We’ve Been Compromised
Self-esteem is one of the enemy’s chief weapons against the spreading of the true gospel in America.
Although American Christians do endure some persecution, it is usually nothing compared to the persecution in countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, and North Korea. In these countries, Christians have more understandable reasons to fear sharing the gospel.
Yet even to our highly persecuted brothers and sisters, Jesus has said:
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Do we love Jesus more than we love our lives?
For most of the church in America, the honest answer would be “no”.
But it gets worse.
As Christians in the Western world, we often love our self-esteem more than we love Jesus.
In America, the persecution one receives for faith in Jesus Christ is typically more social and emotional (though sometimes the persecution affects one’s vocation and economic prosperity as well).
To our brothers and sisters in other lands, this would hardly seem like persecution at all.
Yet to us, it does.
Our skin has been softened and thinned. We have been groomed by the enemy to be highly sensitive to ridicule. If we doubt this, we have only to look out our windows and observe our postmodern culture of safe-spaces and “tolerance”.
“You do you. And I’ll do me. But don’t you dare touch my bubble or call me misguided or confused or anything…negative.”
Sadly, Christians are not impervious to this cunningly crafted skin-thinning agenda. We are addicted to selfies and cute clothing. We are obsessive about immaculate grooming. We care about following the cultural and social dictates pertaining to education, social status, and life choices. We care about seeming really righteous or really smart or really cool…depending on who we’re with.
What if we cared about being faithful in the sight of God as much as we cared about seeming acceptable in the eyes of the present company? After all, God is present company.
What if we remembered that Jesus is in the room with us? Would we think twice before rolling our eyes when “admitting” we’re Christians? Would we be more embarrassed to “embarrass” Him? More hurt if we hurt Him? Would we be more proud to identify with Him, knowing that He is real and powerful and the Lord of all the earth, and we actually know Him? Knowing that one day, everyone else will behold His glory and worship Him too?
In conjunction with the ever-increasing emotional softening and weakening of Americans, the enemy has also intensified the ridicule from a godless culture against an identity – Christian – which was for quite some time in America widely respected and highly esteemed.
Thus, the American Christian is attacked from both angles – the heightened sensitivity, and the heightened attack upon that chink in the armor.
In the early twentieth century, few would have disrespected or belittled a professing Christian – perhaps even a “radical” Christian.
Now, it is not uncommon for such a Christian to be viewed and defined as “crazy”, “unintellectual”, “simple”, or “narrow-minded”.
Well, the gospel is simple and the way to life is narrow. And the gospel is indeed foolishness to those who are perishing (though it is not foolishness).
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [Note: It is the power of God – not men – which saves. This fact is irritating to many, and drives away those who hate God or want to trust their own flesh for salvation (“I can be moral enough to reach God.”). Many don’t want to seek God through Christ for salvation because they want to keep on sinning in the darkness. Turning to Christ entails an acknowledgement that you need Him, which is to acknowledge that you have a sin problem.] For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1
Of Bears and Bunny Rabbits – The Fear of Man
Many – probably most – of us are not immune to the fear of Man (and only by the strength of Christ can we become immune). We fear not only the opinions of those of the world, but also of those within the church.
We worry what others will think about the way we dress for church gatherings – whether we’re dressing up or down.
We desire to manage other Christians’ impressions of our spirituality and maturity. Are we looking wise enough? Pious enough? Knowledgeable enough?
And we fear the labels assigned us by unbelievers. The labels of “unintellectual”, “stupid”, “childish”, “gullible”, or even “deceived”, “deluded”, or “mentally ill”.
But think about it. If we were really obviously mentally ill, they would probably, on average, treat us with more kindness and compassion.
Today, however, many who attack the cross of Christ actually seem more angry at God than intellectually incredulous. And if they’re angry at God, they’re generally also angry at those who worship and speak boldly of Him.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
A person in their right mind doesn’t generally lash out at someone suffering from a mental illness! Rather, they show understanding. If someone really just thinks you’re mentally ill, they’ll (hopefully) be more reasonable and kind with you. But many anti-christians today are actually angry at God. They don’t dispassionately endeavor to disprove God and Jesus Christ.
If they really just thought you were mentally ill, this wouldn’t be such a big deal for them. They’d toss you aside as delusional and move on with their lives.
No one fights a soft, helpless bunny rabbit. No one runs away from a bunny rabbit.
Our fight or flight instincts engage when we perceive a bear or lion in our presence. When we perceive a real threat.
For many, the holiness and justice of God evoke feelings of rage, defensiveness, and fear. They pop our bubbles. They destroy our sense of safety and comfort in our sins. They shed light in the darkness. They destroy the peekaboo illusion. (“I can’t see God, so He can’t see me.”)
The thing is, their hearts know you’re right. There is a law written on their hearts just as it is written on yours. When you speak the truth of Christ, you are pricking their conscience. Or rather, the truth and the power of the name of Jesus Christ are doing so. They are being exposed as lawbreakers.
However, what sensitive American Christians often do – in order to avoid the deluge of fury and disapproval of the crowd – is they try to dress up the bear as a bunny rabbit. (“God is so loving and forgiving and He just wants you to be loved and forgiven, so receive Jesus into your heart.”) The result is that they end up being perceived as truly delusional people who believe in a giant bunny rabbit (or Santa Claus) God who has no power, executes no justice, has no involvement in our lives of any consequence – except supposedly “giving us free stuff” – and in all, a God who commands no respect.
Out of our fear of being belittled by Man, we belittle God.
What was John the Baptist’s perspective?
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The word “bear” often carries a negative connotation. But it doesn’t have to. If you are the bear’s child, you will be protected fiercely. If you are attacking the bear’s child, the bear will come after you.
And justice will be served one day on behalf of the persecuted. We must urge people to make amends with the “bear” while they can. We must urge them to become children of the powerful and holy God while there is still time.
Many are angry at a God who would justly wipe out people who rebelled against Him and practiced sin without any repentance.
But if they would admit their sin and turn to God through Jesus Christ, they would become His children and receive His favor and protection. Where Christians often misrepresent God and the gospel is in preaching the favor and protection without the repentance and change of heart.
No one can be reconciled to God without an acknowledgement of their sin and need to be reconciled to Him. No one can be reconciled to God who is simply “trying Him on” for earthly goodies while actually wanting nothing to do with Him. No one can have a relationship with God who demands His blessings while ever spitting in His face.
As we see in the story of Nineveh, God did give people a chance to repent. And when Nineveh repented, God spared them the wrath He was going to pour out.
He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all would return to Him through Christ, and be spared the wrath they justly deserve.
Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
We can’t expect to remain uncovered by the righteousness of Christ and also remain unpunished by God. God is a perfectly good, holy, and just Judge, and as such, He must punish all wickedness. He would not be good, holy, and just if He did not do so.
What kind of upstanding judge doesn’t punish a thief? If someone robbed your house, do you think a good judge would just let the indicted defendant go free without a sentence – out of love and mercy? How would that be loving to the one wronged?
No. A good judge will serve justice.
However, if someone paid the fine on behalf of the guilty, then the judge could let the thief go free.
Rationality? Or Rage?
Clearly, there is, in this age, a particularly strong emotional and spiritual charge against Christianity.
Atheism, agnosticism, or other beliefs vs. Christ is hardly a matter of intellectualism vs. unintellectualism. Rather, it is a matter of hating God versus loving God. Discontentment versus gratitude. Rage versus humility. Anger versus love. And of darkness hiding from the light.
That’s often why people seem afraid (though commonly under the cloak of anger and/or incredulity) when the subject of judgment or salvation through Jesus Christ is brought up.
Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Ever since the fall, Man has been hiding from God. He knows he is guilty before the righteousness and light of the holy God. Light exposes darkness.
Combine the “unintellectual” stigma surrounding true Christianity with the deeply ingrained American hunger for self-esteem, and you have a recipe for a timid, compromising, persecution shy Christian.
We know Jesus’ opinion is the only one that matters. But how hard it is to live by this truth!
Have you noticed that religion is rarely persecuted to the degree faith in Christ is? Why is this?
Because religion is generally about Man’s opinion of God, rather than God’s definition of Himself. Religion is God made into Man’s desired image. Religion says you can design a God in your mind as fluffy and soft and sugary as you want. You can design a God as mechanical and boxable and small and containable as you want. And He can still be real (for you).
I’m sorry (not really). I want truth, not opinions. I don’t care if it’s brutal truth. If that truth means I’m a sinner and I’m going to hell, I’d rather know.
Many – including merely “religious” (not inwardly reborn or transformed) Christians – might think their assessments and opinions of God are the final say. But in the end, all speculation and pomp and power and authority and so-called “science” and philosophy – and the worthless inventions of Man – will crumble and burn.
No philosophy can reason away the reality of the God of justice and mercy.
No philosophy can reason away gravity.
Attempting to fly from the top of a building will not break or eradicate the law of gravity. Thinking God doesn’t exist or that He isn’t holy and perfectly just won’t change the reality that He does and is. Living like God doesn’t exist won’t change the reality that He does.
It’s important to get the truth right, or you will be broken by it.
When we jump from a 20-story building because we don’t believe gravity exists, we – not the law – are the ones who break.
And when we sin against God’s law of pure Love and righteousness, we – not the laws of God – die.
When we try to “break” God’s laws, we are the ones who break.
In the end, His glory will be revealed to all men (although evidence of it is clearly seen now). Rest in this knowledge. And be driven by this knowledge to implore men to be reconciled to God before that day.
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.John 3:18-20
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”John 8:12
The Word of the Lord – the truth – endures forever. Cling to that. It will be revealed to all for what it is.
The Lord will receive the glory due Him in the end.