I’ve been saying it for a while now… the time is coming when your faith will cost you something. When it won’t be culturally easy to claim the name of Christ. I’ve meant that both in an individual sense and in a corporate sense. It seems that time has now arrived. Today, I read two things that signaled a massive shift that has been brewing for a while.
- The FBI announced that they concluded their investigation of Hillary Clinton and recommended to the DoJ that no charges be brought against her for the mishandling of classified documents through a private email server. In the announcement, the FBI director admitted that though there is a possibility that the classified information has fallen into the wrong hands, Hillary had no intention of abusing classified information and therefore, no charges should be pursued. “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information,” he said, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” (see link here)
- According the the Alliance Defending Freedom, a federal law suit was filed Monday against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission who are attempting to interpret laws in a way that prevents local churches from expressing views on human sexuality that would “directly or indirectly” make “persons of any particular… gender identity” feel “unwelcome” as well as mandates that restrooms and showers be open to persons of any sex regardless of their biological sex. (see link here) This could be used to ban churches from making any public comments that could be viewed as making someone feel unwelcome.
We are on the cusp of pastors who hold to objective biblical truth being censored based on subjective feelings. We are living in a Romans 1 world and the church better wake up! This is happening! For decades, Christian churches have enjoyed certain freedoms of speech and as a result of that, and the culture of general acceptance of Christian values, we have become lax. We’ve taken things for granted and I believe that the result is the American church, in general, is not prepared to handle what we will see in the coming years and even months. Justice no longer matters. We can no longer assume that we will be protected because acceptance trumps truth. Feeling supersedes conviction. Agendas that go against the grain of Biblical truth are supreme and will be a steamroller that runs over Bible believing Christians and attempts to level them and conform them to the agenda. We’ve already seen it in apostate churches who have given in to the cultural pressure to compromise on Biblical truth in the name of acceptance (for example, ELCA, PC-USA, Christian Church, United Methodist Church, Church of England, Episcopal, and to greater or lesser degrees the United Church of Christ). On a side note, this is why I do not participate in the local ministerial alliance in our town because what fellowship do I have with those claiming the name of Christ who won’t affirm the gospel and clear Biblical truth.
Here are some takeaways from where we are at:
Christians need to renew their commitment to Sola Scriptura
One of the 5 solas of the reformation was Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). This means that the 66 books of the Bible, being divinely inspired by God, are the authoritative source for truth for a Christian. Feelings give way to truth. What we are seeing is a new wave of those professing Christ that care more about the opinions of men than they do of the truth of God’s word. The word of the day is acceptance and it has become god. The Word and the truth contained therein is God’s word to us. We dare not alter it or compromise on it in any way lest we in essence say “our way is better than yours”. God as our creator has not left us wondering what is true. He has revealed definitive truth to us in the Bible and it is our responsibility as Christians to search out and cling to Biblical truth no matter the cost. The fact that so many are willing to cave on human sexuality is indicative of the fact that they have caved in other areas where the truth of Scripture has given way to personal feeling or opinion. I hear people say all the time “I feel like” or “I think that God…” May I be blunt? I don’t give a rip about feelings or what one things. That typically (though not always) indicated that one has approached Scripture with an idea of what it should say (according to them) and then seek to make it say that. As Christians, we need to renew our commitment to seeking and holding to the truth of what Scripture teaches no matter what the cost. When our ideas of who God is or what He says are confronted with the objective truth of Scripture, which one wins?
Christians need to become Biblically literate
Many Christians are biblically illiterate. They don’t think about Scripture and study scripture because (I think in many cases) other things crowd out their time in the word. Moreover, we live in a culture that is visual. This means that for many, if it isn’t on TV or presented in an entertaining fashion, they don’t want it. Many don’t have the desire to search the text for answers. Instead, we turn to google and click on the first result. Discernment is lacking. One of the main reasons to be a reader is God preserved His word in a book. It’s time for Christians to begin searching the word for themselves. Here’s the deal… if knowing God better through His word does not bring you joy in this life, you will find no joy in heaven because the point of heaven is we will be with God. Those who have no interest in knowing Him and pursuing relationship with Him through His word in this life will have no interest in being with Him and knowing Him more in the life to come. For eternity, we will be seeing more and more of the glory of God. His character, personality, and attributes. We, as Christians are called to know Him better now. That’s why we have the Bible. The Bible is not a roadmap for your life, it’s an autobiography of God. We need to become Biblically literate first to know God better and second to be able to give a defense for our beliefs and convictions. Not only that, we need to teach this to our children who are constantly bombarded with a secular humanist religion and being pressured to conform to those beliefs. Our children need to learn the truth of Scripture and have Biblical literacy modeled for them.
Persecution is coming
If you are one who lives under the rock of believing that the culture will always accept Christian ethics, morality, and convictions, you are already behind the 8 ball. The tides have turned. The 50’s are gone. We live in a post-Christian society that is actively working against our ethics, morals and convictions. It is time for the church to recover a robust theology of suffering for the sake of Christ. That has been lost because, for so long, there has been no need for it. That has been something that happened somewhere else. “That can’t happen here”. Guess what… it’s coming faster than anyone expected. Just reflect for a minute on the cultural morality of 10, scratch that 5 years ago. In the last year, we have seen the acceptance of homosexual “marriage” (not only the acceptance but the celebration of it), the rise of the trans-gender community and gender identity being subjective, moves to require places to accommodate that self-declared “gender identity” and now the attempt to silence anyone who will stand against it. 1 year people. My generation will suffer for our faith. It will actually cost something to claim the name of Christ.
Being a pastor may land you in jail
This one hits home for me. Am I prepared to go to jail for upholding Biblical truth? You bet. And the gospel will be preached there if I do. For those who are called to ministry, there is a new aspect of danger that we have not seen in this country. We will be labeled as bigots, intolerant and unaccepting. We will be mocked for holding to such and outdated and archaic world view… I mean after all, we’ve evolved past that nonsense right? Churches must be prepared to carry on if/when their pastors land in jail. This directly relates to points 1 and 2. Our role is to preach truth and equip believers to stand and shine as lights in the midst of a crooked generation (Phil 2:15). From jail, Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). That must be the anthem, not only of every pastor, but every Christian. Christ is worth whatever man may do to me. The truth of the gospel is worth suffering and giving up the American dream for. Your pastors may end up in jail for their preaching. They may end up in jail for refusing to capitulate to the culture. And that is a glorious thing because it proclaims “Christ is gloriously worth any suffering that accompanies following Him”!
We need to stop bickering and complaining about little things and personal preference and focus on Christ and the Great Commission
One of the greatest tools Satan uses in the church is personal preference, selfishness, and the divisiveness of petty quarrels. It divides churches and takes the focus off of reaching the lost. It makes Christ look small when His church is fighting over petty things. It makes us look like the world. Much of this is because we have bought into the idea that I trump all and submission is bad. We’ve bought the lie that my preference is king. That’s what the culture teaches and you see that in this issue. Is the whole sexual revolution we are seeing around us not “my preference trumps all and I’ll get my way at any and all expense”? Beloved, we need to look to Christ’s example of humility and mission (Phil 2:5-11) and set aside our personal and petty quarrels. We need to focus on the mission. What we are seeing around us tells us that above all, people need Christ. That is the only solution, and as long as we are focused on ourselves and our preferences, we are not focusing on the mission. Moreover, we don’t look like anything different from what the world has to offer. You don’t see these petty fights in persecuted churches because they are united together in Christ, looking to Him, and sharing the gospel. Let’s be like that.
This article is by Jon Hawkins. Jon is husband to Carlee, father to Finleigh and the pastor for Preaching at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Nebraska. He holds an MDiv in Biblical and Theological Studies from SBTS and will begin working on a DMin in Church Revitalization from SBTS in the fall.