THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE
P. M. Joseph
We are at the threshold of the New Year and its varied opportunities; challenges and related potentials are starkly staring at us. None who cares about the meaning and purpose of his existence can ignore them. It compels most Christians to formulate resolutions to make the best out of the upcoming opportunities and face its challenges as well, as they know that they have only a short span of life, naturally. Unless used promptly and sensibly, they atrophy and fade away as quickly as they appeared, leaving only pockmarks of regrets to muse over. Therefore, nothing is more discreet than articulating appropriate resolutions as action plans with the intention of making life consequential for the future. Generally, resolutions have an apologetic in shade as they reflect poorly on life's course, candidly analysing its unproductiveness extending normally over to a rueful conclusion that life did not measure up to its expected dignity and stature. Keeping them in view, resolutions are normally made to avoid the recurrence of the past in the upcoming year, prescribing plans that should lead to a dynamic existence, deflecting all possible pitfalls that waylay the unwary to diminish their worth. We will consider the following with regard to the resolutions that we may make.
Honour The Bible
The Bible is God's only revelation to the world and its contents are indispensable for humankind to stay connected to God in any given context of space or time. But, upholding the Bible as God's only revelation is a huge challenge, as strong temptation is felt in us to differ. As a matter of fact, its absence can only make life paltry and adrift like a rudderless boat left to fend for itself in high seas. As is generally understood, the Bible came into being in the Old Testament times as God chose to reveal His mind to His elect, and inspired them to write it down for the future generations. So, it is God's mind and thoughts written down in human languages and the faithful have guarded them scrupulously. In point of fact, God reached down to His creation revealing Himself and His expectations in history through the Bible. As a quick, yet highly significant, reminder is the fact that it is the only comprehensive revelation available to man with regard to God, His expectation and human destiny. Every other purported revelation across the religious spectrum, however veritable they may appear, are clever forgeries determined to hoodwink the gullible and deceive the naive from knowing God, essentially. Further, neglecting the Bible, no consequential existence, either spiritual or secular, is ever possible. Till the recent past, Christians of all persuasions held the Bible in godly esteem giving it the rightful place it deserves as God's only Word, the final infallible authority with regard to man's salvation, his walk on earth and eternal destiny. Its contents were treated as inerrable, its precepts supreme and its guidelines uncontested. However, with the passage of time, Christian attitude to the Bible, especially in the scholastic circles, has changed considerably making it one among myriad revelations to mankind. Categorically, it is a diabolical attempt to destroy the uniqueness and unsurpassed beauty of the Book and satanic plot to sabotage its message and subsequently subvert human destiny, no matter what the source is. Theologically, the approach may be termed as a direct derivative of 'religious pluralism' that crept in slyly into Christian thinking. It sees God in all religious scriptures revealing Himself to its adherents. It may be appealing, but a travesty of truth. Religious pluralism, presently, is a pet word among theologians who are out to appease their co-religionists in the name of tolerance. But factually, it's a feat that cuts the branch on which one is sitting. So, in all practical senses, it can only be an act of religious cowardice and a miserable compromise of convictions making the devoutly conscientious guilty of duplicity (2 Pet. 2:1, Jude 4). Consequently, the Word of God no longer commands the kind of respect and authority it once had. Its role and relevance have diminished. It became an ordinary religious textbook equal to other religious books with no uniqueness to claim and the learned theologians of the day find no specialness in the Book. So, they place it in the gallery of religious scriptures, admitting God's revelations in all those scriptures, sheepishly surrendering Bible's uniqueness. The Bible is just one among them with no uniqueness, as claimed by the evangelical Christians. It, inevitably, brings God of the Bible down to the ranks of gods of the world, destroying His Greatness and splendour. Subsequently, His claims over all people too are irrelevant. This has filtered down to the pews and the unwary believer also thinks relatively on eternal truths, currently. So, at the onset of the New Year, shall we resolve to thwart every effort that challenges the supremeness of the Holy Scriptures and its worth. Let us pledge our absolute loyalty to the Bible as God's only Revelation to mankind and defend it with our lives if need be.
Defend The Evangelical Faith
The Christian faith is a unique system of beliefs that insists on the centrality of the Bible in all what a Christian believes in and practises. It reserves the arbitrary right to dictate its terms and expect perpetual compliance from its followers. Briefly, it means that the Bible must remain faith's only moorage for all that it believes, practises and proclaims. Be it a Christian's word or conduct, everything must confine to its purview, or else it becomes a redundant religious system belonging to the realms of natural religion. When Christian faith strays outside this provision, it ceases to be Biblical Christianity or evangelical faith, neatly forfeiting its very meaning and significance. Incidentally, it reminds all that the Bible should eternally be the sole foundation for faith to rely on and at no point of time it can be countermined. Precisely, this alone can distinguish Evangelical faith from other forms of beliefs, even some apparently Christian. But the natural tendency in most people is to cling to human traditions and teachings as valid anchorages. Such an exercise may appear concrete and legitimate. But, Evangelical Christianity stands by what is revealed in the Bible with unmitigated confidence and trust, and endeavours to defend it even when the whole gamut of popular conventions is against. It is the challenge the faith countenanced in the past and it continues to counter today. As the year is unfurling with its charms and challenges, let us affirm our total commitment to the evangelical faith which alone approximates on the New Testament Christianity although at times dimly.
Commitment To Evangelism
With the mighty onset of religious pluralism, Christian commitment to evangelism is dampened to a great extent, making it a taboo. It has influenced the evangelical community to the extent that a rethink of its commitment to evangelism is on the anvil as obvious from its lacklustre and reluctant involvement in missions today! Accordingly, the preaching of the Gospel, to the average churchgoers, has become redundant and the acts of evangelism chauvinistic, quelling evangelistic initiatives with a sweeping blow. The present day conciliatory Christian leaders have achieved (the moratorium on preaching) in a short span of time what emperors in the past could not have accomplished in their life-time! With the conformist framework of mind, mainline churches are now regretting over their once held high commitment to the preaching of the Gospel to nations, reconsidering whether the evangelistic efforts in history were right, if not entirely wrong. Further, as if to add insult to injury, various modern Christian schools of thought, among other things, are dead set on promoting salvation in all religions for its followers, neatly eliminating the very need for evangelism and proving Jesus Christ Himself wrong. Doubtlessly, it is the spirit of compromise working effectively to frustrate the Master's unambiguous Command (Matt.28: 18-20) and subvert His plans. It is the old enemy operating from a new office! However, the Bible clearly insists that Gospel must be proclaimed to all, as there is salvation in none other than the Lord Jesus. Therefore, it must be preached or else, it amounts to blatant violation of the Great Commission. Briefly, evangelism is the pronouncement that salvation is available in Christ to all who care to, who believe in His finished work on the Cross. It might offend some and outrage the rest, but the work must go on. The evangelical community can only be as agile and related as its commitment to the Gospel of Christ. It is, precisely, the barometer of Church's devotion and loyalty to the person of Christ. But, it seems that a weird deluding spirit has descended upon the (un) believing community presently. It incites her to waive aside her commitment and abandon the responsibility to the lost humanity to her own undoing. It is strange that churches can continue with their regular programmes and live complacently, all the while ignoring her mission. The apathy is pronounced, universal and unsurpassed in history. So as to reverse the vogue, let us avow afresh our commitment to evangelism as God's mission on earth and God's ways to redeem humankind. So, advance it unapologetically.
Renew Our Hope In His Return
On that historic day, when the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into the skies from the Mount of Olive, the disciples stood there, naturally, bewildered. Their future appeared bleak, despite all that they have heard, known and experienced at their Master's feet. But their bewilderment soon yielded to bright hope as the angels assured them of His physical return in the near future. Acquiescing with the announcement, they returned immediately from the mountain to Jerusalem with a song in their hearts and a spring in their feet. The prospect of His return transformed their outlook of life and its prospects. It was hope that did the trick. The timid community of disciples soon became radical men and women thoroughly committed and brazen. Nothing in life mattered to them more than their Lord and what He commanded. Their lives became a perfect symphony keyed to play His tunes only and always. Simply, they were imbued with strength and vigour, which the hope in His coming imparted. History attests that everything that the early community of believers did, faced and every extra mile they ran was with this hope in their hearts. Nothing could quash their enthusiasm or passion for Christ as hope burned brightly in their hearts and it propelled them forward to achieve the 'impossible' for Him. It made them morally upright, socially vibrant and spiritually dynamic knowing that they were primarily and ultimately accountable to the One they were awaiting. Hope transformed them, as moral and spiritual revolutionaries whom their bankrupt society could not only ignore, but be struck with awe. They upturned their plummeting destiny God-ward and roused their conscience towards accountable and honest living. Such was the power of hope working mightily in them. The early community of Christians ran the length and breadth of the land with this hope ablaze in their hearts. It added strength to their weary feet and meaning to their existence. But, of late, there is a pronounced decline in the quality of this hope among Christians, though it is not altogether absent. His return does not excite and stimulate Christians as it used to do in the past and the difference it can make to their very existence is manifest that it needs no comment. In principle, all assents His return, but it tragically fails to reflect in their life-styles. At no point of time in the Church's pilgrimage had hope hit the nadir as it is now, and it cannot afford to continue thus except at pains of total irrelevance. More, Christian skeptics are bent on subverting the expectation of the faithful by scorning the very prospect of Christ's return as a mere wishful thinking. Amidst this and a host of others, it is definitely a challenge clinging on to this hope, but we categorically have to, because the One who promised is faithful. As the year advances, let us renew our anticipation in His imminent return and shape up lest we should be caught napping as He returns.
May God help us to live up to these challenges, yet without compromise.