We have lived in the freest society in the history of the world. Our founding fathers wanted to make sure that the most basic fundamental freedoms were expressed in the First Amendment of our country’s constitution. This guarantees us the freedom of press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly. In this past week though, I’ve never seen an attack on the freedom of religion like I have in our country.
There are three examples that you may or may not be aware of. First, there has been an ongoing legal battle in New York City over the “constitutionality” of churches meeting in public schools. Just recently, the legal team defending the rights of the churches lost their court battle and now have to comply with a NYC rule to vacate meeting in public schools or buildings. This Sunday may be the last Sunday that many of these churches will have a physical place to meet. I don’t want to get too much into this story, but you can read more about it at this site:
Next, Vanderbilt University just made a ruling that could shut down every Christian group and club meeting on their campus. Again you can read about that story here:
Finally, the news coming out of Washington over the last two weeks about the Obama Administration’s policy to force religious institutions to provide contraceptives to their employees, may sound harmless at first, but it is a basic assault on the convicted conscience of Christians everywhere. Of course, churches are exempt, but for how long? Even the so-called “compromise” yesterday does little to guarantee our freedoms to express our faith. To even make a ruling in the first place is a shocking development considering the history of our country. To get a full understanding of this story, you can read about it here:
What we have to be aware of is that the rights and convictions of expressing our Christian faith have never been under more attack. There is a concerted effort to push religious activity to the privacy of our homes. I remember being down on the street a few months back with Bobby as we were handing out tracks and telling people about Jesus. Bobby was on the mic and he was sharing a very powerful message about the gospel and who Jesus is, and I was at the corner handing out some tracks. As Bobby was preaching, two teenage t0 twenty-something age girls walked by and said the most remarkable thing: “I can’t believe what he is saying. Is he even allowed to do that in public?”
Think about that question. There is a mind-set that has been taught that the public proclamation and the public expression of faith is wrong. More specifically, the public proclamation of “Jesus as Lord” is wrong. To be offended is the greatest sin in our culture today. This is what the world wants us to do – go to church, sing our songs, listen to our pastor, read our books that we like, but must never bring that stuff out in public. It’s kind of like what we’ve been saying for a while; let’s not just be a Sunday church, but a Monday through Saturday church. The problem we are going to face is that the world doesn’t want that kind of church. We may be insulated from some of these problems for a while since we are in the Bible-belt, but it’s only a matter of time. I don’t want to boo-hoo that reality, or rail against how messed up our country is, or even stir up a frenzy of emotions to make us angry and complain about the current state of affairs in our country.
The truth is I’m excited.
I’m really excited.
I can’t tell you how excited I am right now. I’m excited because I know that when the church is attacked, it grows. I’m not talking about higher church attendance. I’m talking about the explosive power of the Holy Spirit breaking loose. If you look at Acts and the history of the church in almost 2,000 years, the church always grew in power and in influence when it was under the greatest persecution. It was Tertullian, the great church father, 150 years after Jesus’ death that proclaimed that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”.
Why does this happen? This happens because when the heat is turned up, the “christians” in name only flee. The true, disciples of Christ are left, and there is radical living, radical holiness, and radical sacrifice. We all pray for revival. We all should be praying for God to move again in our country, but it may not look like it has in the past. God may be allowing these trials to purge us in our faith to see what we really love, our comfort or our Savior.
So what should we do now? I think we should pray. I think we should pray for boldness and not allow threats to undermine the commission of Jesus that He left us to do. But I think we also need to take inventory of our hearts. We need to ask ourselves some questions:
Am I willing to lose my job for my faith?
Am I willing to lose a friend because of my convictions?
Am I willing to lose a scholarship to college because I won’t hide my love for Jesus?
Am I willing to be derided and hated because I won’t compromise my faith in Christ?
Think about how you will answer those questions and let me leave you with the words of Jesus:
Matthew 16:24-26 – “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
American Christian meet persecution.