THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Previous: Revelation 3:15-17 - Continued 4

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'-and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked- Revelation 3:15-17

Moral Relativism and the Sexual Revolution

In the 1960's the spiritual battle took a turn for the worse. The rebirth of Israel ushered in the generation that Jesus said would not pass away until the end times events are fulfilled (Matthew 24:34). Satan evidently began to panic and deploy his most deadly weapons against Christianity. By the '60's the world was just a prophetic step away from the Tribulation. Concerning that dreadful time the Revelation says,

"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." - Revelation 12:12

The opening salvo of what would eventually be called "The Sexual Revolution" was a pair of devastating rulings from an "evolving" court system. These rulings, and others that would follow, would eventually cause critics to accuse the courts of "legislating from the bench," a concept that the writers of the Constitution would have considered a violation of the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government. The first decree was the 1962 case, Engle v. Vitale. It abolished prayer in schools. In the following year, in the case of Abington School District v. Schempp, Bible reading in schools was prohibited along with other school sponsored religious activities. In time these other events would include Christmas programs, Easter vacations, and in some cases, even the renting of school facilities by Christian organizations.

The schools, which had already been greatly influenced by progressive education, were then faced with the dilemma of how to teach good behavior when the basis for ethics and morality was no longer part of their curriculum. Slowly at first, young people experienced a decline of respect for authority, and migration toward sexual freedoms. Schools began teaching sex education classes. Tolerance of various relationships was encouraged, including sex outside of marriage and homosexuality. Contraception was explained and methods were demonstrated.

All the while, public schools were teaching the theory of evolution as if it were a fact, leaving students with the impression that the Bible is not true.

During the '60's the growing Marijuana and LSD culture, the anti-war protests by collegians, the hippie movement with its anti-authoritarian impact, rock concerts, suggestive fashions, lack of parental control and increased mobility all conspired to tempt young people. Younger and older folks alike were often lured astray by the new permissive culture. By the end of the decade the era was known as the Sexual Revolution.

Liberal theologians got into the act during this time also. In 1963 Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson wrote a book called Honest to God, criticizing traditional Christianity and advocating "situational ethics," a permissive way of looking at behavior. This led to the 1966 "Death of God" theology taught by Robinson and others. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, had made the claim that God was dead. Time Magazine printed a cover asking in huge letters, "Is God Dead?"

By the 1970's some of the excesses of the '60's had retreated into the background, but the new decade brought its own problems.

The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion. This resulted in further destruction of Christian values, and caused an American holocaust far worse than the atrocities of World War II. Since then more than 55 million babies have been killed in their mother's wombs! That represents about 20% of America's population. Many other countries have similar or even worse, abortion statistics.

Immoral movies and television programs became commonplace and even radio was corrupted by "shock-jocks." Indecent music and programs invaded the teen world in 1977 with the advent of MTV. Many young people stopped attending church programs. Music and sports personalities became their heroes. Unfortunately many celebrities were terrible role models.

During this moral melt-down a new philosophy emerged, even if most people did not know its name. It was the relativistic concept of "Postmodernism." As its name implies, this world-view rejected the outlook of the Modern period. Modernism, which had developed since the Enlightenment, taught that through science, logic and reason it was possible to identify or establish absolute truth. The postmodern mind set was based on the newer philosophy of existentialism and its emphasis on the importance of one's unique personal experience. To the Postmodernist there was no universal truth: only relative truth, depending on its cultural context.

Evangelical Response

On a personal note, I had just begun my pastoral ministry in Los Angeles in 1965, and I can assure you that it was a most interesting time to be a pastor. We dealt with rampant immorality, drugs, race riots, communist rallies, anti-war protests, theological upheaval, an upsurge of interest and practice of the occult, including Satanism, rock concerts and a slow loss of interest in Christianity by young people.

Actually, it was a great time to be alive, and most of all to be a Christian, because of the valiant response by Christians to all of these challenges. Now, almost a half-century later, statistics show that the Church has nearly collapsed in Europe and is in decline here in the United States. But the efforts by Christians to "keep the faith" have been impressive. We have witnessed the rise, and sometimes the fall, of outstanding churches, Christian youth programs, apologetics teachers, missionary and "parachurch" organizations, evangelistic mass meetings, popular radio and television ministries, and powerful new methods of evangelism and discipleship through the Internet.

At this point I will name some of the notable leaders of the Christian cause during the last half of the 20th century. Please accept my apology in advance for not being able to mention all of the wonderful Christian organizations and powerful teachers, preachers and writers that made inspiring contributions to the cause. The examples I give are just a sampling from the numberless faithful servants of the Lord. They do, however, represent some of the ones that made the greatest impression on me as a fellow minister and an observer of the fray.

Outstanding churches, led by anointed, Bible-believing pastors kept evangelical Christianity viable during the difficult second half of the 20th century. Here are just a few of them: J. Vernon McGee, Jack Hayford, Lloyd Ogilvie, Jerry Falwell, John Maxwell, John MacArthur, Adrian Rogers, Haddon Robinson, Chuck Swindoll, D. James Kennedy, John Piper, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, John Hagee, Tim Keller and Max Lucado. These all pastored large churches, wrote books, and used radio and/or television to reach a larger audience.

One whole new family of churches grew out of the "Jesus People" revival: The Calvary Chapel movement. Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, Raul Ries and Jack Hibbs are examples of their excellent pastors, but there are many strong voices in this new fellowship of over 1000 churches worldwide. They also sparked the creation the new genre of Contemporary Christian Music which has helped keep a large portion of the younger generation close to the Lord.

Other influential radio and television teachers who had a significant impact on evangelical Christians included Hal Lindsey, Josh McDowell, Chuck Missler, David Hocking and Jack Van Impe.

Outside of the United States, the great missionary movement had produced many unbelievably big churches. Here are examples of some of them: Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea (480,000 members), Deeper Christian Life Ministry in Nigeria (75,000 members), Elim Central Church in El Salvador (75,000 members), Igreja de Paz (Church of Peace) in Brazil (50,000 members), and Hillsong Church in Australia (24,000 members).

At the beginning of the '60's the Sunday School movement was still a major force in evangelical church life. Sunday Schools were begun in England in 1780 by Robert Raikes. He had inherited his father's publishing company, and since he had a deep interest in the plight of boys in the slums, he began a school that met on Sundays because most of the boys worked in factories during the week. The schools taught reading and used the Bible. It and was well received because there were no public schools at that time. It started in a home, and in time became a major aspect of Sunday life in America as well as in Europe.

In the 1960's most evangelical churches had excellent Sunday Schools, with attendance figures often being higher than church attendance. They usually offered classes for all ages before the main worship service each week. There were Sunday School contests to keep bringing in new youngsters, and a variety of excellent teaching materials from publishers like David C. Cook, Gospel Light, Standard and Scripture Press. Students and teachers strove to have perfect attendance, and wore pins on their lapels showing how many weeks, months, or years they had attended faithfully. The curriculum was designed to teach the whole Bible over the course of a few years.

Another growing method of reaching children was the phenomenon of "Good News Clubs" held in the homes of Christian families. Child Evangelism Fellowship had been established in 1937 in the San Francisco area by Jesse Irvin Overholtzer. Its focus was reaching children with the Gospel and teaching them Bible stories. Surprisingly, Overholtzer trained his original "army of evangelists to children circling the globe" in Wheeler Hall on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.
(http://www.goodnewsclubs.info/history.htm). Classes were held first in churches, but were then moved to the neutral environment of homes in various neighborhoods.

Various Christian youth ministries were strong and growing in the '60's also. Many of the churches offered a Sunday evening "Christian Endeavor" meeting for teens. They would typically have separate Jr. High and High School sessions during which various youth conducted different aspects of the meeting, leading singing, making announcements, reading Scripture, or even giving a devotional lesson from the Bible. The city-wide organization in each area would plan youth conferences, camps, and monthly "sings" at various churches.

In those days Youth for Christ was also a vigorous program of youth-led campus groups. Depending on the policies of the schools at that time, they might be allowed as campus clubs or they might be required to rent space after school for their meetings. In many schools this was a powerful weekly outreach. Large city-wide YFC rallies were typically held on Saturday nights.

In 1951 Bill Bright began a college-level youth ministry at the University of California at Los Angeles. It was called Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as CRU). On the college scene, free speech was a popular concept, so ministries like Young Life and Campus Crusade for Christ were usually able to establish a presence on campuses all over the nation, and even around the world. By employing dedicated "missionaries" to the university world, the organization grew exponentially. Bill Bright's evangelism tool, a booklet called, "Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?" became the method of choice in churches and on campuses to introduce people to Christ. Bright also created a booklet explaining how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Churches that were in tune with Campus Crusade enjoyed a season of solid growth both numerically and spiritually. CRU continued to grow for decades, and is now the largest missionary organization in the world.

Gifted apologetics teachers were front-line heroes of the faith during this phase of Church history. They often came from skeptical or even atheistic backgrounds, sought to disprove Christianity, but discovered in the process that belief in the Bible and in Jesus Christ was the most reasonable position. They produced a plethora of inspiring books to undergird this generation of believers. Here are a few examples:

C.S. Lewis, a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England, was a popular novelist, poet, and Christian apologist. During World War II he broadcast convincing messages about Christianity. In 1952 these ideas were revised and published in the book, Mere Christianity. This book explained Christian concepts in ways that the average reader could understand and believe. It was voted best book of the Twentieth Century by Christianity Today in 2000.

The Genesis Flood, a 1961 book supporting the Bible accounts of creation and the flood of Noah's time gave rise to a "young earth" theory of creation. One of the book's authors, Dr. John Whitcomb, was a theologian committed to the view that the Bible was God's inerrant Word. The other, Dr. Henry M. Morris, had a doctorate in hydraulic engineering, which qualified him to explain the effects of a world-wide flood.

Francis Schaeffer, who had established the Christian intellectual community in Switzerland called L'Abri ("The Shelter"), published The God Who is There. The landmark 1968 book explained how the encroaching philosophy of existentialism had brought about a sense of hopelessness and cultural decadence. The book explained that the God of the Bible is real, and is able to overcome the despair that had crept into philosophy, art, music, culture and theology.

In 1970 Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, a book about end time prophecy. It suggested that the moral decline of the culture was one of many indications that the final generation of the Church was in progress. The rebirth of Israel was a major fulfillment of prophecy. In addition, the apparent increase in natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars, and the emergence of the European Economic Community (Common Market), which could become the leader of a global government, were all steps toward the demise of this Earth and the creation of a new one. It became one of the all-time best-selling non-fiction books, selling some 35 million copies.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books#cite_note-43) It was also made into a movie that was a big success. The book and the movie encouraged multitudes to believe the Bible and turn to Christ.

Josh McDowell, an evangelist with Campus Crusade for Christ, spoke to collegians all over the world, and released his 1972 apologetics handbook, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. It was ranked 13th in Christianity Today's list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_McDowell) Since then he has authored or co-authored more than one hundred other books to defend the Bible and the person and work of Jesus Christ to a generation that desperately needed that knowledge.

Parachurch organizations assisted churches by providing specialty ministries that were of interest to most Christians, but were not practical for each local assembly of Christians to do on their own. The youth ministries and disaster agencies listed above were good examples of parachurch organizations. Inter-denominational mission boards were also in that category, although most of them had seen their work decline by the time of the 1960's.

Ministries like Christian Films, Moody Institute of Science, and Gospel Recordings used the latest technologies for recording and distributing Christian media. In this way they served the needs of missionaries and of the church at large.

Some parachurch organizations like Focus on the Family and the Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts were formed to help Christians deal with family problems.

Another category of parachurch organizations was formed to counteract the decline of biblical moral standards. The Moral Majority helped elect a conservative President, Ronald Reagan. The Traditional Values Coalition stood against the rapidly increasing acceptance of homosexuality and other non-biblical practices. Operation Rescue picketed at abortion clinics, and many of their members were jailed for their convictions.

Evangelistic mass meetings were a major factor in the battle for souls. They were often called "crusades," until the latter part of the 20th Century when the word "crusade" stirred up mental images of war between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages.

Before the 1960's individual churches often hosted "revival meetings," using the talent of itinerant evangelists. A series of meetings would be held over the course of a few days. The events might be conducted in the church building or in tents erected for the purpose. Interestingly, the era of revivals was partly defined by advances in technology. They became popular when electric lights were new and people didn't have many options for night-time entertainment. They phased out gradually with the advent of television, when the best entertainment was on the little black and white screen in one's own living room.

Billy Graham began his evangelistic ministry in 1947. By 1949, with the help of the Hearst newspapers, his giant tent meeting in Los Angeles was wildly successful. In May of 1957 he conducted an extended crusade in New York's Madison Square Garden that was so popular that the promoters kept extending it until September of that year. More than two million people attended, and fifty-six thousand came forward to give their lives to Christ. This was also the first major crusade broadcast to millions of television viewers across the nation. I was one of those viewers who were totally amazed at what God was doing. Graham continued his evangelistic preaching all over the world for almost six decades.

There were other great evangelistic movements from the1960's onward. Reinhard Bonnke, a German Pentecostal evangelist reached crowds of up to a million people in Africa. Greg Laurie held Harvest Crusade events in Southern California and branched out to many other areas.

Christian radio, television and films made the Gospel available throughout the world during these troubled years. As noted earlier during the missionary period of the Church, these ministries had been employed to reach area where missionaries could not go. As these technologies improved, so too did their reach and impact. In 1960 Pat Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and in the early 1970's Paul and Jan Crouch began what would become the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). As the secular media became more violent and sexually permissive, these, and other Christian networks, provided a wholesome alternative and a powerful vehicle for proclaiming the Gospel.

In retrospect, the evangelical response to the sexual revolution and other moral decay in the culture was valiant, and did much to control the problem, but it was still not enough. The next three decades continued the journey toward a "lukewarm," ineffective Christian era.



Next: Revelation 3:15-17 Continued 6



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