We are living in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous and a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christianity. Religious freedom and tolerance have been replaced with intolerance and, even, hatred. Christian organizations that support the traditional family and are pro-life have been listed as “hate groups” along with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.
Earlier this week Amy Barrett, a highly qualified nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit and a devout Catholic, was questioned about her religious convictions by two well-known Senators, even though the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office.
And we’ve probably just begun to experience the hostility and persecution that the Bible tells us will come.
Isaiah 9 & 10
2 Corinthians 1.1-24
Are You Prepared?
2 Corinthians 1.1-24:
Paul Nyquist in his book, Prepare, says the following:
Get ready. An exciting, yet terrifying era is beginning for American believers. As cultural changes sweep our country, we’ll soon be challenged to live out what the Bible says about confronting and responding to persecution. For nearly 250 years, Christians in America were able to live in relative freedom from persecution. We escaped because our society historically embraced and promoted biblical values. Our founding fathers penned a Constitution esteeming religious freedom and establishing that rights come from God, not the government.
But we’re witnessing an epic change in our culture— a spiritual climate shift threatening to reshape life as we know it. Hostility and intolerance are replacing toleration. Rejection and even hatred are pushing aside acceptance.
John S. Dickerson, in his well-researched book The Great Evangelical Recession, writes, “In the coming decades United States evangelicals will be tested as never before, by the ripping and tearing of external cultural change— a force more violent than many of us expect. Evangelicalism in the United States has stood strong through centuries of difficulties and setbacks. She has not seen anything quite like what she will see in the next fifty years.”
The complete title of Nyquist’s book is Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture. The world around us is changing rapidly and, whether we want to or not, we need to be prepared.
More and more often, Christians will be forced to choose between saying and doing what’s pleasing to God and what’s acceptable to those around us. And those opposed to biblical values are increasingly bold and vocal about their opposition and loathing.
Just this week, two well-known Senators challenged a judicial nominee about her ability to carry out the law because of her Catholic beliefs.
According to The Washington Post:
Amy Barrett, a nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit, has spoken often of her Catholic faith and drawn opposition from liberal groups, which argue that she’d place it above the law. Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, echoed those concerns Wednesday at a confirmation hearing, telling Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern …”
Here is the full context of Feinstein’s comments:
Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that — you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.
It’s clear what Feinstein, a stalwart defender of abortion rights, is getting at here, given that her questioning of Barrett focused heavily on Barrett’s views of Roe v. Wade. But her use of the word “dogma” has plenty on the right alleging that she’s applying a religious test to Barrett’s nomination.
The Constitution, of course, prohibits religious tests, saying that ” … no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Some on the right now say Feinstein is violating that, too.
How to Prepare
Persecution has always been a reality for believers in Christ. It may vary in degree in different cultures and time periods, but Jesus warned us to expect it (Jn. 15.20). The Apostle Paul said, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3.12).
In fact, in spite of the fact that it flies in the face of some current teaching, the Bible says persecution is good for us. James said:
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (Jas. 1.2-4 NLT).
Persecution, when responded to rightly, develops Christian character, helps us mature in Christ, draws us closer to the Lord, and is a testimony to the world. So how do we prepare to face it when it comes?
- Eat the right things. What are you feeding on spiritually? Are you eating the Bread of Life or are you feeding on the junk food this world has to offer (Jn. 6.35, 53-58; Rom. 10.17; 2 Tim. 3.16-17)?
- Remember His promises (2 Cor. 10.13; 2 Cor. 1.3-4). Find one that speaks to you and memorize it (Ps. 119.11).
- Practice responding rightly in the little things when you feel disrespected, unappreciated or mistreated (Matt. 5.38-48; Heb. 5.14).
- Determine to follow Christ’s example (1 Pet. 2.19-23).
- Make it your goal to please and honor God (2 Cor. 5.9).
- Pray for God’s grace (Heb. 4.14-16).
Today’s reading contains one of His great promises.
Comfort in Tribulation
Verses 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
God “comforts us in all our tribulation”! And, not only, does He comfort us, but we are to be conduits of God’s mercy and comfort just as we are with all of His blessings.
Today’s Other Readings:
Isaiah 9 & 10:
His Promise in Judgment
Just as God promises to give us the grace we need and to take care of His covenant people today, He did the same in Isaiah’s time. And in the midst of His judgment, He reminded them of His promise to send a Savior. Chapter 9.1-2, 6-7:
1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Fear God Not Our Enemies
And in chapter 10 God told the people not to fear their enemies (vss. 24-25). Even though the nation, as a whole, was going to be destroyed and taken into captivity, His people should continue to have faith in Him. In the New Testament Jesus said it this way:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10.28).
This passage is talking about the fear of God, as opposed to the fear of man. The fear of God is not a cowering fear, but a reverential respect. It means being more concerned about pleasing and honoring Him than worrying about what people may think or do.
Not only will we experience persecution, but we may see our nation and the world go through very difficult times as I said yesterday, so it’s more important than ever that we keep an eternal perspective. First, because this world is temporal. We are to keep our eyes on the rewards we will receive in heaven and not expect everything to be “heavenly” here on earth.
But we also need to remember that God offers great comfort for the righteous as we saw in our September 6th reading. He will always be with His faithful remnant, just as He was in the past and as Matthew Henry said about Isaiah 3, the righteous shall have “divine supports and comforts, which shall abound as afflictions abound.”
Do you will have those divine supports and comforts?
You cannot have peace and trust in God if you don’t first have peace with God. And peace with God only comes from knowing our sins have been forgiven.
There is nothing we can do to earn that forgiveness. No amount of good deeds. No amount of church attendance. Sacraments won’t do it. Nothing.
Instead God offers it as a free gift to those who will believe it and receive it (Rom. 6.23).
Relying on His Grace
4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor You have toward Your people.
Oh, visit me with Your salvation,
5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,
That I may glory with Your inheritance.
The benefits and blessings of God do not come as a result of any inherent goodness in us, only because of His salvation. He extended His grace to us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5.8) and He continues to show us His grace by walking with us, forgiving us when we fall (1 Jn. 1.9), picking us up and helping us to grow and change.
Nothing is Hidden from Him
Verse 2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
God does not need to search things out. Nothing is hidden from Him. Yet, when we come to Him in humble repentance, He graciously forgives and covers our sins. But men and women, whether kings or others, cannot know another person’s heart fully. When seeking to dole out justice or counsel, we must carefully and prayerfully gather the facts (“search out a matter”) and pray for God’s grace to work through us.
In the next few days, we’ll talk about the reasons the world hates us, the importance of good doctrine and more.
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The tipping point has been reached . . . What now?
Marriage: redefined. Religious freedoms: eroding. The church: marginalized. How should we respond?
It’s time to prepare—prepare for a future none of us could have imagined just a few years ago. Paul Nyquist will help you understand and live faithfully in this new America, which is declining further and further into secularism and immorality, and so growing increasingly hostile toward Christianity. You’ll find answers to questions like:
- Are we really “persecuted”?
- What does the Bible say about persecution?
- How should I then live?
Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture will set forth a biblical, theological, and practical approach to navigating the challenging days ahead and a reason for hope and optimism: the power of the gospel and the possibility of societal transformation.
Daily comforts from the gospel of Christ provide busy Christian women (and men) with brief but deep reminders of how his truths powerfully connect to their daily lives.
Nothing comforts a woman’s soul more than a fully understood and embraced gospel. But many women aren’t finding solace in their relationship with Christ because they don’t see how his life, death, and resurrection connect with soccer practices and swim lessons. Besides, they just don’t have time to sit down and read a theology book, no matter how much they might hunger for God’s truths.
That’s where Elyse Fitzpatrick’s latest book comes in. Comforts from the Cross provides those well-intentioned women with bite-sized readings to remind them of their place in Christ and of his love and ministry in their busy lives. It also dusts off the facts of the gospel to show how ancient truths such as justification, sanctification, and redemption can free and enliven their souls every day. Even more, these five-minute celebrations of the gospel relieve readers of legalistic condemnation and empower them for joyful obedience by engendering fresh love for the Savior.
And about Comforts from Romans: Although we go to bed at night believing the gospel, we wake up every morning needing to hear it again. Yet most of us don’t have time to dive into a lengthy commentary on the book of Romans—the book Paul wrote in order to showcase the glorious riches of the gospel. Thankfully seasoned counselor and author Elyse Fitzpatrick makes the message of Romans readily accessible in 31 devotional-like chapters on what Martin Luther called “the very purest Gospel.” Perfect for even the busiest of us, Elyse helps us grasp the practicality of the gospel message and experience the deep comforts articulated in the book of Romans.
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