This may seem obvious to many readers, but fallen human beings have always sought to avoid the authority of the Word of God. One of their preferred strategies today is to claim that religion, and scriptural Christianity in particular, is not relevant. If people care to go further, they may say that it does not meet their felt needs. It will not make them any happier, they assume, or make it any easier to make ends meet or make them any healthier. So they turn away from it with disdain and go on in their ungodly lifestyle.
In fact, it is likely that they would be happier if they followed Christ rather than the world; they may find it easier to make ends meet because they would eliminate wasteful expenditure; they may even become healthier as a result of giving up what is damaging to their well-being. But this is to miss the main point: the absolute authority of God over His creatures, and also of the revelation He has given to mankind in the Bible – which implies their duty to submit to that authority. The idea has gained credibility that the documents of all religions are largely based on myths, but Christianity is unique in that the Bible is absolutely true from beginning to end and is therefore totally reliable. Accordingly it is entirely relevant to all people everywhere and to their deepest needs.
Yet the truths of Scripture, in spite of their relevance, may not be palatable. The truth about universal sinfulness is not welcome to the natural heart; people want to think well of themselves. This is not a new phenomenon; the Bible states, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” (Prov 16:2). People will happily deceive themselves into thinking that, in comparison with their fellow creatures, they are much more upright, much kinder and much gentler than they really are. Much more will they deceive themselves about their relationship to God. Hagar’s insight, “Thou God seest me”, is one which they do not wish to share.
But her statement is true and it is highly relevant to our lives in this world, for the One who sees us knows all that we do, all that we say and even all that we think. This is a matter of supreme relevance; it should drastically influence our behaviour. If we were to think naively about human behaviour, we might expect everyone to obey God whenever He speaks and whatever He says. But that is to ignore the fact, also revealed in Scripture, that though man was created perfect, he has fallen into sin and his whole being is affected, including his will. He does not want to draw near to God; he does not want to obey God; he does not want to be told that he is a sinner who comes short of the glory of God continually. His corrupt heart loves sin and does not want to be parted from it.
People know that this life will not last for ever, for they must die. But the Bible tells them that “it is appointed unto men once to die”, and the fact that God has overruling authority over the time of our departure from this world is an unwelcome blow to the human desire to feel independent of a superior being. It is because this generation has so largely welcomed such feelings of independence that it is drifting more and more towards accepting euthanasia and assisted suicide. But God rules over everything, including death, and He has further revealed that “after death [is] the judgement”, an idea that is even more unwelcome. Yet it is true, and it has serious implications for how we spend our lives in this world if we are to have a blessed eternity.
When sinners do not face up to their sin and its consequences, they do not see Scripture teaching about the remedy for sin as relevant to their needs. They do not welcome the manifestation of the grace of God in the death of Christ or when the Holy Spirit applies redemption to needy, guilty sinners. And here we see the tremendous power of the devil, “the god of this world”, in blinding “the minds of them which believe not” (2 Cor 4:4). He blinds them so that they do not properly perceive the existence of God and His authority over them; the consequence is that they do not take to heart their personal need as sinners who have yet to confront the solemn realities of death, judgement and eternity. Satan blinds them by making them feel comfortable in their sin, encouraging them to feel that religion, especially true religion, is totally unattractive and not worthy of any attention – to look on it as something that may safely be ignored.
So most sinners today do not take time to examine God’s revelation of a full and free salvation through Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and rose again, and who now, from His throne in glory, is applying redemption to the guilty. Again this is according to Scripture: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not” (Is 53:3). The Son of God became man and was rejected by most of those who came in contact with Him; the God-man is now on the throne of glory and most people treat Him as irrelevant to their lives.
When God’s prophet Micaiah warned King Ahab about the dangers he faced in going to battle against the Syrians, the King despised the prophet and his message. He dismissed the warning and went ahead with his plans. But as he lay fatally wounded in his chariot, Ahab’s mind must have wandered back to Micaiah’s warning, which was now so obviously true. But it was too late to benefit from it. And how many in a lost eternity will think back to the Bible and its warnings, which they rejected because they interfered with their desire to go on in sin! But then it will be too late to heed the warnings, turn from their sin and embrace the salvation which they once could have found if they had sought it.
The unbelief of today’s professing Church makes it all the easier for the man or woman in the street to reject the authority of God’s Word. To a great extent, the Church does not accept the Bible’s testimony about sin and its consequences and therefore does not fulfil its function in bearing witness to the continuing relevance of that testimony. Large numbers of ministers do not accept the testimony of Scripture to Jesus Christ as truly divine, as One who bore the full punishment for the sins of His people, who rose again and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. They do not point to Him as the unique Saviour; they ignore the fact that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Ours is a generation that glories in inter-faith worship; it has lost sight of the unique relevance of Christ and of the salvation He has provided for guilty sinners.
Can this generation be rescued from its blindness? Let us think back to Ahab’s generation, one which also lost sight of the wrongness of false religion. After the false priests of Baal had failed to call down fire on their sacrifice, God answered Elijah’s earnest prayer for fire from heaven to fall on his sacrifice, “that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God” (1 Ki 18:37). Then the people cried in acknowledgment: “The Lord, He is the God”, for only the power of the living God could bring fire from heaven. And only His power could remove the people’s blindness and bring them to to declare that the Lord is indeed God – although we may not know how many of them were convinced of their sin and brought believingly to see how suitable was the provision that the true God had made for sinners like them.
Today only divine power can remove the almost-universal blindness which prevents sinners from seeing the entire relevance of God’s testimony, in Scripture, to sin and its terrible consequences and to salvation from sin. What we need is, first of all, the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people, so that they would, like Elijah, pray earnestly for an outpouring of the Spirit on those who have even the least contact with the Word of God, so that they would see its entire relevance to their spiritual condition, and that they would then be brought from the heart to acknowledge, “The Lord, He is the God”.