(Photo: Courtesy of First Baptist Dallas)
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, will be starting a new sermon series on Sept. 11 titled, "Twilight's Last Gleaming," in hopes of getting the message across to Christians that "we are not going to save America."
The sermon series kicking off on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is actually based on a book of the same name to be released in January 2012 by Worthy Publishing. The book's subtitle, "How to make America's last days your best days," is actually meant to be encouraging, according to Jeffress.
Jeffress, who has authored several books and often appears on major news networks to provide a Christian perspective on various issues, spoke with The Christian Post about his new sermon series and book.
CP: Please explain the sermon series, "Twilight's Last Gleaming," that you will be starting on Sept. 11.
Jefferess: "Twilight's Last Gleaming" is actually based on my book coming out in January by Worthy Publishing. Mike Huckabee did the forward to the book, and the book is subtitled How to Make America's Last Days Your Best Days. In this series, what we're trying to do is help people realize that, ultimately, we are not going to save America.
America's days are numbered, because this world's days are numbered. But instead of reacting with despair and fear, Christians are to realize that while we cannot prevent the demise of our country, we can delay the demise of our country by being the salt and light Jesus commanded us to be. That's really what this series is about: how Christians can be salt and light in a decaying and darkening world.
CP: What would be your advice to Christians who are trying to navigate the current cultural terrain?
Jeffress: I really think Christians have gone to one of two extremes in the past. One extreme, in reaction to what has been happening in our country, is political activism; the belief that if we can just elect the right candidates and enact the right laws, we can save America.The other extreme has been political passivism. That is to say, "Well, that's not our responsibility. We're just to preach the gospel and leave that other political stuff up to other people." I think we're actually to do both. I think we do, as Christians, need to stand up and push back against the tide of immorality that is sweeping our country.
You know, we cannot predict God's ultimate judgment, but we can delay it just like Jonah did with Nineveh. But the reason that we're trying to bide time for our country and prevent its premature decay is not so that we can turn around our country, but so that we have an opportunity to preach the Gospel. And that's what being light is all about. You know, the light shines brightest in the darkness.
I think about what Paul [wrote to the] Philippians 2,000 years ago. They were living in a very decadent culture, even more so than ours, an anti-Christian culture. Yet he told them to rejoice in that time, realizing that in that dark and perverse generation, they could be children of light, holding out the word of light. And I believe that should be our response as Christians as well. Instead of hunkering down and buying gold and waiting for the end to come, we ought to see that we have an unprecedented opportunity to share the gospel in these dark times.
CP: You said we cannot prevent America's last days but that we can delay it. Some Christians might argue that once God appoints a certain time for something to occur, then it is going to happen no matter what. Please explain what you mean by delaying but not preventing God's judgment on America.
Jeffress: I would refer people back to the story of Nineveh and Jonah. According to Jonah, God relented of His decision to destroy Nineveh for a period of time. But God did ultimately destroy Nineveh. Jonah had the opportunity to preach the Gospel so that Nineveh was saved and so I believe that, while we can't prevent America's ultimate demise, we can delay it by being that salt, by standing up and pushing back against immorality and by delaying what is going to be God's inevitable judgment.
CP: Why are you starting the "Twilight's Last Gleaming" sermon series on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks?
Jeffress: I always start my new sermon series in the second week in September. In one sense, it's a coincidence but I'm glad it turned out this way... I believe Americans are especially going to be tuned in to what's happening in our country, what has happened, and [thinking about] the future of our country at this time. So it garners a lot of unintended but welcomed publicity.
CP: What would you say to critics who might say it is bad timing to discuss America's doom when people are going to be using Sept. 11, 2011, to remember those who lost their lives ten years ago?
Jeffress: We're going to be remembering those people, too, in our service and having a special time for prayer, not only for those who lost their lives but for those who gave their lives in the last ten years to protect our country. But that doesn't mean that we don't also look forward to what we can do to protect our country against the tide of immorality that's sweeping [the nation].
CP: You mentioned that since 9/11 is such a special day, many Americans are going to be looking for answers. How would your sermon series benefit those who are not necessarily Christians?
Jeffress: I think what the series will do for those who aren't Christians [is] make them realize that the only hope for our culture ultimately is faith in Jesus Christ. [What] I'm saying to our people is that the only way to save America is by saving Americans. ... Just like the Statue of Liberty holds up the torch, Christians need to hold up the light of the Gospel. So mainly this series is directed to Christians, to motivate them not to be angry or depressed or apathetic about our country's situation, but to be proactive and do what God's commanded us to do.
CP: You mentioned a "tide of immorality" sweeping the nation. What are some of the issues you think Christians are facing in America today?
Jefferss: One thing that I'll be talking about in the series is how Christians should vote. John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, said "It is our duty to prefer and select Christians as our leaders." In the Old Testament days, the spiritual direction of the country was directed by the king. If it were a righteous king, the nation was blessed by God; if it were an unrighteous king, then the nation was cursed by God.
In our democracy, we get to choose our leaders. Although I'm not going to tell our people who to vote for in the 2012 election, I'm going to talk about what criteria every Christian ought to use to select a candidate for office, including the president's.
CP: Why do you think there is so much fascination with biblical prophecy and the end of the world?
Jeffress: There's fascination with it because the Bible has so much to say about [it], and I believe that if we think the end is coming, we want to know what we should do and how we should live. Now, I am not Harold Camping trying to predict when the end is going to come. I have no idea when Christ is coming, but one thing I do know for sure is that in the next 50 years, either Christ is coming or I'm going to see him. One reason I'm preaching this series [and have written this book] is to help Christians know how to prepare for the end – whether it's for the end of the nation or their own end.