Saturday, May 2, 2009

End Times Fatalism

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Image by LuvataciousSkull via Flickr

I belong to a number of online Christian groups.  Someone recently posted an opinion on one of them, saying that people shouldn’t believe that the world is getting worse.  People should believe that the world is getting better, since the Bible ends optimistically.  He said that “end-times thinking” made people into fatalists who did not work for the kingdom.  I got the impression that he wanted Christians to stop looking at the foreboding “signs of the times” altogether.

Since I am quite tuned in to world events and how they fit with Bible prophecy, I had a few words to say on the subject, and I’ve expanded on them below.  I’d be interested to hear how others feel about this as well.  (Note:  I’m not asking for a debate about various eschatological views.  My point is whether or not we should be thinking about the end times and observing the signs at all.)

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The world is getting worse, and will continue to do so, until God steps in decisively and ushers in His kingdom.

Once He does that, of course everything will be incredibly better!  But humanity will not bring in the kingdom.  Humanity is marching lockstep towards all of the horrors of the book of Revelation which occur BEFORE God brings His kingdom to earth.

The problem is NOT that Christians recognize end-times events.  The problem is what Christians do with the knowledge they have.  Those who know that the end is rapidly approaching should be busy trying to win souls and fulfill whatever work God has given them to do.  That's what Jesus did (John 17:4), even though He knew that Calvary was inevitably coming.  He didn't sit in a corner and say, "Oh well, the end is coming, so I'll just pack my bags and wait for it."  He went about doing good, preaching the kingdom, and saving souls (Acts 10:38).

The Bible pronounces a blessing on those who "keep the words" of the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:3), and rebukes those who do not recognize the signs of the times (Matt. 16:3).  So we do not dare bury our heads in the sand about what is happening around us.  But you are right that too many people have become fatalists.  They forget that Jesus was no fatalist about the approach of His own personal apocalypse (Calvary).  Instead, He said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work (John 9:4)."

If we are followers of Christ, we must walk as He walked.  We must work all the harder as we see the night approaching, knowing that Judgment Day follows, and people need to be ready (Heb. 10:25)!

One of the scariest things Jesus ever said is, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you” (Luke 19:22).  At least, it’s scary to me as a writer and generally wordy person.  It’s oh-so-much easier to say things than to do them!

How am I doing?  Is my end-times fascination influencing me to try to reach others more faithfully?  (That’s a rhetorical question.  I’m not asking for an answer.) 

It’s easy to hide behind my blog and say, “I’m really trying to reach people by what I write.”  That’s true, of course, and I’m not looking down on this ministry at all.  But I don’t think that God intended me to ignore the people around me…neighbors, store clerks, strangers on the street.  I’m not doing anything for their eternal souls, am I?

And yet, apart from having the Spirit move me toward a particular person (which He has done on rare occasions), how do I know who to talk to?  I’m not a street-corner evangelist.  Some (like Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort) are called to that sort of ministry, and I thank God for them.  But it’s not my calling.

Talk to me, readers.  Do you just “cold-call” people with the Gospel?  Hand out tracts?  Wait for the Spirit’s urging toward a particular person? 

How do you share Christ with people outside of the Internet?

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6 comments:

Laurie M. said...

Betsy, you sure do ask the tough questions. I don't have a lot of contact with "folk". I share some aspects of my faith with people I clean for when opportunity arises, which is only occasionally. After all, they pay me to clean their houses, not to talk to them heart to heart. I have however grown quite close to a couple of clients over the years, and been with them through some tough times. Occasionally they will ask me to remember them in my prayers, things like that. They know I'm a Christian. But as far as presenting the Gospel message as it is written in the sidebar of my blog - well that's something I've hardly ever done. I pray about it quite often and, as you seem to be expressing, still feel as though I fall short.

I do my best as well to be edifying within the church, which I feel to be more my "calling", but still I wonder if I'm doing all I could be in these last days. Thanks for raising the challenge to the forefront again.

karin said...

When I was a child and a young Christian I was told that my witness was to be different from the other children. I didn't swear, didn't go to dances, went to church, didn't smoke or go to movies, etc. etc. etc. I don't recall leading a friend to Christ through this method.

Over the years I've gone door to door to hand out tracts, to introduce our church and invite to special events. I don't recall people coming to the knowledge of Christ this way either.

In my adult years I found that taking the time to listen to someone in need, showing someone an unexpected kindness, speaking up for injustice, writing notes of encouragement,keeping confidences, having a cheerful, positive attitude, giving a generous tip, offering to pray for someone whose family member was dying, opened more doors to sharing my faith with them and usually at their request. I felt that the Lord had gifted me to sow seeds through being an encourager and HE would do the rest. I honestly don't know how deeply I've influenced people and I don't have any numbers of those who have decided to follow Jesus because of my testimony. Perhaps that's not for me to know. I just tried to show God's love to people in the way I knew how. Whomever the Lord send across my path today is who He wants me to touch today.

Just the other day one of my colleagues at work, an agnostic she told me, was showing such compassion and caring to one of our seniors. I told her that this gift of compassion and caring was a gift from God given to her to give to others. She smiled as though I had identified something for her that she had not recognized before. It seemed like a light went on. I know that God is working in her life, also through her working at this Christian nursing home.

I keep praying that even though I'm not the sharpest instrument, in the Hands of the Master, I may be useful.

Tim Brown said...

Hi Betsy:

Mainly, I pass out tracts one way or another. Either I give them to people directly or I leave them in various places.

I'm not saying that I'm a model of consistency doing this; far from it. I've been through a "quiet spell" lately but am now coming out of it. I had been so focused on lack of a job that I let it slip.

So many things, it seems, are becoming so less important now than "the basics" of spreading the Gospel. I was talking to my wife at breakfast this morning about our search for a home church and how so many of the ones we've visited I wouldn't want to go back to, even if for no other reason than they are just "business as usual" even as everything spirals downward in our culture. No urgency, just "Churchianity".

How I would LOVE to find a church where they actually have a desire to go out and evangelize...give me at least ONE person! It's hard "going it alone". I'm sure that's part of the reason I am inconsistent.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

I totally agree that the message of end times teaching should consistently be: How shall we then live? Many approach it as special knowledge -an end in and of itself. I don't see anything like that taught in Scripture. We also must be careful about projecting dates or times. The Bible says that we do not know the hour. Even the disciples were convinced that Jesus' return would be immediately. Nothing has changed, and yet everything is changing. Instead of arguing over dates, timelines, and various takes on prophesy, we need to just get busy and be about the Father's business. I have been totally convicted concerning this recently. One result is my upcoming trip to Africa...not that I shouldn't be witnessing to others here. I do, and I definitely should do more, but I think I need more of a vision outside myself and the westernized church. Besides, I've been told that Ugandans are ripe for the gospel. God has already been at work preparing their hearts. I am prepared to learn much about how God works when I make myself available to Him. It may take some harder times than we have already faced here in America to shake us all -Christians and non-Christians alike- out of our complacency. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Sherri Ward said...

I believe that if we are tuning in to the Holy Spirit, we will have a certain sense of His very soon return, and how can we ignore that? That does not seem like reasonable Christian thinking to me. And if we are looking forward to His return, we will be seeking Him as to how we spend our precious time, not foolishly wasting the time and talents He has given us in pursuit of idols and things which cannot last. But neither should we give in to guilt and condemnation, rather we should follow Him and walk in simple obedience, seeking His instruction. (I know, easily said and not easily done, but still to press on should be the goal.)

Anonymous said...

Nicely done Betsy.
you do voice some good questions and are I believe, on the right track. Believers are called to use their gifts, the grace and redemption conferred upon them - to serve God.

I see the Bible teaching this as a way of life, not a off and on activity or ministry. We ought to be well prepared so that in every season and situation we may in love, present in the fullest and to the best of our ability - that life-giving message of the cross.

The fields have always been ripe and the questions hanging on the lips of people all around us. Let us pray for each other that we might be bold and speak the words of our Savior (in whatever manner and calling that is yours)!
[Joel Weber]

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