Has God Finally Met His Match?

By Jennifer Hartline Published on April 13, 2017

Who is your God? And how big is He?

I had the opportunity to go and hear a prominent Catholic speaker giving an evening retreat, and this man made an audacious statement that became like a thorn in my heart.

He said it seemed to him that most Christians no longer believe the Gospel can change the world. That the whole world has become too corrupt, too violent, too rotten to the core, and perhaps on a subconscious level, we think evil has become more powerful than God. We are demoralized, discouraged, defeated.

I had to chew on that bitter thought and admit there was truth to it. The whole world is on fire, and it can seem we’re armed with half empty squirt guns. This is not a time in history when Christianity is making great strides in the world. Quite the contrary! The headlines are horrifying. Faith and freedom are under full assault. The battle intensifies every day. Victories are rare right now. Martyrs are not.

What should be the response of people who genuinely believe the power of the Gospel can change the world? Is my response that of a person who knows, down in her bones, that even the greatest evil is no match for my God?

Is my instinct to implore the Holy Spirit to change hearts, to reach even the most hardened sinner? Or has ISIS become bigger than Jesus?

Is my God still sovereign over all things? Or has He finally met His match in the year 2017?

The Most Important Question in Human History

I’m reminded that things really crystallize around one simple question. Yet though it is simple, it is the most consequential question in history, for all eternity.

It’s not merely the single most important question in human history. It’s the only question. Everything — and I mean everything — that matters hinges on how we answer this question. This is the life or death question.

But today, most people dismiss the question with a harrumph or an eye-roll. Many will smugly laugh. Some will respond with anger or violence. Very few will give the question any serious contemplation.

But it demands thoughtfulness and intention. It requires a commitment. The one asking the question compels a definitive answer.

It’s simply this: “Who do you say that I am?”

How Does the Answer Affect Our Lives?

Jesus asked the disciples what other people had to say about Him. Who did folks think He really was? They told Jesus some say He is Elijah or one of the prophets; some say He is John the Baptist back from the dead. Now it is their turn to give Him an answer.

“Who do you say that I am?”

There are many wrong answers. He is not a prophet. He’s not a nice guy. Not simply a teacher among many. Not a wise man among scores of other wise men. No, those answers will not suffice.

He is not a figure in history. He is history itself. He is all of time, for all eternity. He is the Son of God as He claims, or else He is a lunatic or a liar. A very bad man, indeed!

As a Catholic, I know the right answer. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Yet how does that answer really affect my life and my behavior these days? I have encountered the Christ. I have tasted the Bread of Life. I have touched the Messiah. He is the Son of the Living God, the Maker of all things. He is the King of the Universe.

So why am I disheartened? Why am I discouraged? What creature could possibly deprive Him of His kingship?

The Victory Has Already Been Won

The world is exploding with violence. Life outside my door seems threatening and scary. Many days I’d like to hide my children somewhere til they’re 30. My spirit too easily shrinks in fear and dread. The terror looms so large! I forget that Jesus is greater.

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

He has already won, yet right now we are losing so much. Evil ravages like a mutant virus on steroids, growing stronger and more resistant to our expired, impotent medicines.

We’re losing because we have surrendered to appeasement and indifference, rather than stand in allegiance to our King. We have painted over the images of Jesus’ broken, bleeding body, crucified because of our sins, with a lovely watercolor meadow where He joins in all our games. If we preach at all, we preach a pleasant fellow, supportive and agreeable in every way. We rarely preach Christ and Him crucified.

Who do you say that I am?

We need to answer the question anew. And then act accordingly.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 RSV

This week I will try to stay beside Him on the way to Calvary, and witness His suffering and death. His question echoes in the air around me. It is only by grace that I will be able to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

And when I answer, I pray the words will pound in my chest like the drums of battle, rousing me to courage. There is no one mightier than my God. No wickedness on earth is stronger than Christ. The Gospel is still Good News. It is still the power of God for salvation for all who hear and believe.

His signature is an empty tomb. No one but the Son of the Living God has conquered death. If we’re going to celebrate on Easter, it must be that.

Yes, the threats in the world are still real. The horror is still there. We should not make light of it, or pretend all hell isn’t breaking loose. I still fight the urge to bolt the doors and hide away. But there are only two choices: faith, or something else. Faith or doubt. Or denial. Or apathy.

Faith or fear.

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

Holy Week at The Stream

For Palm Sunday: Deacon Keith Fournier’s Holy Week: Now It Begins, Now It All Begins
For Holy Week: Jennifer Hartline’s Has God Finally Met His Match?
For Holy Week: David Limbaugh’s Good News and the Gospels
For Maundy Thursday: David Mills’sWhy Jesus Washed the Apostles’ Feet, and Why We Do It Too
For Good Friday: John Zmirak’s Have a Bleak and Blessed Good Friday
For Easter day: Esther O’Reilly’s Not Without Witness: An Easter Reflection
For Easter day: David Mills’s Did Jesus Rise? The Extreme Apostle Says Yes, the More Extreme Atheist Says No

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  • Autrey Windle

    John 14:12-21. Go with God, Young Lady. Amen.

    • pastormerrill

      Hope you see what I posted in response to this article; but I also like your post as well. Even in the passage you gave, verse 17 says “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” This is telling us that the world will not receive the Gospel generally speaking, so therefore will not be changed by it.

      • Autrey Windle

        My understanding of the ‘gospel saving the world’ is that it never will. My understanding of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit’s instruction is that, as was prophesied , that we are to carry the Good News to all the corners of the earth (as Charles just pointed out is happening) and to do what we can to bring who we can to the love of the Lord and all the responsibilities and benefits that go with the knowing. These days were spoken of throughout prophecy of end of days and we should expect that all hell is and will break loose before the unknowable hour is here. We do our part while we walk this world as we have been instructed and leave the rest to God. I urge all believers to do as I did and ask God to lead me through the narrow door, but I caution that the road to the gate has proved to be much steeper and more challenging than I could have ever imagined. The passage I sent to Jennifer was to encourage her that Jesus knew these days would arrive and knew the challenges we would face and that The Father will provide peace for all His children who believe in the Triune God even though the world and the enemy would never surrender until His return.

      • Jennifer Hartline

        Well, that settles it then. Let’s pack it in and go home.

        Look, I have no naive delusions of the whole world becoming Christian tomorrow. But I do recall a couple things from Scripture: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
        The saving or condemning is not up to us, but the preaching the Gospel part is.
        I also know that “every knee shall bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
        EVERY tongue. On earth.
        The point is, the power of Christ has not changed or lessened. We tend to forget that.

        • llew jones

          The context of your quote from Philippians 2 is the self humbling of Jesus Christ which Paul uses as the supreme example for encouraging humility among the believers in their church relationships. Most exegetes of verses 9 to 11 suggest that those acknowledging that Jesus is Lord, in that absolute sense consists of those united to Christ by faith (believers) as well as
          angels and demons. If you check Paul’s defence before Felix in Acts 24, below, those mentioned as “under the Earth” mostly likely refers to the resurrection of the bodies of the saved and unsaved humans at Christ’s Glorious Return to Earth. (of course both passages are by Paul).

          What you say about the power of Christ and the Gospel including Christ’s command is true. In the end however all of mankind from Adam to the last person will either joyfully or tragically with great sorrow (weeping and wailing) and some even with anger toward God (gnashing of teeth) acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

          Philippians 2.
          5. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
          7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

          From Paul’s response to the charges by the Jew’s Lawyer, Tertullus, before Felix – Acts 24.
          “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”

  • Charles Burge

    I don’t want to dismiss the real concerns about persecution going on, but in fact, Christianity is making great strides in the world. Check out Rodney Stark’s book A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China. In it, the author asserts – and backs it up with data – that China could have close to 300 million Christians by the year 2030. Christianity is also seeing significant growth in Africa and South America. These things are not on the front pages of newspapers, so many in the United States are unaware of it. So yes, there is bad news today, but there’s also a lot of good news.

  • pastormerrill

    “most Christians no longer believe the Gospel can change the world.” This seems to be the foundational idea for this article. But why since the completion of the Bible should Christians have ever believed that the Gospel would change the world? People have generally been rejecting God and His Word, Old Testament and New Testament, since the times of Cain, the first person that was born after Adam and Eve were made. If there was a hope that the Gospel would make the world a Christian world, then that was not based on what the Bible tells us was coming (and still is coming) in Revelation 13:3b,4 “and all the world wondered after the beast (Antichrist). And they worshipped the dragon (Satan) which gave power unto the beast (Antichrist): and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” This is not saying that the world will declare themselves as “Satan worshippers” but that what they really are worshipping, unbeknowns to them is Satan. The Gospel will change individuals that are open to follow Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. These are the exception, not the rule. Jesus said in Mt 7:13,14 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Obviously he wasn’t teaching the the Gospel was going to change the world.

  • p.bernhard

    ‘DEUS SEMPER MAIOR…’ – Saint Augustine…. God is always bigger, more powerful, great..

  • GPS Daddy

    Yet, we hear of all kinds of ways the gospel is reaching people around the world. Even Muslim tribesmen in Afghanistan. Or the many stories we hear of Jesus Himself reaching Muslims in the Middle East. Only Western Christians would come to such a conclusion.

  • Dennis Hibbard

    Life is a Test, and the Calling out of the Adopted from Humanity for the Kingdom of Jesus
    Daniel 2 the Out Line of Human Governments and the Final Government the Rule and Reign of evil 2 Thessalonians 2: then in Acts 15:14 – 17 when the Return of Jesus in Power. Mean time don’t be Deceived.

    • Dennis Hibbard

      Jesus My Kingdom is Not of this World,

  • Laura Ann Register

    God and His Son Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus Christ) are the Victors in this entire war that is going on in this world today, and being Christians we are called to battle. We are the Body of Christ and we are in a part of this war, to stand and fight against the enemy and his cohorts. Are strongest weapon is our Prayers! Prayer changes everything, and I mean it changes EVERYTHING! Satan has been defeated he just to stupid to accept it and will continue to lie to himself and all of Hell that he has won until Christ takes him by the Throat and locks him up for all Eternity, but then again, I wouldn’t put it past him that he will still lie to himself and convince himself and all the fallen Angels with him that they will get out and finish the War between him and God. He’s is a liar and the Father of Lies and as long as there are those who don’t believe in God and that Jesus is the Living Son of God, the devil will us as many people as he can to do his dirty work for him, but like you said. God is the Bigger and Greater One and the world is changing and they’re are more people turning to Christ every day around this world, especially the radical and non radical Muslims. Of course the news is not going to report this but it is the truth. We are living in the very of very Last Days and the sand is running out in the Hour Glass, so all the evil that has been going on in this world will only climax til the Catching Away. The only reason why Hell itself hasn’t broken lose yet and why the Anti-Christ hasn’t shown his Ugly face yet is that the Body of Christ has to be removed first. And I sure wouldn’t want to be anyone that will be left behind because once the Church has been taken away, all Hell will break loose then. God Bless you all and have a Very Blessed Happy Resurrection Sunday

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