In past decades being a Christian was an assumption, an expectation and often a prerequisite for social standing in America. To this day, particularly in small towns across the country, “Christian” is a label assigned at birth based on the faith of parents, a birthright inherited in turn from their parents. Families did business and socialized with those they knew from church, not necessarily trusting those who never made an appearance or missed too many Sundays.
Those days of cultural Christianity are nearly over. The next generation is attending high schools and colleges where “coming out of the closet” has transitioned now to trepidation about publicly identifying as a Christian. Belief in Jesus is costing employees and candidates jobs in companies that associate Christianity with opposition to the world’s definitions of equity and justice, which corporate HR policies implicitly require workers to not only accept, but applaud.
A carefully crafted, coordinated campaign is being conducted via schools, businesses, media and government to lay the blame for all society’s ills on Christians. A confluence of events has created the perfect storm – a pandemic, a dramatic political shift, race riots, Pride marches and abortion court cases. Campaign organizers know this is the optimal opportunity to turn America from its Christian roots. Their messages contend that Christians are on the wrong, “hateful” side of each of those issues – instigating slavery, denouncing vaccines, impeding gender fluidity, blocking stimulus payments, and opposing women’s rights. Meanwhile, secular leaders position themselves as our enlightened, compassionate “saviors” – rescuing the poor, healing diseases, and liberating victims from further oppression by the blight and scourge of society…Christians.
We’re about to find out who the real Christ-followers are. The temptations to deny Jesus and costs of discipleship have reached unprecedented levels here – and are still rising. The Great Commission is not optional but for the first time in America, it will put most Christians in harm’s way. Only true believers will still share their faith, regardless of the consequences. Scripture commands us to love and pray for those who persecute us. Only those fully surrendered to Jesus will practice what He preached. All Christians are called to be servants, even to those who cause their suffering. Only churches that promote godly perseverance will thrive during the coming persecution while others close their doors.
Disclosing Authentic Disciples
How many Christians are ready and willing to face those challenges? Have churches accustomed to “good” times prepared members for hard times? Christian conservatives relished a four-year reprieve under a church-friendly president, becoming complacent rather than arming believers to face a sudden, unbridled attack on Christianity. Church leaders should have seen this coming, equipping disciples with the full armor of God rather than continuing attractional models that were already precipitating a decline in the Church’s growth and influence:
- Belt of Truth – Withholding inconvenient truths about dying to self, repentance, disciple-making, and dire warnings about not serving the poor
- Breastplate of Righteousness – Shirking responsibilities to hold members accountable for their actions while pointing fingers out at those who don’t subscribe to God’s laws
- Feet Fitted with Readiness – Not training churchgoers to bring the Gospel of peace to friends, family and neighbors, able to answer tough questions, but instead encouraging them to simply extend invitations to hear from a “professional”
- Shield of Faith – Preaching and praying about getting out of problems (the subject of most contemporary Christian songs), not finding joy in how suffering shapes and molds disciples
- Helmet of Salvation – Focusing on this life, not looking ahead to eternity in the next, enduring persecution by envisioning standing among the faithful in Revelation 7
- Sword of the Spirit – Rather than internalizing the central theme of God’s Word, His love for the unlovable, and paying that forward, we reserve love for those who love us
Without battle gear, few will be relentless in their resolve in the face of enormous pressure to conceal, concede or conform to culture. Most will retain their beliefs but reserve comments and opinions for discussions with fellow Christians. Those who have rarely mustered the courage to speak about Jesus before society launched its full-scale offensive against Christianity will be even less inclined going forward. However, a “remnant” who’ve been boldly evangelizing and discipling for years will be less likely to cower when their livelihood and social status are threatened unless they recant biblical truths.
Importance of Perseverance
Scripture is unambiguous about how Jesus views those who relent under intense heat. Yes, Peter denied Jesus three times, but many of the disciples still had doubts about His divinity before the resurrection. We live post resurrection and have no such excuse. It is impossible to lose salvation, but hiding or renouncing faith calls into question the sincerity of the initial profession.
- “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)
- “So I will spit you out of my mouth, because you are only warm…” (Revelation 3:16)
- “I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Hebrews 10:38)
- “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
Jesus doesn’t interact with a fake self or false pretenses, only with the real person. He dealt harshly with those pretending to be someone else, and drove away those who came to Him with selfish intent. Jesus knows who we are and “whose” we are. He looks beyond our past sin at future potential to know Him. He doesn’t buy our claims to be “good”, understanding our inherent evil nature. He sees an immortal soul (spiritual being), not just flesh and blood (human being).
For those who stay true to God at tremendous personal risk, refusing to sway in the breeze of individual and cultural “truth”, Jesus gives assurances that He will not abandon His “sheep among wolves”. Like all great heroes of faith, the decision to sacrifice the present for the future hinges on trusting and seeking God first by understanding that our citizenship is in heaven.
Foiling the Plan to Eradicate Christianity
The intended objective of branding Christians as irrational zealots against sex positivity, gay marriage, women’s rights, poverty alleviation, drug legalization, racial justice, health care and science is clear. In this Age of Decadence, only Christianity stands in the way of the inalienable right of Americans to uninhibited exercise of any (legal) desire without conscience or consequence. Ironically, the Church’s foray into consumerism accelerated the transition from the Ages of Commerce, Affluence and Intellect into this Age of Decadence. We built buildings instead of disciples, giving society ample grounds to view church as a business and churchgoers as hypocrites because they were treated like “customers”, not adequately challenged or accountable for practicing the principles they espoused.
Since most Christians are not viewed as “real” by the unchurched, it will be interesting to find out soon who the “real” Christians actually are. You’ll recognize them easily. They won’t be activists the media likes to associate with Christianity to fuel the perception we’re all radicals – like nationalists, politicos, and protestors. They won’t be the CEOs (Christmas and Easter Only) or even fairly frequent (cultural) church attenders. They won’t be the celebrity Christian leaders who profit personally or professionally from their platforms. When the costs outweigh the benefits, most people within those groups will go radio silent or disassociate from Christianity.
The true believers in America will look like the early apostles and the courageous disciples in nations today where following Christ could cost them their careers, families or lives:
- Oozing Humility – Quiet but not bashful, drawing attention to Jesus, not themselves
- Standing Firm – Uncompromising, knowing scriptural relativism leads to moral relativism
- Loving Enemies – A genuine love that sees in everyone an eternal, possibly lost, soul
- Dying Daily – Not punching a ticket to heaven because salvation may be free but it wasn’t cheap
- Living Forward – Storing up lasting treasures, walking away from temptations to sell out
- Helping the Helpless – Getting hands dirty in compassion, shining a light in dark places
Christians with those characteristics already stand out in a crowd but will be increasingly rare and conspicuous as persecution intensifies on American soil in the coming years. Efforts to eradicate Christianity always inevitably wind up proliferating it. Thanks to a faithful few by the power of the Holy Spirit, this time will be no different.
It’s Your Turn
When you’re facing the loss of all you hold dear for the crime of guilt by association with Jesus, what will you do?