With little more than a month to go until Election Day here in the USA, both sides at all levels are flailing away with political rhetoric extolling their own virtues and castigating their opponents. Candidates on both sides proclaim themselves as the answer to local and national problems. One of the charges often leveled at an opponent is that he is an “extremist,” as if that, in and of itself, is anathema.
Remember that the battle between [G]o[o]d and [D]evil is a battle of words, and, in God’s linguistic economy, WORDS HAVE MEANINGS. What does “extreme” mean? Dictionary.com says: “farthest removed from the ordinary or average; utmost or exceedingly great in degree; exceeding the bounds of moderation.” So at first blush, it appears that it depends upon what kind of “extremism” we’re talking about, doesn’t it?
In his speech accepting the 1964 Republican presidential nomination, Barry Goldwater said: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” In essence, he was echoing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words of 15 months earlier in his Letter From Birmingham Jail, in which King wrote:
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme…But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love? Was not Amos an extremist for justice? Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian Gospel? Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I don’t think there is any question that Jesus Christ was the most extreme human being ever. How so? He gave everything he had—his LIFE—for the cause of God. Poker is very popular these days, and when a player bets everything he has on a hand, he says, “All in.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus called Satan’s bluff and said, “ALL IN!” When it came to obeying his Father, Jesus was the ultimate “extremist.” He was the only man ever to perfectly obey the following verses he read in the Hebrew Scriptures:
Proverbs 3:5 and 6
5 Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in ALL your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Why did Jesus sell out to trusting God? Because he realized he was up against the ultimate extremist in evil and wickedness, and that in order to defeat the Devil and save mankind, he had to make a total commitment to act according to the Word of God.
As you survey the worldly scene today, do you see any evidences of Satan’s extremism? Forget trying to “count the ways”—you’re already out of fingers and toes, even if you are part centipede! How about Muslim extremists? The drug cartels? The atheistic advocates of Evolutionism? The “form-of-godliness” religionists who deny the Word of God? The proponents of GMO “food”? The frenzied homosexual lobby? This month’s occultic assault on children by way of “Halloween”? And on and on and on. As MLK, Jr. said, this beleaguered world most certainly is in dire need of creative extremists—and only members of the Body of Christ can fill that bill.
So maybe we had best strive to emulate our Lord Jesus in an all-out (and “all in”) commitment to live for our heavenly Father while we still have the freedom and prosperity to do. It is no secret that our beloved nation is under siege by those who would enslave us in the most literal sense. We Christians are their Number One targets because as followers of Christ we are the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and the only ones standing in the way of Satan’s domination of the world. That great truth, which is set forth in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–7, is exposited in detail in The End Times video. If you’ve not yet seen it, I exhort you to get a copy.
The Word of God tells us that things will get worse and worse until the Lord rescues us from this present, evil age. That does not mean that we cannot still spread the Word far and wide. It does mean that we must meet the Enemy’s aggression with aggressive faith, just like Jesus did. When I played football in high school and college, I grasped the irony that the best way to stay free of injury was to employ the fundamentals of the sport with “wreck-less” abandon. When I played like a kamikaze, I usually didn’t get hurt, but when I held back, I was more liable to injury. I think the same thing holds true for us as spiritual athletes.
The Truth that is the Word of God is the only thing that will change the heart of a man or woman and deliver them from the self-centeredness that Satan can use to manipulate them into going along with his slavish status quo (John 8:31 and 32). Only those who know the Truth can share it with others and deliver them from darkness.
Martin Luther once said: “Nothing in the world causes as much misery as uncertainty.” In today’s postmodern culture, however, ambiguity is lauded as a noble mindset. I believe the most appropriate response to that is, “HUH?” The vast majority of people on earth are adrift in a sea of speculation and blown about with every wind of doctrine. They have no anchor and no safe harbor. But that is exactly what an accurate knowledge of God’s Word will give them. So if you have that knowledge, why not enthusiastically share it with those in need while you are still on earth with them?
Will you suffer persecution if you do? Yes, as per 2 Timothy 3:12. That should not surprise you, because of verses like 2 Timothy 1:8–12, which says that we are called to suffer as our Lord did, and Acts 5:41, which says that we are to rejoice in being counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. Most people would say that sounds a bit extreme, don’t you think?
It is wickedly ironic that some of the most extreme persecutors of Christians are those who tout themselves as being all about “tolerance.” What does that word actually mean? ”A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry; interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own.” But we see that to those who despise Christianity, “tolerance” means, “Let me do whatever I want, and don’t you dare disagree with me or hold me accountable to any standard outside of myself.” I’d call that SELF-extremism.
Jesus Christ polarized those who heard his message. People basically either loved him or hated him. Those who hated him did so because he called them to account for their sin before God, and they were unwilling to do so by trusting him as the Savior from the sin that dwelt within them. The following verses are very sobering, and should cause each of us to take stock of the degree to which we are polarizing those in our world. Who is drawn to the shining Christ in you, and who is repulsed by your re-presenting him to them?
2 Corinthians 2:14–16
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
What a privilege and opportunity we have to know our Lord and stand for him as he stood in the gap for us. Jesus was certainly tempted to be afraid and to shrink from his mission in the face of danger, but he believed what his Father said about what he would accomplish if he put himself in harm’s way according to the will of God. And so he went the distance for us, one thought, one step at a time. Now he promises to walk with you and me, never to forsake us. All we really need to do is trust him.
Perhaps you’ve heard the old maxim suggesting “moderation in all things.” Ever stopped to think how insane that is? Sure—how about skydiving without a parachute, drinking sulfuric acid, or self-mutilation? Obviously, those who spout that platitude are talking about moderation in things that could be harmful if taken to an extreme, like eating, for example. Moderation means “restraint or temperance,” and certainly no one would want his spouse showing moderation in loving him/her, and no one would want an emergency medic to show moderation in trying to revive him after his heart stopped. FYI, “moderation” in Philippians 4:5 (KJV) is better translated, “appropriate gentleness.”
Ever been in love? Were you extreme in the pursuit of your beloved? What about your love for Jesus Christ, who gave his life for you? Delight comes from significantly beholding a particular object. The more we behold the Lord Jesus, the more we love him, obey him, become like him, and manifest his heart to those in our world. Enjoy living for your Lord today!