A new convert here in São José dos Campos has, during requests for prayers at our meetings, asked us to remember those who are being persecuted as Christians. She has provided us a good reminder that our “brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring” suffering in the name of Christ (1 Peter 5:9 NET).
• Religion is a word that, in Brazilian Portuguese, carries a horrible connotation in many people’s minds. Religião is considered oppressive, burdensome, arbitrary, and authoritative. Brazilians might let religion sprinkle their children, marry them, and say a prayer at death, but want little intrusion from it otherwise.
Even so, I find it a bit strange, though I understand—and agree with—the approach by brethren that offers public Bible courses “without religion.” Because what we’re offering, as God’s envoys, is light years away from what people think of under the rubric of religion.
• This modern view of religion is growing. Americans are abandoning organized religion in large numbers, say the pollsters. They want it personalized, encapsulated, and sterilized of inconvenience. Imagine being put out because of religious demands! Imagine the horror of suffering for convictions!
• As a manifestation of that desire, postmodernism fits nicely, as it urges people not to worry too much about beliefs, but do something nice, say something nice, make the world a better place, smile and the world smiles with you. Something like that. After all, the Bible is a dusty old book that we shouldn’t take too seriously. So they say.
• God says the book of the gospel has power to convict and transform, not because it says some nice things that we can take or leave, but because it is truth. Because it exposes man’s error and sin and remedies them with sacrificial blood.
• “The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9 NET). John is the gospel of what is true. An unwelcome category today, to be sure. Unwelcome, because “The light of Israel will become a fire” (Isaiah 10:17), a fire of judgment, destruction, and consuming flame that will make man’s projects “go up in smoke” (verse 16).
• That kind of language isn’t nice. Isaiah wasn’t a nice prophet. We should probably cut that passage out of our Bibles. So judgmental, so critical, so much finger-pointing! We just know God couldn’t be like that, because he loves everybody and wants to save everybody and in the end he’ll just swing open the doors of heaven and pay everybody’s bill. Like the lady who told my wife that even though her children had abandoned all forms of religion, God would save them in the end, because they’re good kids.
• Does that sound like Scripture to you? Sounds more like somebody’s fairy tale. Wishing on a star. God has a history, recorded faithfully in the Bible, and you either take it at face value or sweep it aside to make up your own. And here’s a warning: When you take it and its Author as is, be prepared for suffering at the hands of all those nice people. So our new sister in Christ reminds us.