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In his recently released, Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in Our World, widely respected Australian journalist, Dr Greg Sheridan writes: ‘In the West… religious belief has been in serious decline in recent years. The loss of faith is part of a broad movement in the culture. It is also partly, … related to a shocking loss of knowledge’ (p.40).
‘The West,’ he continues, ‘is a culture willing itself into amnesia and ignorance, like a patient carefully requesting their medical records and then burning them, so they and their physicians will have no knowledge of what made them sick in the past, and what made them well. … If you believe, as I do, that the Bible is true, this is our society willfully depriving itself of truth’ (p.40).
In his Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 17 Paul the Apostle pulls no punches when he writes: Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds, darkened in their understanding, separated from the love of God, because of the ignorance within them…
Paul is not saying that people who seek to live without God can’t be academically smart. Rather, he is saying that no matter how clever a person is, they need to be taught about God. For no matter how sharp or developed human reasoning might be, it won’t find answers to the meaning of life.
Paul speaks about the futility of our minds without Jesus Christ. Ignorance moves from the mind to produce various moral symptoms. In verse 19 he says: They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
The original word for loss of sensitivity is the word from which we get analgesic. Paul is saying that people who don’t believe in God are in a state of self-administered spiritual anaesthesia. Having no spiritual sensitivity, they have a mental block as far as the revealed truth about God.
Now Paul is not saying every non-believer is a libertine. Rather, he is pointing out that over time this is the direction in which our fallen human nature takes us. Yes, there are social inhibitions that check our desires – good families, schools, and social conventions. But, given time, a mind without God will invariably slide in the direction of self-indulgence and sensuality. And, if we’re honest when we look into our own heart, we will surely agree.
That said, Paul goes on to reassure his readers who have come to know God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks of them as having learned Christ and being taught in him (verses 20, 22).
It’s very easy to criticize people around us. But let me ask, how many have had the opportunity to learn about God and Jesus Christ? Are you praying for them?
How many people you know understand that the light of Jesus’ righteousness and justice shines through the New Testament into the growing darkness of our world today? How many know that he was someone who could out-think his opponents? Who at a word could heal the sick and even raise the dead? Who could control the forces of nature with a sharp command? Who, following his harrowing crucifixion refused to stay dead in a tomb?
How many realize that the cross of Christ is central to Christianity? How many know that in choosing to die this way – yes, he chose to do it – Jesus took on to his shoulders the death we deserve before God? Jesus’ death reveals a God who loves us far beyond our imagining. Jesus is the hinge of history.
People around us need to be aroused from their ignorance or amnesia and introduced to Jesus Christ through one of the Gospels. The Anglican Connection is planning seminars on October 22 and 23 about an effective way to introduce Jesus to friends through reading John’s Gospel. Details to come next week.
Returning to Ephesians chapter 4, Paul goes on to say that there is even more to knowing Jesus. He is at work transforming our moral living. This is not about a set of rules and regulations. Rather, having a new mind-set about God and the world, we now want to live in a way that honors our new relationship with him.
New Life. Verses 22 and 23 tell us that we should put off the old self,… be renewed… and put on the new self. Being dependent upon God doesn’t mean that we are passive. Being dependent upon God for our daily food doesn’t mean we don’t work for our living, get our food, and make our meals. In the same way, while God in Christ puts a new mind in us, there is the part that we must play.
This is why we are exhorted to struggle against sin, to fight the good fight, and to run the race. We’re not in a spectator sport where we watch God at work in our lives. Rather we are in a long grueling race that requires effort. God’s work is not to save us the effort; rather the Holy Spirit’s work is to enable us to run.
Knowing Christ – and not just knowing about him – means we have a new nature within us, counteracting the virus of self-interest and sin. Slowly and surely, through our reading of God’s Word and the work of God’s Spirit, we are being transformed into what God intends us to be – heirs with Christ in all the glory of the coming kingdom.
Let’s not be overcome with spiritual amnesia but rather live with joy in our hearts and look for ways to bring the truth of God’s good news afresh to those around us.
Be imitators of God… Paul writes in chapter 5. Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…
A prayer. Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, so that, encouraged and supported by your holy Word, we may embrace and always hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.