KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students, staff, and faculty were urged to redeem the time in which they live for God during a Nov. 30 chapel message. Bill Merrell, vice president for convention relations at the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, preached from Col. 4:5 about making the most of every opportunity God has given.
Merrell said Christians must be acutely aware of their surroundings, guarding against what may spring up. He summarized Paul’s intent as, “You Christians are surrounded by needy, lost people and you must live your lives in an evil, inhospitable world. Therefore you are to take great care how you conduct yourselves, seizing every opportunity for good as it becomes available. If you should ever be tempted to think these times are not right for you or if ever tempted to long for another time to serve God, please remember the sovereign God of the universe has placed you and me here in this time to serve him in this time and place.”
Merrell said the opportunities for Christian service are brief seasons that slip by, urging the wise Christian will use them when he can to “seize the moment.” At a time when 67 percent of Americans believe there is no such thing as truth and 70 percent believe there are no moral absolutes, Merrell said there is an opportunity for moral clarity.
“This represents a sea change in the American psyche,” Merrell insisted. “It is not the way your fellow countrymen saw life in earlier days,” he added, noting that the moral consensus that was once based on Judeo-Christian values has been shattered. And by contrast, Merrell reminded that, “the Word of God is an absolutely trustworthy source.”
Turning to Judges 19-21 to illustrate where Americans are headed, Merrell recounted a time when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” He said, “With no regulation of behavior other than what each person thought was right, it was inevitable that the wheels would come off.”
Merrell described the perverted sexual demands as described in the passage, adding, “The point of this grim parable is that if something were not done about the cancerous sinful growth in their midst, no citizen, however remote his home, could ever be secure in his own land.” He called the “ghastly, gruesome and macabre” biblical account as a perfect illustration of the setting in which Christians find themselves today. “Can it be doubted we are headed down the exact same path that that cultural group was headed down in that time?”
During a time of moral relativism, Merrell said, “Political loyalties and political polls add to the confusion of this crisis moment in history. High-profiled figures that identify themselves as Southern Baptist represent Christianity in general and Southern Baptists in particular as people without principle,” he warned. As a result, Southern Baptist churches have a special burden to clarify morality.
Although civil virtue cannot be enforced, Merrell said, “When people’s hearts are made right with God their lives changes. I’m suggesting the moral morass into which we have come is a cry to us to get at the business of clarifying what God’s word says.” Other mainline denominations have gone through contortions to make homosexuality acceptable, Merrell said. “We do not have that option. As biblical Christians we will not negate what god affirms nor what he condemns.”
Accompanying such declarations must be a new appreciation of the power of sin, Merrell said. “The ‘wise men’ convinced this whole culture that we no longer need to speak of sin — better for us to speak of more pleasant things. In the meantime, the people — without guidance from God’s word, with no one to say, ‘This is the path, walk you in it,’ — have wandered about as sheep without a shepherd.”