Is He Lord?

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I had a t-shirt that got me into trouble in middle school. It wasn’t racy or low-cut or provocative – it was what it said. No, it didn’t have profanity on it or racist comments.  It said, “As long as there are pop tests, there will be prayer in school.” By my middle-high school years, faculty-led prayer had been banned from schools for ten years. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and encourage its recitation in public schools. Fifty-nine years later we are reaping the consequences of that decision. Deadly, horrific consequences.

After the 9/11 tragedy, Anne Graham Lotz commented, “for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection.” What fools we have been.

But we were not the first to tell God to leave us alone. The Old Testament Prophet Amos tried in obedience to deliver the word of the Lord to the people but they told him, “Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the house of Isaac” (Amos 7:16). In other words, “Shut up and leave us alone.” And so God did. He told them, “The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11). They had said, “We don’t want to hear from you, God,” and He gave them what they wanted – silence from heaven. For four hundred years. Years of great oppression and persecution and struggle.

You and I can’t plead for God’s help in a crisis and then reject His holy and righteous ways when they rub against our “freedoms.” And I’m not just talking on a big, national scale – I’m talking about our every day lives. The missionary Hudson Taylor said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.” You and I have to be all-in. What say you, Beloved? Is He Lord or is He not?

Christians vs. America?

bible-american-flag“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

There is a war raging against Christians throughout the world, as it has been for more than two thousand years. From the moment of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, Christians have been in the bulls-eye of unbelieving sharpshooters. The history of the church flows with the blood of the martyrs of the faith. From Stephen and James, the first to die because of the name of Jesus to today’s faithful believers around the world, being a Christian is at the very least “unpopular” and at its worst, deadly. The writer of Hebrews outlined some of the persecution that believers in Christ endured in the first century: torture, jeers, flogging, chains and prison, stoning, dismemberment, and destitution (Hebrews 11:35-37). The techniques may have changed, but the end result is the same. Terrorism and oppressive atheistic world leaders have murdered thousands of believers around the world. Christians can expect oppression, persecution and trouble in this world.

There is a war against Christians in America – though some would deny it. It is far more subtle than the battles that are being faced by believers in the Middle East, but it is there nonetheless. In the United States it is not persecution by terrorists, but by the legal system that is being swayed by society.   Christians are facing legal repercussions for taking a moral stand. And though recent events seem to have taken the church by surprise, the crumbling of morality in America began long before. Here are just two of many reasons.

The Scopes Trial in 1925 served as the hinge on which the United States began to turn from being a godly nation to a secular nation.   The trial centered on a law passed in Tennessee forbidding the teaching of any theory that denies the biblical account of creation – of course the theory in question was evolution. Scopes was the teacher who dared (upon the urging of the ACLU) to teach Darwin’s theory. Scopes was found guilty, but from that pivotal case, many of the moral standards of this country began to fall like dominoes.

Take the issue of school prayer. “School Prayer was removed from the U.S. public education system by slowly changing the meaning of the First Amendment through a number of court cases over several decades.” First in 1962 in the case of Engel v. Vitale, then in the 1963 case of Murray v. Curlett brought by militant left wing atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. This case was heard around the same time as Abington Township School District v. Schempp. It is interesting to note that in the Murry v. Curlett caseNot a single Christian organization filed a brief in support of school prayer. The Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of abolishing school prayer and Bible reading in the public schools.” In the Abington Township School District v. Schempp “the court’s ruling stated that School Prayer and Bible reading were violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”[1]

By the way, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of” was written for 2 purposes: to prevent the establishment of a government sanctioned church (as England had done) and to ensure the right of every American to freely hold to whatever religious beliefs they chose and to freely practice those beliefs.   The first portion provides for the “separation of church and state” – not to demand that religion be stricken from all areas of government and public life, but to prevent the state’s restriction and control of religious practice.

In the ensuing years, America has taken its moral cues from a culture and society largely dominated by non-Christians and deeply influenced by the entertainment and finance industries. Challenges to every moral stance have been mounted and have sent traditional moral values crumbling to the ground. Many churches, in an effort to not lose footing in the modern culture began to turn away from solid biblical teaching and turn to immoral tolerance of every sort.

In recent years challenges have been brought on two fronts; the approval and legalizing of immorality and the criminalizing of moral conviction.   Business are being forced to close because their owners refused to offer services for certain activities that compromise their moral convictions. Laws are literally being passed to punish business owners who place their moral values ahead of profit-making.

So what are Christians to do? How do we fight in such an unfair battle? Does this spell the end of Christianity in America? Before we push the panic button, let’s see what God’s Word has to say.

We are not the first generation to face legal and political oppression for our faith. One excellent example is Daniel, a Hebrew brought by captivity to Babylon when he was only a teenager. If you know any of the Bible stories, you probably know the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den – but there is so much more to the story than we learned in Sunday School. Daniel was put in the Lion’s Den for disobeying a law of the land, a law that was intended to trap him. The full story is in Daniel 6. Daniel is a well-respected, high-ranking government official in what was then Median controlled Babylon, he is a man of integrity which is a direct result of his devotion to his Hebrew faith. Some of the other officials are very jealous and want to get rid of Daniel, but can find no fault in his work or character. However, they think if they put Daniel in a position of having to choose between his faith and his life, he will either abandon the one or lose the other. So they coerce the foolish King Darius to pass a law that if anyone prays to any god or man other than himself, they will be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel knows the law and the consequences, but he continues to follow his habit of praying to God three times a day. He was thrown into the lion’s den, but, as you probably know, survived the night unscathed. Daniel placed the commands of God ahead of the law of the king, and God protected him. A similar scenario plays out for Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar’s image and were thrown into a fiery furnace, where Jesus came to protect them and bring them through with “no smell of fire on them” (Dan. 3:27). The whole account is in Daniel 3.

The Apostles of Jesus Christ are perfect models for us as well. Peter and John were arrested and jailed by the Jewish religious leaders for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ. They were commanded not to speak in Jesus’ name any longer, by they answered by saying, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19). Arrested again they replied “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). They were beaten for their “crimes” and rejoiced in sharing in Christ’s suffering.’

In these examples we see men of God standing strong in their convictions regardless of the mandates of the law. Don’t misunderstand me, we are told in the Bible to obey the law of our nation – however when the law is evil, God’s people must stand up against it. Daniel, his friends, Peter and John and the Apostles didn’t launch huge protests, circulate petitions or gather a legal team to defend them. They simply went about the business of being faithful to God. They obeyed the law until the law directed them to disobey God.   They knew that obeying God has far greater and more lasting benefits than eschewing God’s moral laws for man’s laws.

Again, I reiterate, I’m not advocating a Christian revolution against the government – but I am suggesting that when God’s people are confronted with laws that counter the Word of God, they are first subjects of Christ before they are subjects of a nation or ruler.

Is Christianity dying? Is the Christian church going to survive? Christianity is by no means dying and the church will survive because her Head is Jesus Christ, the ultimate and eternal Victor. But the church and her children will take some difficult blows. God protected Daniel and his friends, but the first generation of believers suffered great persecution and the centuries that followed were not kind to Christians for the most part. Jesus warned His followers that the world would hate those who love Him, He said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). But He also said “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11). When we become Christians, and live like Christians, we become offensive to the world, for no other reason than our identification with Christ.

So how do we fight the culture in which we live? By simply being faithful to God, walking in His Truth, refusing to compromise our faith and our message, and trusting Him to stand in our defense or stand to receive us into heaven.

Lord Jesus, You understand how deeply the world hates Your people, we offend them just because we are yours. Lord, help us to stop fighting and to simply live faithful lives trusting you with the outcome. You are our Victor, the Head of Your church, and You rule and reign over the affairs of man. May we be found faithful. Amen.

[1] “School Prayer” from All About History, http://www.allabouthistory.org/school-prayer.htm, (Accessed May 14, 2015)