The Current Scene
Terror in the Skies
The ambush and shooting down of the South Korean jumbo jet by the Soviets was another one of these shots which was being heard around the world. Of late the Russians have been parading as a peace loving people. The peacenicks have been especially attentive to this. But to many this has been nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Actions speak louder than words. In the war of words that has been going on since the erection of the iron curtain, Russian propaganda has suffered a major defeat. Heretofore President Ronald Reagan’s words sounded to many as if it were he that was picking a fight. Now he unmasks the Soviets as he could not do before the plane tragedy. So too, many are heedless of the Christian gospel’s warnings until some trauma hits them personally; then, maybe, they are attentive to the bringer of “good tidings,” reminding us of the words in Job 33, “Then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.”
The Russians plainly from this incident would rather be feared than loved. In the Security Conference in Madrid, Secretary of State George Shultz had a face to face confrontation with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrie Gromejko. The Russians made no apology for the affair and justified protecting their “sacred” territory from a deliberate “criminal act.”
Also, any future violations of Russian air space would be dealt with similarly. None seem to take exception to the President’s appraisal of Russia as a “criminal empire.” The slanted account that the Soviet propaganda machine gave its citizens suits only Russian ears. The plane was on a spy mission on behalf of the United States. One Muscovite wrote, “What are 269 lives when it comes to defending 272 million Soviet citizens.” No matter how seemingly convincing our circumstantial evidence was there were no wanting replies from the other side which still cries, “Not guilty.” So the unsaved can always find excuses that are satisfactory to their own thinking for rejecting the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ upon them. They are apt to say, “Which religion is right?” or “If you have the truth, why are so few convinced?” And so it goes, but God says to all such, “Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man” (Rom. 2:1).
The most sophisticated salvage equipment searched the sea where the disaster took place. The search was particularly for the “black box” in which the last words of the pilots are recorded. This would clear up a lot of the mystery that still surrounds the affair. For instance, why was the plane so far off course as to intrude into Russia’s sensitive air space? Was the plane adequately warned before being shot down? With all of the lies, theories and propaganda filling the air and newsprint, the full truth may never be discovered. On the other hand, none of us can hide anything from the all-seeing eye of God. In the final analysis we are told, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” (Luke 12:2). A judge with such knowledge assures all of a fair trial; but “What wilt thou say when He will punish thee?” (Jeremiah 13:21).
The Senate and the House have without a dissenting voice (a very rare thing) passed a resolution condemning the destruction of the Korean Airline Flight 007. Said Senator Moynihan, “The world will have heard this nation speaking with one voice.” He also went on to say, “KAL 007 must never be forgotten; nor must we rest until the world can prevent such a crime against humanity ever happening again.” This is unrealistic and wishful rhetoric. The unconverted American heart is the same as the Russian. Our civilization is little more than skin deep. Remove opinion and laws and fallen man will soon reveal what he really is — a sinner. The fond dream of humanity where nations will beat their swords into ploughshares is not until “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5) are in effect. So it is with Dr. Martin Luther King’s, “I Have a Dream,” which included a quote from Isaiah 40, “The crooked shall be made straight.” We cannot equate this present age where “grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life” with the yet future reign of Christ when He wields “the rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5). Then, and not until then, will we have a perfect world. The revolutions of the world where they have succeeded have been little more than a change of hats. They decide who now gets the privileges. Basically, things have not altered since our Lord spoke these words, “Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh” (Matthew 18:7).
Cheapening The Gospel
We were struck with a recent article in U.S. News and World Report. It was a critique of the modern approach to the gospel. The heading was, “A Soft Sell.” Here is a secular magazine deploring the latest gimmicks used in gospel preaching to catch the ear of the public. If the gospel is so wonderful why must it resort to such bizarre approaches? Movie stars, top-notch athletes or some materialistic achiever are called to the front of the stage for a testimony. Most appear to have no qualms about their worldlinesss. Some of the TV programs suggest Christianity as a sort of good luck religion. Embrace their brand of gospel and one can fall into financial clover, need no hospitalization and always be on the sunny side of the street. But where does repentance come in? Where is taking up the cross and following a crucified Saviour? Where is, “Take the world, but give me Jesus”? What of the plain injunction, “You cannot serve God and mammon”? The lavish appeals for money to maintain the great religious empires some have built up have led one modern critic to question, “Did God create man, or did man create the concept of God to promote man’s selfish interest.” As a result, those with an acquaintance with Scriptural principles turn aside and lament, “How are the mighty fallen!”
The inspired Apostle Paul has a word for this; he wrote, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:17). W. E. Vine’s dictionary goes to considerable trouble to explain the Greek word used in this verse for” corrupt.” It means “to peddle, to hucksterize; hence to get base gain by dealing in anything, and so more generally to do anything for sordid or personal advantage.” Sir Robert Anderson reflecting on this matter writes, “A gospel that points to the death of Christ as proof of God’s high estimate of man, and then turns the doctrine of that death into syllogism, so that men, in no way losing self-respect, can calmly reason out their right to blessing by it, will give no offense to anyone, nor be branded as foolishness. Such a gospel pays deference to human nature, and satisfies man’s sense of need without hurting in the least his pride. Such a gospel has, in fact, produced that marvelous anomaly, a Christian world. Even in Paul’s day many ‘were but hucksters of the Word of God.’”
Getting back to the “Soft Sell” article, we noted later that two letters to the editor were published. We quote from one while reminding ourselves that this is from a secular source: “There are many Christians who oppose the marketing of the gospel as if it were a new brand of toothpaste. Old fashioned prayer, preaching and practical Christian love are the only means that the Bible gives for winning men and women to Christ. As for ‘born-again athletes, ordained clowns and clerical disc jockeys,’ I ask: when will the modern church realize that worldly and superficial methods produce worldly and superficial converts?”
True, we are not called in “Soft Shell” (notice the word “Shell”) America to wear the martyr’s crown, but we are certainly called to share the martyr’s faith. When Isaiah was called to preach, he was reminded that any results would be minimal for the simple reason the people he was to address were fat of heart, their ears were heavy and their eyes shut (Isa. 6:10). Paul informed young Timothy that in the last days men would not endure sound doctrine, but this was to be no deterrent to his “doing the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). It has often been pointed out that the First Epistle to the Corinthians sets forth the order of a New Testament Church, while the Second Epistle gives us the kind of minister that such a church requires. The sixth chapter summarizes the qualifications. We quote just the fourth verse, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distress.”