Conventional wisdom today dictates that all knowledge comes from experience; that experience is subjective; and so knowledge is subjective. There is no such thing as “objective truth” or moral absolutes. So long as we’re sincere and tolerant, our personal beliefs are just that–personal.
Queen Latifah was interviewed in last week’s Dallas Morning News before her newest movie was released. She claimed that if we can just set aside irrelevant things like race, politics, and religion, we’ll discover that we’re all good people inside. Religion divides us, and should be set aside by an enlightened society.
That’s certainly the message our culture is sending these days.
NBC’s new show, The Book of Daniel, portrays a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife is a near-alcoholic; their family includes a 23-year-old homosexual Republican son, a 16-year-old daughter who is a drug dealer, and a 16-year-old adopted son who is having a sexual relationship with the bishop’s daughter. The priest’s secretary is a lesbian. The show’s writer is a practicing homosexual who describes himself as being “in Catholic recovery” and says he doesn’t know if “all the myth surrounding [Jesus] is true.” But since religion is irrelevant, it all makes for fun television.
The DaVinci Code will be released as a movie on May 19. It will portray Jesus as the husband of Mary Magdalene, a man elevated to divinity by the Church. No other religious founder would be so blasphemed in our society, but since Christianity is personal and irrelevant, it doesn’t matter.
Brokeback Mountain portrays two gay cowboys, won two Golden Globes and is expected to win Academy Awards as well. Since sexual orientation is personal and private, biblical objections to homosexuality don’t matter.
Boston Legal a week ago had William Shatner’s character in a sexual relationship with a woman he met in a bar. So long as they close the shades, whatever they do in his office is private and personal. Biblical objections to extramarital sex are irrelevant, of course.
We live in a culture which believes in no rules, whether they come from God’s word or not. We accept no accountability, since private acts between consenting adults are to be tolerated always. And we expect no consequences from our choices, so long as others are not hurt.
The bottom line is simple: our society no longer fears God. We no longer see Jesus Christ as the infinite creator, sustainer, reconciler, and Lord of the universe. We no longer fear his judgment when we break his word and will. The culture’s message is so loud and clear that it infects and affects us all. When was the last time you refused a temptation, not because you didn’t want to get caught or knew someone would get hurt, but because you feared the wrath and judgment of God?
The “fear of the Lord” is one of the most prominent themes in all of Scripture:
‘The fear of the Lord–that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous” (Psalm 19:9).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).
“The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short” (Proverbs 10:27).
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27).
“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16).
“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33).
“Through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil” (Proverbs 16:6).
“The fear of the Lord leads to life: then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23).
“Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 23:17).
The Bible promised that Jesus “will delight in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:3).
The Bible says of the first Christians, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31).
What happens when we do not fear the Lord? We live as we want. What happens then? We miss the leading of God in our decisions, the blessing of God on our lives, the power of God for our problems. We live on our own, wondering if this is all there is.
If our culture so dishonors and ignores God, we wonder why he doesn’t visit us in judgment and wrath. But what if he is? He will deal with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must. Did he allow 9-11 to show us that we are defenseless without him? Has he allowed the immorality of our culture to show us that we are directionless without him? Has he allowed the current drought to show us that we are resourceless without him?
Only one percent of America’s churches are growing primarily through evangelism and new converts. Has he allowed the irrelevance of the Church today to show us that we are powerless without him? That business as usual, self-reliant church work, religion for our sake, private morality which breaks God’s word and will, cannot have his blessing and joy?
If the absence of his blessing is not enough, will we next encounter the presence of his wrath? It couldn’t happen to Assyria, then it did; to Babylon, then it did; to Greece, then it did; to Rome, then it did; to the Soviet Union, then it did.
Alexis de Toqueville said of America more than a century ago, “America is great because Americans are good; and if Americans ever cease to be good, America will cease to be great.” The former Cuban pastor Oscar Dellet, my dear friend, believes that God has blessed America so that America’s churches can bless the world. But if we do not fear God, can we bless the world? If we don’t, can he bless us? If we will not fear God, can he not judge us?