Are things getting better or worse?

glass-half-empty-full

Or should I say, are things getting worse…or better? As we enter another new year I would like us to ponder our assumptions about the time we’re living in.

Are the days growing darker or brighter? Are the best days behind us or in front of us? Is it better to be alive today…or not?

From what I can see, it mostly depends on our perspective.

My intent is not to step on your eschatological toes, but it’s very popular for us evangelicals to look at the news and say that we’re in the “last days.” And looking at things in our Western cultural bubble, to see Christianity in decline (even though it’s growing worldwide). Some will conclude that this must be the “great falling away” from the faith.

Which proves the end is near…or not.

What if Jesus doesn’t return for another 10,000 years? Then we would still be the early church, still in the infancy of our understanding of who we are in Christ.

You see…it all comes down to perspective.

While there’s definitely a marked falling away from traditional Christianity in the Western industrialized nations, does it follow that Christianity itself is in peril?

What if we’re actually witnessing the beginnings of another great reformation? What if this is just a molting season, and rather than a “great falling away” it’s a great transition before a glorious upgrade?

After all, when Paul told Timothy about the falling away in the latter days (1 Tim.4:1-3),  he was referring to his generation. So, why do we uniquely apply it to ours?

fish_bowlIt’s very hard to see things objectively when we’re deeply embedded in our own cultural narrative. I grew up with the “Jesus will come at any minute, so give your life to Him before it’s too late” perspective. That was (and still pretty much is) the cultural assumption of my generation, and it worked great for evangelism…back then.

But as C.S. Lewis once asked, what if this is just one of our generation’s “characteristic illusions?”:

From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them. (Lewis, Surprised by Joy, p. 207-208 *)

In other words, like fish in an aquarium, we don’t tend to question the water we’re swimming in.

I wrote back in 2014 about a study revealing that the younger generation is losing their religion. But what if they’re just losing our religion? What if they want more than what our packaged and programmed “Churchianity” offers? What if what they’re really searching for is a way to follow Christ authentically?

I think C.S. Lewis can shed some light here, too:

…the sources of unbelief among young people today do not lie in those young people. The outlook they have—until they are taught better—is a backwash from an earlier period. It is nothing intrinsic to themselves that holds them back from the Faith. (Lewis, from “Transmission of Christianity” essay *)

AngryAs I said in “A Generation losing their religion,” could it be that what young people are actually rejecting is a divisive, fear-driven, condemning, manipulative,  judgmental, hypocritical, politicized religious facsimile that we’ve handed them?

Maybe they’re just waiting “until they are taught better.”

I guess I’m a “glass is half-full” guy. I see good things happening, and greater things on the horizon. But I believe I have solid biblical support for my optimism. I know that Jesus isn’t coming back for a relationally dysfunctional and powerless bride at the end of her rope. No, He’s coming back for a glorious bride, radiant and splendorous, full of love…who looks and acts just like Him (John 17:23; Eph.4:13-16; Rev.19:7).

I don’t think we’re there yet, do you?

So, if the world is getting darker, maybe it’s time for us to put down our rocks, unpack our rapture bags, be about our Father’s business instead of abdicating our royal role as His sons and daughters…and shine!

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
“For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
“Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isa.60:1-3 NASB)

Regardless of what you think about the days we’re living in, may your 2017 be the best year ever, and as Paul once prayed, may you be filled with all the fullness that fills God. (Eph.3:19). Beloved, your life is hidden in Christ in God (Col.3:3), and that’s GOOD news!

* All emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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16 Responses to Are things getting better or worse?

  1. paulfg says:

    ” … could it be that what young people are actually rejecting is a divisive, fear-driven, condemning, manipulative, judgmental, hypocritical, politicized religious facsimile that we’ve handed them?”

    What’s not to love, Mel? 🙂

    I saw a wonderful bit about glasses and half full/empty (the following is précis a rather than verbatim): I decide how much is in my glass – if it is emptying I fill it, if it is overfilling I share freely. Because if my glass is only ever half (full or empty) that makes me a victim – and I am not that nor will I ever be.

  2. Relatively to the previous ‘age’, I think every age has some ‘dark’ evidence to get discouraged about. But I love Isa 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end….” Hmmmm This means that kingdom realities have to be better today than they were yesterday… and better tomorrow than they were today.

    Our inner predisposition is going to determine our perspective. Our ‘reality’, will depend on what we regularly ‘feast’ on. Maybe the saying is right, “You are what you eat.” 🙂

    And regarding the glass, it’s always refillable! Yay!!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Our inner predisposition is going to determine our perspective. Our ‘reality’, will depend on what we regularly ‘feast’ on. Maybe the saying is right, “You are what you eat.” ”

      I think you’re on to something there! 🙂 Good stuff, Mark. And, yes, the glass is always being filled…like you referenced, there’s no end to His increase! THAT’S reality. The cup is overflowing if we will receive it and pour it out on others. Flow is good!

  3. David says:

    Great word Mel.

    “…the sources of unbelief among young people today”

    C.S. Lewis’ article must be over 40 years old too! A generation….
    Even in Lewis’ time, it was the same question: are things getting worse…or better?
    Perhaps 40 years from now, writers will also give the same response as you Mel!

    I think that is why our chief focus as Christians should be to “occupy” (Luke 19:13). To do the “business” that God has called us to do, and let His Kingdom permeate it. And affect change.

    … oops I better stop. I’m preaching! 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks David. Yes, it’s the same for every generation. We must ask the faithful questions and bring the life of God into our cultural context…to “occupy” and do business until He comes.
      Good preaching! 🙂

  4. All I know is the return of Jesus is closer today than was yesterday. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue as to when.

    As for the youngsters, I believe we are on the verge of another great awakening among those who want nothing to do with religion but want everything to do with a relationship with Jesus. It will be up to us older folk to help guide them but not stifle their enthusiasm.

    • Mel Wild says:

      “It will be up to us older folk to help guide them but not stifle their enthusiasm.”

      Amen, Patrick. This is SO important. Our job is to help raise up the next generation in the way THEY should go, not necessarily according to our traditions. I learned that from my kids several years ago. I used to argue with them and worry that they didn’t agree with my version of “American” Christianity, but I never actually listened to their heart. When I finally did, I realized that they had the same values as me, they were just expressing them in a different way. In fact, in some ways I learned from them! That totally changed (improved) my spiritual relationship with them and helped to change the way I see Christianity going.

      Stifling “enthusiasm” (en-theos, which means “God-inspired”) is the enemy of spiritual growth. This is what the Pharisees did. To say that we know everything there is to know about theology and nothing needs to change is just the height of arrogance and ignorance to me. We don’t throw out the past, we prune back the toxic aspects and build on the good. But we’re always growing, changing as the Body of Christ, on a constant trajectory to becoming more like Him. The problem is, every former generation has a tendency to keep God in their tidy little box, but we must let go of this fear/insecurity and listen to the next generation, helping them “incarnate” the Christian life in their particular cultural context.

  5. “In other words, like fish in an aquarium, we don’t tend to question the water we’re swimming in.”
    Right, Mel. It’s not just the next generation, but we must listen with open ears and open hearts. Whether to new ideas or to our own Bibles, if we are to be filled with God’s Word, we need to understand it is all Living Water, which ebbs and flows and is renewed moment by moment. Like a river, water that flows is never stagnant; it changes and breathes new life into those that live in it.

    We are not reborn once; we are reborn time and time again, if we allow God’s Spirit to transform our lives. And if we do that, the cup is always full.

    • Mel Wild says:

      “…if we are to be filled with God’s Word, we need to understand it is all Living Water, which ebbs and flows and is renewed moment by moment. Like a river, water that flows is never stagnant; it changes and breathes new life into those that live in it.”

      Amen! I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to overflowing cups in 2017 and beyond! 🙂 Blessings.

  6. Cindy Powell says:

    “I know that Jesus isn’t coming back for a relationally dysfunctional and powerless bride at the end of her rope.” AMEN!! His bride WILL be glorious because He is glorious! Love, love this. Bring on the better. I figure you can’t go wrong with hope. I would much rather err on the side of optimism, than on the doom and gloom side of things. It is really so sad that believing things will get “worse and worse” became such a pious mantra in the church. No wonder the next generation didn’t want to sign up – “Hey kids, forget about your future, because there isn’t going to be one. So come on in and hunker down until Jesus comes to take us all away!” But guess what? We’re still here. Even IF the “worse and worse” narrative was true (which I do NOT believe it is) how does it benefit anyone? Fear always enslaves. However, focusing on His goodness and believing we will see more and more of His goodness “in the land of the living” benefits just about everyone and everything. Maybe this will be the year we learn our (refillable) cups really can always overflow!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, Cindy. If we stopped looking up to the sky for Jesus and started looking to He who is IN us (who’s greater than anything outside of us- 1 John 4:4), and stopped turning the last book of the Bible into “the Revelation of the Antichrist” and see that’s it’s actually “the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” maybe, just maybe, we would see these glorious things. As Mark said, His increase never ends. And we’re supposed to be going from glory to glory…not hiding in the corner waiting for rescue. So, I’m totally with you on this being the year we learn how to have our cups filled and filled again! Here’s to glory! 🙂

      • AfroScot says:

        The last book of the bible is the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” as opposed to the “Revelation of the Anti-Christ”. I have never heard this before. Absolutely beautiful!

        Thanks Mel for these words. God bless

  7. oneta hayes says:

    Hi, I’m just dropping by because of sharing Dawnliz’s list which you are also on. So I’m coming to wish a blessing on you and your ministry for this year 2017. Blessings to you.

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