Reality Check – Have you noticed lately …
The world we live in is becomingly increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity. (Maybe the actions of Westboro Baptist, the people pictured on the right, have something to do with it.) People speak badly about the church, Christians, the Bible, Jesus Christ, and God. Hostility is growing briskly. Outright disdain for all things good and righteous is escalating. I would post some comments that I read online, of which there were literally thousands, but I’d rather not give a platform for those the Bible would call fools. The advent of social media, the posting of on-line news articles with the ability to comment, Twitter feeds, self-publishing, and personal blogs have given everyone the ability to speak their mind in a very public way. As you can imagine, it is not a pretty sight. For believers, it can be downright discouraging.
God has appointed us as ambassadors for Christ. We are ministers and stewards of the Gospel. Scripture is very clear that this is our primary purpose as individuals and as a church body. The primacy of the Gospel mission is one of our core values here at CCC. This means that we are to engage with the world around us and preach the Gospel to the lost and dying. We are to remain unspotted from the world, yes. At the same time, we need to connect to people and unashamedly communicate the Gospel. Jesus was unspotted from the world and He spent time around the more shady characters of society.
As we desire to share the Gospel and start sharing Biblical truth, our audience is becoming more and more resistant to the message and toward us as messengers. This does not diminish our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ. But, it does make it more difficult.
Let’s pause and reflect on just why people might be resistant to the Gospel and why people are becoming more and more hostile. I have not done any empirical research to back up what I am about to “reflect” on my own, but I think you will mostly agree with my thoughts.
- Instead of focusing on bringing people to the cross of Christ, where sin meets grace, we often allow side issues to distort and drive the conversation. What are side issues? Politics, abortion, gay-marriage, the environment, and so forth. Yes, these are important issues, and yes, these issues do need to be discussed. However, if we allow these issues to dominate and steer the conversation, and we don’t use these topics as a spring-board to the Gospel, then we will never be ambassadors of hope but only emissaries of condemnation. Without the Gospel, none of these issues have relevance to eternity. In other words, the Gospel is the only bridge and connector between these issues and any discussion about God and His goodness, mercy, and glorious purpose for our lives.
- We have not allowed ourselves to be educated and grow in knowledge of the truth. How well can you share the Gospel? Has your ability to articulate the Gospel gotten better this month over last? How do you know? What have you done to understand and relate the issues of our day to spiritual matters? For example, regarding homosexuality. Are you able to intelligently explain why homosexuality is harmful to society? What does the Bible say about homosexuality? How is gay marriage an attack on the Gospel? And, does God actually create people as gay?
- “Becoming all things to all people in order to win some” may have become a foreign concept to Christians. This is an area that I really have to work, especially since I spend the majority of my time around church-folk. I have to ask myself, “What have I done to become friends with sinners and tax-collectors as my Savior has done?” I look at the example of Paul and how he was able to connect with people wherever he went. He understood how to talk to a jailor or a king. He knew about the philosophy and poetry of the day and would quote it when sharing the Gospel. He went to the marketplace and spent time getting to know people. He used the altar to the unknown God as a launching pad for a sermon.
- What have we done to grow in love? Do we truly love one another? Jesus said that our love toward one another will be a telling mark that will demonstrate to all men that we are His disciples. It is a command of Christ. In his pastoral epistles, Paul frequently mentions that we are to love one another. Let’s face it; it is difficult to criticize a people that are incredibly loving. At the same time, it is easy to criticize people that speak the truth, but don’t do so in love.
- Realize this important truth: Jesus was the most loving and perfect being on the planet, and they hated Him. No matter how well we turn every conversation into a Gospel presentation, no matter how learned we are in the truth, no matter how much we engage in the culture, and no matter how loving we are, the fact remains, Jesus said if they hate us, they hated Him first. As the world ticks closer and closer to the second coming, we should expect that there will be an increase in tribulation, not a decrease.
What are some applications? How should we respond? What should we do?
Hopefully, most of the applications should be obvious as you read and contemplate the above points. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions with those and offer up one key application that may not be so obvious. We need to pray. I need to pray, and you need to pray. The fact that our culture is so quickly and violently skidding down the slippery slope into an abyss should drive us to our knees. Being on our knees is a demonstration of our dependence and trust in the faithfulness of God. It shows that without Him, we know we can do nothing. It is a humble demonstration of recognizing our total helplessness and ineptness to face this challenge and do the task He has graciously given for us to do. God is mighty to save!
May this be an encouragement as you endeavor to lift up the cross of Christ – for His glory and your joy.