What We Rely On: If someone doesn’t believe in God - in a Greater Being that is watching over us and guiding us - then they do not really have anyone to rely on but themselves or other fallible human beings. That would be scary to me, to believe that we are left all alone on this earth, with no one to rely on but ourselves.
What’s Important: Success, power, money, sex, companionship, possessions, youth, beauty. These are things that we all consider important.
How about “happiness”? Don’t most people hold up “happiness” as one of the greatest goals in the world? But, oh, the problems this can lead to! And when we combine it with “God just wants us to be happy,” then we put God’s stamp-of-approval on whatever selfish, destructive, immoral thing we want to pursue.
But do we have a right to pursue whatever we want that makes us happy? Does God “just want us to be happy”? How would a Christian’s answer differ from the world’s? Is it okay to divorce your spouse to find someone who makes you happier? How about living together before you are married? Why not polygamy? Is that “Christian”? The Mormons would say so.
To the world, things like success and money and happiness and sex are “end goals,” the things they work for. But in and of themselves, these things will not satisfy completely. They might fill our hands for a moment, but they won’t fill our souls for eternity.
As Christians, though, we shouldn’t see these things as end goals. They can definitely be enjoyed for the blessings that they are (in the way God intended), but ultimately we know that what’s really important is that we glorify God with our lives and that we share with others the message about God’s gifts of salvation, love, and healing. The other things will burn up in the end, but only what we do for God’s glory and His Kingdom will last. But do we live like these are our true priorities?
Defining Success: The world defines success by things like . . . how much money you make, how much respect you gain, how many possessions you own, how high you are on the ladder of success, how many people you order around, how popular you are, how beautiful you are, how many people show up at your funeral, etc. But while these are nice, they are not eternal. While we might be always remembered and loved by our families and while we might have passed down some lasting accomplishments, soon after we are gone, someone else will move in and fill the void we left in the workplace and use the things we left behind. We are replaceable in this world. And someone else will enjoy the things we worked hard to earn.
Value of People: Without a Creator to place value on people and to establish a moral code, we are at the mercy of other people to decide who has value and who doesn’t, who matters and who doesn’t. And this can (and has) lead to all sorts of horrifying scenarios.
Without a belief in a Creator, how does someone develop a worldview and an opinion on these issues? What do they base their views and “rightness or wrongness” on? We Christians know that God values people immensely. We are made in His image. We are all worth dying for and are greatly loved, just because God decided we were. He has placed an eternal value on people, not only giving them eternal souls but the promise that He will eventually redeem all things. In the end, He will set all things right again and demand justice for all of the wrongs that people seem to be getting away with now. He will eventually stand up for the poor, the mistreated, the aliens, the orphaned, the weak, and those who are denied justice. (Of course, He does do this to a certain degree on earth, just not fully and completely until eternity.)
Who do you fear more? Who do you seek to please and be like? The people you are around, the group you follow, the social majority? Or the holy God to whom we will all give an accountant for our lives and choices one day? Does your life accurately reflect how much you fear the Lord? Is this comforting to you or convicting? Do you grieve over the condition of our country, our world? Or are you too busy blending in or sampling its delights?
“. . . Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen . . . and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
We may not be able to do much to change the way our country is going. But we can grieve over it. We can become heartbroken over it, instead of indifferent. We can intercede in prayer for our country. We can pray for revival, starting with our own hearts and families. We can seek righteousness.
If this is all there is to it then it would stand to reason that the laws against having sex with your close family members or with animals (Lev 18) or that the laws against stealing, lying, practicing sorcery, and defrauding others (Lev 19) shouldn’t apply either. But would we ever say this?
I remember when the “Gay Olympics” was coming through our town and how people were talking about picketing, holding up signs about how homosexuality is wrong and all that. But our pastor got up one Sunday and suggested a different idea.
I think that when we are sharing God’s truth with the world, we should do it in such a way that they say, “I don’t agree with them and I don’t like what they are saying, but they say it with such respect, love, and gentleness that I just can’t be mad at them.”
[And if I may say something here to those who feel it’s their job to force God’s truth on others, screaming out Bible verses at people, fighting with them over truth, speaking up about God’s truth to a hostile crowd: It’s not always your job to do that. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 10:14: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” What He is saying is that if someone refuses to listen to the truth, let them have their way. Hand them over to their own hardness. Do not try to force them to hear you or to agree with you. Let them have the right to be resistant and to ignore the truth.
I think this is good advice for many of us in this culture nowadays, especially for those who are making themselves into targets for speaking the truth. You don’t need to step into any traps that the world lays for you or to make yourself a target for those who are just waiting to lash out at God’s truth. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6) This is Jesus Himself telling us that we don’t need to share His truth with people who only want to tear it and us to shreds.
Most Americans know what the Bible says about certain issues, and they don’t want to hear us hammering them with biblical truth anymore. Talk to those who will listen. Give answers to those who ask questions. Live your life in a way that reflects Jesus to others. But leave those who want to be resistant to God’s truth alone. They will be responsible for their own hardness, and He will deal with them later.]
And on the other hand, society should not force Christians to hide or to go against their faith. They should not force them to deny what the Bible says. I mean, seriously . . . would they pull that junk with any other faith out there? Would they force people of other faiths to deny what their holy writings say in order to please society or force them to violate their faith's values? Of course not. They only do this with Christians. And yet they call themselves "tolerant" and "open-minded" and "accepting." Hypocrites.
Are you ready for the persecution? Are you strong enough in your convictions to take a stand? To be called names and criticized harshly, even though all you are doing is trying to be faithful to the Lord? How do we balance love with truth? How do we balance sharing God’s message and exposing the “fruitless deeds of darkness” with people’s free will and their right to decide for themselves? How do we gracefully bear with opposition and persecution and yet firmly stand our ground? Do you know the Word well enough to know what stand to take? If you don’t, it will be all too easy to compromise, to sit back and watch the scroll being burned, to buy into the “tickle your ears” messages.
19. In what ways might a Christian be persecuted for their faith? Examples from life? What are some godly ways we can respond?
44. In what ways does this section challenge you? And are there any other thoughts or questions that you want to add?