“In the LORD I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.” Psalm 11:1-4 (NKJV)
The modern church has a problem with memory loss. There are, in my opinion, two areas that this is most obvious. We have forgotten Church history. I see this memory loss in our response to the current culture we live in. In the culture we currently live in righteousness is seen as odd and wickedness is seen as normal. We see this in the discussions on gay marriage, abortion, corrupt politics and the growing hostility toward the Christian faith. As these things continue to become more and more accepted, the question is often asked how can, or how will, the church continue to exist in a world where righteousness is odd, wickedness is seen as normal and there is serious opposition to our faith. This question completely forgets the world church was born into.
Think about the world at the time the church was birthed in Acts 2. The religious leaders in Jerusalem had recently murdered the founder of the Church by convincing the Romans to crucify Him. This was done in part to put a stop to the movement He was starting. These same leaders had an extreme dislike toward this new movement and started persecuting them almost immediately. The persecution initially focused on the leaders but when that didn’t stop them, they took the hurt to the people. The persecution was so fierce that Christians were forced to leave Jerusalem in fear of their lives.
These believers shared the Gospel in the new places that they went. The Greek/Roman world they took the Gospel to was wretchedly wicked. Sexual immorality was rampant and totally accepted. In fact, in many places there were male and female temple prostitutes and the sexual immorality that flowed out of that was seen as an act of worship to the various idols. Abortion was fairly common and allowed in this culture. The government at this time had near absolute power. Caesar was seen as a god, and emperor worship was mandatory. The Caesar’s would eventually take an antagonistic view of the Christian faith and heavily persecute them. Christians were burned alive, fed to the lions for sport, and tortured in an effort to make them deny Jesus.
That is the world that the church was born into. So in answer to the question, how can, or how will, the church continue to exist in world where righteousness is odd, wickedness is seen as normal and there is serious opposition to our faith, the answer is that the church today will relearn to do now what the church did then. We must realize that the church not only survived in that environment but it thrived. The world’s opposition to the church will not stop or hinder the church. The modern church has forgotten this.
Secondly, we have forgotten who we are. The modern church seems to respond to these sorts of issues with anger or fearful handwringing. That is a very different response than how the early church responded. Why is our response so different from theirs? We have forgotten what empowered and inspired the early church. We’ve forgotten who we are in Christ. For the early church, their identity in Christ is what gave them the courage and strength to continue in faithful service and devotion to Jesus in the face of such severe opposition to their faith.
Thirdly, we have forgotten who we serve. Our God is in Heaven and does whatever He pleases. Our Savior disarmed the principalities and powers, and made a spectacle in His triumph over them. Our great God has given us tremendous promises about His power at work in us, through us, and for us as we seek to accomplish His will on the earth. The early church depended on God, not political power, for their victory.
These areas of memory loss hinder us from being the Church Triumphant that Jesus intends for us to be. This week I plan to blog about some truths that will refresh our memory and enable us to be Church we are meant to be.