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Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
March 2nd, 2022
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
I don’t know if you are aware, but last night was the annual presidential “State of the Union” address to congress. Whether you watched or not, you are likely familiar with how it generally goes: The president enters the large house chamber in the capitol building, to much applause and fanfare. He takes the podium, and begins to give an open-eyed assessment of the state of our nation. He is expected to take an optimistic yet resolute tone, inspiring America to pull together and move forward. He is not to sugar-coat problems, but give confidence in how they will be overcome and resolved. And, of course, the speech would never be complete without the strong assertion at some point that “the State of our Union is Strong”, drawing a long, bipartisan standing ovation.
Then, of course, comes the rebuttal from the opposing party, in which a prominent (or rising) personality in that party comes on the TV screen and partially deconstructs the president’s speech, and partially establishes an alternative narrative for moving forward as a nation. Though the two speeches are often at cross-purposes from each-other, they both affirm American freedoms, ideals, and workers as the backbone of our society.
As I heard on the radio a few days ago that President Biden’s speech was coming-up this week, I wondered to myself ‘What if God were to give a “state of the world” speech sometime?’ What tone would God strike in speaking of affirming the good, yet resolutely facing the challenges, that lay ahead? Would he have more good or bad to say? What ideals and motivations would He employ to motivate people to pull together to accomplish lofty goals?*
I hope He would have plenty of good to say, in addition to the necessary bad. I recall that Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount started with blessings and upliftings, before getting to more hard-hitting parts. I don’t believe He would mince his words about the real problems and struggles that need addressing, but I hope that the goodness & grandeur would shine through to give a mostly optimistic tone.
And then, in contrast, if Satan were to get a “rebuttal” speech as the alternate party does afterward, what would he say in response/opposition? I imagine he’d say something like “God shouldn’t be so serious about all this stuff! Yes, we’ve got hardships, but let’s celebrate! Let’s take it easy! Let’s make this place a little more like a party, let’s make it more like Vegas, baby!”
And that message would probably appeal to a broad swath of people who saw God’s speech as too stodgy or formal. “Yeah,” people would say, “let’s live it up while we’ve got it!” as they choose the path of revelry.
But I can’t help but remember Jesus’ strong words, in the scripture passage from John 10 quoted above: The thief, the devil, Satan, does not approach except to cause damage, to harm, to ultimately destroy. And every source of seeming thrill and fun and fulfillment ends in utter destitution and misery. Satan leads people down the primrose path to destruction, while God holds our hands on the path leading to fulfillment and prosperous life everlasting. Jesus described these two paths overtly in Matthew 7:13-14.
Of the two options: I have to pick God’s way. Both claim to offer freedom and life while the other one offers limitation. But who is to be believed? The one who gave us this planet and every day of life and opportunity? Or the one who used his God-given life and freedom to rebel against Him?
To me the choice is so clear: so obvious, it boggles my mind that the deceiver is able to lead astray so many. We shouldn’t be surprised though, Revelation 12 calls him “that serpent of old, the devil or Satan, who deceives the whole world” (v. 9), and “the accuser of the bretheren, who accuse them before God day and night (v. 10).
And, contrasted to those descriptions, what about those who resist and refuse him, they do so how? “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (v. 11)
So friends, the scripture is clear: life will not be easy for those who choose God’s side. In fact, “everyone who seeks to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12. But let’s not be overly discouraged by that: let’s remember that the long-term destiny, the final point of the imagined “state of the world” speech by God is a glorious one, while the main thrust of Satan’s speech is a short-term one, only geared to immediate (supposed) happiness.
Let’s take the long view, friends: after all, “The world and it’s ways are passing away, but the one who does the will of God, endures forever” (1st John 2:17)
May God bless you and your families the remainder of this week and beyond.
Pr. Mark Tatum
*I realize that these questions are similar to ones I asked about what Jesus would say to our society/churches in the recent sermon on the 7 churches of Revelation. In case you didn’t see that sermon, you can watch it by following this link: https://youtu.be/TKIJV0-alqc