When news spread that Republicans lost the Presidency, House, and Senate, a friend texted me “our country is gone.” Driving the comment is the anticipation of the anti-Christian ideals that will be surely pushed for legislation in coming years by the new, liberal administration. Specifically, and to avoid undue criticism, I am referring to lawmaking that will directly impact issues like abortion, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, gay marriage, birth control, euthanasia, and the list goes on. After a moment of consideration, I replied to my friend that he was mistaken. If we are honest with ourselves, we lost our country 50 or so years ago when the church rolled over and allowed liberalism to plant itself within our higher education systems. After that, it was only a matter of time. Such concessions have changed the moral standard of what is culturally permissible and opened biblical Christianity in America to persecution.
American Christians, who desire to live godly, conservative, biblically-oriented lives, need to prepare themselves and their families for suffering. The writing has been on the wall for some time, decades even, yet the church has done little to stop it. Instead, like a row of dominoes, she has fallen over on issue after issue. The church has watched while influential institutions and religious leaders denied the miracles of Jesus, rejected the inerrancy of scripture, allowed for abortifacient birth control methods, legalized abortion, endorsed gay marriage, and even embraced critical race theory. Additionally, we have witnessed far too many “celebrity pastors” commit moral failures through affairs and sexual abuse.
Even so, my point here is not to recount and lament the failings of the modern church. Instead, I aim to look ahead and address the question: considering such moral collapses, what do we do now? Or, as the title of the book, by Charles Colson, on Christian worldview asks, How Now Shall We Live? Although volumes could be written as an answer to this question, for the sake of this article, I am going to focus on 3 practical things Christians can do to prepare for the “brave” new world of persecution that is forming around us.
To begin, I want to encourage believers to focus and remember who we are in Christ. It is a wonderful truth that regardless of a Christian’s circumstances, we have just and ample reason to rejoice. Catechisms and Confessions are helpful, and can offer concise summaries of such truths. For example, The Heidelberg Catechism’s Lord’s Day 1 question and answer reads:
Q: What is thy only comfort in life and in death?
A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.
Whatever circumstances befall the church in the coming years, we must keep in mind that we have a Savior who was the perfect propitiation of God’s wrath. In Him, we are predestinated, called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:30). His blood has covered our sins and set us free from the slavery of sin and death. Regardless of where the world goes and what horrors the church may face, we can rest in these truths, knowing that our greatest and deepest needs have been met in Christ. No amount of emotional, mental, and physical suffering can dislodge me from my Savior’s embrace. Rest in this, Christian. Preach these truths to yourself every day. As sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, the gospel will remain the power of God for salvation – your salvation. To thrive in a world that hates Jesus (and duly us), we must cling to Christ and His gospel. Before any worldly allegiances, we are Christians. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Should the world burn down around us, we can joyfully sing because we are eternally secure. There is no greater news than this.
Secondly, if we are to thrive in an outright pagan culture, we must not be forsaking the gathering of saints. At the risk of sounding trite, let me use an illustration that has been used in hundreds (if not thousands) of youth groups. Let us suppose you have a fire with some hot coals burning at the bottom. If you were to take one of those coals out and set it on the ground, away from the other fire and other coals. Alone, it would quickly lose its light and grow cold. However, if you were to take it out and place it with some other coals, the fire would spread, and the group of them grow in warm and light together. This is a nice illustration of how community works. Christians need other Christians to function faithfully. Isolated we are prone to wonder from the faith, tempted by the world’s allure, and even more prone to depression.
2020 has proven to be a challenging year for Christians in this area. Driven by a desire for safety, many churches have quit (if only temporarily) worshiping in person. Instead, they are relying on technology and virtual worship services to fill this void. Friends, while I understand the sentiment, it is not a viable, long-term option. Christians must meet in person for corporate worship. Communication is a dreadful replacement for real community. Come pandemic or martyrdom, we must find a way to meet in person.
If there are genuine concerns about safety for members of the congregation, then pray and get creative. Ask God for wisdom. I am aware of many churches that switched to outdoor services in 2020. This way members can spread out but still talk and interact. There are safe solutions to these problems – but virtual church is not one of them. A church will not survive if starved to only virtual interaction. Virtual church is communication not community. Besides, it is not natural to us. Humans were never meant to exist and commune at a distance. We are physical, biological, and social beings made in God’s image that require human interaction.
Friends, we must commit to going to church, even if going to church becomes illegal. I wrote previously about the danger of making safety an idol. We were never promised safety in Christ. The opposite is true; we are promised persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). A time is approaching when going to church will be dangerous (and I do not mean because of a virus). Now is the time to prepare and reinforce healthy habits. Instill in your children the need and benefit of attending church weekly. Go and be fed the gospel. Even if your church is not perfect (there is not one that is), be present and love others.
Lastly, on the importance of attending church, I will harken back to Mosaic Law. While Christians are no longer slaves to the law, the law reflects the character of God. The law is good, valuable, and worthy of our delight. We can learn much about God’s holiness and desires in the law. Consider the absolute seriousness by which God treats the Sabbath, the day of worship, and rest:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore, the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’” (Exodus 31:12-17)
If you take nothing else out of this article, take this: God cares deeply about the Sabbath. He cares about how He is worshiped. At one point in time, failure to honor the Sabbath as God intended was a crime punishable by death! Friends, corporate, in-person worship is non-negotiable for Christians. Go to church and do not stop.
Finally, I think that if Christians are to spiritually flourish in a nation that hates us, we must dedicate time to understanding the significance of worldview, how it is formed, and how we can rightly engage our culture. As a father of 5, I am regularly thinking about this and the world my children (who have been baptized in the church) will live in. When they are my age, as I have stated above, I expect a much more hostile environment to Christians. Therefore, now is the time that I can help equip them for such spiritual battles. Not only is this my right as a parent, but it is also my duty. Understanding a worldview and why people think the way they do is very useful tool.
There are some basic, fundamental paradigms shaping the world we live in. Generations are buying into them unknowingly. People are believing things and they do not know why. If we can learn how to identify such threats and fallacies, we can rightly apply the word of God and speak truth into such situations.
It might surprise you to find that if you were to step back and study some of the most controversial issues in our world today, you would find common misconceptions underlying them all. For example, at a source level, abortion, transgenderism, euthanasia, pornography, and the “hook-up” culture all suffer from the same wrong worldview issue. Their proponents have bought into a dichotomy of the person and body. That is to say, the body is this disposable instrument of pleasure that is in no way connected to the person inside of it. When one removes the intrinsic, Imago Dei dignity ingrained in every human by God, they remove the moral implications on how one treats and uses their body. This two-story paradigm is an ontological plague upon the world today. It is this logic that gives people the moral credence to kill a fetus, endorse assisted suicides, and decide they can change genders.
The truth is God cares about our bodies and how we use them. They are not just gifts; they are temples of worship. Broken as they may be, our bodies are precious and bursting with God-given dignity. Furthermore, it is worth noting that our embodiment is not just a temporary thing. We will have a body throughout eternity. We will not be esoteric spirits floating about. No, we will have bodies that have been made perfect in Christ – restored and beautiful. Our biological self is forever connected to our person. Our broken world needs this truth. Many believe lies because they have never heard the truth. Their minds are shaped by sin-ridden entertainment and sinful desires rather than sound, biblical principles.
The world is changing, and it is time we solidify in our minds who we are in Christ, commit ourselves to corporate worship, sound philosophies, and Christian worldviews. Persecution is coming; this seems inevitable. Yet, we are not without hope. On the contrary, we have enough hope to fill a new generation of believers.