It was a bright sunny day as the Creve Coeur mortgage broker stood on the grounds of the 14th hole of the Waterloo, Illinois golf course. Suddenly the sand he was standing on gave way as he went 18 feet under ground. Mark was rescued twenty minutes later with a dislocated shoulder but many daily are still going under physically, mentally and spiritually as they ignore Jesus words found in Matt. 7:24-27. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Much of what Jesus teaches has to do with the proper use of possessions. He told us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
While there is still time we have to come out. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matt. 6:24-25)
We must no longer give in to the seduction of the whore of materialism. This seduction is obvious every time the Price is Right is on TV, a person gambles away their last dollar, or spends a life time pursuing more and more things. Jesus warns in Luke 12:5, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
An awakening is needed to the love of God that will set the slaves of greed free from the whore and the beast spoken of in Revelation 17 and 18. There we see this extreme capitalism of the whore referred to as Babylon the Great. In verses 4 and 5 of Revelation 18 the voice from heaven declares, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues. For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”
John uses the picture of a whore to awaken his readers to the seductive qualities of materialism and its brutality to those who become possessed by their possessions. His goal is to help the people of God come out and resist the seductive forces that will destroy their ability to exercise Christ’s love and compassion.
Coming out allows us to ask the hard questions like, “Why is it becoming harder and harder to carry out Jesus basic mandates for compassion? Where are the demonstrations of courage, compassion and caring that are needed at this hour by the people of God in the lives of the hurting, hungry and homeless?
Matthew 24:12 tells us why so many are cold and indifferent. There Jesus declared that in the remaining days of human history “because lawlessness will abound the love of many will grow cold.”
A fear of lawlessness or crime causes municipalities to prevent the opening of shelters for the homeless and harass churches that do. The insensitivity, lack of compassion, and hostility we are witnessing today is not unique to this time and place. That is why Ephesians 5:14-16 says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you and give light. Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthwhile and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time (buying up each opportunity), because the days are evil.”
So how do we live purposefully and worthy according to God’s word? How do we exercise the courage to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry even when local city governments say we can’t do it? The answer is we must let the love of God flow through us. As Paul declared in 2 Thess. 3:5, “Direct my heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
It is this abidance in God’s love and the assurance of ultimate victory through Christ which gives us the ability to shake off the shackles of materialism and be God’s revolutionaries of love. We see in Revelations 17:14, “They will make war against the Lamb (Christ), but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Let us consider the revolutionary life styles of the members of the early church who came out of the imperial cult of materialism and worshipped the Lamb of God. He is the one who came to take away the sins of the world.
In the book of Acts we see believers set free to the extent they shared their possessions fully so that no one was in need (see Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-37). As they shared their possessions they also freely participated in servant leadership by their waiting at tables (Acts 4:32-37; 7:1-7). They prayed in every moment of crisis, not only for their needs but the needs of others. These early believers reached out to the outcasts breaking the boundaries of separation and provided hospitality as they engaged in Christ’s revolution of love. They continued the prophetic program of being salt and light in their communities through the bold initiative of including the outsiders better known as Gentiles.
In the gospels we see this worldly materialism that we are called out of addressed through the ministry of Jesus. There we see Jesus reaching out to the marginalized in society who are called into God’s favor. At the same time we see Jesus call to follow Him is a call to share one’s possessions with those in need.
Jesus revolution of love extends to the table fellowship of eating with tax collectors and sinners. We see in Luke’s gospel that the sinners, the outcasts and the poor are the new righteous while the powerful religious establishment is being excluded. Jesus set the captives free as He turned things upside down with His teachings and parables including the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
Many who were enslaved in the Deep South in the 1800’s took literally the command in Revelations 18:4 where it says “Come out of her, my people.” They knew if they could just cross the Ohio River and get to the free state on the other side they would no longer be slaves.
Those wanting to be set free and come out of the life of slavery would line up on the river bank and wait for a lantern to give off light on the other side. When they saw the light they would all head for that place on the other side of the river. The problem was the bounty hunters, or slave catchers who received a bounty for each slave they caught would also use the lantern to give the signal. Then when the slaves saw the light across the river they would all go to it thinking they were going to be free only to discover they had been caught and were being returned to slavery.
As we desire to come out as the scripture commands we must avoid the light from the lantern of what is known as Prosperity Theology. This theology of name it and claim it has invaded many churches to the extent they try to make “Babylon” and its materialism appear godly. A quick reading of Rev. 18 and Rev. 19 make it clear that the great whore and the city of Babylon representing extreme capitalism and materialism is not godly and will be destroyed.
“When the Kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city. O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come” (Rev. 18:9, 10)!
The system of extreme capitalism will be destroyed. Those who own the wealth and even the bodies and souls of those they control will be the ones weeping. Rev. 18:11-13 describes their loss in such vividness; it is obvious that money is all they lived for. That is why Paul said, “the love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10).
The ones who worship the gods of materialism symbolized by the great whore and the city of Babylon will see ultimate defeat. “The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth” (Rev. 18:22-24).
The warning has been given. The days of this materialistic system are numbered. We have been commanded, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins.”
The magic spell perpetuated by the advertising cult will be destroyed. Now is the time to come out from under its influence. “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Rev. 19:1,2).
The spell will be broken. The golden calves of materialism where being possessed by ones possessions are falling. As Rev. 19:11-16 declares – His truth is marching on. He is called, “Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war… his name is the Word of God… Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.”
The Book of Revelations is a book of hope. Dispersed in between the various judgments of God on those who destroy the earth are songs and proclamations of hope. Many of the great spirituals that the slaves sang came from the book of Revelations. In fact these spirituals are what was used to signal the slaves as to which lantern on the river bank provided the light they needed to gather at and journey to freedom.
Songs about the New Jerusalem, How the Truth is Marching On, and the Victory provided by the Lamb which was slain also provides us the strength and the hope we need to come out from the seductiveness of the great whore of materialism.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 is essentially a musical rendition of scenes from Revelation in which Christ returns to trample the wine press of the wrath of God. It declares, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightening of his terrible swift sword. His truth is marching on.”
This hymn uses images from Revelations as a way that calls people to commit themselves to what is just and true. One hundred years ago when people were thrown out of work individuals had enough belief in the truth and justice of God that they were outraged when they saw people homeless and hurting. They refused to be seduced by the whore of materialism and it’s comforts as 1% of the US households held a third of the nations wealth. These caring people became part of a populace movement that pushed the passage of the 16th amendment. This amendment created the Income Tax. This tax was based on the belief that the more money individuals made the more they needed to contribute to the common good of all. This was a way of paying back the their Country which gave them the opportunity to create the wealth they had.
Today with 5% of the US households controlling 72% of the nation’s wealth many in the name of God have been deceived by the magic spell the imperial cult have cast upon them. They actually cheer politicians who stop all efforts to tax the rich even if it means the government goes deeper into debt or even default. It is almost like getting the slaves to cheer as Pharaoh takes away their straw and makes them produce even more bricks.
As the rich become richer and the poor becomes poorer and our efforts for social justice are fought on every side, we must remember His truth is marching on. The great whore and the beast of arrogant self serving politicians will ultimately be destroyed. “He has avenged on her the blood of His servants” (Rev. 19:1,2)
In your God given battle for social justice don’t quit. Remember that “Those who remain faithful to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). So, “Stand Firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58).
The Bible says in Acts 2:21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. Call upon the Lord today. Confess your sins of greed, self centeredness and self service. If you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior and your life reflects the fact that you have truly surrendered it to Him, you will live different and act different. Such difference will be reflected through the freedom you express by sharing your love and compassion with those in need. Remember Jesus said, “As often as you have done it for the least of these, even so you have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).
God has extended His grace to you by giving you this day and the opportunities it brings. It is His gift to you. What you do with it to help others for His glory is the gift you give back to Him.
Now with the free will He has given you the ability to choose to come out of the seductive, self-serving worldly system and serve God with all your heart and soul and mind. As you do this let His grace, love, compassion and justice flow through you. Remember your not coming out alone for Jesus promised in Matt. 28:20, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And in John 14:26-27 he says “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”