Clear And Present Danger
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the phrase “a clear and present danger.” The words became well known much later, when a best-selling author used them as a title for a book that later became a Hollywood film.
Perhaps we should adopt Holmes’ phrase to identify the challenge facing every church, every ministry, every sermon, every conference, every family, and every prayer meeting. Good men are likely to agree that we are, in fact, living in a time of “clear and present danger.” One could list a variety of events and failures that have brought us to this crucial moment in history. It is a dangerous moment, I believe, for both our church and our nation.
We are in perilous times. We indeed face “clear and present dangers.” How we will prevail is a pressing issue.
The spiritual battles of our times are not superficial. The challenges against the Bible are real. The direct attack against religion by the scientific community and academia is a full-blown, in-your-face confrontation. The popular atheists Richard Dawkins and Richard Krauss draw massive crowds worldwide in their presentations of science that take a direct approach against the idea of religion of any sort, belittling and marginalizing those who believe in God.
Most major universities posit that religion is the source of most human stress, wars and conflicts. They ignore the idea that money, power, human ambition, and evil are the real causes. Most of our youth attend schools and universities that make a case against religion, especially conservative religion, labeling it the enemy of America’s progressive future.
And speaking of clear and present dangers, who can ignore the cultural shift toward wickedness, vulgarity, fornication, selfishness and crassness? These moral depravities are blatantly exposed and celebrated through pop culture, music, media and social networking.
Recently in deep prayer and travail, I was searching for solutions to the spiritual crisis of our day. I’m uncomfortable speaking about this, but I press on. I felt a call to explore my own heart, to ponder the probing questions that were being hurled at me in the spirit. I felt a bit like Job. I felt weak, disoriented, confused, unsure and in great fear.
Suddenly, I was consumed with a great hunger for God. A need for His presence, a hunger of the heart. A longing for God’s assurance. You have all been there. And for me, at that moment, I felt that the answer to our crisis and the way to meet the “clear and present danger” is simply the drawing nigh to God. James 4:8 came alive in me: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Sorting out and identifying the true matters, passions, desires and beliefs of our own hearts, and the heart of our nation, is an important and deep ponderance, but an absolutely necessary one.
Our mouths ultimately speak of our hearts. Unfortunately, today much talk in the church is about the world: entertainment, success, things, places, power, positions and personal preeminence. Do the worldly entertainers, rockers, rappers and actors speak our hearts? Do they set our direction? Do we envy the popularity and the financial success of the false preacher and the dishonest prophesier? Are we prepared to endorse the artificial, fabricated faux anointing that is produced by the imitators of this world, their entertainment, their manipulation and their usury as if it were real?
Vine’s Expository Dictionary says: “The Bible describes human depravity as in the ‘heart,’ because sin is a principle which has its seat in the center of man’s inward life, and then ‘defiles’ the whole circuit of his action, (Matthew 15:19, 20). On the other hand, Scripture regards the heart as the sphere of Divine influence, (Romans 2:15; Acts 15:9)… The heart, as lying deep within, contains ‘the hidden man,’ (1 Peter 3:4), the real man. It represents the true character but conceals it.”
We should never be afraid to open our hearts to God. Through Christ we have all the help we need. We rush to Him with our problems, and that’s a good thing. Never forget Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
But there is another point I’m trying to make. Is there hunger in our hearts for God’s presence? Or a love for the Word and a desire for the closeness of the Spirit? Historical accounts of the early Pentecostals emphasize their hunger for God’s presence. That hunger was the driving force of why they went to church. “Waiting on God” was a common expression. That’s what I’m trying to express. It’s a question of the heart. Do we hunger for God? Of course we want miracles, a word from the Lord, as we say. But that desire can often be a self-centered pursuit, without having a real hunger to walk with God, but instead following Him for the loaves and the fish.
We do not have to look far to find the source of our conflicts as a nation and as a holiness people. It is in our hearts.
Ephesians 4:18 says “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:”
Consider the spiritual condition of our nation and some of our churches. Is there not a “clear and present danger?”