Greg Morse

Every Other Way Leads to Death: Why We Keep Sharing Christ

A man sat along the road where one path broke into ten. A deep fog rested upon the land so no traveler could perceive each path’s end.

The man’s King, before going off to his kingdom, told the man the end of each. One path led to a den of lions. One to a cliff with jagged rocks at the bottom. One through a forest with bloodthirsty beasts. Another to a swamp with inescapable quicksand. Still another to a tribe of cannibals. And the unsavory reports continued in this fashion. Only one led to the King’s kingdom. His charge was simple: warn others away from destruction and toward the path of life.

A young man first crossed his path. “My friend, I have good news for you,” he said to the traveler. “The King of this world sent me to help you along. This path here, of the ten before you, alone is safe. And not only safe, but it leads directly to the King and his kingdom — a kingdom where you will be received, robed, and reconciled by his incredible mercy. The other paths — as the King has most solemnly recorded in his book — lead to certain ruin.”

To his amazement, the passerby completely ignored his pleadings. A woman upon his arm held his ear, bidding him to follow another of the ten paths. “Sir! Come back! That way is the path of death! Come back!” he cried until the man faded from sight. The servant sat down in silence for hours. What should I have done differently?

The second traveler, this time a young woman, paused momentarily to hear what he had to say. She considered the prescribed way, saw it was both narrow and hard, and without much more thought chose against it, telling him not to worry; she would be fine.

The sight of the next travelers forced the horror of that woman’s end from his mind. A husband and wife approached (hardly speaking or looking at one another). This couple, as self-confident as they were unhappy, met his royal invitations with a sharp rebuke.

“‘But what will they think of me?’ has lodged the name of Christ in many throats.”

“Barbarously arrogant!” the woman scolded.

“Hypocritical and judgmental,” the husband added.

“Love,” the woman said without stopping, “lets others travel their own path for themselves by themselves, and does not force one’s own way upon anyone.”

He tried to tell the back of their heads that it was not his way but the King’s, yet they paid no mind. Hand in hand, they walked toward the cliff, mocking such a fool upon the road.

Days went by after this fashion. Each encounter weakened his pleadings. The mission that he began with a royal sense of privilege soon waned into callousness, confusion, and apathy. Family, friends, colleagues, and strangers now pass by, all stepping upon their chosen path. He gives but a feeble smile at the unsuspecting people who embark upon their preferred way to perdition.

Weary in Speaking Good

I have felt like this servant of the King.

I have often asked with Isaiah, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) The temptation to compromise finds me in my defeat, whispering, “Is it really worth it?” or, “Did God really say that the gospel is the power of God for salvation?”

Add to this whisper the fleshly impulse to avoid conversations that can easily lead to awkwardness or rejection. Some of us, myself included, heed the voice telling us that “going there” is neither polite nor promising, rather than the voice telling us to share the only name given under heaven by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12). But what will they think of me? has lodged the name of Christ in many throats.

Now add to these challenges the sweet words in our day about “tolerance” — words that regularly convince Christians to consent to compromise while person after person passes by on the road to ruin. While Jesus didn’t blush to tell people that he alone was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), we often fail to pass along the life-saving message we have been given.

Word to Passersby

If you are considering which path to take and desire the King’s perspective, here you have it: Jesus alone is the way, the truth, the life; he alone is the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5); he alone brings reconciliation to sinners (Colossians 1:20); he alone reveals God perfectly (Hebrews 1:3); he alone is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). Two types of paths exist: the way of Christ, and the ways of condemnation (Matthew 7:13). Every path not leading to repentance and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is a path leading to never-ending death.

God sent his Son into the world of condemned criminals in order to save it and give eternal life to all who believe (John 3:16–18). Jesus is the one name offered to you for your salvation. He is the only one who can take away your sins. Your good works will not spare you; your good character will not shelter you; your good intentions will not clothe your nakedness. The angel of death walks outside; only the door with Christ’s blood painted on the frame can shelter you.

“Two types of paths exist: the way of Christ, and the way of condemnation.”

Consider your path before it is too late. Not choosing a path is a path. Believing that no true paths exist is itself a path. Secularism, materialism, and false religions have paths. Contrast these with the only one that can lead to life, that of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

Politically correct? No. Tolerant? No. Exclusive? Assuredly. Loving? Absolutely. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Will you be a part of the us?

Plea to Christians

If, on the other hand, you are one of the many men or women at the crossroads, charged by the King to warn and to guide, do not give in or give up; the world needs your voice. Do not bow to the hollow statue that the world has erected and named “Love.” Compromise is love only with respect to self and sin, tolerant only toward the masses going to hell, and accepting only of a cowardice that makes us complicit in condemning those we claim to love.

If we believe our King, we cannot sit silently. If we care for souls, we cannot grow mute. If we love our God’s glory, we must speak. We cannot watch family, friends, and even enemies pass by with indifference.

In Due Season

Eventually, this servant of the King, through considering his own relationship with the King and meditating on the words of his book, revived his trust in the King’s message.

An old man made his way slowly toward him.

“Sir, I have wonderful news for you — and I hope, I pray you receive it. My King has sent me with an urgent message that you, even in your old age, can find eternal life. This path, sir, though hard and with a narrow gate, is the singular path to life. Every other has something worse than death inscribed upon it. Even now, my King awaits, ready to receive you.”

“Why should such a King offer me such a welcome?”

“Because, in his great love, he has made a way — through highest payment to himself — to receive all who come to him in faith. . . . Yes, even you. . . . Yes, that is his promise. . . . Yes, this path.”

Do not give in. Do not give up. Keep praying for your child; keep speaking the truth in love to that neighbor; keep pointing to Jesus Christ. Do not grow weary of speaking good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Feed the Sheep by Any Hand: Fighting Envy in Pastoral Ministry

I often need to check myself as to whether I am placing the emphasis on “the Lord’s ministry through me” or “the Lord’s ministry through me.” I suspect most pastors and leaders know what I mean.

The weed grows quietly. How are my articles doing? How is my small group maturing? How is my book selling, my podcast rating? Are my Sunday-morning prayers especially encouraging? Is my preaching, my marriage counseling, my evangelistic effort particularly effective?

I am not talking about the holy ambition proper to a minister who loves souls and the glory of Christ (Romans 15:20). I am talking about a self-congratulatory spirit that pats oneself on the back and thinks better of the work simply because it is his. I am talking about tangled motives. The silent smirk or sunken shoulders. The slipping of some glory into one’s pocket. The temptation captured in John Bunyan’s response when someone told him he had preached a delightful sermon: “You are too late; the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.”

The success of others, even close friends, can reveal the drift. The warm sensation that washes over when they excel in the area where your strengths also lie. The gnawing suspicion, the feeling of threat, the envy, the bitterness, the embarrassment, the self-pity. Instead of rejoicing that God has advanced his own name and benefited souls, all is not well simply because the eternal God chose to use them instead of me.

The temptation stands to full height, however, when others succeed in the very place that we have failed. Someone else takes the people higher than we could climb, leads them farther than we could walk. We, like Saul, have conquered our thousands, yet the people sing of another who has conquered his ten thousands. We are the lesser light. The comparison drove Saul mad. He hurled a spear at David to kill him (1 Samuel 18:10–11). What is our response?

We might pray, however much ministry still lies ahead of us, that we have the shepherd’s heart that Moses did in his final days.

Looking at the Promise

Let’s appreciate the difficulty facing Moses at the end of his ministry. After Moses had “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”; after he had chosen rather to be “mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24–25); after bringing Egypt to its knees, leading Israel through the Red Sea, climbing Mount Sinai, and wandering for decades in the wilderness, his journey ends overlooking — but not overstepping — the boundary to the Promised Land.

Old age, you may remember, did not bar the prophet from the land of milk and honey. “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Deuteronomy 34:7). The Delilah of old age did not cut the lock of his strength; God did.

God kept Moses from the Promised Land because of sin. Frustrated with the people (who were yet again complaining and grumbling), Moses struck with his staff the water-giving Rock, a type of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4; Numbers 20:11). God told him to speak to the rock, but Moses went with a more aggressive approach (Numbers 20:8). Afterward, God said,

Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. (Numbers 20:12)

And he did not.

“God allowed Moses to lead them out of Egypt, but not into the land of promise.”

In his final days, God led Moses up a mountain and showed him the full breadth and length of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1–4). And there — overlooking the land he led the people toward for decades — Moses died. The privilege to lead the people across the Jordan fell to his assistant, Joshua. God himself buried his servant on that mountain, on the wrong side of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 34:5–6). He allowed Moses to lead them out of Egypt, but not into the land of promise.

Heart of a Shepherd

Disciplined and disappointed, how does Moses respond?

After the Lord calls him to go up the mountain and reminds him why he won’t enter (Numbers 27:12–14), Moses, the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3), answers,

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd. (Numbers 27:15–17)

Here is the heart of a faithful shepherd. Here is an example for pastors and leaders to follow. Moses does not grumble. He does not accuse God of unfairness. He does not mope that God would not listen to his requests to enter the land (Deuteronomy 3:25–26). He does not sabotage Joshua or hurl spears at him. He does not consider his reputation, or his ministry, above the God he ministered for and the people he ministered to. He asks his God, in full submission to his will, not to leave the people shepherdless.

Then Feed My Sheep

This is not the last time we see Moses alive in Scripture. Do you remember where else he appears?

Many hundreds of years later, Moses would meet the great Shepherd of God’s people face to face. On a different mountain, the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses would speak with Jesus. What did they discuss? Jesus’s “departure” (literally, his “exodus,” Luke 9:31). Moses stands with Elijah, speaking to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, about how he would not abandon his sheep to the wolves as a hireling might, but would lay down his life for them. And about how he would rise, for he would not leave the sheep shepherdless.

This is the love that disentangles the nagging sense of self from our service.

“Love for Christ’s bride shakes us free from posturing for her attention and admiration.”

We find due north again in our labors when we, like Paul, begin to yearn for the church with the affections of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:8), to be in labor pains until Christ is formed in her (Galatians 4:19). When we see her — in the small measure we get to labor in her service — as our hope and our joy and our crown of boasting before the Lord at his return (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

This love purifies our ambition for lasting influence while restoring the humble delight when greater success falls to another. We seek to do the church good while hoping others do more good than we ever could. Threats become brothers to us again when we learn to long for others’ success where we have failed, when we long for others to take God’s people across the Jordans we never could. When we begin to pray, “Feed the sheep by any hand.”

This love for Christ’s bride shakes us free from posturing for her attention and admiration. We play our parts, knowing that loving her is loving him, as Jesus himself reminds us: “Pastor, leader, minister, do you love me? Then shepherd my lambs” (John 21:15–17).

In a World of Dragons: Our Deep Desire for Somewhere Else

What if this world was full of dragons? The question opens important windows into reality, even for those who care nothing for dragons.

I first asked the question while watching The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings again (after who knows many times). As my mind wandered to more exciting worlds than my own, Would I be happier, I asked myself, if God wrote orcs and hobbits and rings of power and dwarves and dragons into the pages of history? Would an earth filled with fantastic creatures — with talking trees, singing elves, grumbling dwarves, and firedrakes flying overhead — finally satisfy? I often answered, yes.

In this new world, normal life wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t spend as much time on my phone. Life, I thought in honest moments, would be more thrilling, more heroic, more throbbing with that elusive something I had taught myself not to expect anymore. There — if there was ever possible — I would find what I had been searching for.

As I wondered about better worlds than God had made, and a more fulfilling life than God had given, the temptation of dissatisfied wishfulness came upon me. And this wishfulness comes to us all, for every human heart is prone to create its own make-believe worlds. On one planet, the perfect wife is found. On another, the doctor confirmed you were pregnant. And still another, the voice which has rested silently for years again calls your name. Each one beckoning like that ancient planet where man first ate in hopes of becoming like God.

We all have fantasies tempting us away from life as God has authored it, to some other life we think would satisfy. In those worlds, our restless longing for more (we imagine) would go quiet for good.

In a World Full of Dragons

In considering worlds where dragons roam, we come to observe a shared fiction: somewhere else seems to be the place of true happiness.

“We all have fantasies tempting us away from life as God has authored it.”

What perpetuates this lie for so many? Our imagined realities so rarely come true. We spend a lifetime pursuing a shadow of which we never see the face. If we actually found that perfect spouse, if our doctor had confirmed our pregnancy, if we had heard that lost loved one calling out affectionately to us, we might be happier, but not decisively happy. Even if our dreams came true, we would still ask, “Is there more?”

C.S. Lewis marks this after his own temptation to wishfulness. Apparently, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) claimed to have photographed a fairy. Considering that fairies had invaded earth, he says,

Once grant your fairy, your enchanted forest, your satyr, faun, wood-nymph, and well of immortality real, and amidst all the scientific, social, and practical interest which the discovery would awake, the Sweet Desire would have disappeared, would have shifted its ground, like the cuckoo’s voice or the rainbow’s end, and be now calling us from beyond a further hill. (Preface to Pilgrim’s Regress, 236)

Sweet Desire hides just beyond the horizon. When the hoped-for is found, the sweet (and haunting) desire would not satisfy, but shift. It would find another hill to call from. Eventually, we would set out again for another hill, in another world, somewhere else.

Test man’s heart with new and wondrous pleasures, make the imagined real, and he will need more. God has written a message above all the real (and imagined) wells of this life, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again” (John 4:13).

Men Who’ve Seen Elves

This is confirmed by the few who have lived to secure what they chased after. They have the supermodel spouse, the acclaim and celebrity, the money and career, and yet they come to say with Tom Brady, “There has got to be more than this.”

Or, they say the same with the Prince of Pleasures, King Solomon, who after sampling each golden challis as we sample foods at Costco, found them all wanting.

Solomon tested his heart with the rare pleasures most spend their lives pursuing (Ecclesiastes 2:1). He tested his heart with abundant laughter (verse 2), wine and folly (verse 3), amazing careers (4), the beauty of nature (verses 5–7), servants to meet every need (verse 7). Anything he desired, he possessed (verse 10). He filled treasure rooms of silver and gold, hired singers to follow him with song, and filled his palace with beautiful women and sexual satisfaction (verse 8). As the resplendent king, he “kept [his] heart from no pleasure” (verse 10).

Solomon traveled to the rainbow’s end, tried earth’s choicest goods, but nothing satisfied his heart. He leaves us with a whole book summarized in three haunting words describing every well under the sun: “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He remarks that all was but a striving after the wind, nothing to be gained but vanity and vexation. Everything, that is, but a life lived for God (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

What we love and long for apart from God will leave us unsatisfied in the end. God has fashioned the human heart this way: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). What we love will fail us as our hope. “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

No Other Streams

We began with a question: What if this world was filled with dragons? Or, in other words, would our alternate realities — a world of fairies, elves, and granted wishes — bring us to that cool stream of ultimate satisfaction?

They would not. Even in a world of dragons, the human heart would grow cold and yawn and wonder, Is this all?

“Man will never find enduring happiness apart from his Lord.”

Christianity alone explains why our best imaginings after satisfaction inevitably fail: Man is too high a creature for even his greatest imaginings. He is made for communion with something greater than giant talking trees; made for greater dominion than taming dragons. He is made for God (Colossians 1:16), and remade and forgiven through Christ to enjoy relationship with God. Redeemed man is destined to rule with Christ into eternity (Revelation 5:10). Man will never find enduring happiness apart from his Lord. Branches exist to be united to vines; Jesus is the true Vine (John 15:1). All branches detached from him wither, die, and burn (John 15:6).

Or, to finish with Lewis in the realm of imagination, consider yourself before the Lion beside his eternal stream of life and satisfaction, as he warns you about every other stream:

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion. (The Silver Chair, 22–23)

The Illusion of Normal Days

To prepare is not to build a boat in the backyard, but to eat and drink, speak and marry all while looking and waiting for Christ’s promised coming. We live mindful of eternal souls. We live expecting rain. We live in reverent fear of God. What does the world see you building? Is there anything in your life that can only be explained by Christ and his return?

Life as usual, many will come to realize, was never life as usual.
When Christ returns, many will discover too late that they lived within a dream. Years came and years went. Spring turned to autumn, autumn to winter. They grew and grew old but never awoke. “Normal life” lied to them. So, Jesus foretells,
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37–39)
The world-ending return of Jesus will be as the world-ending days of Noah. Of what did Noah’s days consist? Busy people unaware — eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, going about life “as usual.” The very morning of the flood, people simply concerned themselves with whatever laid before them. The immediate seemed most urgent, most real. Planning meals, changing diapers, preparing weddings, working, buying, and selling — these seemed to them the greatest verities of life. Until the rain began to fall.
Texture of Days
Like many today, the people of Noah’s day abstracted the meaning of life from the texture of their average days.
They touched Wednesday and it felt like every other Wednesday. They began work and finished work. They ate, ate again, and finished their work to eat. They played with kids on the floor. Busied with homework and house projects. They talked and listened, laughed and yawned, rose from sleep and slept — nothing extraordinary. Each day didn’t feel like it held eternal significance. Nothing otherworldly felt at stake. Today didn’t feel like anything but today.
God, demons, souls, eternity didn’t grow before their eyes like grass that needs mowing. They did not stir to consider the unseen. And when they did, the unreality of it seemed as implausible as rain drowning a dry land days away from sea. They intuited what is ultimate about life from the ordinary experiences of life. A fatal mistake. And as the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Man and His Boat
While they considered their daily planners, anxious about what they considered the real contents of Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, Noah worked with his sons on the unlikely, the unthinkable. While the world ate and drank, he labored. While they went on with things as usual, he and his sons prepared a stadium-sized boat to shelter the family. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (Hebrews 11:7).
Imagine the scene. Decade after decade, children were born, diapers were changed, houses were built, adults looked out their window and saw what they had seen since childhood: Noah and his sons laboring on the ship. And Noah spoke a message as strange as the boat he was building: he warned of divine judgment. Perhaps some listened the first week. But eventually, the listeners needed to get back to real life.
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The Illusion of Normal Days

Life as usual, many will come to realize, was never life as usual.

When Christ returns, many will discover too late that they lived within a dream. Years came and years went. Spring turned to autumn, autumn to winter. They grew and grew old but never awoke. “Normal life” lied to them. So, Jesus foretells,

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37–39)

The world-ending return of Jesus will be as the world-ending days of Noah. Of what did Noah’s days consist? Busy people unaware — eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, going about life “as usual.” The very morning of the flood, people simply concerned themselves with whatever laid before them. The immediate seemed most urgent, most real. Planning meals, changing diapers, preparing weddings, working, buying, and selling — these seemed to them the greatest verities of life. Until the rain began to fall.

Texture of Days

Like many today, the people of Noah’s day abstracted the meaning of life from the texture of their average days.

“Life as usual, many will come to realize, was never life as usual.”

They touched Wednesday and it felt like every other Wednesday. They began work and finished work. They ate, ate again, and finished their work to eat. They played with kids on the floor. Busied with homework and house projects. They talked and listened, laughed and yawned, rose from sleep and slept — nothing extraordinary. Each day didn’t feel like it held eternal significance. Nothing otherworldly felt at stake. Today didn’t feel like anything but today.

God, demons, souls, eternity didn’t grow before their eyes like grass that needs mowing. They did not stir to consider the unseen. And when they did, the unreality of it seemed as implausible as rain drowning a dry land days away from sea. They intuited what is ultimate about life from the ordinary experiences of life. A fatal mistake. And as the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Man and His Boat

While they considered their daily planners, anxious about what they considered the real contents of Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, Noah worked with his sons on the unlikely, the unthinkable. While the world ate and drank, he labored. While they went on with things as usual, he and his sons prepared a stadium-sized boat to shelter the family. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (Hebrews 11:7).

Imagine the scene. Decade after decade, children were born, diapers were changed, houses were built, adults looked out their window and saw what they had seen since childhood: Noah and his sons laboring on the ship. And Noah spoke a message as strange as the boat he was building: he warned of divine judgment. Perhaps some listened the first week. But eventually, the listeners needed to get back to real life.

Noah’s real life was different. Even though he too ate and drank and arranged marriages for his three sons (Genesis 7:13), he did these with an ear bent to hear God’s voice, a hammer in his hand for God’s work, and eyes returning to the skies waiting for God’s promise. His feasting was not forgetful. His drinking was not distracting. His giving in marriage did not deter his mission. Unlike the citizens of this world, he lived ready, he lived prepared. He believed God that the waters would come.

As decades multiplied, Noah kept working, kept proclaiming, kept resisting the temptation to stop and return to life as usual.

Change in the Weather

As it will be at Jesus’s second coming, an unexpected day arrived.

The day began like any other. Wrinkled faces and weathered eyes gazed out worn windows to still find that odd man — now herding skunk, geese, and deer into his finished ship. They could still hear his spent voice saying, “Turn from your sins, repent and cry to God. He is willing to spare you from this impending judgment. This ship stretches long enough for all who would come.”

Perhaps they felt sorry for the old fool. Windows closed, and the day’s cares consumed their thoughts. But that day, Noah and his family entered the ark not to be seen again. “The Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16), and the windows of heaven opened.

So, what’s the point? The point is that normal days, then and now, may not be what we think. “Normal days,” unconcerned with eternity, unconcerned with God, sin, and with the second coming of Christ, are fatal fictions.

Lie of Normal Days

What most experience as normal Wednesdays, normal dinner times, normal weekends, arrive as waves carrying judgment and eternity ever closer. The important thing about these “last days” is that they precede the return of the King. But experience will, should we let it, cause us to eat, host, drink, tell stories, laugh, watch the game, go on dates, marry and give in marriage unmindful and unprepared.

Such were the days of Noah. They did not realize that the great thing, the true thing, the most relevant thing dwelt above their experience. A world exists elsewhere; a place where Ultimate Reality lives. And even now his hand grips the doorknob. Consider, what is more real to you, this week’s to-do list or the promise of Christ’s return?

Reality Approaches

When he comes, all plans for next week will die. Books will go unread. Weddings will be canceled. Dinner plans, erased. In a moment, the unbelieving will hear the ark door shut. Life will cast off its common cloak as the wall between worlds collapses.

“When Christ comes, all plans for next week will die. . . . In a moment, most of humanity will hear the ark door shut.”

Jesus calls the world to prepare for him: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).

To prepare is not to build a boat in the backyard, but to eat and drink, speak and marry all while looking and waiting for Christ’s promised coming. We live mindful of eternal souls. We live expecting rain. We live in reverent fear of God. What does the world see you building? Is there anything in your life that can only be explained by Christ and his return?

Do not be deceived by the texture of the weeks and years as they pass. In each, eternity is at stake. In each, he approaches. Ultimate Reality will not linger out of sight much longer. Forever happiness and forever horror lay just beyond the clouds. Are you ready for his return?

Why Won’t You Dance? Following Christ in an Unappeasable World

When Jesus analyzed his times, he did not flatter his generation. We can paraphrase him as saying, “Your generation is like a group of spoiled children, expecting the other kids — and their God — to do as they command.”

His actual words:

To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:16–17)

That generation played happy music and sad music, and expected the Messiah and John the Baptist to respond appropriately. If the children played the flute, John must tighten his leather belt and dance. If they played a sad song, the Son of God must mourn. They expected compliance to their tune.

More than that, Jesus depicts the people of his day as children who change the rules and move the goalposts. When John did not come eating and drinking, they said he had a demon (Matthew 11:18). When Jesus did come eating and drinking, they called him a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). Drink or not drink, eat or not eat, those children would not be appeased with anything less than full allegiance.

Is our generation much different today?

Get to Dancing

Today the children still play their music and expect Christ’s people to respond appropriately. “The course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) still runs against Christ and his gospel, as it has since Adam and Eve first played the serpent’s song in Eden. This generation promotes its own ideals and often is not satisfied until Christians love what it loves and hate what it hates.

The “gender” song plays throughout society:

Boys can be girls, and girls can be boys;We are our maker — our bodies, our toys.

The flute celebrates homosexuality:

It’s brave to be different; it’s okay to be you.Boy and boy, girl and girl? — it’s called “marriage” too.

A dirge plays at the gravesite of masculinity:

While forever grateful, we’ve no need to pretendThat Eve still needs Adam or this world needs men.

Meanwhile, the lament of self-proclaimed victimhood sounds forth:

Racism, sexism, and hidden aggression,Turn left or turn right, all I see is oppression!

And of course, they softly play the soothing abortion lullaby:

It is not a baby — don’t feel any shame.It hasn’t a voice or a smile or a name.

Why So Serious?

The point is not that this world is unbroken by sin — including actual racism, sexism, injustice, and more. Rather, the point is that this generation, in total rebellion to the kingship of Jesus Christ, arrogantly seeks to enforce its view of right and wrong upon his people. The world desires, as it did with the Baptist and the Messiah, our allegiance.

“The children of this generation will not agree to disagree — you must dance; you must mourn.”

The children of this generation will not agree to disagree — you must dance; you must mourn. They check your face for tears and your feet for proper rhythm. If you cry during their cheerful song, you have a demon. If your feet dance to another tune, you are a drunkard, sinner, and glutton. Refuse to consent, and the new powers try to cancel you as a champion of hate. Nonconformity to the world is met with consequences.

Not of this World

Some of us dance and cry with the world too long, it seems to me, out of a mistaken assumption. When they slander and dislike us for following Christ, tender consciences might assume that we are to blame. We weren’t winsome enough when sharing the gospel. It must be our fault somehow. What could we have done differently?

Do we consider that the petulant child will wag its finger, name call, and worse, not necessarily because of a bad decision we made but because of a gracious decision made about us? “If you were of the world,” our Lord tells us, “the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

Our winsomeness, our cultural relevance, and our trying to disclaim everything to the point of non-offense can’t substitute for dancing. The world will still hate us — or should hate us (John 15:20) — because we aren’t the decisive reason for their hatred; Jesus is. His choosing us out of the world — not our inability to tastefully decline this world — is fundamentally what makes the Christian hated in this life.

Will You Dance?

They will dislike us not fundamentally because of a choice Jesus made, but because of Jesus himself. When we notice the world against us, Jesus would have us know something: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

“A moment will come — if it hasn’t already — where we must decide whom to displease: Christ or this generation.”

The children dislike you because the children dislike Christ. They hate that the King, now risen from the dead, still will not dance or weep on cue. While we continue to grow in our ability to faithfully engage unbelievers, Jesus would have us realize that their frowns and scowls and slanders are strikes at a Christ they can no longer crucify.

Decide now. A moment will come — if it hasn’t already — where we must decide whom to displease: Christ or this generation. Perhaps you’ve already started to nod your head, rock, and sway to the beat.

Listen instead to Christ’s voice. Hear his gospel song calling you home through the wilderness of this world. Resist being swept away with this world: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). And who knows if one of these children might see that piercing light in you (that they’ve been trying to extinguish) and turn in repentance to Christ.

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