Tag Archives: whole armor of God

How Can Christians Prevail in a Hostile Culture?

Many Christians feel completely flummoxed by daily developments in the USA. Having grown up believing that the USA was a country where Christian values predominated, many Christians are mystified by evidence that those values do not predominate in the culture today. When employees are told not to wish anyone a “Merry Christmas,” when government does an end run around parents by asserting that children will have sex and must have Plan B medications, when the idea that a homosexual union could be called a marriage is even discussed publicly – in the midst of such events, many Christians feel that they must be having a waking nightmare. What became of the USA governed by the Constitution? What causes voters to elect people with no apparent principle except “What’s in it for me?” US currency still bears the phrase, “In God We Trust,” but it doesn’t appear that the majority of the US population has any connection with God at all. What happened?

Christians have not yet come to grips with the fact that people with Christian principles are not the most numerous component of the US population or the US voter rolls. It is still statistically true that more people self-identify as Christians than any other religion, but close examination reveals that many of those who consider themselves to be Christian do not hold a Christian worldview. Since politics is fundamentally the enactment of a worldview into law, the worldview held by voters is extremely important. If most people do not hold a Christian worldview, then how shall Christians protect the culture from changes that feel at least uncomfortable and at most threatening?

The answer isn’t simple or satisfying. Every law represents a majority of the people who had a chance to vote on it. Every cultural trend must be satisfactory to more people than not, or it would not be a trend. If the culture or the government takes on traits that don’t feel right to Christians, some sort of majority choice is, nevertheless, at work. Perhaps the most honest thing to say about it is that even a lot of people who call themselves Christians don’t actually want a Christian world. Christians must remember that Jesus said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) Later he said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

In other words, Jesus warned Christians not to think that being Christian would be the popular thing. Christians in the USA can be grateful they don’t live in some of the other countries around the world.

In Uzbekistan, government authorities recently broke into the home of an elderly Christian woman. They found her Bible and some other Christian literature, all of which they declared to be unauthorized religious material. They confiscated all of it, took her to court, and fined her ten months’ pay.

In China, the widow of the pastor of a house church is daily pressured by the Chinese government to merge her church into the Chinese Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the authorized Christian church in China. TSPM reports the names and addresses of all members to the government, uses only government-printed materials such as Bibles and study guides in the activities of the church, and allows only pastors authorized by the government-appointed national bishop of the TSPM. This widow knows that most of her church’s members will simply disappear and may or may not join other house churches if she signs this document.

In Laos, church members watched in dismay as government officials brought earth-moving equipment to their church site and demolished the building before their eyes. The building was alleged to be an unregistered church meeting in an unauthorized building, despite the fact that church members have submitted required documents several times, only to have them returned for alleged errors and omissions. Recent submission of new documents were at the time being processed, but the local officials refused to allow the church to exist any longer.

In Egypt, many long-standing Coptic Christian congregations have been shattered by violence in the country’s ongoing unrest since former president Mubarak stepped down. Buildings and individuals are attacked and abused while police stand by and let it happen.

How do Christians remain strong and faithful while under such pressure? Can the persecuted church teach American Christians anything about thriving under cultural and governmental restrictions? The answer is unequivocally YES.

Christians have survived and thrived for more than two thousand years, not because of political power, but rather, because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They have trusted God and acted in obedience to him, and God has blessed that faithful commitment. Christians in persecuted countries know that they are targets, but they also know that the real target is Christ. They cling to Christ’s promise “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:24)

If you want to learn more about the weapons Christians have available in the culture wars and in the conflict with Satan and Satan’s people, read Ephesians 6:10-18. There you will find a clear statement of the problem Christians face in the US and the real solution to this problem. It is both comforting and disconcerting. People hope to find an answer that puts an end to the problems, but God doesn’t give us that option. In Ephesians you will find an answer to the question, How can I deal with this situation? But you won’t find an answer than ends the situation. You need to go to Revelation for that answer, and that will be part of some future post. For now, take the time to read Ephesians 6:10-18. Then pray for insight to understand how you can take up these weapons and use them every day. God has not left us destitute, but he hasn’t made it easy for us, either.

It is impossible to predict when, or if, the Christian worldview will again prevail at the ballot box. Don’t let the ballot box be the focus of your hope for the future. Rather, put your hope in God, and start learning to use the weapons he provides for your protection and victory in daily life. Leave a comment if you have suggestions for others from your own experience.

 

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Truth, the First Weapon

The major reason that the events at Benghazi in 2012, now nearly nine months ago are still headline news is a deficit of truth. Many people feel betrayed and disappointed, even alarmed, by administration speakers who avoid giving the facts about Benghazi to the citizens. Some people believe that misinformation provided by individuals speaking for the administration was deliberate, and the specter of uncovering lies by senior officials raises other horrifying images, including the moment when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in disgrace.

We all want truth and expect truth and even normally assume truth when someone speaks. That fact actually makes it easy to deceive us. Salesmen have a bad reputation because they often find ways to speak the truth in words that lead a prospective buyer to the wrong conclusion. If a sales representative says to a prospective customer, “This price won’t be available next week,” the customer assumes that the price will be higher next week. The words sound like a friendly, helpful warning that to hesitate is to lose, and the customer may rush into a poorly-considered purchase, only to discover that when next week comes, the price is lower. The salesman did not lie, but he certainly deceived.

People don’t like to be deceived. Even though people play little games with their own minds by claiming there is a difference between a “white lie” and a “black lie,” nobody likes the moment when unpleasant truth shines through a web of deception. If, for example, someone provided incontrovertible evidence that the President of the United States knowingly and deliberately withheld military assistance from the beleaguered Americans in Benghazi, the deceptive words that have hid that truth would only make the discovery of the truth more disturbing. A failure to speak truth is at the root of many broken relationships and broken nations.

Truth is at the root of the name of God, given to Moses at the burning bush. You may remember that God had a very tough job for Moses after he got Moses to pay attention. Moses recognized right away how impossible this job was, because he knew the pharaoh of Egypt personally, having grown up in Pharaoh’s household. Moses tried repeatedly to weasel out of the assignment, but God would not relent. Moses’ life story would not make him very credible to the Israelites, and he knew it. They would want to know why they should believe that God had sent him. They had every reason to believe he was a spy for the pharaoh, even though they knew that Moses had left Egypt as a fugitive from Pharaoh. Why should they believe that Moses had actually escaped justice at Pharaoh’s hand and committed himself to help them escape as well? Moses demanded of God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13)

God’s answer to Moses was “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14) In other words, God said, “I am exactly who you think I am, I am the One I appear to be. You were stopped in your tracks by a miraculous phenomenon – a bush on fire that did not burn up. Who do you think can do that?” Jesus, God in the flesh, later said the same thing in words that clarify the meaning of God’s words to Moses. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Bottom line: God is Truth. You can trust God. You can trust God’s words and God’s messages and God’s promises. If God says, “I am with you,” he will be there, because he doesn’t just speak truth; God is truth.

Maybe this is why Paul listed the “belt of truth” first when he was naming the weapons and protective armor God has given us for our lifework of combat with evil. If Paul had been standing behind Moses at the burning bush, listening to the call of God to an impossible job, Paul would certainly have recognized the experience. God did the same thing to him. After Paul’s amazing experience with Christ near Damascus, a man named Ananias came with a message. The message God gave to Ananias for Paul was this: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:16) That is not the kind of message people like to receive. They would rather hear, “Your dreams are about to come true. Dream it and do it. You can get rich, because God wants you to be rich while you have a good time.” That is not the message God gave to either Moses or Paul. They were both asked to march onto a battlefield where evil was lying in wait for them, and both of them were told to speak and live the truth.

If Paul had been standing behind Moses when Moses received his call, Paul might have immediately told Moses what he told the Ephesians who were engaged in the same battle. Paul wrote, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Moses was headed to Egypt to lead a battle with Pharaoh, who thought he was a god. Paul traveled over much of the Roman empire battling what might have appeared to be political and cultural pressures, but they were all headed up by an emperor who thought he was a god.

Paul would have told Moses that his first weapon in confronting Pharaoh was truth. The truth God spoke when he said, “I am who I am.”  When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he said, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth.” (Ephesians 6:14) That is ultimately what won the day against Pharaoh. The Egyptian pharaoh actually thought he was the son of one of the gods in the Egyptian pantheon. Paul would have told Moses, “Just tell the truth about God who is Truth, and all those false gods will be defeated.”  Ultimately, after Moses stood firm and spoke truth, Pharaoh died along with his army, demonstrating the ultimate truth that he was not a god. God, Truth, repelled the lie of Egypt’s gods and the lie that Pharaoh was a god. With that truth established, Israel could see the real truth and move forward in God’s plan.

Paul died at the order of the Roman emperor, who still thought he was a god. Yet two thousand years later, the Roman Empire is history, while God’s church, those who believe and speak God’s truth, outnumber any other religion on the face of the earth, and growing daily.

God has provided Christians with many weapons in the war against evil. Probably the most undervalued weapon of all is truth.

What faith challenge or cultural challenge faces you today? How could you use truth as a weapon in this conflict? Add your comment to the conversation and share your thoughts with others.