Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
In April when we began our reading of Book IV of the Psalter, I mentioned this portion of the psalms is linked to the book of Numbers with the theme of unrest and wandering. This is especially evident in today’s reading of Psalm 95. This psalm mentions Israel’s temptation in the wilderness and how God was grieved with their unbelief. Israel saw God’s wonderful works numerous times, yet still they hardened their hearts in sin. As punishment, God would not allow them to enter their rest in the Promised Land. The entire generation that left Egypt died in the wilderness without realizing their hope.
Two weeks ago, in preparation for this article, I was reading the results of a Pew Center study that said the numbers of people in America who identify as Christians has reached an all-time low and is still sinking. Most in our church would not find it hard to believe seeing we live in California where real Christians are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Our assumption is there are far more Christians in other places, particularly in the Bible Belt where I was born and raised. However, the phrase “real Christians” is a very limiting term. For many, many years the numbers of “real Christians” even in the Bible Belt has been dismal.
Russell Moore who is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention noted there was a time that anyone living in the South or Midwest had to at least claim to be Christian to be considered “normal.” Good parents and good neighbors and people you weren’t afraid to have your kids around would always carry the Christian label. Any other claim would push them out of the mainstream of accepted social behavior.
Moore rightly acknowledged that Christianity for maintaining social status is not really Christianity at all. Including those types in the definition of Christian, has caused many mainline denominations to tailor their doctrinal beliefs to the masses. The result of churches making peace with the world is that too soon the church is the world with no discernible difference. These denominations are losing their identity which means the Bible Belt is taking in notches from a size 40 as if it was on a crash diet.
America is certainly in the wilderness of unbelief. We never hear of the revivals that gripped this country like they did in the early days. Poorly guarded theology is a huge reason for this which has given us unconverted “Christians.” These pseudo-Christians eventually lose the need for the label. When we think God did nothing for us, why do we want to have anything to do with Him?
As each year goes by, we wonder if there is anything worth saving in this country. Our brand of democracy has seen its own conversion to one that more seeks a mandate not to worship God rather than for freedom to worship Him. Perhaps God is letting this generation die in the wilderness. Has He sworn they will not enter His rest? If so, real Christianity is not dead. The gates of hell are no stronger than they were. As Moore said, the light of Christ still drives out the darkness of all false gospels.
Remember this—God’s Promised Land is for His people. They are still going, still trudging on with enemies on every side. The worse the foes the greater the grace, and we shall never fail to make it there.
Pastor V. Mark Smith
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