History is full of spiritual casualties. Warning: history isn’t over, yet.
When studying the Old Testament, we all marvel at the hard-headedness of the Jews. Israel is an easy target. Its failures appear like a black canvas that all but swallows its occasional, luminous specs of victory.
Too bad, we say. If only the people had received, rather than crucified Christ.
But the Apostle Paul issued a solemn warning to Gentiles who populate church pews in herds, swallow sermons like tic-tacs, and comfort themselves with the idea that they are better and safer than their Jewish counterparts.
“They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you” (Rom. 11:20-21).
Gentile Christianity didn’t listen well. By the end of the first century, the Lord already had to rebuke Christian pride (Rev. 3:17).
By the 4th century under the political benevolence of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the state began promoting faith incentives too enticing for the common man to ignore. From that point on, the tree swelled with branches, but ones with questionable connections to the trunk. They were tied there, nailed there, glued, and propped—fixed within a religious system, but without knowing anything of the spiritual nutrients at the root of God’s family tree.
This went on for centuries until the Protestant Reformation dawned, and then the Great Awakenings. Eventually, various revivals swept the globe at different times, emphasizing the necessity of authentic interactions with God. However, even in the aftermath of these, men salvaged and passed on what they had learned, sometimes without the spark of new birth. The compliant religious subculture would then faithfully ape what they heard, hoping to harvest fruit without the presence of life sap.
By the twentieth century, we had managed to create a Christianity minus its more radical parts, and repackage it as a commercially viable item. Further developments turned it into a “me” product, void of authority except what the individual was willing to grant it.
For decades the cold wind of popular disapproval has accelerated within hostile vogues of every sort—Darwinian, sexual, cynical, or postmodern—until piles of dry, dead limbs lie everywhere like discarded prosthesis.
Now history’s latest casualties come from the ranks of Boomers, X’ers, Millennial’s, and Gen. Z’s. The naked eye sees them as disavowing the Bible for a variety of socially enlightened reasons. But at another level, they simply snapped off. Whatever is not attached by faith cannot stand, even if concreted into church culture.
God was not bluffing. He has broken and will break branches off. Probably the worst event will occur when Antichrist comes, and the great mass of nominal “Christians” will accept his mark. Whether that mark will be physical or merely reflective of heart-level loyalties to the devil and his agenda, it will prove to be the final gust irresistible toward all false faith.
The only solution at that time will be the same as it is now—to “stand by faith” and “share in the nourishing root of the olive tree” (Rom. 11:17). That is, to receive and remain in the primary work of God established at the very beginning of His people—faith in a God who calls, as shown in Abraham, the grace of Christ modeled in Isaac, and the transformation of the Holy Spirit seen in Jacob. Nothing can overthrow this locus of power.
Anyone who has ever tried to snap a green tree limb will find that the sap saturating it renders it nearly unbreakable.
As a branch, you also will survive the hurricane of history not because of your thickness or personal toughness, but by the invincible riches of a God who cannot be defeated.
(This concludes our study of the olive tree in Romans 11).