Let’s be honest.
In today’s cultural climate, it can be hard to persevere as a Christian. I don’t mean it’s hard to claim to be a Christian, but it’s hard to faithfully live out our life with confidence and grow as a healthy, thriving Christian over the long haul. The reasons are seemingly endless, but here are a few:
- A rising tide of intolerance of the Scripture’s teachings, threatening any and all who hold to traditional Biblical views that they are on the “wrong side of history”.
- An individualized society that values materialism and fame above all else, requiring people to spend their most valuable time and energy making more money and getting more “press”.
- A plethora of 24-hr media consumption options, so it’s very well possible to fill our eyes and ears with so much content that it keeps us from solitude and distracts us from taking time to really stop and think about our lives, our purpose, and what drives us.
- Personal suffering physically, relationally, and emotionally. When we’re getting knocked down, then kicked while we’re down, hope can dwindle and optimism can vanquish.
- A decline in true community where, due to social media, people know a whole lot about us but very few, if any, actually know us at all.
I could go on, that’s just scratching the surface. When we stare at our world and at our own hearts, it can be discouraging. But here’s the thing, this has always been the case for God’s people. Therefore, it’s no wonder that as you read the Scriptures there seems to be one word that holds the key to a healthy, thriving Christian life and the word is remember.
Over and over again in the Bible, God raises up men and women to encourage, warn, challenge, and exhort His people to remember. Remember the gospel, that God entered the framework of a fallen world by sending his only Son to free us from the entanglement of sin and free us into a community that is playing a part in the restoration of God’s kingdom. Remember Jesus’ heart for the poor, his promises to the faithful, his warnings to the faithless, remember eternity, remember the beauty of restoration, the ugliness of damnation, remember those who came before you, remember those who will come after you. Remember to look up, just, REMEMBER.
The art of remembering is not a one-time thing, it doesn’t just happen at conversion, but it’s an everyday thing, a vital thing, a required thing for God’s people who want to make to the end without bowing out.
When Christians darken the doorway of church for worship on a Sunday morning, why are they going if they already know the truth that is being proclaimed? While it’s always possible that we will hear something new from the Word, 95% of the time, Christians will be hearing something they already knew before they walked in. So what’s the point in “going to church” when we won’t hear something new? Might as well go golfing, or to the beach, or to the stadium early to tailgate, if that’s the case, no? No. They go because it’s vital for God’s people to be reminded of what we already know, especially that of which is of first importance, the gospel of Jesus Christ. To quote Tim Keller, “The Gospel is not the ABCs of the Christian faith, it is the A-Z of the Christian faith.”
While the call to remember is all over the Bible, there is one stretch of Scripture where this becomes explicitly clear and the consequences of not doing so jumps off the pages. Walk with me through the heart of the book of Exodus:
Exodus 12: The final plague sweeps over Egypt, and Pharaoh finally tells Moses to gather Israel and leave. After 430 years of being held in captivity, the Exodus occurs by the power and might of God.
Exodus 13: Moses spends an entire chapter explicitly telling Israel to remember this moment and to celebrate the Passover every single year so that they, and future generations after them, will remember what God did. God acted in a mighty way and freed 1.5 million people from captivity from the most powerful man in the world. REMEMBER THIS, tell about when your kids ask, let it fuel trust and faith in the Lord your God. Israel, just remember.
Exodus 14: They come upon the Red Sea, and Pharaoh changed his mind in letting the people go so he gathers a massive army to chase them down and bring them back. Israel sees the water in front, the army behind, and they forgot about their mighty God. “Why did you take us out?!” they complained to Moses, “did you just want us to die in the wilderness? It would have been better if we never left!” Unbelievable. Then what happens? God acts in a mighty way, parts the Red Sea so they walk across dry land, and then crashes it on the powerful Egyptian army.
Exodus 15: Moses belts out a song to celebrate what God has done and help the people, once again, to remember. Then 3 days passes (3 days!), and the water is undrinkable so the people again complain to Moses – “how are we supposed to live without anything to drink? We are just going to thirst to death, aren’t we?” Then what happens? God acts in a mighty way, turning the dirty water into sweet drink for everyone to drink.
Exodus 16: Some more time passes (but not much) and the people get hungry, and they once again forget the provision of their Lord. They go to Moses and say again “it would have been better if we were killed by the Lord in Egypt, because at least there we had plenty to eat, but now we’re hungry.” Seriously man, unbelievable. Then what happens? Yup, God acts in a mighty way and provides bread FROM THE SKY EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT 40 YEARS. He is faithful, he provides. The God who rescued them now sustains them. Surely, this is the final straw where they would finally stop doubting the promises of God, right? Keep reading.
Exodus 17: They keep walking, feasting on bread from heaven, but then all that bread makes them thirsty. They arrive to a place in the desert where water is scarce, and they, somehow, forget the promises and past deliverance of God. So they go back to our man Moses, and ask him, “did you just bring us all the way out here so we can die in the wilderness?”. So, out of his great patience and grace, God has Moses strike a rock where water comes pouring out.
On and on it goes, it didn’t stop there but proceeded to occur regularly throughout the Old Testament and on through church history. God’s people are prone to forget, to lose faith, to panic, to not remember all that God has done in the past in order to fuel faith in the present and future.
As I was reading these chapters over, the Hoy Spirit was gently convicting me that it’s not just Israel this happened to. I do this. I am prone to forget God’s promises, all of which have been and will be fulfilled by Jesus Christ. I get discouraged, I can be tempted to bail, I can panic in the midst of a cultural firestorm. I need to remember. I need His Word, I need the regularly gathering of His church, I need to keep my seat at the table at accomplishing His mission.
So to the faithful community of God’s people, here is my pastoral plea to remember. Be part of a church community where you are regularly reminded of the gospel. Be in a community where you are pushed and can push others towards the main goal of making disciples for the Glory of God. It will be hard and it will probably cost you in more ways than one, but it is worth it. And as for the cultural tidal wave that is coming upon the church? I’ll end with a quote from Russell Moore who has a response we should all remember as we seek to stand firm in a society that is pushing Bible-believing Christians to the margins and accusing us of being on the wrong side of history:
“On the wrong side of history? We started on the wrong side of history – a Roman empire and a cross. Rome’s dead and Jesus is just fine”.