We have arguably entered a time of unparalleled unrighteousness. How can we overcome these days of Noah? How can a Christian rise above the culture to proclaim Christ to a dying world?
Jesus has told us:
The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it ... And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:22, 26-27)
I can see it coming, Jesus. Our world is slowing slipping into greater and greater darkness. I am already longing for the the 1990’s when I came to faith and religious liberty bloomed. I can easily see that the days are fast approaching when that longing will be even more intense.
So how does one “overcome these days of Noah?” How can we provide a good Christian witness as our world becomes more and more secular and even “anti-Christian?” We probably need to begin by examining what the world was like during the original days of Noah. Jesus said the days that coming will be like them.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually … Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. (Gen. 6:5, 11-12)
At that time, the earth was corrupt, wicked, and violent. The thoughts of sinful man was on evil continually. But we are told Noah was righteous (Gen. 6:9) and found favor with God (Gen. 6:8). In response, God provided Noah with knowledge that he was about to destroy the world with water and gave him detailed instructions about what he could do about it to protect his family (build an Ark.) Noah responded by doing “all that the Lord commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). During that time Noah become a preacher of “righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5)
Let’s fast-forward to our modern world. We are entering a time that is parallel to the Days of Noah (just as Jesus told us we would.) The unrighteous around us are becoming intent on evil continually, and God has informed those on whom he has shown favor that he is about to destroy the world with fire. But this time, he has constructed the Ark for us. That Ark is the salvation of Jesus. Although we don’t have to build the Ark ourselves, God has still given us detailed instructions on how to overcome during this period. We call those instructions the Bible.
It took Noah 120 years to build the Ark. During that time he taught “righteousness” as we learned from Peter, and he endured “Tribulation.” If the unrighteous were wicked and violent, it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that they persecuted the one righteous man in the vicinity. Noah did not know the day or hour of the coming Wrath (we don’t either), and he had to endure his neighbor’s hatred while he preached “righteousness” to them. What forms did this “violence” and “wickedness” take? We are not told. Did it involve beatings, rapes, mockings, theft, and living in constant fear? It may have.
So what is this “righteousness” he preached? What is the “righteousness” we are to preach? Righteousness is a frequently misunderstood term. The word righteous in the Hebrew is TSADDIY which means just, lawful, and correct. The word righteous in the New Testament comes from the Greek word DIKAIOS which means observing divine laws or upright, faultless, innocent, and guiltless. God matches all those definitions, but I don’t think any of us do. How are we made righteous? Obviously, it is only through our faith in Jesus that we become “righteous” in the eyes of God. His righteousness is imputed to us and we become “right” with God.
This is incredibly important. When we preach “righteousness,” we don’t preach obedience to God’s moral code, we preach the “cross” and Christ crucified. Jesus is our righteousness, not our own deeds.
Overcome These Days of Noah
Let me illustrate that for you by sharing a verse from Proverbs:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10)
Many of you may have that verse as a cross-stitch sampler on your wall. But have you ever looked at this verse in context? Let’s do that:
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:7-10)
That is an incredible revelation isn’t it? “Do not correct a scoffer… do not reprove a wicked man.” We are NOT to try and teach God’s law to unbelievers. It is counter-productive! Rather we are to instruct only those who have a “fear of the Lord” in morality, those who are wise because they have God’s Spirit within them. In regard to those who are unbelievers we are to preach Jesus and his cross, pure and simple. The importance of this instruction can’t be overstated.
As this world becomes more and more wicked, many Christians are acting like we are still in the 1950’s when God and his Word were respected. Back in those days when you disagreed with someone, you could quote the Bible to make your point. Now, that only 1/3 of Americans believe the Bible is literally true (Gallop Survey), we can no longer make that assumption. The majority of Americans have become “scoffers.” We can and SHOULD still use the Bible as the source for our own understanding of what is right and wrong, and we should use it among other Christians. However, in the midst of unbelievers and in the culture at large, we SHOULD NOT hit them over the heads with what God says about their morality. Proverbs tells us this leads to dishonor, insults, and hate. They do not care what God says about morality.
A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Cor. 2:14)
This teaching has enormous implications for the cultural debates going on around us. It should explain to us why there is such an enormous backlash against religious freedom. The unrighteous are attempting to shut up the voices speaking the morality of God. It is generating hate within them. And lest we think we are righteous in doing so, God’s Word (Prov. 9:7) commands us not to do this. We are not to rebuke scoffers. We are to lead scoffers to Christ.
Winning the Culture War
We are not to win the culture war; we are to win the souls of men! And interestingly, in so doing, we would win the culture war. We are losing the culture war because only 1/3 of Americans believe the Bible to be true. Folks, we have already lost the culture. Generations of Christians have let their responsibility to lead others to Christ slip. Now we are reaping what we have sown. If we want to turn the culture around, we have to do it one soul at a time.
Let’s look at what James has to say about confrontations:
Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God … If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (Jam. 1:19-20, 26)
I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Nelson, does this apply to the culture war?” Yes, it does. It applies at all times. James tells us that confrontations with the culture can produce two results: either anger or righteousness (there is that righteousness word again.) I find myself angry at what culture does repeatedly, God tells us this does not produce the result that He desires! We are wrong to be angry at culture for the very reason that it won’t lead others to Christ and that is OUR PURPOSE, to produce righteousness (right relations to God). Our purpose isn’t to win the minor battles of culture, we are to win souls.
James tells us how to do that, by being quick to hear and slow to speak. Our cultural conflicts are not with a nebulous culture, but with people; lost people. We are to hear first, we are to understand them. And we are to be slow to speak. We are to bridle our tongue and control it. Sinners are going to want to sin, our goal should be to point them to Christ (to produce rightness with God), not to convict them of their sin. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. They have to have the Spirit within them first. We must be very wary of fighting with the wrong approach.
What would listening to and understanding our “cultural” enemies look like? What would listening to homosexuals and transgenders look like to understand their struggles? What would listening to liberals look like? How might we reach out to these groups with the love of Christ? How might we serve them?
James then gives a second piece of culture war advice:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (Jam 1:27)
Notice that winning the culture war is not what God sees as pure religion. It is loving others as ourselves and living pure before him despite what the world does. What strong advice. These are the very things the Church is now and has been neglecting! But it is these very things that makes Christianity attractive. Carrying signs and protesting makes Christianity look ugly.
We Have Lost the Culture
We need to remember this point. We have already lost the culture. We might be able to regain it , but the reason the unrighteous are asserting their “rights” is because they now know they are in the majority; the vast majority.
Most don’t want to hear it, but God’s Word says the culture will be like Noah’s when Jesus returns. So my expectation is that it will worsen not get better. This isn’t taking God by surprise. He is fully aware of these things. Matt. 24:6 calls these “the things that must take place.” We must learn to overcome these days of Noah. We overcome by being what the Church is supposed to be, not cultural policemen.
So why are many of our Christian leaders using Christian media to arouse the churches against “cultural” enemies? Political power. God does not win his battles through political means. He won and he wins by means of the cross; self denial and love. We are people of a Kingdom that is yet coming. We must listen to our King and his Word and not the Christian leaders and media that are seeking earthly power. It doesn’t surprise me at all that their earthly methods are backfiring.