Throughout history, we see the church expand and contract not only in size but also in terms of its faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his word. Today, in North America, the visible church as a whole seems to be in a time of decline. Many churches are shrinking or closing, and many others are giving into the spirit of the age. They are salt that is losing its saltiness.
A time of decline is never the time for the faithful follower of Jesus Christ to grow fainthearted. Elijah once lamented that the enemies of God had killed the priests and the prophets and that he was the only follower of God remaining. God’s response to him was that there were still 7000 men who had not bowed their knees to Baal. So too, at this time, there is a remnant chosen by grace (Romans 11:2-5).
Now is not the time for us to throw up our hands. It is the time for us to get down on our knees and pray for revival. One of the best word pictures I have ever read regarding the remnant, though I cannot remember who said it, is that the remnant is like a fuse that runs through history, occasionally setting the larger culture on fire through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The church goes through times of decline because indwelling sin pulls us away from Jesus and his word. Sometimes it is because many in the church are unregenerate, but other times, even true believers can grow cold.
The key to spiritual life, not only in ourselves but the remnant as a whole, is to be united to Christ. We are, first and foremost, united to Christ through justification by faith. Righteousness through faith is the foundation, but our union with him is more than that. In the same way a marriage license is a legal declaration that a man and woman are married, our union with our spouse is much more than a legal declaration though that is necessary. We must spend time together and communicate and serve and love each other. We must nurture the relationship.
As believers, we must focus on our union with Christ. Not only individually but corporately as well. The more we do this, the better off we will be, and our spiritual life will be much more vibrant. As we grow in union with him, if the Lord wills, he might decide to set the broader culture on fire through the Holy Spirit as he has done in the past. However, even if he does not, the remnant will experience revival and be the bright and shining light to the culture around us we are called to be, and the fuse will be ready to ignite any powder the Lord has been preparing.