The Greatest Generation is this one.
When we talk about the greatest generation, we hear a lot about the generation growing up during and in the wake of World War Two. We talk about western powers and the money and the jobs and that unusual word, “prosperity.”
We talk about them as the greatest generation because of the choices that the people of that era made: hard choices, overwhelming odds, and the risk and fear of being overtaken and losing all freedoms to fascism. They fought in a war that was bloody, filled with horror, and they fought on the home front with women joining the men in factories to produce more and more to, “win the war and get our boys home safely.” While their efforts were so vital to that time and produced some stellar hope and showed the strength and prowess of our country, I think we are entering an age of Christianity that may be the greatest we have ever known.
In the past, fear has been a part of the Christian message. Stemming from America’s “Great Awakening” and Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God.”
“That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”
– Jonathan Edwards, Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God
During this Great Awakening, that powerful, fear-based influence to bring souls to Christ, leveraging the use of hellfire and brimstone, as seen from a single sermon from that time in the quote above. This brought many people to Christ, but the level of belief is called into question when we think about the fact that we are called to be Christ to the nations. I’m not here to sort out who may or may not have been going to Heaven or Hell; that’s not the point. The point is fire and brimstone seem to no longer be viable tools for calling people to repentance in the Western world. Which is why I think this generation may be the greatest we have ever seen.
If I can scare you into doing something, you’ll do it for a time, but then you may get tired of it and you may eventually call my bluff. I’ll try to scare you more, you’ll resent me more, and then you’ll wait through all the scare tactics. If we think of that in the perspective of getting to know Christ, we can see that calling God’s bluff would end in disaster. Fear-based belief, being scared of God, is wrong.
Fear as defined by “knowing who I am, in relationship to who God is,” is very different. Fear of God in that way then becomes a journey. It’s a place where we have to struggle with what does it mean to be holy? Can I do this and still be holy? Does this choice honor God? Am I pleasing Him when I’m with this person?
This struggle is where faith and works collide:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” – and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:14-24)
If you think Abraham was scared of God, think again.