Shortly after 9/11, my pastor, Richard Jordan of Shorewood Bible Church in Chicago, gave a sermon on how our country was headed for "winter."
Using Genesis 8 terminology, he explained that nations--similar to individuals--go through life cycles of spring, summer, fall and winter.
Previous American "winters," he said, have coincided with major events in history such as the American Revolution, Civil War and Great Depression. They were marked by specific incidents such as the Boston Tea Party, the election of Abraham Lincoln and the stock market crash.
Among the characteristics of wintertime are political realignment, fundamental economic change, a shift in the nation's psyche and a willingness among citizens to coalesce and make private sacrifice.
It's a time when good and evil become very identifiable, says Jordan. Also, attitudes about God and biblical truth are examined.
"Every 'awakening' this nation has had, up until the last one (the "winter" of the 1960s), there's been in springtime a recovery of Pauline truth—a recovery of the gospel and some things about the Christ-life," says Jordan in this Fall 2001 sermon. "The last time, though, it was, 'There's no God, no Bible, 'Get away!' "
The secularization of the '60s brought about what was called the "God is Dead" Movement.
"What it was saying was, 'We don't need God any more,' " says Jordan. "In the '60s, '70s and '80s, people mocked the idea of God. Materialism, a 'show-me-the-money' attitude and total commitment to the secular became the way. When that began to peter out during the '80s, the pendulum began to swing back, as it does."
What developed, though, is a "spiritualization" of the culture without the God of the Bible.
"It's chic to be spiritual today," says Jordan, "but it's 'the god in you.' It's the god of Hinduism. It's the god of the New Age.
"Today, Phil Donohue, who was raised a Roman Catholic and despised God, has been replaced by Oprah, a committed New Ager. She is probably the most influential spiritual guru in America today. Christianity Today magazine even had as a cover, 'The Gospel According to O.' She wants you to be in touch with your spiritual side but don't use the Bible. The God of the Bible is out."
Everywhere now are indicators we live in a society that's "into Jesus," but not into following sound Bible doctrine. Instead, Jesus Christ, His life and ministry, are twisted and perverted to comfortably fit any agenda, Christian or otherwise.
Just the other day on the local TV news, Bill Clinton was shown leading a political pep-rally from behind the pulpit during the Sunday service at Manhattan's Riverside Church, a notorious liberal church that embraces Eastern religions and New Age philosophy while putting itself under a Christian banner.
"With a jam-packed Upper West Side church serving as a backdrop, Bill Clinton yesterday invoked the teachings of Jesus and the Bible to deliver a searing, wide-ranging attack against Republicans," read the next morning's New York Post. "In a 25-minute speech chock-full of religious imagery, the former chief executive attacked President Bush and the GOP for 'claiming Christianity' for themselves, discriminating against gays and smearing Sen. John Kerry."
Of course, the church's senior minister, the Rev. James Forbes Jr., named by Newsweek magazine as one of the "12 most effective preachers" in the English-speaking world, launched a similar attack last month in his primetime address at the Democrat National Convention, saying Bush's policies following 9/11 represent a "historic failure in moral leadership."
In a video clip of a sermon by Forbes, shown on PBS, the minister suggests that President Bush, far from being guided by Christ's teachings, is in league with the devil. Here's the outtake:
"When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, one of the temptations was the devil took him on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, all this I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.
"I fear that the ideology informing the present policies of the nation are coming from some people who took the devil up on it, who said, 'You elite, you handful of people with your special interests, if you act quickly all the kingdoms of the world, their oil, their land, their money, their resources, I will give it to you.'
"Jesus said no. But somebody helping to set policies in this nation got duped by the devil and said yes! And the policy is moving in that direction."
Riverside's true identity as a supposed "Christian" house of worship should be easily discerned from the moment a new attendee steps inside the foyer of the towering gothic structure. Unbelievably, the interior is adorned with sculptures of Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin!
The church enthusiastically sanctions gay marriage and often invites in leaders from Eastern religions to promote their dogma.
The Sunday following 9/11, for example, moderate Muslim clerics preached from behind the pulpit on "the broadness of the heart of God."
In general, Forbes and his widely acclaimed Riverside predecessor, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, who is currently hawking his new book, "Credo; The Voice of a Prophet," push the New Age message that God is love—period—and human potential is at the crux of everything.
"Religion is the revelation of the love of God and human possibility," Coffin says. "Christ is a mirror to our humanity and tells us what it means to be alive and well."
Coffin, who calls himself "a very convinced Christian," emphasizes that "God is not confined to Christ, but to Christians God is most essentially defined by Christ."
He sometimes refers to God as a "Her," and consistently refutes any trustworthiness of the Bible.
"When everything biblical is not Christ-like, we Christians need to develop an interpretive theory of Scripture," he advises in his book. "I think the love of Jesus is indeed the plumb line by which everything is to be measured."
Coffin's utter lack of knowledge of basic biblical dispensational changes is matched by his obvious contempt for fundamental, bible-believing Christians, especially when he makes false mocking statements such as, "For it is an abomination to eat pork."
He shows he considers nothing of Jesus Christ's resurrected life as the living Son of God when he writes, "Christ said, 'It is finished,' and thus ended the most complete life ever lived."
Consistently, Coffin and Forbes promulgate Satan's most popular lie that being a good person and doing good for others is the way to gain a proper standing with God and "earn" eternal life. The matter of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross as the only acceptable payment for sin, doesn't enter in.
"If our lives exemplify personal charity and the pursuit of social justice," writes Coffin, "then death will not be the enemy, but rather the friendly angel leading us on to the One whose highest hope is to be able to say to each and every one of us, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of the Master."
Of course, Coffin is paraphrasing a statement made by Jesus Christ (Matt. 25: 21). In this same book of Matthew, though, when a man asks the Good Master, "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Jesus answers, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Later, when asked what was the great commandment, Christ answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment."
Loving God means trusting in His Son, says the Bible. Without this faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, a person is "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18) and is an enemy "by wicked works" (Col. 1:21). No good deed changes that fundamental separation.
As my pastor says, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
By contrast, the Rev. Coffin assures everybody, "Our lives run from God, in God, to God again. And that's enough. We might want to know more, but we don't need to know more, and demanding that I know more about the afterlife somehow demeans my faith. I think, one world at a time. The second world will be in God's hands, whereas we were lucky enough to live in this world."
Again, this is Satan's top lie. "It's the devil's business to make you think sin won't be punished," says Jordan in a separate sermon. "That's not God's business. No man of God told you sin wouldn't be punished. Folks, there's no way to be saved apart from coming and embracing the truth of God."
The reality is Forbes and
Coffin aren't men of God, but ministers of "the god of this world,"
i.e. Satan (II Cor. 4:4). They provide clear examples of what the Apostle Paul
warns about in II Cor. 11: 13-15: "For such are false apostles, deceitful
workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel;
for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
"Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
The message is there are counterfeiters, representing their boss, the Top Counterfeiter, and they operate under the guise of Christianity.
"The point is there's another Jesus; there's another spirit, another gospel, and none of it's from God—it's the counterfeit," says Jordan. "They take the name of the Lord Jesus and preach the wrong one."
While Satan is darkness, Paul explains, he can transform himself into false light and he has his own body of ministers who are transformed into ministers of righteousness.
"These are people going around telling people to do good works and to do the right things in order to be right with God," explains Jordan. "They teach a human works program for salvation: 'You can be equal with God in your righteousness and God will accept you.'
"The most heinous thing a man could do is exult his righteousness above God's righteousness. "There are a lot of Believers who unwittingly promote Satan's lie and his falsehood by confusing the Christian life with becoming a Christian."
Just the fact that these two reverends frequently appear in the national media and are considered leading Christian spokesmen for the country, points up exactly what Paul warns to look out for in the "last days."
He writes in II Tim 4: 3-4:
"For the time will come
when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they
heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
In another sermon sound-bite from Forbes televised on PBS, he actually says to his congregation, in reference to what he says was a "special calling" from God for him to preach, "And now God is saying I've got a mission, I will not let America go, I will renew that nation. I am going to give it a spiritual awakening. And God wants to know, does this congregation want to be part of what will bring God's heart? I want to know are you ready?"