Flashback Rome, about 2,000 years ago. Israel had to the bear the yoke of their iron-fisted rulers in Rome. The Roman Empire was fundamentally immoral, despotic, and the vassal states such as Israel had a heavy burden weighed on them through taxation and limited civil liberties. This was the cradle of civilization where Christianity was born. The church was a newborn babe living in the pig stye of paganism, immorality, and relentless opposition. More troubling still was the fact that the church faced it’s greatest adversary from within the Jewish community. Those scripture quoting Pharisees were some of the first to oppose and persecute the church.
Despite the adversity, opposition, and even persecution the first century church not only survived – it thrived. The simple act of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ rocked the world at it’s core (Acts 17:6). The message of the cross transformed hearts, changed people’s lifestyles, and even impacted the economies of city states all across the Empire. The churches success insured that her enemies would amp up their attacks and endeavor to stamp our her influence; but she endured, prospered, and as the prophet Daniel predicted, “It would break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
We have seen some dark days in this country (and around the world). I pray we do not allow our anger, frustration, and disappointment in the governing powers of America to distract us from our mission. That does not mean that I feel we should be passive – just the opposite. As a man, I think we need to heed Paul’s admonition to Timothy that “men should pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands to God” (1 Timothy 2:8) and that includes our schools, courthouses, football games and every place we are told to be silent. We can win this cultural battle if Christians will step up and act:
Be Bold: When Peter and John were told that they should not preach Jesus, their reaction was this: “we cannot but speak of what we have seen or heard” (Acts 4:20), but that is not the most telling portion of this narrative. Once released they prayed that God would allow them to continue to be bold in their presentation of the gospel. Tell me if these words are not relevant today: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 3:26, 29-30).
Don’t Compromise: Just as the church faced opposition from those who should have been her allies (the Jews), we face an enemy from within. Our church-going brothers and sisters who are advocating for abortion, homosexuality, leadership roles for women in the church, and so many other teachings contrary to the Bible; we need to teach what God has to say on these matters. We can no longer be weak-kneed, passive, and tolerant of false teachings that are weakening the church and destroying our country. Let’s all go back and read the letters to the churches and ask ourselves what God and the first century teachers had to say on these matters.
Pay the Price: Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin, Stephen was stoned to death, Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned, and for countless souls throughout the ages the price of discipleship was persecution, opposition, oppression, and death. If we are not prepared to “be faithful unto death,” then we shouldn’t expect to receive a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.“