One of the greatest tools of the enemy and the old, worldly nature against which Christians struggle is distraction.
We are easily distracted.
Everything in this world tells us that everything but the whole, undiluted Gospel should be our focal point in life.
Oh sure, you can “believe the Gospel” and “love the Lord” in some general, churchy, religious sounding sense, but don’t actually bring that stuff into “the real world” of politics, economics, or children’s education.
No, when it comes to those realms – the real ones – the enemy (and our flesh) has a hard core preference for self-serving, flesh-appealing distraction.
So we go along to get along. We roll with the crowd. We enthusiastically embrace presently popular cultural and family traditions because that is easy, and we love easy. We go to church on Sunday, participate in the things we are told it is good to participate in, and call it a day.
We don’t rock the boat.
In this mode, it’s not so much that we actively avoid the Great Commission. It’s that we don’t even notice it in the first place.
That’s how distracted from Truth we’ve become.
One of the main means by which this distraction is accomplished is by way of never ending, ever present crisis.
Crises, we are told, are all around us. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it is not, but when it is true – when there are actual crises gathering around us, our families, or our cultures – it is not so because we have focused too much on the Gospel and Great Commission. It is so because we have focused elsewhere.
Ebola in God’s Creation
With the emergence of Ebola in America, we see a legitimate object of concern being used once again to distract us.
Certainly, we are to be attentive to this serious problem and act accordingly. But as we pray, ponder, and take action, we are to be mindful and committed to our King, His Gospel, and the Great Commission that He has given to His church, as the rudder by which we guide every contemplation and approach to this or any other “crisis”.
This Gospel and Great Commission centered worldview has incredible practical benefit.
When we are distracted from the Gospel, we are distracted from the only true source of peace, hope, and even joy in the face of plagues such as this.
This is a serious matter, as many Christians are finding at this very moment. Fear is the antithesis of faith, and it is paralyzing. In our paralysis, we impair our witness and are distratcted (often to the point of seemingly total disconnection from) the Great Commission.
. . . Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The (Counterfeit) Gospel in a Bottle
One of the reasons that we are so easily distracted from the whole Gospel and the Great Commission is that we as evangelicals in America have been pitched and bought into a shallow, weak, counterfeit gospel. It is neatly sequestered and separated from everything else, rather than directly impacting and defining everything else, as the true Gospel does (and must, by its very nature). This counterfeit is wildly popular all across the church spectrum. It appeals to everyone by nature, be they conservative or liberal, because it appeals to the basic tenant of fallen, sin-enslaved human nature: Self-centeredness.
Men and women want man- and woman-centeredness. They want their hopes, dreams, and emotions to rule. And since, in America anyway (particularly in the South), these men and women also want the “cover” or veneer of Christianity, they love the “gospel in a bottle”, because that gospel doesn’t actually touch anything outside of the small container in which it is kept.
It is admired from afar and often consciously worshiped, but never actually applied to anything beyond the bottle in which it is displayed for services on Sunday or bible study time…which brings us back to the Great Commission.
The Great Commission can only be understood through the whole Gospel of Christ. It is fueled by that true, supernatural Gospel, and it cannot be fueled or accomplished by any other means.
The Gospel truth that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone puts to death any claim or hint that our works contribute anything to our salvation. Even this beautiful truth can be acknowledged at some level while perverted by man to serve his self-centered, emotion-driven desires, as is witnessed by the prevalence of a “gospel in a bottle” approach to life in our culture. This “gospel in a bottle” has been worshiped and used by many to ignore, dismiss, and enable flagrantly unbiblical actions on a massive scale in our culture for generations now, and it is at least possible that our culture is now reaping the consequences of our long running (and increasing) rebellion by way of things like…Ebola.
When we pitch and use a gospel that is utterly disconnected from – and, frankly, disdainful of – the Great Commission command to “make disciples of all nations”, “teaching them to observe” all that Christ the King has commanded, we will quickly find ourselves way off track and in very dangerous territory.
If our gospel doesn’t even inspire us to seek and apply His Word in every area that He has addressed therein, do we even have the true Gospel?
This is not only a legitimate question, but it is at the heart of the “tests” offered in Scripture to those who would ask the question, “Am I really saved?”
While we are never saved by our works, we are certainly saved unto good works, and the only way that we have to rightly define “good” or anything else is the perfect, sufficient Word of God.
So when we as professing Christians dismiss His Word as the real, practical authority in all matters right here and now, we are demonstrating our disbelief, we are leading the world astray, and we are most to blame for the increasing darkness to come.
If Christ has spoken clearly and in detail on matters of economics (Proverbs 11) and children’s education (Deuteronomy 6), are His words not to be the actual guide to our actions? If Christ has spoken with great clarity as to the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of the family, church, and state, are His Words not to be our authority and standard right here and now?
Do you see how weird that sounds? Even the suggestion of such things rubs the modern evangelical ear wrong…because that ear has been tickled and bent to the preferences of a Great Commission gospel in a bottle that never has and never will do anything but lead people and cultures further into the darkness in service to their self-centered desires.
The Judgment of God and Our Great Opportunity
So what does this have to do with Ebola?
Everything that we need to understand and act begins with the Gospel and Great Commission.
Every political, economic, family, governmental, and even plague-related issue is subject to the authority of His Word.
Everything in God’s creation relates directly to His Gospel, and everyone in His creation is subject to His Great Commission…however much this world would have you and I believe otherwise.
When we understand, embrace, and apply that truth, we will be what He has called and equipped us to be in this time of tumult and judgment upon a rebellious people.
What better time and context than now and in the face of this threat than to calmly, clearly, and hopefully proclaim and apply the core truths of the Gospel?
What better context is there to discuss the reason for there being death in the world? The reason that there are plagues? The righteous judgment of God against rebellion in real-world, measurable ways…like plagues, drought, wicked leadership, and the sword of one people being raised up against another? (Any of this sound familiar, my fellow Americans?)
What better backdrop against which could there be to proclaim the good news of the Gospel in its loving command to “repent, believe, and be saved”?
What better bridge could we ask for to discuss everything from the nature of God, man, sin, death, holiness, and eternity?
God has given this moment and the threat of this plague as the perfect (and perfectly timed) tool by which we might stand and proclaim His truth right here and now in a very frightened, fooled, and lost American culture.
Only when we seize His Gospel and pursue His Great Commission will otherwise impossible good things become not only possible but realized right here and now in this dark and dying land.
We will then, by His grace, be equipped and inspired to share a sound understanding of the holiness and righteous judgment of God with the lost. We will be able to encourage, correct, rebuke, comfort, heal, celebrate, mourn, do business, and educate children, all more and more purposefully to the glory of God.
This is our calling and opportunity, whatever happens (or, Lord willing, does not happen) here now through the Ebola virus.
May God grace us with a desire to remove and avoid every distraction from His Gospel and Great Commission.
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© 2014 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.