Many of us said it, and well-nigh all of us felt it.
It took the assassination of a president to get some decent music on the radio! For three or four days the only music aired was that of a high caliber. Even the callous, sin-hardened world felt that there was something wrong with the clashing, discordant, wild, jungle noise that passes in these days for music, and that it was out of place.
There was an evident tone of sobriety for three or four days. Events of festivity were canceled. Football games were rescheduled for a later date. Parties were called off. Our Chicago newspapers even raised the interesting question as to whether the children might, in this moment of national distress and loss, sing in the public schools “God Bless America,” and whether prayers might now be offered in these schools.
It almost seemed as though there was a national revival, an awakening to spiritual values, an appreciation of the things spiritual. It certainly showed that underneath all the bold, brazen wickedness of the age and moral decay of the masses, there still, is knowledge of the things spiritual. The world is pleasure mad. Men today are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:4). But it is not because of lack of knowledge. Today it is not a case of the people perishing for lack of knowledge. Normally this is a Christian nation. Nominally the whole world is Christian; and only a few corners of this globe would feel insulted, if you would call them Christian. In the season just gone by, it was very evident that Christ has been taken out of CHRISTmas; but it is just as evident today that Christ has been taken out of CHRISTianity. Actually, of course, this could never be. Take Him out and all you have left is -ianity, or better still “vanity.” For there is no such thing as -ianity. It is nothing and vanity. Yet so much of what Christ condemns, so much that opposes His teachings and denies Him is called Christianity today.
And, as we pointed out, the season now come to an end had a display of the things spiritual, an outward manifestation of knowledge of the truth. Call it historical faith, if you like. But remember that this is not actually the case. It is not faith; and it does not believe even the historical part of the Word of God. True historical faith would be faith in ALL the history recorded in the Word of God. But the world manifestly does not believe it, in spite of the words that flow so freely from the lips. To believe the history of Bethlehem you have to believe the virgin birth of that Babe. To believe the history of Bethlehem you also have to believe the historical fact of His resurrection. If you do not, you have not-grasped and believed His advent in the little town of Bethlehem. You have believed in a babe but not in this Babe. Without faith in His virgin birth you cannot and will not believe in His resurrection. Without faith in Him as the Son of God, you do not believe in HIS birth in Bethlehem. You believe a myth. You believe and sing of a birth that simply did not take place. You believe a cunningly devised fable of human origin. And if you believe in His virgin birth, in the coming of the eternal Son of God in our flesh, Immanuel, then you cannot but believe also in His resurrection. Historical faith, that is, true historical faith, will believe each and every single event recorded in Scripture as historical fact.
Many there are who sang of Him, and sang beautifully of Him in the season gone by. They sang not as the angels—though they may have sung their words—with faith and joy. They may have sung because it gave them carnal pleasure or because they were hired singers, talented men and women who are willing to take His name upon their lips for thirty pieces of silver. They may be men and women who are accustomed to taking His name in vain, who now are willing to sing beautifully of that name. They may have religion for the moment. But it is not faith. And to borrow the words of James, their “religion is vain.” Woe unto them when they shall appear before this Christ! They may have sung of Him as the Prince of Peace, but no peace with Him will they find in that day when they stand before His judgment seat. In spite of all their beautiful singing, yea, rather, because of their beautiful singing, Christ shall say to them, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). Their cry that the); have done many wonderful things in His name will not deceive Him or change His mind as to the ethical value of their works. Their religion of the moment will not satisfy Him, because He knows the heart. And the heart of His child does not have religion of the moment, but the love of God. Faith does not rejoice one day or one week in the year. Faith does not move to sobriety and forsaking of the things of the flesh only in moments of loss and grief of the flesh. Faith does not put evil aside temporarily, while itching to get back at it as soon as formalities are past. Faith does not distort the truth. Faith does not use it for commercial purposes.
Faith does not use the truth, the glorious truth of salvation in the Son of God in our flesh—either at Christmas or Easter—for sales promotion. Jesus cleansed the temple of those who would make it a house of merchandise. What would He say today of those who take out of the temple, out of God’s house, the truth taught there, sung there to God’s praise, in order to help them sell more merchandise? What happened when the Israelites took the ark out on the battlefield in the silly and sinful hope that it would give them the victory? And was that ark anything else but the truth as it is in Christ? Was not its mercy seat the symbol of God’s mercy in HIM? Was not the blood sprinkled upon it the type of His blood that covers our guilt? No man might touch that ark, not even the priests. They had to insert the long rod through the rings on its corners and carry it by that rod. Uzzah died a sudden and awful death for touching it. You cannot touch that symbol of Christ with impunity. For you cannot touch the Son of God, except by faith and in love, without being destroyed by His holy wrath. And you cannot do that in song either. You touch Him when you mention His name. And unless YOU touch Him in love and by faith, you will perish as surely as Uzzah did!
Woe then to those who in religion of the moment sing of Him without that love of God and in what, for lack of a better word, we call historical or even temporary faith. Their knowledge condemns them. Their sin was not committed in heathen darkness, but in a so-called Christian nation. The Church of God may even have been edified by their song; but these singers go to hell for it! Is that strange? One of the most beautiful prophecies of Christ’s coming, and the one which the wise men knew and believed, was given through the mouth of reprobate Balaam. Today God’s Church is still thrilled by his words. But Balaam himself is condemned in no uncertain terms by the word of God. And at God’s command he was slain by the Israelites (Numbers 31:1-8). That which pleases man and entertains him does not necessarily please God and carry away His blessing. And that for a week or two there was religion of the moment in our midst does not mean that men are not lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
We have said it before, and we will say it again. It never is a question simply of not knowing the truth; it always is a case of not loving the truth that is known. The more clearly and deeply the unbeliever learns to know the truth, the more fierce his hatred becomes. Who committed the greater evil, the Jews who delivered Jesus to Pilate or Pilate? (John 19:11) With all the coverage that radio gives to the world today, is there a corner of the globe where the gospel has not been heard? Is there a nation that has not, with the wide coverage of magazine and newspaper, read many hundreds of words about the birth of the Christ child? Is there a land where the sound of the gospel has not been brought yet? The truth is there. Knowledge has been obtained. But love of that truth is not to be found. And so for a few days, for the satisfaction of the flesh, the songs of Zion are sung and you have little difficulty finding a radio station that does not present carols by skilled and trained singers for your listening. But that there is no love for that truth is very evident the day after Christmas and for more than three hundred days thereafter, till the commercial Christmas returns.
Religion of the moment is exactly that! Men worship the moment rather than the Christ of Whose birth the moment speaks. The unbeliever worships things. He worships ideas and not the Person of the Son of God in our flesh. And even while he worships things and ideas, he concocts a Santa Claus to take the place of Christ. A peace on earth that some human Santa Claus must bring is the thing of which they actually sing and which they have in mind. We were rather amused while shopping to hear a little negro boy voice his mind on a program wherein various people were asked to state their opinions on any matter they wished. He said that he would like to see a colored Santa Claus and wanted to know why all the Santa Clauses were white men. He had something there. In the midst of all our race riots and fight for desegregation, why did not someone think of that? Peace on earth?? We have civil war in our own land be it a cold war and not a hot, shooting war. The enmity, the bitterness, the hate, is there. And no one thought of desegregating Santa Claus and having at least one negro Santa Claus in each city!
Of course, when you have the truth and you love it you need no negro Saviour, but one of the seed of David and who as to His Person is neither white nor black but the eternal, glorious Son of God. He makes peace between white and black because being justified by His blood we have peace with God. Those at peace with God will be at peace with men, regardless of their outer color—and it is only skin deep—race and tribe.
But we? Is not our religion so often also a religion of the moment? We pray when we get into trouble. We cry for help when the way is rough and hard. And maybe we will give thanks when we receive what seems to us an exceptional gift. But what about the moments in between? Are we religious the moment we open our eyes from sleep in the morning? Are we then religious each step of the way through the wholeday? And are we religious as we fall asleep again at night? Ah, indeed, with us too it is often a matter of the moment. We are saved only in principle now; but for us the everlasting moment of religion comes. A day that never ends is promised to those who live in His fear. Each moment therein will find us worshipping Him, thanking Him for salvation, and praying to Him for the benefits of salvation. It will be Christmas forever each moment of that everlasting life. There will be peace on earth, and all on that earth will unceasingly ascribe glory to God in the highest, because they are the men of His good pleasure.