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« Breaking Rules | Main | A Politically Correct, Sanitized Testimony »

It’s Harder Today than It Was Back Then …Really?

The defectors’ mantras are all boringly similar.  “It is harder to live the disciplined life today than it was when you were growing up.  We have a lot more to deal with.  Pop culture is much more pervasive, the schools don’t back us up anymore and the whole society has changed its direction about the way we should live.”  These tiresome excuses, to be frank, insult the integrity of past battles fought and won.  Am I to suppose that the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are braver than those of the Civil War?  Are present day Christians assailed and afflicted more than the saints of former years?  Are the issues of the twenty-first century more deadly than those of the first twenty centuries?  Is Satan more insidious today than he has ever been?  Is the Bible less relevant and more difficult to understand than it used to be?

The honest fact is that the slope is no more slippery today than it ever was.  Every generation since the establishment of the church has faced deadly enemies; every Bible-believing Christian has wrestled with enormous forces of discouragement, distraction and intimidation.  By saying that it is harder today to serve God is to say that it used to be easier.  Used to be easier?  Really?

Tell that to the Christians who hunkered down in their caves and humble houses desperately trying to escape the wrath of Saul of Tarsus.  He virtually “breathed out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” 

Tell the Christians of Nero’s day that it was easier for them than it is for us.  They huddled together in the bowels of the labyrinthine Coliseum, awaiting their turn to be drug out to the arena.  They knelt and prayed while wild beasts tore them limb from limb, all to the delight of the packed-out pagan audience.

Tell that to our brothers and sisters of earlier centuries who were impaled on stakes and set afire to light the nights of Roman orgies; or the precious men and women who were tied to the backs of chariots and drug through the streets of Rome until they were nothing but raw pieces of blood-soaked meat; or the devoted disciples who refused to recant even while being sawn in two by Roman executioners.

Tell Michael Servetus or John Huss who were bold enough to stand for righteous living and stand against false doctrine of the predominant church power of the day.  They were discredited to the world, stripped of their possessions and burned at the stake.  Perhaps their fire was not as hot or their possessions less meaningful than ours today.  Really?

So, is it harder today to stand up for truth than it was for our forefathers?  Tell that to religious expatriates who boarded disease-ridden, rat-infested ships and sailed dangerous seas at subsistence levels for months at a time—all for the privilege of worshipping according to their own conscience.  Tell that to whole communities who suffered terrorism, starvation, deprivation and massacre.

Tell that to our Apostolic forebears who proclaimed loudly and publically that there is only one God and that His name is Jesus, even though they were persecuted by many denominations for their “heretical” views.  Tell that to those spiritual giants of bygone years who were humiliated and reviled by the religious powers-that-be as though they were ignorant of the Scriptures and orthodox teachings.  Tell that to pioneers of this Gospel who held tent revivals and planted churches while being pelted with rotten tomatoes, egged, and shouted and cursed at through open windows during services.

No.  It all comes down to the same thing.  “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.”  Demas, the defector, left for the same reason that people of every generation have left:  in love with this present world.  I’m sure he found refuge in the reasoning of his contemporaries to justify his actions.  It is not strange that the world loves it when we capitulate to the favor of the world.  Demas’s rationale, however, contradicted the doctrine of the original apostles.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…“  Some would say those “things” stand for money, houses, cars, boats and other big-ticket items.  Perhaps.  But they also include those intangible things that align us with the spirit of the world, including immodest fashion, apparel that violates Biblical standards, behaviors that emulate worldly practices and attitudes that deviate from the thought processes set forth by the Apostles.  Serving God involves the body as well as the brains, the heart as well as the head, and our literal appearance as well as our good intentions.  Submission to God is actual, not virtual.  Jesus did not live a digitally construed life and die on a virtual cross.  The cross I am to bear must have a real definition, not a hypothetical one.

From the standpoint of human wisdom, serving God has always been hard.  There has always been a price to pay, a price that makes the insincere balk.  Discipleship cannot be bought on the bargain tables of the world.  I am, and continue to be suspicious of any compromises that the world demands of me in order to make me more acceptable to it and in concert with its prevailing philosophies. 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”  Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)


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