Persecution: The New Reality for Biblical Christianity in America

January 8, 2021 by Jack Lee

Patheos Evangelical Blog: Chorus in the Chaos

When news spread that Republicans lost the Presidency, House, and Senate, a friend texted me “our country is gone.” Driving the comment is the anticipation of the anti-Christian ideals that will be surely pushed for legislation in coming years by the new, liberal administration. Specifically, and to avoid undue criticism, I am referring to lawmaking that will directly impact issues like abortion, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, gay marriage, birth control, euthanasia, and the list goes on. After a moment of consideration, I replied to my friend that he was mistaken. If we are honest with ourselves, we lost our country 50 or so years ago when the church rolled over and allowed liberalism to plant itself within our higher education systems. After that, it was only a matter of time. Such concessions have changed the moral standard of what is culturally permissible and opened biblical Christianity in America to persecution.

American Christians, who desire to live godly, conservative, biblically-oriented lives, need to prepare themselves and their families for suffering. The writing has been on the wall for some time, decades even, yet the church has done little to stop it. Instead, like a row of dominoes, she has fallen over on issue after issue. The church has watched while influential institutions and religious leaders denied the miracles of Jesus, rejected the inerrancy of scripture, allowed for abortifacient birth control methods, legalized abortion, endorsed gay marriage, and even embraced critical race theory. Additionally, we have witnessed far too many “celebrity pastors” commit moral failures through affairs and sexual abuse.

Even so, my point here is not to recount and lament the failings of the modern church. Instead, I aim to look ahead and address the question: considering such moral collapses, what do we do now? Or, as the title of the book, by Charles Colson, on Christian worldview asks, How Now Shall We Live?  Although volumes could be written as an answer to this question, for the sake of this article, I am going to focus on 3 practical things Christians can do to prepare for the “brave” new world of persecution that is forming around us.

To begin, I want to encourage believers to focus and remember who we are in Christ. It is a wonderful truth that regardless of a Christian’s circumstances, we have just and ample reason to rejoice. Catechisms and Confessions are helpful, and can offer concise summaries of such truths. For example, The Heidelberg Catechism’s Lord’s Day 1 question and answer reads:

Q: What is thy only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.

Whatever circumstances befall the church in the coming years, we must keep in mind that we have a Savior who was the perfect propitiation of God’s wrath. In Him, we are predestinated, called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:30). His blood has covered our sins and set us free from the slavery of sin and death. Regardless of where the world goes and what horrors the church may face, we can rest in these truths, knowing that our greatest and deepest needs have been met in Christ. No amount of emotional, mental, and physical suffering can dislodge me from my Savior’s embrace. Rest in this, Christian. Preach these truths to yourself every day. As sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, the gospel will remain the power of God for salvation – your salvation. To thrive in a world that hates Jesus (and duly us), we must cling to Christ and His gospel. Before any worldly allegiances, we are Christians. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Should the world burn down around us, we can joyfully sing because we are eternally secure. There is no greater news than this.

Secondly, if we are to thrive in an outright pagan culture, we must not be forsaking the gathering of saints. At the risk of sounding trite, let me use an illustration that has been used in hundreds (if not thousands) of youth groups. Let us suppose you have a fire with some hot coals burning at the bottom. If you were to take one of those coals out and set it on the ground, away from the other fire and other coals. Alone, it would quickly lose its light and grow cold. However, if you were to take it out and place it with some other coals, the fire would spread, and the group of them grow in warm and light together. This is a nice illustration of how community works. Christians need other Christians to function faithfully. Isolated we are prone to wonder from the faith, tempted by the world’s allure, and even more prone to depression.

2020 has proven to be a challenging year for Christians in this area. Driven by a desire for safety, many churches have quit (if only temporarily) worshiping in person. Instead, they are relying on technology and virtual worship services to fill this void. Friends, while I understand the sentiment, it is not a viable, long-term option. Christians must meet in person for corporate worship. Communication is a dreadful replacement for real community. Come pandemic or martyrdom, we must find a way to meet in person.

If there are genuine concerns about safety for members of the congregation, then pray and get creative. Ask God for wisdom. I am aware of many churches that switched to outdoor services in 2020. This way members can spread out but still talk and interact. There are safe solutions to these problems – but virtual church is not one of them. A church will not survive if starved to only virtual interaction. Virtual church is communication not community. Besides, it is not natural to us. Humans were never meant to exist and commune at a distance. We are physical, biological, and social beings made in God’s image that require human interaction.

Friends, we must commit to going to church, even if going to church becomes illegal. I wrote previously about the danger of making safety an idol. We were never promised safety in Christ. The opposite is true; we are promised persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). A time is approaching when going to church will be dangerous (and I do not mean because of a virus). Now is the time to prepare and reinforce healthy habits. Instill in your children the need and benefit of attending church weekly. Go and be fed the gospel. Even if your church is not perfect (there is not one that is), be present and love others.

Lastly, on the importance of attending church, I will harken back to Mosaic Law. While Christians are no longer slaves to the law, the law reflects the character of God. The law is good, valuable, and worthy of our delight. We can learn much about God’s holiness and desires in the law. Consider the absolute seriousness by which God treats the Sabbath, the day of worship, and rest:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore, the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’” (Exodus 31:12-17)

If you take nothing else out of this article, take this: God cares deeply about the Sabbath. He cares about how He is worshiped. At one point in time, failure to honor the Sabbath as God intended was a crime punishable by death! Friends, corporate, in-person worship is non-negotiable for Christians. Go to church and do not stop.

Finally, I think that if Christians are to spiritually flourish in a nation that hates us, we must dedicate time to understanding the significance of worldview, how it is formed, and how we can rightly engage our culture. As a father of 5, I am regularly thinking about this and the world my children (who have been baptized in the church) will live in. When they are my age, as I have stated above, I expect a much more hostile environment to Christians. Therefore, now is the time that I can help equip them for such spiritual battles. Not only is this my right as a parent, but it is also my duty. Understanding a worldview and why people think the way they do is very useful tool.

There are some basic, fundamental paradigms shaping the world we live in. Generations are buying into them unknowingly. People are believing things and they do not know why. If we can learn how to identify such threats and fallacies, we can rightly apply the word of God and speak truth into such situations.

It might surprise you to find that if you were to step back and study some of the most controversial issues in our world today, you would find common misconceptions underlying them all. For example, at a source level, abortion, transgenderism, euthanasia, pornography, and the “hook-up” culture all suffer from the same wrong worldview issue. Their proponents have bought into a dichotomy of the person and body. That is to say, the body is this disposable instrument of pleasure that is in no way connected to the person inside of it. When one removes the intrinsic, Imago Dei dignity ingrained in every human by God, they remove the moral implications on how one treats and uses their body. This two-story paradigm is an ontological plague upon the world today. It is this logic that gives people the moral credence to kill a fetus, endorse assisted suicides, and decide they can change genders.

The truth is God cares about our bodies and how we use them. They are not just gifts; they are temples of worship. Broken as they may be, our bodies are precious and bursting with God-given dignity. Furthermore, it is worth noting that our embodiment is not just a temporary thing. We will have a body throughout eternity. We will not be esoteric spirits floating about. No, we will have bodies that have been made perfect in Christ – restored and beautiful. Our biological self is forever connected to our person. Our broken world needs this truth. Many believe lies because they have never heard the truth. Their minds are shaped by sin-ridden entertainment and sinful desires rather than sound, biblical principles.

The world is changing, and it is time we solidify in our minds who we are in Christ, commit ourselves to corporate worship, sound philosophies, and Christian worldviews. Persecution is coming; this seems inevitable. Yet, we are not without hope. On the contrary, we have enough hope to fill a new generation of believers.

Patheos Evangelical Blog: Chorus in the Chaos (Used with Permission)

Capitol: Sacred?

Definitely worth discussion. Is the nation’s capitol “sacred” space, why or why not?

The Domain for Truth

Last week I have wrote about my disapproval of what happened at the Capitol on January 6th here: Wicked is the Doctrine of Regeneration through Chaos.  In that article I mentioned the danger of the doctrine of regeneration through chaos.

But there’s something I want to say about the response of some who condemned the incident that I’m concerned about biblically.  It is a biblical point that is important for the Christian.

View original post 477 more words

The Sovereignty of God in the Affairs of Men

At the time of this writing (7 January 2021), Joe Biden has finally been certified by the Congress of the United States to be the 46th President of the United States. Pontificators, podcasters, and arm chair quarterbacks on both sides of the political aisle are already busy telling us what happened and how it happened, and I expect they will undoubtedly be gracing us with their opinions for some time to come. Regardless of the outcome, however, we as Christians have another aspect to consider – the role God plays in this, or for that matter, any other election, at any level of civil government.

Who was responsible for the final outcome? The Christians among us will wonder about God’s role in the whole affair. Did God just sit back and watch, or did he have a more decisive role in the drama that was the 2020 election? While it’s safe to assume that almost all Christians will say they believe in the sovereignty of God, but what exactly do we mean? More importantly, what does the Bible tells about God’s sovereignty? Let’s take a closer look.

At a high level, we are told in the Psalms that God does whatever He pleases:

“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19).

“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3).

“For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:5-6).

But does God become involved in the specific affairs of men? Let’s peer into the pages of scripture.

In the Old Testament we have the prophet Daniel, after God revealed to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the interpretation, offering praise to God:

“Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said: Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:19-21; 23)

Not only did God use the proud and arrogant Nebuchadnezzar to chasten the Israelites, He also brought the pagan King to his knees, turning him into a grass eating ‘beast’ for seven years, until he would acknowledge God as sovereign.

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:34,35)

There are many other examples of God’s sovereignty in the OT. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, God controlled the fate of His chosen people, using pagan nations to accomplish His purposes. God used Egypt to for the preservation and growth of the nation Israel for 400 years before they inherited the promised land. God displayed his power and greatness through the hard-hearted Pharaoh. He used surrounding nations to chastise Israel when the nation fell into sin and disobedience. Then he used other pagan nations to destroy the chastisers of His people.

God used Assyria and Babylon to lead the Jews into captivity. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was even called God’s “servant” (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). The sacking of Judah and Jerusalem was no accident of history; it was no mere fate. It was the outworking of the plan and purpose of the sovereign God of Israel to achieve His purposes, to fulfill His promises and prophecies

If we peek into the New Testament, we have this startling declaration by the Apostle Peter that speaks to God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility concerning the crucifixion of Christ:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23)

Fast forward 2,000 years to the world of the 20th and 21st centuries. Ours is a time of chaos and change. The USSR completely dissolved before our eyes. The Berlin Wall has been torn down. Civil war rages across the globe, and thousands of innocent lives are being sacrificed as we look on, helplessly it would seem. Christians seem to be shaken when a certain political party goes to unimaginable lengths to try and get elected to the highest office in the land. In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, some so-called ‘experts’ seem to be running the show as government officials worldwide, at all levels, take control of businesses and citizens to degrees hitherto unheard-of except where socialism/communism rules. IS God sovereign in this mess?

If the answer to that question is “yes”, it must mean that God is sovereign over the decisions of the President of the United States, over the laws passed by Congress, and even over the decisions reached by the Supreme Court. God is even sovereign over the Internal Revenue Service.

God is sovereign over kings and kingdoms. If this is true, then we need to believe that every king, every person in a position of political power, is there by divine appointment (see Romans 13:1-2). This means that we owe such authorities our respect, our obedience, and our taxes, unless any of these specifically require us to disobey God (Romans 13:1-7). It means that the laws, decisions, and decrees they make—even those which punish or persecute the saints—have a divine purpose. We may be required to disobey government, like Daniel and his three friends, but only when obeying that government would require us to disobey God. In the chaos and wickedness of our day, let us not lose sight of the fact that God is sovereign in history, sovereign even over pagan powers, and yes, even sovereign over the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

Regardless of the outcome, however, we as Christians have another aspect to consider – the role God plays in this, or for that matter, any other election, at any level of civil government.

“I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves become a reproach and byword down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate circumstance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest. “ – Benjamin Franklin

Full quote is on the Christian Military Fellowship website at:

https://www.cmfhq.org/Info/Articles#135327-crisis-at-the-constitutional

_________________

Portions of the above were adapted from Let Me See Thy Glory – A Study in the Attributes of God by Bob Deffinbaugh,

“The sad irony of celebrity pastors”

“There is an irony, though, in how whenever Christians seem to attach themselves to mainstream culture, with all its vices, in the hope of drawing people towards God, they seem to get drawn towards vice.”

Follow the link to a really insightful article about celebrity pastors.

The sad irony of celebrity pastors | Spectator USA

That America may bless the world: Jamestown settlers

Reverend Robert Hunt, Cape Henry

“We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World. May all who see this Cross, remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.”

Using covenantal language, Hunt declared, “from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth not only to this New World but the entire world.” The following Bible passage was read at the conclusion of the prayer: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he ruleth among the nations” (Ps. 22:27–28).

The Jamestown settlers believed in a covenantal approach to history whereby future generations would “take the Kingdom of God to all the earth”—and this is the important part—“as long as this earth remains.” These concepts came directly from the notes of the Geneva Bible with its kingdom-advancing approach!

Resolutions, Resolutions!

clip_image002Well, here we are again, at the beginning of 2021, and quite naturally, the subject of New Year’s resolutions surfaces once again for many of us. Some of us old guys have long since tried to put the subject behind us, having made them, only to break most of them along the way. A simple internet search of the term New Year’s resolutions will yield a veritable plethora of ideas and articles, as well as tips on keeping them.

The practice of making of New Year’s resolutions has a long history, going all the way back to days of the Babylonian empire, and had to do with making promises to various gods. Participation rates, along with success and failure rates varies depends on whose survey you are using. I’m sure we all have stories about resolutions we’ve made through the years.

I’d like to set our personal experiences aside for now and talk about a set of resolutions crafted by a man who was perhaps the greatest theologian ever to grace American soil. His name was Jonathan Edwards. I we know about him at all, it is probably in connection with a famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands a of an Angry God., and/or the first Great Awaking in 18th century America.

Edwards was born in 1703, the son of a Puritan minister in Connecticut. His mother was the daughter of a minister from Massachusetts. While he delighted in religious studies from a very young age, it was when he was in his late teen years, that he experienced a turning point in his spiritual quest. In the Spring of 1721 he wrote:

“I was brought to a new sense of things, to an inward sweet delight in God and divine things, quite different from anything I had ever experienced before. I began to have a new kind of apprehension and idea of Christ and the work of redemption and the glorious way of salvation by him.”

A year later he began writing a series of life resolutions he felt would greatly assist his spiritual growth in grace and God-centered living. The first 21 resolutions were crafted in a single sitting in 1722, which were added to at various times until, in August 1723 the list included 70 resolutions. He then read them once a week for the rest of his life.

Who among today’s evangelicals would take up a such a lifelong commitment? Some of us might even call it a legalistic attempt to please God. That would be an erroneous assumption. Edwards himself acknowledged who could provide him with the ability to keep his resolutions, including a short preface to the resolutions themselves:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.”

What follows is the list of resolutions, each one beginning with the word “Resolved.”, indicating a firm decision made with a soul deep gravity. Here are the first seven resolutions, to whet your appetite and arouse your interest.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

If you are considering your own resolutions for this new year, and to follow Jonathan Edwards’ example, let these three simple principles resolutions be your guide:

1. Let the glory of God be the ultimate goal of any resolution you make.

2. Consider resolutions that will last a life time instead of just a year.

3. Like Jonathan Edwards, draw from God’s strength

You can find a complete list of the seventy resolutions here (Jonathan Edwards: Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (ccel.org).

Have a divinely blessed New Year!

John Piper & the Five Points

Perhaps one of the best explanations of the Doctrines of Grace available for the average reader. My personal journey into Reformed theology began and still rests in Holy Scripture. During the journey I have of course consulted many other resources, including listening to an entire lengthy series of teaching concerning the History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel, available online free of charge. I had known just enough about Calvinism to hate him. I attribute that hatred to the worship of autonomous human free will. I will gladly entertain thoughtful questions.

document.desiringgod.org/five-points-en.pdf

The Gospel and Politics–John MacArthur

This is an excellent treatment of this critical subject! – Dan C. It’s length, but worth a good read!

The Gospel and Politics

by John MacArthur

For us, as Christians in the United States, it’s easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores a biblical response.

There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can’t even name three of the Ten.

There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.

How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.

In less than fifty years’ time, our nation’s political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.

What are Christians to do about it?

Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a “Christian” political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.

But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.

LESSONS FROM HISTORY

This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony.

The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands. Few believers today would argue that those efforts were fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success, the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other religious wars and campaigns tinged with political motivation (such as the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, Cromwell’s revolution in England, and other skirmishes during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval, or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so. The military and political ambitions of some of the Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity to the gospel.

Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the visible church that have turned their attention to social and political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for example, explicitly argued that social work and moral reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and their movement soon abandoned any semblance of Christianity whatsoever.

Today’s evangelical political activists seem to be unaware of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply preaching a politically conservative version of the old social gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above spiritual ones.

That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice). The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as if the spiritual fortunes of God’s people rise or fall depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no human government can ultimately do anything either to advance or to thwart God’s kingdom. And the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.

To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on political involvement, we should take to heart the words of the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford University more than one hundred years ago:

The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898], 430-31)

LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE

My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.

There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly involved in government as civil servants, as some notable examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of servants God used in top governmental positions to further His kingdom. The centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even after they experienced the healing or saving power of Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts 13:4-12].)

The issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The apostle Peter instructs us, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His Father’s perspective on these matters even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today’s culture. In many ways it was much worse than any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the godless kind of autocratic rule: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16).

Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus’ day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in constant outward rebellion against Rome.

Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax obligations and violently opposed the government. They believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong (see Deuteronomy 17:15, “You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother”). Many Zealots became assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence against both the Romans and other Jews whom they viewed as traitors.

It is also true that the Roman social system was built on slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord and Master.

Jesus’ earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees expected Him to free them from Rome’s oppressive rule. But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some grandiose attempt to “capture the culture” for biblical morality or greater political and religious freedoms.

Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for the daily pain and hardships people endured in their personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal sacrifice to Himself.

Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to others’ physical needs was, it was not Jesus’ first priority. His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He did not come to earth to make the old creation moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might advance His kingdom: “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” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

THE REAL BATTLE

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For 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” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..

American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

HT: Pulpit Magazine