My Fellow Christians…
“My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.”
Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivered these now famous words in his 1961 Inaugural Speech to a captive audience of Americans. The ears of a nation craned to catch the words of their engaging and newly elected Commander-in-Chief, standing by to carry out whatever political directives he affirmed. Kennedy addressed this reminder to a nation whose citizens were conspicuously unmindful of the plight of countless millions suffering under various forms of political oppression in the world around them. His timely words are now memorialized as an inspirational rallying cry to an egocentric generation that showed little inclination to help maintain the cause of freedom in the outside world.
Still widely quoted today, this memorable appeal to the citizens of an earthly nation ought to resonate all the more piercingly in the hearts of those who bear the name of Christ in this present day. As citizens of a heavenly country, we have an inherent responsibility to be mindful of the plight of the countless millions around us who even now remain bereft of the spiritual freedom we enjoy as Christians. Our Commander-in-Chief is none other than the Captain of the LORD’s Hosts, and His directives for the day in which we live require our most vigilant attention.
Christ’s imperatives to us in Matthew 28:19-20 are words we cannot afford to ignore, for the spiritual death toll around us is rapidly rising. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
In view of the ever-increasing urgency of these imperatives, the apathetic outlook of many Christians today seems utterly deplorable. As Christians, we have become far too cavalier about the plight of others who are languishing in spiritual darkness all around us. It is not that we are uninformed of the spiritual battle raging all around us. The modern Christian is fully aware of the presence of unbelieving coworkers, family members, and neighbors and thoroughly acquainted with the eternal consequences God promises for those who continue in their unbelief. It is not for lack of awareness on our part that so many perishing souls rush blindly forward on their way to impending destruction. No, regardless of the pious claims of many Christians to care and even pray for lost souls, our passive approach to the gospel speaks for itself in our unwillingness as individuals to get proactively and immediately involved in the battle to reach the specific people God has placed in our individual spheres of influence. We may love them enough to pray for them, but it appears that our love does not often extend to the level of dogged persistence required to win their souls unreservedly to Christ.
In 2 Timothy 3:1, the Spirit of God describes a spiritual “Me Generation” where “in the last days…men will be lovers of self…conceited…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” As Christians, we can readily agree that such words well describe the godless culture that surrounds us today. But if the shallowness of our evangelical fervor today as Spirit-indwelt Christians does not constitute an equally real and self-centered denial of power, then I ask you, what does? And how have we come to this wretched state of things?
As Christians, we are too easily enchanted with the visible, highly attractive world in which we live and conduct our daily business. We have allowed ourselves to buy in to the tangible illusions around us, which obscure our view of the heavenly kingdom to which we rightfully belong. We have succumbed to the visible world around us, forgetting that it is “in [Christ] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Captivated by the material world’s fleeting yet obvious charms, we too often live as captives to our former desires, re-enslaved to moral darkness by a tragic denial of our spiritual freedom.
In the world in which we live, we are daily confronted by a consumer-based society of global proportions. In this realm, “the consumer is king” and “the customer is always right.” Our opinions are solicited at every hand with obsequious deference, and we are not inclined to object when our comfort and convenience are supplied upon demand. Flattered by the incessant bids for our input and attention, we gradually grow accustomed to a life of self-indulgent luxury, and the helpless cries of the spiritually oppressed seem distant and negligible indeed.
In the Church’s failure to “love not the world” (1 Jn 2:15), we have transferred our earthly consumeristic habits to our Christian faith and egocentric apathy has transcended the rightful claims of the Lord Jesus Christ upon our lives, not the least of which includes the Great Commission.
May the urgent voice of God’s Spirit penetrate this evangelistic stupor in which we find ourselves, collectively and individually. Today’s Christians may be running low on faith and activism for His cause, but He remains faithful and His claims are undiminished in their value. He is active and alive, and He calls us each to participate in the unstoppable life flow of His Spirit as He faithfully continues to move in the hearts of unbelieving men and women whom He loves. He has placed them in our lives “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Can you hear the immediacy in His voice as He sovereignly declares His imperatives for immediate reform? Shhh…listen!
“Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back! If you say, `See, we did not know this,” does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?” Prov. 24:11-12
As freeborn sons and daughters of the Living God, it is high time we snap out of our consumeristic comfort zones and remember that we are not called to be self-interested consumers, but to be selflessly consumed—with passionate love for Christ and zeal for accomplishing His directives on this earth.
In God’s economy, we are not called to be consumers. We who understand and believe God’s message of salvation are His most valuable commodity, and we are in short supply. Jesus tells us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). There is much work to be done for His kingdom. God’s Spirit instructs and equips each one of us believers to live as heavenly citizens. “Set your mind on the things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col.3:2-3).
The time has come for us Christians to unashamedly confess that we are strangers and exiles on this earth, and we are seeking a country of our own (Heb.11:13-16). “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb.12:28-29).
Lest we think this kind of radical obedience to His claims is optional, God’s Word reminds us of the eternal significance of those claims. “Or do you not know…that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor.6:19-20). We have been purchased with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19), and “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15).
My fellow Christians, let us not ask what God can do for us, but what we can do for God.
<>< Anna Zwicker July 9, 2005