“The Challenge of the 70’s”
William McRae, formerly of Toronto but now serving the Lord at Dallas, Texas, gave three forceful messages at the Youth Convention held at Peterborough, Ontario, near the close of 1970. All present felt the impact of their challenge. We publish these in hope that our readers may likewise be impressed.
Part 1 - Unconditional Surrender
or Facing the Challenge of the ‘70’s by dedicating our Lives to the Lord.
It is quite possible that no generation of Christians has ever faced a greater challenge than this present decade presents to us.
Bertrand Russell said unless something unforeseen happens, one of three things will occur: the cessation of all human life; the catastrophic diminuation of the population of the globe; or the unification of the world under a single government.
The political scene is nothing less than frightening. Historian Arnold Toynbee says, “The present worldwide discontent and unrest will become more acute, and will express itself in worse and worse outbreaks of violence. In fact, I expect to see local civil wars take the place of a third international war.” Time analysts say, “The ‘70’s are likely to be a time of chaotic and confused politics.” Political optimists predict that the Arab-Israeli conflict will carry on as mankind’s modern equivalent of the Hundred Years’ War. The National Commission on Violence last fall raised the possibility of a nation torn by assassinations and terrorism, of cities turned into hostile armed camps. Francis Schaeffer sees the Establishment elite being so supported by the Silent Majority against the New Left that a totalitarian dictatorship will be soon accepted in the U.S.A. How shall we face the frightening political challenge of the ‘70’s? Yet, this is not all.
The social crises are almost overwhelming. The population will explode from 3.6 billion to 4.3 billion in the next ten years making compulsory birth control an issue in many countries. By the end of the decade there will be a 44% rise of young Americans in the 25-34 age group widening the present generation gap. Time predicts the protest by minority groups will expand and dissent will become more vocal. It says that not only will “nudity onstage and on the screen, perhaps even outright pornography be taken for granted” but also “marijuana most likely will be either legalized or condoned.” In a paper presented to the American Psychological Association, Mrs. Virginia Satir proposed that marriage should be made on a five-year renewable contract. She reasoned “If it succeeds, the couple could renew it for an additional five years. If it fails, it could be dissolved without undue stress or social stigma.” Many think such marriages will come in this decade. How shall we face the overwhelming social challenges of the ‘70’s? Still there is more.
The religious trends are extremely disturbing. More and more will reject the “traditional Western religions, finding inspiration and solace in the mystery cults of the East or in eclectic spiritual systems of their own devising.” “For many astrology, numerology and phrenology will become no longer fads but ways of life” (Time, Dec. 19, 1969). There is a frightening resurgence of demonic activity in America. We now have a church of Satan in Dallas. Over half the people who ever lived are alive today. However, in spite of the communications media, men and money unknown to any previous generation, we are losing ground every day in evangelizing the world. How shall we face these disturbing religious challenges of the ‘70’s?
Francis Schaeffer (His I.V.F., Oct. 1970) has identified four general categories within our society, according to how they face these challenges. The first is the hippie world who has dropped out of society charging, “We live in a plastic culture.” Timothy Leary, their spokesman, speaks of the great future coming under the new absolute freedom. On the basis of such freedom we will come to a golden tomorrow. Every man will be personally free, having no restraints. While this group has sharply diminished during this past year, the second has expanded.
The New Left with its several faces, is a “totalitarism centred in a left-wing elite with no absolutes to limit their action.” Their answer to the challenge is to destroy and rebuild. These anarchists cry for open revolution and “hope that out of the ashes of destruction something better will spring forth.”
The third is the rising Establishment Elite who “have only arbitrary absolutes to limit their action, and therefore their position also leads to force and the loss of liberty and dictatorship.”
The fourth and largest block are those who last year came to be called the “Silent Majority.” The vast majority of this group are the rather affluent materialistic members of Christendom who are naively capitulating to the Establishment Elite. The very small minority are evangelical Christians.
How shall, we face the challenge? We must not drop out of society like the hippies — we are the salt of the earth. We cannot join in revolution with the New Left — we are to be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. We dare not approve the Establishment Elite. What shall we do? We do what every Christian has been called to do in the face of the challenge of every age in the history of the Church. The note is most clearly sounded in Romans 12:1-2.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
That is, make an unconditional surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in your personal life. This is not a simplistic answer, nor is it a “pat answer” that is irrelevant. As we shall demonstrate in our following two messages, this unconditional surrender is foundational for meeting the challenge of the ‘70’s in the power of the Holy Spirit and for accepting the challenge by redeeming the time.
Therefore it is imperative to begin our series with facing the challenge by dedicating our lives to the Lord.
Dedication Is Described as a Presentation
The tense of the verb indicates this is to be a decisive act in the life of a Christian. It is to be as decisive as Israel’s presentation of themselves when they entered into a covenant with Him by saying “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exod. 19:8). It is to be as decisive as the presentation a girl makes to a fellow when she says “I do.” It is a decisive presentation of one’s body to be a living sacrifice. Our body is the instrument of the Spirit and our members may be instruments of righteousness or unrighteousness. It is this body that is to be presented.
“Will you please me in a word,” said a Christian woman to a teacher, “what your idea of consecration is?” Holding out a blank sheet of paper, the teacher replied, “It is to sign your name at the bottom of this blank sheet of paper and let God fill it in as He wills.” That is dedication.
On December 8, 1934, Betty and John Stam calmly and bravely laid down their lives for Christ when they were martyred by Chinese Communists. Nine years earlier Betty wrote: “Lord I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever. To me to live is Christ. Amen.”
That is dedication! It is a decisive presentation of one’s body to be possessed, controlled and used by God. (If that is dedication, then I ask “Why?” Our natural response is reflected in an imaginary conversation that ensued between a pig and a hen when they passed a church and observed the sermon topic: “How can we help the poor?”
After a few moments reflection, the hen said, “I know what we can do. We can give a ham and egg breakfast.” The pig protested, saying, “The breakfast would be only a contribution for you, but for me it would mean total commitment.” Why should one make such a total commitment to Jesus Christ?
Dedication Is Motivated by the Mercies of God
These mercies have occupied Paul’s thoughts in the preceding eleven chapters and can be captured under three words:
1. He loved you: The love of God is dateless to Jesus — and that love is of the same dimension toward us (John 17:23). It reaches far back before the foundation of the world. Someone has said: “If God had not loved you before you were born, He never would have loved you afterward.” And yet Paul makes His love for us even a greater mercy when he declares — He loved us while we were yet sinners and enemies.
2. He chose you: According to Ephesians 1:3 that love is the basis of His sovereign work of election. If Romans 9 teaches us anything, it is that God sovereignly has “mercy on whom He will have mercy” (9:18), and has chosen you to be the recipient of His saving grace. It is forever true, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” As He opened the heart of Lydia, so He has opened yours. No man naturally seeks after God. Because He loved you, He chose you. Because He chose you, He redeemed you.
3. He redeemed you: This is the great message of Romans: a guilty sinner is delivered from condemnation through the sacrificial death of Christ, on the basis of faith alone. We were great sinners. We were enslaved under the great master sin and subject to the great penalty of the law. We are purchased at a great price, and now possess a great salvation by God’s grace alone.
Here is the motivation for such a presentation. If you will turn to Deuteronomy 4, you will notice it is precisely the motivation for Israel’s unconditional surrender also. In verse 40 Moses says to the new generation in Transjordan, “Thou shalt keep, therefore, His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day.” Why? It is “because He loved thy fathers, therefore He chose their sued after them, and brought thee out in His sight with His mighty power out of Egypt” (v. 37). Here was their motivation. How similar to the mercies of God toward us!
Just prior to the Civil War, a minister, strongly opposed to slavery, happened upon a slave market in which he saw three slaves for sale. One was a strong young man. Another was an old bent-over man. Then there was a nondescript man with a very bitter look on his face. It was the third one who was bought by the minister and granted his freedom. For a moment the slave was silent in unbelief. Then, as the truth dawned, he fell to his knees and said, “I’m yours, I’m yours, I’ll serve you forever.” He was motivated by the undeserved love that prompted the minister to choose and deliver him.
Such a response is not an emotional outburst, it is a rational decision; it is your reasonable service. It may be possible to say that one who clearly understands the gospel and has entered into its blessings is being intellectually dishonest if he does not make a total commitment to the Lord. Someone has said, “Consecration is not really giving ourselves to the Lord, but taking our hands off what is already His.” We are His by virtue of His eternal love and redemptive blood.
Yet one must never think that this decisive presentation of his body to the Lord is the completion of his dedication. It is for this very reason that many who can look back to such a moment will say today. “It didn’t last.” Verse two clearly teaches that this commitment must be perpetuated by daily transformation.
Dedication Is Perpetuated by Daily Transformation (Rom. 2:12)
Paul begins with a Prohibition —”Be not conformed to this world.” Literally this could read “Stop being conformed to this world.” The implication is that they were being conformed to the philosophy of that society which rejects our Lord. What a graphic picture is conveyed by the word “conformed!” It suggests being pressed into a mold, as, in Detroit, a flat piece of metal is pressed into the mold of an automobile form. The mold of the world is clearly described by the three phrases of 1 John 2:15. As someone has suggested: The lust of the flesh speaks of indulging oneself, the lust of the eyes speaks of increasing one’s possessions, and the pride of life speaks of impressing one’s neighbours. Here are the principles that control this world system and the Word says: Stop being pressed into this mold! Such conforming will undo the decisive presentation of your body to the Lord.
Quickly Paul moves from the negative to the postitive with a Precept — “be ye transformed.” This precept is in contrast to the previous prohibition. While being “conformed” is external, being “transformed” is external. Literally the word means being changed from the inside out. The emphasis is upon our inward disposition. Also, it stands in contrast to the appeal of verse 1. Did you notice this is a command? In verse 1 he appeals. Now having responded to the appeal, there is an imperative to obey. It also is in contrast to the action in view of verse 1. While the presentation is a single decisive act, the transformation is continuous and progressive. Here is the preservation of the Christian’s dedication — it is by continuously being transformed.
The Process whereby this internal continuous change occurs is “by the renewing of your mind.” In the Scriptures the “mind” is always linked with either God or Satan. Our mind is the citadel of our body, and our body is the instrument of our mind. Our attitudes affect our actions. It is by the continuous renewing or overhauling of your mind through prayer, reading the Word and fellowship with the Lord that your dedication to the Lord is perpetuated.
The decisive act of verse 1 is never repeated, but must be constantly renewed. Israel’s unconditional surrender to Jehovah at Sinai was never renewed annually at the Feast of
Tabernacles, at the change of leadership or rise of a new generation (Deut. Josh. 24), and in times of spiritual revival as in Josiah’s day. A wife’s presentation of herself to her husband at the wedding is never repeated, but is perpetuated by a daily continuous renewing of that total commitment. This is the process that is forgotten after a weekend conference or summer youth camp and explains why those decisions do not last. They are not preserved from oblivion by the renewing of the mind which transforms the Christian.
The Purpose for this process and for the entire teaching of these two verses is “that ye may prove” personally in your own experience “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The saintly David Brainerd tells how that on one Sunday night he offered himself to God to be used only for His glory. “It was raining,” he says, “and the roads were muddy; but the desire to surrender to God grew so strong that I stopped my horse and kneeled down by the side of the road and told God about it. I told Him that my hands should work for Him, my tongue speak for Him if He would only use me as His instrument, when suddenly the darkness of the night lit up and I knew God had answered my prayer, and I felt that I was accepted into the inner circle of His will.” And he was!
What better way to face the challenge of the ‘70’s than by dedicating your life to the Lord? Have you ever made such a presentation? I heard Dr. Carl Armeding tell of his experience the first time he read Romans 12:1-2 as a young believer. He went to his closest Christian friend and pointing out the verses asked him if he believed we ought to do this. His friend said, “Yes, I’m sure we ought to.” When asked if he had ever done it, he had to admit that he hadn’t. When Dr. Armeding asked how they could do it, his friend had no suggestions. So he immediately went to a chum who had been baptized the same night as he. The same questions brought forth identical answers. In despair he finally went to an elder in his assembly who believed Romans 12:1-2 and he suggested to the young man, “Go home, and on your knees simply tell God you want to do what these verses say.” And Dr. Armeding did just that. Will you say that to the Lord this morning?