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Challenging Times Present Chilling Temptations

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By Rev. Mark H. Creech, Christian Post Columnist
October 18, 2008|10:13 am

In his book Things It Took Me 50 Years to Learn, Dave Berry once noted: "When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy." [1] History is replete with examples of false and dangerous leaders who arose during difficult times.

America is currently in such a juncture of history. The economy is in a tailspin. Terrorists are on the march. Illegal immigrants are crossing the border by the millions. Government corruption is rampant. Lawlessness fills the streets. The combination of these circumstances makes the nation ripe for a deceptive leader.

The Bible warns about the rise of false leaders during challenging times, giving telltale signs of their identity.

Jeremiah the prophet did battle against the false leaders of his day, claiming that they proclaimed peace when there was no peace. Jeremiah said, "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14)

False leaders are characterized by not dealing with the real issues. They talk about the need for unity and hope, but fail to speak about what robs people of both – sin – rebelling against God's way. As in Jeremiah's day, they talk about prosperity, self-fulfillment, pluralism and diversity. They preach to "itching ears," as the apostle Paul said (II Timothy 4:3), but they will not talk about the will of God as something absolute.

Many years ago, there was a student strike on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley that prompted Campus Crusade for Christ to send hundreds of its staff to the Berkeley area. The protesters were chanting against the Vietnam War, "Hell, no, we won’t go...Hell, no, we won't go..." and making the two-fingered peace sign. In contrast, the Campus Crusade workers held up their index finger only and chanted, "One way, one way, one way, one way...," meaning there is only one way to peace – God's way. [2]

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Jesus expounded on this principle when in the Sermon on the Mount he said: "Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life...." (Matthew 7:13, 14)

Interestingly, these words of Christ cut deeply across much of the easy-going syncretism of many contemporary theological and political leaders. Currently, much of society prefers many choices to the struggles of life rather than one, or better still, a fusing of the many choices into some sort of conglomerate. But Christ affords no such comfortable solution when dealing with truth, insisting that ultimately there is only one choice – the way of life or the way of destruction.

In his autobiography, C.S. Lewis describes a period in his life when be began to "broaden his mind." "I was soon altering 'I believe' to 'one does feel.' And oh, the relief of it!...From the tyrannous noon of revelation I passed into the cool evening twilight of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed, and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting." [3]

False leaders are ingenious in capitalizing on this human tendency and garnering followers in great numbers.

Such a warning, therefore, should cause the nation serious pause at the remarks of Barack Obama, who declared in his "Call to Renewal" speech:

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all." [4]

These words are unequivocally representative of the very kind of false leadership Christ warned about. They deny any room for the narrowness of divine revelation or an unqualified understanding of the will of God for culture and public policy. National righteousness is only understood in the broader sense of what society collectively determines for itself. This is not, as some would argue, the best of every religion's influence on American society, but instead simply a form of national idolatry. This is not even democracy as the nation's founders envisioned it, but instead just a form of mob ethics. It would sacrifice the absolute, God-given rights of mankind for the more spurious and shifting values of the state. It is certainly not the way of hope, but the way of hopelessness. It is not change for the better, but the same old road, though perhaps even paved with good intentions, which always ends in perdition.

America's great leadership of the past sought another, more precise direction. Consider the following:

"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." [Noah Webster]

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here." [Patrick Henry]

"The highest glory of the American was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." [John Quincy Adams]

"It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord." [Abraham Lincoln]

"Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure ourselves what that life would be if these standards were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals, all the standards towards which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves." [Theodore Roosevelt]

It's been said that an alcoholic rehabilitation center in Patterson, New Jersey, stood at the intersection of Straight and Narrow Streets. Today America stands at the intersection of Straight and Narrow Streets – the way to life or the way to destruction – God's way or man's way.

Indeed, challenging times present chilling temptations. One rises now and offers to take command. He argues for a broader way with respect to religion and ethics in the public square. But what he suggests is just plain crazy!

Resources
[1] Things It Took Me 50 Years to Learn, Dave Berry
[2] The Sermon on the Mount, Baker Books 1972, James Montgomery Boice, p. 256
[3] Christian Counter Culture, InterVarsity Press 1978, John R.W. Stott, p. 194
[4] Call to Renewal Keynote Address, June 28, 2006, Barack Obama

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Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.
 

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