Not of this world.

October 2, 2014.

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
(Isaiah 8:11-15)

It seems to me that recently there has been a push from society to take a strong stance against Christianity. I hear more and more people mock at any who believe in a superior being that created this universe. They say it’s primitive and ignorant. I’m sure our intelligence level is being judged based on the fact that we believe in God. Perhaps this is all in my mind and the persecution level is the same as it has been in recent years, but I feel there is a trend towards the idea that to be intelligent, you must be an atheist. This is simply untrue.

I could go into the defense of Christianity as I have in the past or as I probably will in the future, but today I want to focus on the encouragement of all who claim Christ as their Savior. Society tending agains God is actually nothing new. I opened with a passage from Isaiah in which the people, or the society, had turned their backs on the Almighty. And these were God’s chosen people! The ones He brought from the land of Egypt and gave them the promised land. The ones who should have known God and been the closest to Him. But they didn’t. They had turned their backs and abandoned the Almighty.

As God is speaking to the prophet Isaiah, He tells him not to act like the people. Don’t hate what they hate, don’t think what they think and don’t fear what they fear. Why? Because they were in the wrong. They didn’t have the truth, though they professed to know it. In essence, God says to Isaiah, they don’t know what their talking about, so you shouldn’t go along with these people. They told you not to fear me? Don’t listen. They told you to worship Baal? Don’t listen. They told you that the Levitical priesthood is a lie? Don’t listen. I believe that God was making a point to Isaiah that just because society told him one thing did not make it true. Actually, at this time Isaiah would be better off assuming that if society thought one thing, it was not the truth.

This was well before the time of Christ. Has anything really changed? Society still pushes against God, though it be in different ways and towards different idols, and we are still left to stand firm in our faith, ever pointing people to Christ. This often is very difficult to do, but I find it encouraging to know that this is not the first time in history that people have gone against God. Nor will it be the last. There’s good news- the gospel of Christ has survived regardless of how hard society pushed against it. I read the title of an article today which quoted Bill Nye (who has recently been outspoken against creationism) saying that he believed that creationism was finally about to die. This frustrated me a little at first, but then I began thinking about how wrong that statement was.

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
(I Peter 1:24-25)

Did you notice what God actually said to Isaiah? Or rather, did you notice what He didn’t say? God didn’t tell Isaiah to hurry and tell the people they they are wrong. He didn’t say “go argue with them and defend Me.” Actually, He didn’t suggest defense at all. Why? Well, I’m not one to speak for God, but I can say why I think He didn’t tell Isaiah to go and immediately give a defense for Him, though I could be wrong. I think it is because God doesn’t need a defense. God is. Period. And there is nothing that anyone on this earth can hear, think or say that will ever change that. Don’t believe in God? That makes Him no less real. Don’t agree with God? That makes Him no less righteous. Teach against God? Well, it is hard for you to kick against the goads, as Christ told Paul on the way to Damascus.

This idea was presented to me a while ago in a devo that was given by a missionary who had spent 10 years in China. He said that God doesn’t need us to defend Him, as we so often assume. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be able to give a defense, or that you don’t need to know why you believe in God. We need to have our defense ready (ref. I Peter 3:15). But the truth of the matter is that God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is not helpless, and we are in no way as powerful as He is. If He need us to defend Him, then His existence would depend on how well we fared in an argument. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t put my trust in man, nor in subjectivity. We do need to proclaim God, but if our proclamation fails from time to time, this failure to receive the good news is in no way a reflection on what the truth is, nor does it imply in any way that God does not exist.

But what are we to do when the world presses us so harshly? What is there to do when we are told we are not thinking rationally when we say we believe in God?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
(Romans 12:1-2)

Ignore it. Actually, we should expect to be treated this way. We can see how Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world. Would Paul tell us not to conform if the world had the truth? Of course not. But the world does not have the true. Sound similar to Isaiah’s situation? God told Isaiah not to conform to the patterns of society of his day, and Paul tells the church at Rome the same thing. This to me shows an everlasting principle. The world in general does not have the truth, so we cannot conform to what the world tells us to do spiritually. And until the majority of this earth claim Christ as their only King, following in His will, we will not be able to listen to what society has to say in regards to spirituality. I do pray that the world is overtaken by the love of Christ, yet I believe that Christ has taught us that this will not happen. Thus we must plant our feet in truth and stand firm in the gospel of Christ amidst the rising tide of worldliness.

Will it be easy? I think you know the answer to that question. Society will continue to press hard; we need not be naive. We will be persecuted. We will be made fun of. But we must keep on persevering. John tells us not to be surprised when the world hates us (ref. I John 3:13). They will, because we preach a standard that they do not want to live by. You see, I don’t think the world hates us for doing good deeds. I don’t think they hate us for being good citizens. I believe they hate us because in doing, we are proclaiming Christ as the Judge of mankind. People are uncomfortable being held accountable. Hear the words of our Lord:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
(John 15:18-25)

We preach the standard of Christ, the standard by which we all will be judged in the end. This is an offensive message to some. Yet it is no less true if it offends. This is a hard message for some. Yet it is not made null through its difficulty. And for some, those who have good soil in their hearts, this is the message of salvation, able to save any and all who would come to Christ. There is indeed coming a day when we will be judged, whether we like this idea or not. On that day the books will be opened, and another book, which is the book of life. Is your name written there? “But what will my friends think?” Will that matter when you face eternity? “What will my parents think?” In the end, who would not want their child to be saved? “I just can’t live up to that standard.” Yes, you can. Indeed, there will be times where it is ever so difficult, and times when you fail. We all do- join the club. But through the blood of Christ you can be washed clean. You can live up to the standard because of Christ, and nothing else. He is the one who cleanses us from all sin, allowing us to stand blameless before the standard. You can stand blameless before God. That’s the good news. Society can tell you otherwise, but on that day only one thing will matter- Did you accept His gift of grace?

We must remain strong, regardless of what society says. God is, and He is calling all men everywhere to repent. On that bright and glorious day, we will all stand before our Judge, society’s mistruths once and for all hushed. When it is just you and the Judge, what will your verdict be?

Suggested Daily Reading: Isaiah 8, John 15, I Peter 1, 3.

Be ready, my friend.

-Walter

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