I live in a day of significant importance. I am no prophet, no doomsdayer, no glory-seeker. Yet in my spirit I sense something happening in this world like that has never happened before. God is wrapping up a work of His, some millennia long. The wrapping up of His work looks like a flurry of flourishing spirituality and a tsunami of martyrs’ blood. No man knows when the end will come, but it feels so much nearer than it did before. Forget the factors that lead me to believe that. My spirit senses it. My eyes can see a definable finish line. Less than 2,000 people groups left to go. Less than 2 billion people left to go. Dawn is growing brighter and brighter every day.
God has repeatedly worked in ages, phases, all drummed down to chapters in history books. Each time He did a work that was appropriate for that day and for that people – to show Himself glorious among the nations, and to raise up white-hot believers who would carry His great name forward in time. The works have looked different from time to time. Each work was built on the unadulterated, zealous lives of His children who were totally focused on Heaven, and who were free to let go of all they had on earth. Revivals were birthed, God’s Kingdom grew, believers eventually grew complacent again, and God used nations and persecutions to spread His gospel once more. It has happened over and over again.
But before those persecutions started, God would ready a pocket of disciples who were willing to lay down their lives for His Bride. Those fiery few would inspire and lead a new generation. Today, Christianity in America has drastically changed. What once was specifically a Christian nation, has become anything but. Within my lifetime I will see direct and severe persecution of Christianity in this country. We’ve never known it before here. Our brothers and sisters around the world have endured persecution for ages, but we are the most apathetic, comfortable Christians in the world. And it is because our life here in easy.
Still, things are changing. The persecution will start as it did for every other group of Christians throughout history. The government will be used first to make laws that limit us. Our liberties will be taken away. Then things will become severe. By the end, Christians will be losing their heads in the streets. Perhaps the factor that holds us back the most from fervent obedience today is that we don’t believe that scenario is possible in America. Depressing as that sounds, it’s actually a good thing. It was always a good thing when God did it in the past. Those committed to Christ were gloriously put on display to give Him maximum glory as they loved others to their death. The weeds were plucked out, the goats separated from the sheep. And the persecution ALWAYS led to the spread of the gospel into new places on earth.
America holds the resources to finish the task of reaching every people group on earth so that Christ can return. Yet we spend the money instead on a multi-billion dollar pet industry, or porn industry, or on the hell-guaranteeing materialism rivaled previously only by kings of nations. And for that great sin, God will disperse us and our resources. He will finish His work. No nation will stand in His way. America is not an exception to the rule. In the mean time we should pray for mercy and we should do what we can to turn this nation back to Christ.
I say all of that to point out that God is building His core team (so to speak). The Christians of my great-grandparents’ day were dutiful evangelists. They were a people who took commitment seriously. They methodically plodded their way forward in their tasks and requirements. Their passion was marked by faithful endurance. But their means and strategies and methods won’t work any longer today. Telling someone today that they have a choice between heaven and hell just doesn’t speak to their hearts. (I speak in general terms of course). The unbelieving American generation today is drowning in a pursuit of suicidal pleasures. My great-grandparents’ generation did not have time or resources for pursuing pleasure. We today have an abundance of time and more resources than can be handled for pursuing pleasure. It is a very serious problem.
But in the same breath I am going to say that God is raising up a generation of believers who are singularly focused on pursuing pleasure. It’s just that He will focus them on the one pleasure that we are called to pursue – God Himself. These white-hot believers will be eternally locked into an everlasting joy found only in treasuring Christ above all else. And with that fueling their love, these believers will change the world.
That is why I have been, for a significant portion of my life, so very passionate about a passion for Christ. Some five or so years ago God refined that passion and brought me to the teachings of men like (and especially) Dr John Piper. God called Piper over 40 years ago to begin declaring this truth (though the phrase wasn’t refined quite yet) – that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. God called Piper to begin boldly declaring that the whole of Scripture is riveted on the truth that God is calling His children to pursue their own maximum joy by knowing Him as more valuable than anything else. This didn’t make sense in the 70’s and 80’s. Today, it is the sail that will carry the global Church through history’s next phase of persecution against the Bride of Christ. Flannery O’Conner wrote, “Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy, fully armed too as it’s a highly dangerous quest.”
God will fulfill His ultimate aim, namely, “That He would be maximally glorified in the white-hot intensity of the everlasting joy of His people, as they experience Him as their supreme treasure in and through a fallen, then perfected world.” (Piper: 2014 Desiring God National Conference). I’m saying now that this rise of what is being called New Calvinism, or Christian Hedonism, will be the mark of our age that history will record as having been the method God used to carry His gospel into the final war in the Kingdoms of Heaven and Earth. And the beauty of it is that it is nothing new. This isn’t some new revelation. Kind David was a Christian Hedonist, he just didn’t call it that. This is the core of the Word of God, brought to life in a way that will effect this generation to lay down their lives for their Supreme King Jesus.