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)

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!

Quotes from Spurgeon’s Autobiography – Vol. 1, Chapter 6

The following quotations from Vol. 1, Chapter 6 of Spurgeons Autobiography, Incidents of Home and School Life, begins with the following short introduction:

“No man can write the whole of his own biography. I suppose, if the history
of a man’s thoughts and words could be written, scarce the world itself
would contain the books, so wonderful is the tale that might be told. Of my
life at home and at school, I can only give a few incidents as I am able to
recall them after the lapse of forty or fifty years.”

The childhood memories Spurgeon recounted seem to be those from which the young Spurgeon drew a lesson for Christian living. Here are a few of those incidents that captured my attention. The short titles are of my own invention.

Of Gardens and Prayer

“When we were small children, we had a little plot of garden-ground, and we put our seeds into it. I well recollect how, the day after I had put in my seed, I went and scraped the soil away to see if it was not growing, as I expected it would have been after a day or so at the very longest, and I thought the time amazingly long before the seed would be able to make its appearance above the ground. “That was childish,” you say. I know it was, but I wish you were as childish with regard to your prayers, that you would, when you have put them in the ground, go and see if they have sprung up; and if not at once, — be not childish in refusing to wait till the appointed time comes, — always go back and see if they have begun to sprout. If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith. He will never allow you to think better of Him than He is; He will come up to the mark of your thoughts, and according to your faith so shall it be done unto you.”

Houses, and Horses, and Trees

“When we used to go to school, we would draw houses, and horses, and trees on our slates, and I remember how we used to write “house” under the house, and “horse” under the horse, for some persons might have thought the horse was a house. So there are some people who need to wear a label round their necks to show that they are Christians at all, or else we might mistake them for sinners, their actions are so like those of the ungodly.”

The Religious Juggler

“I have seen, when I was a boy, a juggler in the street throw up half-a-dozen balls, or knives and plates, and continue throwing and catching them, and to me it seemed marvelous; but the religious juggler beats all others hollow. He has to keep up Christianity and worldliness at the same time, and to catch two sets of balls at once.To be a freeman of Christ and a slave of the world at the same time, must need fine acting. One of these days you, Sir Juggler, will make a slip with one of the balls, and your game will be over. A man cannot always keep it up, and play so cleverly at all hours; sooner or later he fails, and then he is made a hissing and a by-word,and becomes ashamed, if any shame be left in him.”

More, More, More?

Our 1 & 1/5-year-old grandson Michael uses those words (with the question mark) a lot at mealtimes whenever he is eating something he likes, until he is full and then exclaims “Done now!”

“What’s that got to do with Christian faith?”, you ask. Thanks for asking! First of all, it reminds me of me in the late 70’s after God drew this prodigal home. I didn’t want just a little of what God had for me, I wanted all of what he had for me. Wanting more was a genuine cry of my heart and a good thing! On the other hand, Every time someone or something (read Christian TV, radio, books, & even family members) offered ‘more’ I was all over it. After all, the offers of ‘more’ were being made by professing Christians who were older and wiser than this young Army Sergeant with his young family.

Moreover, I just knew my motives in wanting ‘more’ were pure as the driven snow. How could they NOT be? So, like most young believers I was drawn off into teachings that I now question. Well, the 3M syndrome is alive and well 40 years down the road. Young, new to the faith believers are still drawn towards the ‘more’ that offers emotional excitement, ecstatic worship, ‘new’ special revelation, and even training in the ‘supernatural’.

Know that in no way am I saying that God does not want to bless us mightily, or that He no longer operates in certain ways in his church. I am not saying that God doesn’t provide ‘more’ to us as we engage in the renewing of our minds and the Holy Spirit brings the beautiful truths of scripture home to the deepest center of our new hearts.

I’m suggesting that we need to be cautious of offers and promises of ‘more’. Some of them are found nowhere in scripture, but in its twisting. Lives, both physical and spiritual, have been devastated by chasing after some of those promises. I would add that Satan is the master counterfeiter who loves to provide fake answers to fake promises.

One might also ask, “When is ‘more’ enough? Are we as smart as little Michael?

Personally, I’ve found that in reading and studying God’s word, fellowshipping with the saints, and sharing Christ with the lost around me keeps me busy enough. Nothing extraordinary, just the ordinary activities of a blood bought sinner.

Some might say that being just an ‘ordinary’ Christian a pretty high calling!

Be blessed in your high calling this Lord’s Day!

What We Must Do

HT: Truth For Life

Gideon ordered his men to do two things: Covering up a torch in an earthen pitcher, he had them, at an appointed signal, break the pitcher and let the light shine. Then he had them blow the trumpet, crying, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

This is precisely what all Christians must do. First, you must shine: Break the pitcher that conceals your light, throw aside the container that has been hiding your candle, and shine. Let your light shine before men; let your good works be such that when men look at you, they will know that you have been with Jesus.

Then there must be the sound, the blowing of the trumpet. There must be active exertions for the gathering of sinners by proclaiming Christ crucified. Take the Gospel to them. Carry it to their door; put it in their path; do not allow them to escape it; blow the trumpet right against their ears. Remember that the true battle-cry of the church is Gideon’s watchword, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” God must do it; it is His own work.

But we are not to be idle; He uses instruments–“A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” If we only cry, “A sword for the LORD!” we will be guilty of idle presumption; and if we shout, “A sword for Gideon!” alone, we shall display an idolatrous reliance on man: We must blend the two in practical harmony: “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” We can do nothing in ourselves, but we can do everything by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in His name determine to go out personally and serve Him with our flaming torch of holy example and with our trumpet blasts of sincere declaration and testimony, and God will be with us, and the enemy will be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts will reign forever and ever.

Bar The Gates!

Dr. Steven Davey, courtesy of OnePlace.com

Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.Romans 6:13

John Bunyan, one of history’s greatest Christian authors, wrote the story of a fierce battle to take control of a city from its rightful ruler. This famous allegory, Bunyan’s second most popular work, is entitled The Holy War. His depiction of the human soul is a city, Mansoul, with five gates: Ear Gate, Eye Gate, Nose Gate, Feel Gate, and Mouth Gate.

The enemy of the city is Sin, who comes on a daily basis to attack at one of its five gates. Sin speaks to the Ear Gate; he presents vivid, alluring pictures to the Eye Gate; he tempts the other “Gates” as well.

The interesting thing about this battle is that Mansoulcould never be defeated by outside attacks, and Sin could never win in his assaults against the five gates…except in one way: someone on the inside had to open one of the gates and let Sin in.

In reality, these five gates are not Bunyan’s allegorical creations at all — they are for real! Bunyan had grasped what both Paul and Peter understood: that the soul of man is destroyed from the inside, not the outside.

This is why Paul urged the believers to stop presenting their members to sin. The word presenting in this verse is a military term, used in the transferring of weaponry or arms. Paul was actually saying, “Don’t let the enemy use your body as his weapon. Don’t let the enemy have your rifle or your sword so he can use it against you! Don’t leave yourself unarmed…don’t open the gates!”

Unquestionably, you cannot be a holy child of God while allowing your eyes to feast on unholy scenes. Most of today’s new film releases contain scenes of adultery or fornication. It is a fact, according to recent statistics, that over ninety percent of all sexual content in the average film is between unmarried people or people who are married to someone else.

If you choose to watch sin on the big screen, whether in a theater or your family room, you have just opened the Eye Gate and invited Sin to come in.

If Sin can’t get through one gate, he will try another. So, what are the lyrics to your favorite songs, and the lifestyle of your favorite artists? Most secular music today is filled with the same perversion that you see on the screen; merely listening to it may be as deadly as watching it…keep the Ear Gate closed!

You are in a Holy War, Christian, just as John Bunyan said. And you may be your own worst enemy! Sin is pounding at each Gate, but he can only come in if you allow him entrance. Sin can’t win the battle from the outside.

Don’t betray your Mansoul! By all means, reinforce the boundaries…fortify the walls…bar the Gates!