Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 29, 2015
Can evil overcome God’s plan for the world?
John, beloved disciple of Jesus, was banished to the Island of Patmos as an old man. There he caught a glimpse of heaven. He heard multitudes singing and shouting that because the Lord God Almighty reigns, we should rejoice and be glad.
This was at a time when the world was being ravaged by violence and barbarism. Christians were being slaughtered because they would not renounce Jesus as Lord. Pagan rulers were intent on crushing the new Christian movement. Yet a lonely old man named John insisted that Almighty God was in control.
In our day surveys indicate the church, especially in America, is declining. Attendance is spiraling down. Fewer people take the church seriously. In the face of today’s surging violence and the endless killing of innocent people, is it reasonable to believe that God controls the destinies of men and nations?
When skepticism tempts me to give up my faith in the sovereignty of Almighty God, I choose to stand with old John the Revelator. The Lord God Almighty is still in control!
My doubt is dissolved by what the church taught me when I was a child. When I was baptized at age ten, the pastor read these stirring words from the old baptismal covenant:
“The church is of God, and will be preserved to the end of time, for the conduct of worship and the due administration of God’s Word and Sacraments, the maintenance of Christian fellowship and discipline, the edification of believers, and the conversion of the world. All, of every age and station, stand in need of the means of grace which it alone supplies.”
“Preserved to the end of time” – Yes! That I believe with my whole heart. Nothing can stop the plan God has begun in the world through his church. In Christ God has opened the door to heaven for all who will believe. No man can ever shut that door!
If every Christian church building in the world was destroyed today, tomorrow the Christian movement would be stronger than ever! The people whose hearts God has touched are not dependent upon bricks and mortar to finish the work Christ began with his crucifixion and resurrection. God can use buildings but his plan can be fulfilled without them.
Look at Judaism. Repeatedly the Jews have been crushed, defeated and enslaved. But God has continued to restore them by his mighty power. Israel belongs to God to the present hour.
Those who seek to destroy Israel must first defeat God and that will never happen because God is the sovereign ruler of the universe. He has ordained that in the end, love wins and hate loses. Those who perpetuate hate and violence can inflict suffering upon millions, but the ultimate victory belongs to God. This I believe is what John was saying in the Book of Revelation.
Saint Paul gives us the same message. He and John were on the same page. Otherwise he would not have been convinced that nothing, absolutely nothing, “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
The Bible is filled with stories that remind us how foolish it is to doubt the supremacy of God. Ruthless King Nebuchadnezzar confiscated the sacred vessels of the temple and destroyed the temple. Flushed with an insane sense of his own power, he thought, “That is the end of Judah and the end of the Judahites. They are finished.” But he was wrong. He did not understand that God always has the last word. God had a plan.
The Prophet Jeremiah understood. He knew God could not be defeated. The prophet was convinced that God’s power was so great that he could even use the pagan King Cyrus to accomplish his divine purposes – and God did just that!
When Cyrus came to power over Babylonia he gave the exiled Jews the freedom to worship the God of their choice. They began to worship Yahweh more faithfully than ever before. Exile had taught them the foolishness of worshipping pagan gods.
With no temple to use for worship the Jews had developed synagogue worship. In these small groups they began to love the Holy Scriptures more than ever. Over time the Jews had become a people of the book, and that book was God’s Word. Out of such an environment God brought forth his only Son Jesus, the Messiah for whom the Jews had waited so long. God used their misery for their good and his glory. Slowly they realized that God had a plan and that his plans cannot be ultimately thwarted.
Ezra tells of a mighty moment in the history of the Jews. My heart skips a beat when I read it! The priests and heads of families “got ready to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem”! They got ready! Why? Because God stirred their spirits!
The power of God was so real that even King Cyrus had his heart stirred. He brought out the Lord’s vessels that King Nebuchadnezzar had desecrated by using them in pagan worship.
Surely this is a time when our hearts need to be stirred again by the Spirit of God. We are so prone to hopelessness. We forget that God is still on the throne. The rampant evil and violence in the world cause us to become discouraged. Radical terrorists seem so powerful. The church seems filled with hypocrites who have surrendered to the lusts of the flesh. Society seems immune to the influence of the church.
If, however, we will allow God to stir us to believe that God’s plan for the church and the world will not fail, there is only one thing to do next. We need to “get ready” to honor and obey God – like the Jews did in the days of Ezra.
We need to get busy doing the will of God, forgiving and loving one another, and sharing Christ with our neighbors. We need to get busy doing our part, no matter how small, to help the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ!
Only then – when Almighty God has stirred us out of our lethargy – will we have the courage to face even the worst of times with joy and hope. Only then will we find the enthusiasm to sing old John’s faith as Handel sang it: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! + + +