"For by it the men of old obtained a good report" (Heb. 11:2).
Many philosophers, Christian theologians and prophetic men are speaking of Western civilization entering into a new dark age similar to the medieval dark ages. Human history has been short, fickle and full of uncertainty and the time of darkening upon the world should concern us as Christian believers. Arthur W. Hunt says, "We cannot ignore the parallels between the Dark Ages and our own time. The great irony of our age is that for all our technological prowess we are remarkably less articulate, less civil, and more irrational than we were 100 or even 200 years ago. The technological shift from the printed word to the visual image is pulling us back into the Dark Ages."
Morality changes with no girting in reality or reason are just one of the signs of the times. The church has survived a dark age before, and the Lord says that Satan will not overthrow the church, so we are certain to make it through this coming one. Rod Dreher, the author of Benedict Option, says, "We see ourselves as living in the ruins (though very comfortable ones!) of Christian civilization, and tasked with preserving the living faith through the coming Dark Ages."
Evangelical Christianity has never had so much knowledge, resources, programs and helps. Yet never has there been such a lack of godly wisdom being lived out in moral character and godliness. We live in a information, knowledge-based age with very little ability to gain wisdom in the midst of it. We know all the facts about faith but need to have a "living faith" that is displayed before the world. One might say, "Why worry about these things and make a big deal about it?" Yet look at our lives, how shallow, plastic, pleasure-oriented, materialistic, self-centered. We are living for the present world in many ways in the modern church and things of eternity are not gripping us. We can test ourselves in one way to ask ourselves the question, "Am I living for the present pleasures and comforts or for a future eternity and eternal purpose of God in my daily actions?"
We can look to Hebrews chapter 11 as a light in the midst of the coming darkness. There is a lineage of men in the history of mankind who walked in the light and left us a path to follow. The men of old were men of faith, so their decisions revolved around "things to come" (Heb. 11:20b). They "desired" (Heb. 11:16) for something better than the present world. They caught the real reality of God willing to "prepare a city for them" (Heb. 11:16) and therefore they gladly forfeited what all other men seek after here below. We can see this example of godliness and other-worldliness throughout church history in especially in godly leaders in the early church. Yet when the first dark ages consumed upon the church, we see men leaving even society itself to found monasteries where faith and practice was kept with an eternal mindset. It is interesting to note that the Bible itself, literature, school, medicine and many other things we enjoy as the Western culture were preserved through these Christian communities. Many, known as the Desert Fathers, departed to the desert seeking God for Himself when the reality of worship was being lost.
And once we take a large-lens view of the Church of 2000 years, we can see these communities where faith and practice were preserved, that they themselves were the salt and light to the rest of the church. Without faith that displays itself with deeds done with an eternal mindset, we are left with formality of a religious kind that ends in a lack of changed lives. How then do we survive a coming dark age of the church?
In way of application and help, here are some possible helps for you to consider and apply to your Christian walk:
"Others": Remember that Christianity is not a religion about the individual but rather the community. We are called the body of Christ (Rom. 12:5) and we always need each other. Many modern believers live as an island to themselves, with every little meaningful relation with believers throughout the week. One of the marks of the dark ages and a coming evil age is people seeking self over others (2 Timothy 3:2). Make priority to practice Christianity community daily with other believers, share your life together.
"Living Faith": How do I live out my faith? It is actually simple, choose to spend time practicing what we believe. Disciplines in the Christian life are what keep us alive and strong in our faith. Early church believers recited the Lord's Prayer meaningfully three times a day out loud. It was a practice in Christian communities to pray five times a day, called the hours of prayer. Daily Bible reading and deciding to obey what we read instead of just reading for knowledge are key. Following the commands of Christ for believers is not burdensome but freeing. Read Hebrews 11 again and note how each believer was commended in their obedience.
"Looking Backward": In a time of dark ages, we must not look forward to try and follow the newest trend in evangelical Christianity, but rather, look backward and find those solid, time-tested principles and examples that were shining lights in the darkness. The speaking of a new doctrine, new revelation, new emphasis that apparently the entire church has missed throughout history will resound, but we must not listen to these voices. Find the solid footing of what the church has always believed, what godly men stood on and passed on to the next generation.
"Eternal Thinking": The men of old were those who put their mind on eternity. In our modern societies Evangelical Christians are caught up in all the rat race of large homes, latest technology, creature comforts and all the extra pleasures offered. If we are to be a people who will be shining lights in the coming Dark Ages we must say no to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:11). And choose a simpler way of life. This can mean moving from the city to the country. It can mean to associate in a Christian community. Other ways to practice this are to minimize one's life and say no to all the offers of society to indulge the flesh. For we are looking for a "heavenly country" let us start that journey now or continue on it and look away from all that distracts.
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