If there’s anything that defines the American male, it has to be his “can do” spirit. Our faith in our own ability is legendary, even if unwarranted, which many frustrated wives can attest to.
Examples abound. What man among us dares reveal his ignorance by reading the directions before tackling a complicated project? Insulting. Who among us admits to being lost by rolling down the car window and asking a perfect stranger for directions? Degrading. These, and countless other examples, somehow reveal our insecurities, implying that we’re less than a man, incapable and incompetent, if we can’t handle any and every situation we face in life.
So, it is no surprise that President Obama, our resident man in charge, stated in his 2013 State of the Union message, “We can fix this.” His list of fixable things was amazing. Like many men, I admire his “can do” bravado, but I also have to question his wisdom (and sanity) in making such a statement.
Can programs fix marriages and families? What about crime issues? What about the declining health of many Americans? Can we change the greed of the rich and powerful at the top of our economic system? How about our fears concerning the future?
Programs can’t fix these things because they’re all issues of the soul. America is suffering because we have a disease of the soul, called sin, and only God can fix that. Sin is a cancer in our society, that left unchecked, grows and ravages the whole body. It’s true that we’ll never get rid of all sin, but the more prevalent it is among us, the greater its effect on all of us.
2 Thessalonians 2 deals with our problem. Verse 7 states, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.” Most scholars identify the “restrainer” as the Holy Spirit. He is like a referee standing between two fighters, restraining their desire to destroy each other. When they won’t listen to reason, He steps back and lets them go at each other. This happens because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (Vs. 10) and results in “God send(ing) them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (Vs. 11)
Before we start shouting Amen, we need to realize this is a condemnation of the church, not our society. We are the “salt and light” that the Holy Spirit uses to restrain the wickedness in our society. If we don’t “love the truth,” then we open ourselves up to a “strong delusion” that leads to a pursuit of pleasure instead of righteousness. All it takes for this to happen is to have the truth watered down.
It’s happening! For example, my wife, Sondra, attended a large evangelical church in the Seattle area over Easter. She observed that among the 1,500 attendees she only saw one Bible — her own. The pastor did put three verses on the screen as he delivered his entertaining message, but I think the message of the Easter Bunny in the foyer handing out candy spoke louder to the kids than his sermonette did.
Before we start blaming our pastors, though, for their topical messages on how to be healthy, wealthy and wise, we need to ask ourselves, how much do I love the truth? Am I taking time everyday to search the Scriptures? Do I teach my children the Word of God on a daily basis? Do I cry out like David, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law“?
We are living in dangerous times. God, who is the Truth, is being called a liar (creation, marriage, homosexuality, families, finances, etc.) God is patient, but even his patience has limits. So, what can we do? Since they are “perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved,” the answer is obvious — “love the truth,” which means love Jesus, who is personified in and through the Word, with the Holy Spirit revealing Him to us in ever increasing waves of glory.
Lord, give us a heart like David‘s, who said, “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.”
Jim Richards is the pastor of Copalis Community Church.