Christians in an Unbelieving Age
September 14, 2003 ~ Westney Heights Baptist Church
We, as Christians, are living in a critical time, a time where we have a chance of saving the society of which we are a part. We have an opportunity through political action, discussion with those we meet, and discourse in the public forum, to take a stand for the Word of God. We have the ability through the power of the Holy Spirit to refute those who’s attempts to marginalize Christianity have of late been all too successful. The outcome of our action, or inaction, today will affect the world in which our children live as Christians tomorrow. If we fail at this task, if we prove unable, unwilling, or uncaring, to save our society, our only recourse will be to save the men who make it up. If our society cannot be redeemed by our presence its components must be redeemed by our lives.
It is obvious to us that current social trends legitimizing Godless behaviour (sexual immorality, drug and alcohol use, and abortion to name just a few) are not only a threat to our society but even more so to the practice of religion in general and of Christianity in particular within our society. Christians today, as at any other point in history, are engaged in battle against direct attacks upon the truth of God. If we loose this battle we loose a treasure not only for ourselves but for our children and for all believers in Christ who will come after us. Our country is being stolen from us. I will say this again: Our country is being stolen from us and we are in danger of becoming unwanted citizens within our nation, a nation that Christianity helped to build. Small minorities of outspoken opponents to Christianity have gained the public ear and have convinced it that their claims are legitimate. Consequently the society that we live in is becoming ever more hostile toward the Christian faith; ever more directly our beliefs are being ridiculed.
The psalmist was responding to similar antagonism toward God when he wrote these words:
Psalm 74:18-23 – Remember this: the enemy has defamed, O Jehovah; and a foolish people have scorned Your name. Do not give the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beasts; You will not forever forget the life of Your afflicted ones. Look to Your covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full, the abodes of violence. O let not the ill-treated ones turn back ashamed; let the poor and needy praise Your name. Arise, O God, contend for Your cause; remember Your reproach from the fool all the day. Do not forget the voice of Your enemies; the noise of those rising up against You is going up continually.
Claims such as those we are now hearing are so obviously lies and misrepresentations that to us they are laughable, if we dared to offend our critics by laughing. Many objections against Christianity and for Godless living are so lacking in logic that we must wonder if those raising these objections have given them any thought. How many of us have attempted to make a clear presentation of the Gospel only to see our words completely misunderstood by our listeners. It is evident that there are those living in this land with us who are unable to think in a logical manner. Paul’s statements to the Roman church are as valid today as they were centuries ago:
Romans 1:19-25 – because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man——and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
We are living among people that have exchanged the wisdom of God for the foolishness of man. They say that to believe in God is foolishness but to believe in man is wisdom and they have no idea that it is exactly the reverse. Evolutionary thought is a perfect example of this. When someone asks me to accept that all the wonder that I see around me, the intricacy of creation, the marvel of human thought and emotion, when they ask me to believe that this all came about by chance over vast ages of time, that all this beauty is simply the random arrangement of electrons they have no idea that they are asking me to believe something that is absolutely ludicrous. Yet they have the nerve to say that since I believe that Genesis speaks the complete truth when it says that God created all this beauty in merely six days that I am a fool. This is the situation that we as Christians find ourselves today. Our friends and neighbours, our leaders, our commentators, all misunderstand us and call us fools while they rattle of an interminable chain of foolishness and believe themselves to be wise.
Given this situation what kind of presence must we have as Christians in our society? If our society is determined to ignore God as much as possible what is the point of Christian witness? If no one is able or willing to understand us why live life in a manner that will ever more increasingly lead to our discomfort? I believe that there are two primary reasons why we should continue to be serious and devout in our practice of Godliness in our daily lives:
1. It is our duty to God to serve Him faithfully regardless of the opinions of those observing our faithfulness (1 Peter 1:13-15 – “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’")
2. It is our calling to preach the Gospel at any occasion, in all circumstances so that as many as possible may become aware of its message even if they chose not to believe it (Christ instituted this calling for all Christians through The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”)
But regardless of the lies upon which their claims are built many Christians have taken some or all of the arguments our society has against Christianity and called them true. Here are some examples:
1. The sacred and the secular compose two distinct areas of life which do not overlap and have nothing to say to each other (yet secular science believes that it has something to say to Christianity)
2. All systems of belief reflect man’s aspirations toward something greater than man and are equally valid, each has an equal claim to the truth (yet faiths such as Christianity and Hinduism are mutually exclusive and cannot be reconciled to each other)
3. Biblical admonitions against certain activities such as homo-sexuality are explained as merely echoes of ancient cultural beliefs and therefore should not apply today (yet Biblical laws against robbery and murder are not interpreted in the same way)
To some degree each of us has been affected by statements such as these simply because they are so abundant in our society. We have heard them so often that we begin to believe them without analysis. Whether we believe them ourselves or know others who do, the effectiveness of our personal ministry, and the ministry of the Church, has been reduced. It has been reduced because we have allowed our awareness of the power of God to be attacked and deliberately misunderstood and belittled. Paul’s conception of the Christian mind stands in bold opposition to the arguments that would minimize our faith and it is as true today as it was thousands of years ago. In contrast to the modern secular idea that Christians do not know how to think Paul understood that it was the Christian alone who was able to think at all. His idea of the Christian mind was of a mind that was regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and no longer in conformity with the way of the world around it; its capabilities were enhanced rather than reduced and its conclusions were trustworthy:
Romans 12:1-3 – Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God. For through the grace which is given to me, I say to everyone being among you, not to have high thoughts beyond what is right to think. But set your mind to be right-minded, even as God divided a measure of faith to each.
Today one of the overriding issues is the desire of our government to modify the definition of marriage to include those who feel that they are outcast by the current definition. Jean Chretien’s stated purpose in doing this is to defend the rights of every minority but he is unable to see that his statement makes no sense for in establishing the right of the homo-sexual minority to marry the government is removing the right of the Christian minority to say that homo-sexuality is against God’s law. Even further, he has led our nation from outright rejection of homo-sexuality to global acceptance of homo-sexuality with no analysis of the moral right or wrong of homo-sexuality. Entire opportunities for witness, discussion and reconciliation have been taken from the Christian community with no apology. The grand claims of our government that this is an equal rights issue is no more than a smoke screen. What is taking place today is nothing more than an outright attack on the legitimacy of the Christian Church in Canada. And for the most part we are letting it happen because we believe the lies that we are told instead of confronting them in the power of God and exposing them for the foolishness that they are.
I believe that in some ways we Canadian Christians deserve what is happening to us in our country. I believe that to an extent the blessing of God rests upon those that diligently do His will but I also believe that Christians are going to be attacked more than any other group by the powers of darkness since the world is the stage of a vast struggle for the souls of men. In that we have often failed to stand up against this destroyer of man I believe that we have proven unworthy of a Godly nation. Some of the reasons that I believe that we are currently reaping what we have sown are:
1. We have neglected to take a stand and confront direct attacks against Christianity
2. We have allowed public understanding of God to fall to an all time low
3. We permit abortion to kill tens of thousands of people and destroy thousands more lives every year (since abortion was legalized in the United States over 40,000,000 babies have been killed)
4. We have too little love for God when we see something happening that offends His righteousness and so we look the other way
5. We ignore Jesus’ command to forgive and instead seek justice for ourselves (in spite of the fact that the One to whom all our allegiance belongs did not seek justice for Himself but died in obedience to His Father so that we could be saved. He died rather than fight for His rights)
6. We sit comfortably in our padded pews, warm, well fed, and clean while every day around the world millions of people have no shelter, thousands are dying from hunger, and countless numbers living in filth and we barely lift a finger to help
7. We contribute our tithe but calculate it so accurately that we don’t give a penny more than we should since we have to ensure that our bank accounts are able to carry us comfortably through our retirement. What an appalling lack of faith in God we show when we count our saved up dollars rather than His promise of heavenly blessings
8. Our Christianity is too often inward looking instead of being outward serving, we come to church to be ministered to but rarely do not minister to those who never come to church
These are just some of the reasons why I believe that we do not deserve to live in a Christian nation. I also know that God is a God who forgives and who is a God of second chances.
Ultimately it should not matter if our society retains its Christian morality or not. It would be wonderful if we were able to pass on a Christian nation to our children and I dream of this as much as any other Christian. But the Bible warns us that Christians will be persecuted, put to death, have their property taken from them, and be despised throughout the earth. Jesus told His disciples that members of their own family would betray them. It has happened throughout history and it is happening now. Around the world today more Christians are being persecuted and killed for their faith than at any other time in history. With you I believe that a severe blow will be struck against the Christian Church if our government allows homo-sexual marriage to become a protected institution but will it change what is required of you and I as believers? No. Will it alter our effectiveness or the power of our testimony, I hope so since in Canada the Christian voice is very still. At the very least Christians should become increasingly visible as the changes in our society come upon us since we will still have our duty to do and I pray that we will have enough faith in God to allow us to do it. But if we want to live in a Christian nation we cannot just sit idly by and hope for it to happen, we have to be active in working righteousness within the nation so that God will be noticed by those who have been ignoring Him. Even then we may not be successful but we will at least have done our duty. What is our duty? Four hundred years before Christ was born the prophet Micah gave us the duty of a Christian, it is to:
Micah 6:6-8 – With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Jesus Christ gave His own summary of the law and all that the prophets spoke when He said:
Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus said to him, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
And He gave this as an example of the kind of love we are to practice, it is selfless, consistent, and natural:
Matthew 25:31-46 – But when the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all the nations; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And indeed He will set the sheep off His right, but the goats off the left hand. Then the King will say to those on His right, Come, the blessed of My Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I hungered, and you gave Me food to eat; I thirsted, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You; or thirsting, and gave You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and took You in; or naked, and clothed You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You? And answering, the King will say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of these, the least of My brothers, you did it to Me. Then He will also say to those on His left, Go away from Me, cursed ones, into the everlasting fire having been prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I hungered, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I thirsted, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not take Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungering, or thirsting, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of these, the least, neither did you do it to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.
In his analysis of this passage Keith Green said these words:
Keith Green - “The Sheep and the Goats” – And my friends, the only difference between the sheep and the goats, according to this scripture, is what they did, and didn’t do!
Christianity is not a faith where we simply apply take the name and accept the blessings. It is not a faith that allows us to sit by and watch our society in its mad descent into Hell. Christianity is faith of action, it is a faith of risk. God commands us to take chances and to show through our lives what is in our heart. We may have no wonderful story to tell of what God has done for us but our story is not the message of Christianity. The message of Christianity is a Saviour who came and died in our place to forgive us from our sins. Surely that is a message that must make a difference in our lives and how we live them out. James, the brother of Jesus had this to say about faith in action:
James 2:14-18 – What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works..
Now the question is, how can we become more active in the practice of our faith? How can we who have rarely made a difference begin to make a difference? I think something that happened last Sunday is a prime example of what we can do. Last Sunday, you may recall, prayer rallies took place throughout Canada to show Christian concern for the direction our society is heading. Some of us here were gathered with about 150 others at our Member of Parliament, Dan McTeague’s office to show our support for his stand against homo-sexual marriage. I did not want to be there, I was tired and had planned a day of relaxation and being with my family but I was motivated to go by the attitude of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He had fled Germany during the Second World War but returned and died a martyr’s death because he believed that he would have no right to help rebuild Germany after the war if he did not help to maintain Germany during the war. Like him I felt that I had to go last Sunday (during the current battle) in order to have the right to say anything in the future (after the current battle). It wasn’t a big step but it was a step and steps are all that we need to do for if we take enough steps we eventually make a journey.
Some other examples of steps that we can start out with are:
1. If someone wants to cut you off on the highway, let them
2. If you see someone hungry, feed them
3. If you feel you should talk to someone about God, do it
4. If a politician makes a mistake, pray about it
5. If someone wrongs you, forgive them, without excuse
6. Extend the grace of God in every relationship you are a part of
7. Love people unconditionally
8. Do what is beneficial to those who hate and despise you.
The critical issue is that we do not bury our faith in a hole in the ground but that we go out show the difference that Jesus has made in our live by enabling our forgiveness. This may take on many forms but the important thing is to let people know that Jesus Christ has done something tremendous for us and that He can do something tremendous for them as well. We may encounter many obstacles that appear to hinder our efforts (among them lack of awareness of the need for forgiveness) but we must remember that Christ is with us in our ministry. Recall His words mentioned earlier:
Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
We must never forget that He is with us in all we do in His name and that:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
He is not alone who is in Christ but he is utterly alone who has not Christ. Let us work that our Christianity may become more visible in a nation that so desperately need to see light and let us pray for boldness that we will not fear man's words or deeds but present the message of salvation faithfully regardless of opposition.