In this three-part essay, KI Gold Medallion holder Ray Sarlin reviews the essentials of following Jesus in these turbulent times. Part 1 examined our foundation in Christ and what it means in practical everyday terms. It’s not enough to simply believe in Him, we must strive to take up our own crosses and follow Him. Part 2 discussed God’s Word as the source of all Truth and the complete revelation of the true Jesus and His true teaching. Part 3 focuses on our individual role and duty in an increasingly secular and ungodly culture. What does the Bible say about how we should live in times like these? Taken together, this series is intended to de-mystify modern Christianity for Bible-believing followers of Christ.
Building upon Our Foundations
What is our role and duty in an increasingly secular and ungodly culture?
Okay, we are supposed to “know what to do” and do it… but at what level and to what degree? Should we get politically active and try to bring Jesus Christ back into the public arena? Should we lobby to get politically correct leaders to take the blinkers off regarding Islam? Should we try to get back rights that we as Christians have lost regarding free speech?
What should we do? What can we do?
- Can we stop society from becoming more debased, violent, evil and corrupt?
- Would it help to stand on a street corner with a sign, “Behold! The end is nigh,”?
- Should we organize a Christian vigilante posse to clean up Dodge City?
- Should we write letters exposing every unbiblical social or political ill that we see?
- Should we band with other congregations to form powerful voting bloc?
- Should we simply stop paying taxes to our corrupt governments and officials… or run for office ourselves to kick the miscreants out?
- How does the Bible say we should live in times like these?
Times Have Always Been Like This
The Bible says that times on earth have always been like this… with swings and roundabouts. King Solomon’s forty years of peace was merely a respite after King David’s bloody reign that followed King Saul’s bloody reign. Israel broke apart under Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor to the kingdom of Judah. And blood flowed again!
Paul Harvey sagely noted, “In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.”
We Are Not Alone
The Bible says that we are not alone! Believers are members of a worldwide fellowship. The book of Acts illuminates the shared lives of the fellowship of believers. The breaking of bread around the Lord’s Table and prayer are both expressions of fellowship. The New Testament reveals a community of people wholly committed to each other and bound together under one head, Christ.
Following Christ binds us to a close, tightly knit committed fellowship.
We Are Made In His Image
The Bible clearly shows that each individual man and woman is made in the Creator’s image. God as a Trinity is a relational being so He made us relational beings, too. We are meant to have friendships with other believers, to marry and to raise children — relationships that mean more to us than self. He made us to fellowship with Him.
Following The Way Is Not A Spectator Sport
The Bible shows that being a follower of Christ is not a spectator event like so much of contemporary Christian life seems to be. As wonderful as believing in Christ is, it is a state of being. Whereas following Christ is an action!
The book of James is about actions. Verse 1:22 notes, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James continues, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
We Are Each Unique
The Bible reveals that we are each unique and capable of independently choosing the light or the dark. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Thus we can choose to find the Way and follow Him, or we can choose the wide path that leads to destruction.
Render Unto God… And Unto Caesar
Paul’s letter to Tutus encapsulates how individuals followed the Way in the New Testament:
“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
Did Paul spend time and energy trying to reform pagan culture or exercising civil disobedience? No, he followed the model that Jesus Christ set during his own life, proclaiming the gospel and living in a way that honored God’s commands and glorified His name. The apostles lived in obedience to God and in obedience to earthly rulers, except where the secular laws contradicted the Word and Will of God.
“And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
“And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
When we live as Christ lives, our lives provide evidence of His transforming power.
Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Demonstrate Faith Through A Godly Life
We are saved by faith, not works, but works demonstrate our faith. We are to be ready to do good works whenever possible — not just for believers but for anyone:
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Our duty as we relate to an increasingly secular and ungodly culture is not to lobby for certain rights, the implementation of a Christian agenda, or the reformation of governments. Rather, God would have us remember Paul’s instructions to Titus and live them out as we seek to demonstrate His power and grace that regenerates sinners. Changing people’s hearts one individual at a time can bring meaningful, lasting change to our communities, our nation, and even the whole world.
Can Living A Godly Life Make A Difference?
Some people may ask whether one person living a Godly life really has any power to change others. The Bible answers this question forcefully… just ask yourself how many people have come to know Christ through the actions of Stephen, the first Christian martyr?
In fact, the past 2,000 years are full of examples:
- Michael Sattler, an early Anabaptist leader convicted of heresy in 1527, was grievously tortured, carted outside the city, tied to a ladder and pushed into a fire. As the ropes around his hands burned away, he raised his two forefingers in a pre-arranged signal to his friends that God had not allowed him to be tortured beyond what he could endure. Although part of his tongue had been cut away, he was heard to say, “Father, I commend my spirit into thy hands.”
- Recently an elderly gentleman of our congregation died after suffering for months from a terribly painful form of cancer. Everyone who visited him during his final two week hospitalization came away amazed, because Graham was in good spirits and sincerely thanked and praised our Lord for his cancer. He was thrilled that God had given him this chance to share his faith by his actions with so many who needed to come to the Lord, including hospital staff and family.
- In 1900, a young Franciscan priest came to Bikeyah, the Navajo country where I grew up. He didn’t try to convert the Diné, but immersed himself in their language and customs while setting up a farm and a trading post and teaching school. He taught the locals to farm and ranch, using their natural skills and abilities. He published the first Navajo dictionary in 1910 and became a foremost authority on Navajo anthropology. Later, he fought the bureaucracies in Washington, D.C., to ensure that they received the railway land grants that ran through the reservation, and he also fought for their water rights. Today the St Michael Mission and School still provide education and support for Navajo youth.
- The small indefensible rural town of Philadelphia was the last holdout against Islam in Asia Minor despite repeated Muslim attacks. It remained loyal as an isolated outpost of Christendom long after the rest of the Byzantine Empire had been reduced to a threatened European pocket around Constantinople prior to its fall in 1453. In fact, the inhabitants of Philadelphia never surrendered to Islam and Philadelphia was the only one of the Seven Churches of Revelation to have an active Christian presence when the author visited them in 2013.
These few very different examples show some followers of Christ. When we truly find the Way of Christ, we live it through our actions in fellowship with other believers. Our actions speak the Great Commission of Matthew:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Every Person Is Important To God
When we examine Jesus’ actual words in the Great Commission, we must recognize that we are not each called to “Go … and teach all nations” as many congregations now seem to preach. Christians already exist in almost every nation today, and no nation is without opportunities to spread the Good News.
In fact Christians are now so prevalent that:
- The authoritative Pew Research Center noted that Christians have recently faced some form of discrimination in 151 of 198 countries studied.
- The International Society for Human Rights stated that 80 per cent of all current acts of religious discrimination in the world are directed against Christians.
- Per the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, some 100,000 Christians are killed annually because of their faith — about one murder every five minutes.
- While Western media tends to ignore most such stories, particularly egregious cases in Africa and the Middle East have recently made headlines and even prompted reluctant shows of force from Washington.
What these statistics show is that God need not transplant you in a foreign land to spread the Gospel message… there are probably already many there who already know the culture and speak the language.
I don’t wish to disparage overseas mission work; I merely note that that is not our only option for evangelism. Christian engagement opportunities may be available right next door or in our own families, and these are no less important to God than finding unreached language groups.
After all, the Way runs through your farm, ranch, neighborhood, village, town or city; it’s not just to be found in a foreign land. Every person is important to God!
So we can finally answer our question from Session 1: “Am I a believer in Christ or a follower of Him?”
Jesus calls us to be His followers.
Find the Way! Take up your Cross and follow Christ! For it is all about Him!
Paul Harvey. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2015. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/paulharvey100439.html, accessed March 15, 2015. ↩
LeClaire, Jennifer. “Most Pastors Avoid Controversial Issues to Keep Tithes Up.” Charisma News. Charisma Media, 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. ↩
William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 72. ↩
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Brian J. Grim, Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High (Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, January 14, 2014), accessed March 14, 2015, http://www.pewforum.org/files/2014/01/RestrictionsV-full-report.pdf ↩
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