It goes without saying that we live in difficult times. The degree of difficulty ebbs and flows with the circumstances we find ourselves in and/or the trauma currently experienced in society and the world at large (such as “The Great Depression” and more recently during periods of acute recession and unemployment). When the going gets rough, the greatest temptation is to take the easy way out if we can find one and even if that means compromising what we believe (well, what we say we believe).
A term was coined for this type of behavior back in the 1960’s called “situation ethics.” Situation ethics is defined as “A system of ethics that evaluates acts in light of their situational context rather than by the application of moral absolutes” (quote course here). With the publication of the book, “Situation Ethics: The New Morality,” in 1966, the author, Joseph F. Fletcher, an Episcopal priest, ignited a firestorm. This book “was hailed by many as a much-needed reformation of morality–and as an invitation to anarchy by others. Proposing an ethic of loving concern, Fletcher suggests that certain acts–such as lying, premarital sex, adultery, or even murder–might be morally right, depending on the circumstances. Hotly debated on television, in magazines and newspapers, in churches, and in the classroom, Fletcher’s provocative thesis remains a powerful force in contemporary discussions of morality” (quote source here).
For the Christian, “situation ethics” is not an option although that floodgate has been opened in the church at large in our society since the 1960’s. Church discipline of any kind rarely exists today except when a “celebrity” type gets caught up in a moral dilemma and exposed by the media. And sin and it’s consequences are rarely topics in Sunday sermons anymore either. We hear more sermons on “learning to forgive ourselves” today then we hear on genuine repentance and getting right with God. When did the focus become “us”? The focus should be on God and Jesus Christ and our response to Him. He is the Potter and we are the clay (see Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Romans 9:21).
There are a number of verses in the Bible that admonish us to “stand firm” (click here for a list). To “stand firm” means to “refuse to abandon one’s opinion or belief” (quote source here). For example, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to “. . . stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58). And several verses later he states in I Corinthians 16:13, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
“Let nothing move you . . . . be on your guard . . . .” Spiritual lethargy sets in the moment we let down our guard and are swayed by the motives or rationale of others (or our own) who are trying to persuade us to compromise when it comes to sin. Lying is a good example. People don’t think twice about lying nowadays if it will serve their own purpose. And very often, sexual immorality is up for grabs, too. And the divorce rate speaks volumes about the state of Christianity in our culture today. And what about the love of money and all the possessions (and people) it can buy? I Timothy 6: 7-10 has much to say about this, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
The writer of Hebrews addresses the issue of spiritual lethargy in Heb. 5:11-14: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” If we depend on what we get in a sermon on Sunday morning or a quickie five-minute devotion during the week to get us through the week (and this life) without ever taking time to really develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ on an intimate and regular basis, we are in for serious spiritual lethargy and compromise in our lives. And if you are truly looking for a way out of spiritual lethargy, my suggestion is to start by reading all thirteen chapters in Hebrews–a chapter at a time.
We don’t need more sermons designed to make us feel better about ourselves. What we need is a big dose of reality, folks. And if sermons don’t challenge us in that direction (and sermons should only be a starting place leading us to spiritual maturity), we need to get into the Bible and start understanding what it has to say to us about life and living as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (and we should be doing that regularly anyway on top of listening to sermons). We cannot depend on others to do our homework. We didn’t get by with that in school or college and we can’t get by with it in life, either . . . not if we truly want to live lives pleasing to God instead of just pleasing ourselves.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and we tend to forget that all the time. We react to people and their words or actions and forget about the spiritual forces behind those words and actions that are actively at work in our world. Ephesians 6:10-18 is clear about this warfare:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
There is that admonishment again to “Stand firm then . . .” (v. 14). Our weapons are “truth,” “righteousness,” “the gospel of peace,” “the shield of faith,” “the helmet of salvation,” “the sword of the Spirit” (the Bible), and “prayer.” Read through those verses again. That is the armor that God provides for us to wear.
Don’t let the lure of this world and a case of “situation ethics” throw you off track from running the race and running it well. And don’t let the love of money and all it can buy persuade you to turn away, either, “for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (I Tim. 6:7).
I Corinthians 10 gives those of us living today warnings from Israel’s history so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes they made. You can read them by clicking on this link. The last three verses, I Cor. 10:10-13, state the following:
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
As the Apostle Paul stated at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
“. . . but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Do you long for His appearing? If so, that’s you and me, folks. I do, and I hope you do, too . . . .
So let’s stand firm . . . .
YouTube video: “The Reason That I’m Standing” by The Crabb Family: