Barnes: There is hope, because he gave us the cure
Last week’s column concluded with the following statement: “We want to drive the newest car we can afford, dress great, smell great and make an awesome impression. Appearances matter more, to many, in this superficial and performative era of reality TV, Facebook, and the ubiquitous video screen, than substance, values, moral principle, and character. Everything goes with narcissism and nihilism, both a belief in nothing but “what I want”.
What we wanted changed from a car for each family household to a car for each eligible driver, in each family household. Maybe 40 years from now, from the 40s to the 70s or 80s. I noticed that it was happening everywhere and in our own family. It is no wonder that carbon emissions have skyrocketed in this country. As I wrote last week, we wanted it all. I admit the same disease.
Adolf Hitler bought the “death of God” lie and turned it into a weapon through Nazism to deceive his nation and ravage the world. The devil’s lie about “the death of God” always encourages the assertion that we ourselves are gods, capable of being gods for ourselves. Hitler’s term for Aryan supremacy was “ubermensch”, “overman”. With a “dead God” dethroned and in whom we no longer believed, Hitler claimed the pseudo-divine status of the “superman”, man above all, a god unto himself. Why wouldn’t the gods have what they want? It follows, doesn’t it?
This current manifestation of the blasphemy of God’s death degrades us, suffocates us, disfigures the image of God in us, and if we stay this course, it will condemn us. Much more than a political issue, our predicament is fundamentally a spiritual issue of ultimate importance.
And now? Are we investing our hopes in scientific artificial intelligence? Some now say that we are on the borderline of that time. God forgive! This way of proceeding follows the same old stereotypical lie, decked out in a silicone disguise! Ubermensch on steroids! (I plan to say a lot more about this in a later column.)
We have been and are warned by Bible prophets. By Paul. Through Christ Jesus Himself.
What have we done in the last decades of surrender and decline? What did we get in the trade? Our age has traded a loyal commitment to loving and bonded relationships and stable families, for the satisfaction of perverted sexual desire, through adultery, pornography, and indiscreet relationships, in wasted lifestyles. Pop music rarely mentions falling in love, as was almost always the case in the 1940s and 1950s and a few years after.
Instead, the commitment to romantic love and lasting marriage was traded for the exploitation and predatory excitement of nameless, on-the-fly relationships. Or maybe a few months in the barracks until boredom signals the time to move on. Tina Turner got it right with “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” You remember ? Remember the pain and angry disappointment in Tina’s words and voice?
This era has traded in our neighbor’s concern to go ahead at all costs, to follow the Joneses and leave them in the dust and the rearview mirror. Too rarely have we helped other people in need without thinking “what is in it for me?” Even good deeds were done to make a good impression.
Jesus said that what is not done in faith is sin. And we hardly think of the hungry children of Madagascar, those who are too far away to be considered neighbors, or to be impressed by us.
The sad gain of this era has been meaningless lives to earn a living, spend everything on ourselves, drive out the “good life”, plunder the Earth’s resources, aimlessness and spiritual starvation. Can you see it? Look around you. It can be difficult to spot wasted lives. They can appear to be well fed, well dressed, and well located.
For a while.
He is exhausted.
Still, there is hope. God gives the remedy. But it comes at a cost. To repent. Repent, says the Lord. Beware: sincere repentance is not a rote formula. Genuine repentance costs money, heartbreaking grief and mourning, for a wicked heart and a sinful way of life. Sincere repentance requires giving up our sin, hating our sin, and the sackcloth and ashes sorrow, for sin against a living God. Sorrow like David’s. Like that of Isaiah. And conversion to the love of God. Like theirs.
In addition, becoming a disciple, following Jesus, has a sacrificial cost. Taking up a cross means death, the death of wanting to do what we want, to get what we want, just as we want, as much as we want. Conversion and faithful discipleship have cost our lives, our souls, our everything: “Love so incredible, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my everything” (Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”) . Amen.
Sincere repentance, the amazing grace of Almighty God and the forgiveness of sins, conversion and following our Lord by carrying his cross for his glory and his kingdom, are the only salvation of mankind. A. God offers it again.
And joy! Rejoice! God has not abandoned us! In Jesus Christ, it is the time of shouting, the time “swirling with joy”! Everyday! Christmas is coming!
Thanks to God.
Dr. Elizabeth Barnes is a retired professor emeritus of Christian theology and ethics at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., And a resident of White Lake.