Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:14

Shining Like Stars in a Dark World

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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In Philippians 2:15, the apostle Paul cautions believers in Christ to live in a manner that reflects His nature, encouraging us to become “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (NKJV)

There’s a new survey out from LifeWay Research on the topic of religious liberty, and it shows that pastors are concerned about the state of religious liberty in America. Seventy percent of those surveyed last September agree with the statement, “Religious liberty is on the decline in America.” Twenty-seven percent disagree. Self-identified evangelical pastors are more likely to agree than mainline pastors, by an 81-to-47 percent margin.

 

Researchers also asked pastors to respond to this question: “Many Christian leaders have talked about society being in a culture war. Regardless of how you feel about that terminology, how would you explain the current situation?”

 

Fifty-nine percent say Christians are losing. Eleven percent say the culture war is already lost.  Only 10 percent say Christians are winning the culture war.

 

Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research told Todd Starnes of Fox News in a piece on the survey that, “Ten years ago we were talking about who would win the culture war and now we’re talking about how Christian rights will  be protected after the culture war...We’ve lost our home field advantage. There are going to be some things that are different.”

 

Starnes quoted Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas: “A religious leader once said, ‘my successor will see the tax exempt status removed from churches and his successor will go to jail...That is probably on the horizon.”

 

Todd contends that there are some pockets of resistance – like the town of Greenwood in the Mississippi Delta. Jim Phillips is the senior pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church. He said that Greenwood still has a “very high respect for the historical Judeo-Christian ethic.”

 

He told Starnes, “Every one of my son’s community college football games around the state last season began with a prayer on the loud speaker – in Jesus’ name...Will that eventually be challenged? I suspect so at some point.”

 

But right now he said “pockets of religious boldness still exist.” But, the pastor is concerned with national trends, saying that Christians have slowly given away their impact on culture by becoming more worldly instead of confronting the culture to become more godly. He says that, “Sadly, Christians have often wimped out and grown silent instead of being bolder for the Gospel...Christians get subdued into thinking they’re not supposed to rise up.”

 

He sees that his calling is to “keep leading the charge.” He is quoted as saying, “As a local pastor, my goal is to keep encouraging my church to seek to raise the bar and not lower it when it comes to confronting culture.”

 

So, one of the questions for us is whether or not we are residing in a personal “pocket” of boldness. In a culture where worldliness might be winning, we can do what we can in the place to which God has called us, in order to see godliness grow greater. One person cannot transform the whole culture, but we can operate in the pocket to which God has called us. 

 

I believe that a successful operation involves a demonstration of God’s holiness in our lives. That’s “holiness” not “holier than thou,” and there is a big difference. Sometimes we are branded as thinking that we are better or more deserving than everybody else.  We speak up for our “rights,” but we may not act “right.”  So, God is calling us to live a lifestyle that is rooted in the Word and compelling in our behavior.  It’s best for us, because we are right with God, and it’s best for those with whom we interact, because we are showing to them that God’s way is best.

 

Also, operating in a pocket of resistance or boldness involves a determination to engage culture.  We could throw up our hands and say the culture war is lost, and Stetzer wrote in 2012 for Baptist Press that we need to be thinking about what it might look like to be the church in a post-culture war society. He said, “...let’s all slow down, take a deep breath and do the same thing we did yesterday -- preach the Gospel, love people and engage in God’s mission.”  We are at war, in a sense, against these trends that run counter to God’s principles, but we are certainly not in a war with people, and Christ died for each and every person - that’s the central message on which we can focus.  We must try to be absolutely sure that we are reflecting Jesus as we walk through this complicated world.

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 07 April 2014 14:17
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