It is a sign of our times that what was once shocking is becoming less so every day. For example, a Scottish teachers union is promoting a play depicting Jesus Christ as transgender in celebration of Pride Month. The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven has evoked protests wherever it has been performed, but supporters insist on going forward.
We have come to expect assaults on our faith from our fallen culture. But when the attacks come from within, they are especially devastating. Recent reports alleging racism and misogyny among Southern Baptist leaders grieve me personally, as I am the product of Baptist churches, universities, seminaries, and missionary organizations.
In recent days, I’ve been asking myself why the crisis of Christian leadership is so acute in our day. Is it that our 24/7 news and social media platforms make it easier to report and read about clergy abuse? Is it that a hostile culture and media amplify every story of clergy failure to reinforce their agenda for replacing Christianity with their secular ideology?
Undoubtedly these are part of the answer. But I’m convinced that there’s a deeper story at work in our day, one that affects and can infect every Christian in our culture, myself included.
If I were the enemy
The claim that Jesus is Lord stands at the heart of the Christian faith (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12). If this claim is true, three results are clear:
- We must align every dimension of our lives with biblical truth. The harder this is to do, the more urgently we need to do it.
- We must proclaim and defend biblical morality. The more unpopular this morality becomes, the more urgently it is needed.
- We must seek to win every person we can to Christ. The more they resist, the more urgently they need our ministry.
Satan hates each of these priorities, of course. If I were our spiritual enemy, how would I respond?
First, I would undermine the trustworthiness, relevance, and authority of God’s word. We are watching this strategy unfold every day, from churches endorsing LGBTQ ideology to Christian theologians denying the truth or relevance of biblical morality. (For examples and biblical responses, see my booklet, How to Defend Biblical Marriage: What You Need to Know About Homosexuality, Same-sex Marriage, and the Bible.)
Second, I would make biblical morality and those who proclaim it deeply unpopular. For example, donations from Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy supporting traditional marriage and religious freedom are predictably being castigated by the media.
Third, I would recast evangelism as the intolerant “imposition” of personal truth on others. For example, nearly 50 percent of evangelical millennials say “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” They are afraid of offending others and appearing judgmental.
Fourth, I would replace the biblical vision of a future focused on heaven with a secular vision of a future focused on earth. The latter posits personal authenticity and sexual “freedom” as the path to flourishing and rejects objective truth and biblical morality as “dangerous” for society.
Inventing our own bushels
These delusions are just as tempting for Christian leaders as for other Christians.
The first demonic strategy tempts ministers into immorality excused as private acts insulated from their public ministries. The Ravi Zacharias scandal is just one recent example.
The second tempts us to retreat from preaching and leading on controversial subjects in the belief that we are protecting our ministries and followers from divisive issues. In fact, we are shirking our prophetic calling to speak the truth in love on all subjects at all times (Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 4:2).
The third tempts us to minimize evangelistic preaching and ministry, personally and for those we lead. For example, the number of baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention (a direct correlation to evangelism for our churches) has fallen by two-thirds over the last twenty years.
The fourth tempts us to give up on our culture, focusing so fully on heaven that we withdraw from engagement with earth. R. C. Sproul was right: “I fear that all too often we blame the world for our failure to engage it when, in reality, we are more comfortable hiding from the world’s hostility. Our fallen culture will do whatever it can to hide our light under a bushel. We dare not invent our own bushels to help them in their goal.”
A WWII veteran receives his high school diploma
We’ll look at biblical responses to these four deceptions tomorrow. For today, let’s decide that knowing and serving Jesus as Lord is worth all it costs and more. Let’s resolve with Paul that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
To this end, we’ll close with an amazing story.
Jack Hetzel fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He had been forced to drop out of school in the third grade but got his GED in 1948. However, he never received his high school diploma.
The ninety-nine-year-old veteran is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Big Sandy, a town in East Texas, and has authored eight books. He recently joined Big Sandy High School’s graduation ceremony, where he received his diploma as a result of a resolution adopted by the Texas Senate in his honor.
The pastor told an interviewer: “I know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that’s enough to be blessed about. What more do I need?”
Do you agree?