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?
It’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 *)
As 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.
2 “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.
3 “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!