After being away from a Christian fellowship for some time, it is interesting on coming back, to see the changes that have taken place. Small changes that take place month by month and year by year are hardly noticed by those who attend week by week, but on returning after a period of absence, the culmination of such changes seems much more obvious.
One development that has struck me in this way recently is the rise of a form of pseudo Christian Gnosticism within conservative Christian fellowships. It does not appear or promote itself under that name however. Instead there is a set of seemingly innocuous trends and features that seem to have infiltrated many of the fellowships that I have attended recently – trends and aspects connected with so-called ‘inner spirituality’ – hence the connection with Christian Gnosticism and also with Christian Mysticism.
Influences such as these have been infiltrating fellowships since Apostolic times, but since the 1960’s they have done so in a more open way and are closely connected with the increasing popularity since that time of the Charismatic Movement. These seemingly harmless and popular trends seem to me to be leading Christians into a form of sleepwalking. Scripture counsels us to be awake and to be watchful. It teaches us to grow in understanding with regards to the teaching of the Apostles concerning Jesus the Messiah, in order that we may be stable and bear fruit in our lives.
But under the influence of these trends towards inner spirituality and experiencing the Presence of God, Christians increasingly abandon theology because they see it as ‘divisive’. Instead, a ‘personal experience of God’ (or Jesus, or the Spirit) is put in place of a systematic understanding of Scripture and theology. In some cases, understanding, analytical thought, reason, debate, discussion concerning Scripture and the exercise of self-control in the light of understanding Scripture correctly are virtually abandoned in favour of an attitude of surrender to God, where lilting (or bland) songs of praise are sung, and a form of triumphalism is preached. Key Scripture verses are repeated in a mantra-like way as a badge of group membership, and talk of God’s Judgment and Wrath, if spoken of at all, is either spoken of as something that is reserved for unbelievers – for other people – or it is used as a spur to move people to escape judgment by ‘asking Jesus into their heart’.
This focus on the heart and on the ‘Kingdom of God within’ leads to a dismal state of affairs, since Scripture is concerned with real, objective events and warns us concerning the course of this present age. It seems to me that prophecies concerning the end of this present age and the coming ‘Day of the Lord’ have never been so pertinent as at this present time. I read what Scripture has to say and it seems to me that events are indeed steadily moving into place for the culmination of the age. I am not a fan of Twitter-like ‘soundbytes’ – of just quoting a few seemingly pertinent verses of Scripture. I have come the conclusion that the end of the present age is potentially near based on reading the Scripture narrative – as opposed to short passages or verses – and watching world developments, especially when centred around Israel and Jerusalem.
The reasons for this conclusion are nuanced and reasoned from the Scripture narrative. They are too detailed to go into here, but I have explained them in my books ‘Who is this Who is coming?’ and ‘The Return of the King’. But this post is not about publicising my books. Not at all. I fear for my grandchildren. As an older person, I have seen and experienced how the world changes so very quickly, I see events falling into place, potentially ready for the kinds of events prophesied in Scripture – events at the end of the age that will occur within the space of one generation. So I find myself watchful. I long for the return of Jesus but I fear His coming because it will be a period of time such as the world has never seen and I am a poor and unworthy servant. Don’t get me wrong – I am not an apocalyptic fanatic – I don’t fall for the fanciful nonsense that is so often promulgated concerning Armageddon. I leave that to Hollywood. But the point of this post is that I sense that this is not a time for Christians to surrender to complacent sleepwalking and the seductiveness of ‘inner spirituality’. This is the time to Wake up! Search the Scriptures! Be watchful! And turn around in godly fear and humility.