April 14, 2005
April 14th, 2005
Dear Brethren and Co-Workers with Christ,
Greetings from Charlotte, NC! As most of you know, Christ’s Passover is to be observed this year on Friday evening, April 22. My wife, Sheryl, and I will be in the United Kingdom for this commemoration and then will be spending time with our brethren all over the British Isles. Last year, we were in South Africa. Three years ago we spent the spring Holy Days in New Zealand and Australia.
May God guide all of us to examine ourselves carefully at this time of year—not just before Passover—but all during the seven days of Unleavened Bread which follow. For Passover pictures the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay for our sins, and Unleavened Bread pictures the need to "come out of sin" after accepting Jesus’ sacrifice. Many professing Christians think that they truly accept Christ’s payment for their sins. Most are very sincere. But all too often they are completely in the dark about the biblical requirement to genuinely "repent" of their sins before accepting Christ’s sacrifice.
Remember Peter’s inspired sermon on the first New Testament Pentecost? Guided by God, Peter cried out to the vast throng before him, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). To receive God’s Holy Spirit—to become genuinely converted—one must profoundly repent of sin. Remember, the biblical definition of sin is given in I John 3:4, "Sin is the transgression of the law" (KJV). The very word "repent" carries the specific connotation of turning around and going a different way. How many of us have really done that?
In the January/February issue of "Books and Culture: A Christian Review," author Ronald J. Sider points out the hypocrisy of many evangelical Protestants. Remember, these are the people who claim they truly follow the Bible and want to genuinely imitate Jesus Christ. Yet Sider suggests that the actual lifestyle of even these so-called "born again" evangelical Protestants is not much different than the average non-churchgoer’s!
Sider writes, "Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most ‘Christians’ regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment. The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. ‘Gallup and Barna,’ laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, ‘hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.’ Divorce is more common among ‘born-again’ Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.
"Alan Wolfe, famous contemporary scholar and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has just published a penetrating study of American religious life. Evangelicals figure prominently in his book. His evaluation? Today’s evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits ‘so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had.’ Wolfe argues, ‘The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-‘em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches.’"
Jesus Christ said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:20). The "fruits"—the results of Christianity in our lives—are the ultimate measuring rod which God Himself uses. We all should learn to go by that when we try to size up any religion or institution.
But before we get too self-righteous about the worldliness of our evangelical neighbors, we need to turn the looking glass back on ourselves! Have we, individually, deeply repented of our sins and of putting the old "self" at the center of our lives? Have we profoundly surrendered to let Jesus Christ live His life within us through the Holy Spirit? Are we truly growing in our practice of obeying all ten of the Ten Commandments—both in spirit as well as in letter—through Christ living within us?
Have we honestly heeded Jesus’ powerful warnings, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt. 16:24-25)?
Each of us needs to meditate, regularly, on whether or not we are truly reflecting Jesus Christ more and more as each year goes by. Whether we are worshipping God more wholeheartedly and making Him the actual center of our thoughts and actions. Whether we truly love our neighbors—all of them—and try to help, encourage and serve each human being with whom we come in contact. Whether we are sincerely zealous in the Work of God and are doing our part to proclaim Christ’s full message to "every creature" (Mark 16:15).
Dear brethren and co-workers, there may be many ways that we can serve you in this Work—and we want to. But we also know that Christ is coming soon. We—through God’s mercy—do understand the prophecies and the general time frame of the prophetic events to come. That is fine, and that is important. But we all need to realize that none of this will help us if we do not have Jesus Christ living within us through the Holy Spirit! So at this time, especially, I profoundly encourage all of you to understand that the genuine "bottom line" is whether you are fully acting on God’s Truth and letting the true Jesus of the Bible live in you the obedient life He did live more than 1,900 years ago.
This Work of the living Christ is growing! Our new television stations are beginning to produce rich fruit. I will tell you much more about all of this in the semi-annual letter which should arrive in seven or eight weeks. It will take the place of the next co-worker letter. But at this Passover time, I wanted to share with all of you the most important instruction I can possibly give you. That instruction tells you—and me—that we all need to draw much closer to the real Jesus Christ who is now alive as our High Priest and who will soon return to this earth as King of kings. He knows whether we are truly surrendered to Him and to the Father. He knows whether we are "compromising" in the way we actually live, serve and do our part in His service.
May God inspire all of us to "get on the ball" so that we may finally hear those most encouraging of all words from our Savior, "Well done good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord" (Matt. 25:21).
With Christian love,
—Roderick C. Meredith