be expressing to you under that piece of cloth. It is in that awkward moment that you immediately comprehend how dehumanizing and frustrating it is to have your face so savagely removed from the process of interpersonal communication and emotional connection. No doubt this is why so many masked people these days seem to avoid eye contact altogether, walking past you like soulless zombies in a private hell.
For joyful Christians who demonstrate the grace of God through the social graces, this can be a difficult time for missional endeavors. As ambassadors for Christ who are called to be a light in this dark world, our shining faces are essential in communicating the Gospel to those with whom we interact during the course of our day. The Gospel, you see, is conveyed with more than mere words or deeds. It is a message of love and grace, fueled by the Holy Spirit, that can be powerfully expressed in the very countenances of our faces. Does the Scriptures not tell us so? (more…)
To be sure, Christianity in the West is showing signs of worldly wear and tear. According to many reliable sources, our numbers are dwindling, our historical churches are being shuttered, and our Gospel message is rarely heralded as boldly as it once was. The future of the Christian faith, it seems, is in question. And yet did you know that there are over 1,000 centuries-old trees throughout the United Kingdom whose symbolic strength and longevity still preach on the everlasting nature of Christ’s kingdom and remind us that God is still on His throne?
For hundreds of years, the European yew tree has been an enigmatic, but familiar presence within the hallowed confines of many old churchyards across the British Isles. These striking trees, with their sprawling limbs and green needle-like leaves, have been a constant companion to the faithful believers of Britannia since the days when the Roman Empire still ruled over that rugged northern province. Today, these churchyard yews, over 1,500 by recent count, are acknowledged as an enduring British symbol of Christendom. Out of that number, around 250 are considered national treasures due to their incredible age and size, like the Crowhurst Yew in Surrey or the Fortingall Yew of Scotland. (more…)
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” — Matthew 5:13.
The rage and hatred being exhibited in America right now isn’t something that just suddenly sprang up and pushed itself into our society by its own power. If our country was filled to the brim with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a vibrant Church, there would be no massive moral void for these anarchists and nihilists to expand their territory; nor would there exist the spiritual oxygen to fuel their fiery bitterness and spark their Marxist revolution. No, these angry agitators easily found their stronghold in the vacuum being created in the West by the retreat of Christianity and in some areas, the complete collapse of Christian influence. What we are witnessing right now is a spiritual crisis coming to a head in America.
How can this be, you might ask. How can a radical sociopolitical movement led by Antifa protesters and the Black Lives Matter organization find its power within the abandoned territory of a failing Christianity? Isn’t there a clear difference between issues of Church and State, or theology and democracy? The answer may somewhat surprise you: This isn’t primarily a political uprising we are seeing, but a new secular religion spreading an alternative gospel of socialist ideology in opposition to the traditional belief systems that sustained America as “one nation under God” for over 200 years. The seditious words and violent deeds of these social justice zealots show all the hallmarks of a religious fervor intent on establishing their one true “faith.” And those who stand in the way of their moral crusade will either bend the knee or be destroyed.