commentary: Don't Give Up!
Psychological Pressures Abound
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 10-Apr-10; Sermon #987c; 12 minutes
The book of Hebrews was written for a group of people living at a time of the end of an age (the end of Jewish life in Judea) even as this nation is also languishing in an end-time decline. People are in a general malaise from culture shock, moving from surprise, anger, and demoralization, leading to lethargy. We, as a culture, are being pummeled by continuous assaults to our core values, witnessing murderous abortion advocates, homosexual activists, and the hard core leftists getting their way, while the silent majority has been bullied into submission to evil mandates. The increase in the acceptance of evil is leading to a state of hopelessness and lethargy. We must reorient our focus onto God's Word and His message of hope, never giving up our quest for righteousness and integrity in the midst of the cesspool of immorality and progressive secularism.
Quite a number of years ago, I gave a series of sermons based on the book of Hebrews. I was especially impressed by the book because I recognize that the writing was for the benefit of a group of people who were living at a time of the end. It was not the end, but it was the end of Jewish life that was centered in Judea.
The treatise was written roughly about 65 AD, and the Temple would be destroyed about AD 70 by Titus' army. But Hebrews was not written for the benefit of the Jewish nation. It was actually written for Jewish Christians living in the environment of the Jewish nation. The Christians no longer considered Judah as their nation because, like us, they understood that their citizenship was in heaven. But nonetheless, their emotional ties and their natural prejudices, were certainly slanted toward Judah. They understood that every painful setback the nation experienced at the hand of the Romans—or whomever, besides the Romans—was well deserved. They were witnessing God punishing, but that did not make it any easier.
Now we, too, understand the truth of Isaiah 1 that this nation is sick from the top of the head to the soles of the feet, from the leadership that is over us to those who might be the lowest of the low. The punishment that is coming upon the United States of America and Britain and France and other Israelitish nations is well-deserved. God is barely being honored in anything that this supposedly "God-fearing" nation does. We feel it because we are emotionally—like the Jews anciently—tied to this nation.
I used, in that sermon, this illustration that I'm going to give you. I got it from psychologist Abraham Maslow. He had studied what occurred to people when they underwent a series of psychological shocks. It was as though they were being hit psychologically by unexpectedly hard setbacks.
The shock first registers as surprise. If you could just think of a person getting a punch right in the nose, unexpectedly, and BANG!, they go down. What's their reaction? Well, that was unexpected, and maybe there is a little bit of a psychological feeling there besides the smashed nose, but the chances are great that the person is going to to pick himself up and say, "Why did you do that?" He no more gets that out of his mouth and WHAM!, he gets hit again, and down he goes on his bucket.
Well, this time the anger is beginning to rise within him. But he is picking himself up, maybe beginning to clench his fist, and WHAM! He is hit again. This time he hits the ground and the anger is at full steam and the urge to fight back is very strong. The guy is picking himself up to attack, but he's hit again before he ever can recover and get in a strike for himself. Now the thought in his mind is beginning to change a little bit. Maybe I better not get up. But still, the desire to fight back is strong enough that he picks himself up, and WHAM! he gets hit again. This time the psychological reaction is quite a bit different. Now he is saying, Maybe I shouldn't get up at all; maybe I better just stay here.
Well, Maslow interpreted that as the beginning of the lethargy. We might call it Laodiceanism. He decides, I'll just stay here and maybe the person will not hit me again. It's sort of like, Do whatever you want, but I'm not going to get up and I'm not going to get hit again.
Well, that's what's happening to us. We are being hit with one psychological crisis after another. It's not falling on us directly. But that I mean it is not aimed at us, but it is impacting on us, and we feel it because our natural prejudices and we are emotionally tied to this nation.
Let me give you a listing that came to me through an email of things that you are familiar with, but they have not had a positive effect on us at all, and they are affecting us psychologically. For instance, I will quote from a paper attributed to Dr. Ken Matto. I have no idea who he is. The title of what he wrote here is "God Bless America?"
We have murdered over thirty million babies through abortion, and we sing "God Bless America."
Homosexuality is an accepted and encourage way of life. It is paraded on almost every show on the major networks. Christians on jobs are forced to take sensitivity training to accept this, and we sing "God Bless America."
Illegal drugs are available to everyone, even children in grammar schools, and we sing "God Bless America."
Drunkenness is out of control in this country as more and more people partake of drinking, and we sing "God Bless America."
Marriages are being destroyed, and adultery and fornication are an accepted way of life, and we sing "God Bless America."
This country has become lottery- and gambling-crazy, resulting in many placing their faith in slot machines and casinos, and we sing "God Bless America."
When someone breaks the law, instead of prosecuting them, there are psychologists and organizations like the ACLU to get them off. We are a nation of laws with two loopholes on every law, and we sing "God Bless America."
We see the church is becoming more and more apostate and accepting homosexual clergy openly, and we sing "God Bless America."
We are a nation with an insatiable lust for pornography, which comes to us via the Internet, and we sing "God Bless America."
The television networks portray every anti-God or anti-Christian element they can to malign the Christian faith while exalting all the false religions, and we sing "God Bless America."
The White House was used as a place for orgies of illicit sex, which received approbation by much of the American people, and we sing "God Bless America."
When false religions are streaming into America, and instead of the churches warning the people about them, they're holding hands and having interface services with them, and we sing "God Bless America."
When a Muslim cleric opens in prayer in the Senate or Congress instead of a true Christian invoking the true God for wisdom and running the country, we sing "God Bless America."
When God's Word is being treated as profane in the once faithful seminaries, and is being translated and re-translated until it becomes just another book, and all the warnings have been subdued, and we sing "God Bless America."
We remove the Ten Commandments from the walls of the schools and the halls of justice because it is no longer receiving the approbation of the American government and American people, we sing "God Bless America." Why? [He asks.] Why should God bless it?
The things that I just read through are major reasons why we've got to get our minds filled with the word of God, believing it and putting into practice its counsel, so that our minds are filled with hope for what is coming in the deliverance that comes with Christ's return. This is why Jesus Christ's message is titled "The Good News of the Kingdom of God." We've been enabled to believe it, and we have got to make every effort not only to fill our minds with it, but to put it into practice in its counsel.
Combined with the relationship God has given us through Christ is the salvation from a lethargy that will gradually build if we allow it to sink us with an overwhelming sadness, maybe an embarrassment for what is going on.
This, brethren, is the message of the book of Hebrews. The message that Paul wrote to those people is, "Don't give up! Put your hope in the message that Jesus Christ brought." This is the message that Paul is saying from beginning to end, that the message God gave us through Jesus Christ is so superior to anything that man has ever offered, there is no comparison whatever.
Now, what are we going to allow to fill our minds? Is it going to be God's message, or is it going to be the overwhelming sadness of what's coming out of the radio and television? It's our choice. We have to make every effort to promote His message personally, so that we will not only survive but actually grow during these very oppressive times.