1. Stick with the Word
Some saints want to show themselves to be intelligent by dabbling in the philosophies of the world, the theologies of the denominations, or the politics of the nations. But the world has more than enough of these. Our message has to distinguish itself clearly from all these. We preach an almighty God whose love encompasses all of history and who glory has revealed itself in terms we can grasp. From creation we move quickly to the Book of Life, whose final author knows us better than we know ourselves. The Bible is the best argument for God’s existence. His power lives in it and from it people can be convicted of the truth.
How do we stick with the Word?
- Read it often, memorize its pages, live its truths.
- Be taught by God’s teachers, don’t miss a single opportunity to study.
- Teach it at every opportunity to those in Christ and to those outside.
It’s the Ezra approach: “Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the Lord, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel” Ezra 7.10.
2. Be the people of God
The world is full of hate. The people of God show a superior path, where love reigns and where each looks to the interest of others. The doctrine of love is what the world must hear and see first. Not even denominations who profess to be the church can show love because, to exist, each one must proclaim its superiority over the other factions.
Christ’s followers must distance themselves in every way from such groups. We must do whatever necessary to avoid even looking like them. First impressions are important. People often will not give us a second chance. Our best foot forward is the acceptance in Christ of every single human being, whom God welcomes with open arms, when one shows faith and obedience. Otherwise, the walls of sin remain to block access to God. But the invitation remains open. Humility insists with gentleness urging repentance.
We are better than none, but we have an exclusive word from the only true God. We speak of him boldly.
We have no right to criticize any system of belief and to urge the reception of grace, if we do not live our faith and live in community for which we were purified from our sins, 1 Peter 1.22. That means that there is no question where we will be on the Lord’s Day. We will be at the Lord’s Table with the Lord’s People.
3. Declare yourself
The real Christian cannot hide his faith. A hidden faith dies quickly, just as a flame without air is soon snuffed out. It matters not what is going on around us, the message must be proclaimed. Every single Christian received from the Lord the task of the News. Not only can the silent saint not save others, he himself cannot be saved in his disobedience.
If we flinch before the fight, we are not worthy of the Kingdom of God. If we flee and hide in the “caves, thickets, cliffs, strongholds, and cisterns” of this world (compare 1 Samuel 13.6-7), we will have no part in the victory of the faithful.
Several of the New Testament books were written in part to embolden the saints in their task as they faced persecution.
- Jesus warned us about it not infrequently. The “confession” he declares to be so necessary is, in context, the preaching of the gospel in the public square, Matthew 10.32-33.
- Peter told the Christians to keep speaking about their faith in the midst of challenges and pressures, 1 Peter 3.15.
- The writer of Hebrews warned against giving up in the “struggle against sin” — that is, when the “opposition … by sinners” appears — the sin of abandoning the faith, Hebrews 12.3-4.
4. Focus on the One Thing
A big temptation is to get involved in social and political issues of the day. The Christian belongs to the heavenly country. He is not to be involved in the affairs of this life, 2 Timothy 2.4. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We have no party or earthly affiliation. We wear a single name: Christian. We represent one “cause,” the Kingdom of God.
If we want to save others by the blood of Jesus Christ, we must not alienate by taking sides in earthly conflicts. We have a single message, the cross of Christ. We are a single-issue people: God created man for his love and offers it in his Son. We do not concern ourselves with the nation’s Supreme Court, but with the judgment to come when all will appear before the Sovereign Judge of all mankind, Acts 24.25. If we speak of earthly things, we are not reflecting the concerns of the Holy Spirit, John 16.8-11.
What is the One Thing of our message?
- Jesus the Just
- Jesus the Reconciler
- Jesus the Sacrifice
- Jesus the Lord and Savior (in that order)
- Jesus the Example
- Jesus the Judge
- Jesus the Revealer of the Will of God
And that’s just for starters.
5. Start where people are in order to get to salvation
What a challenge to be sensitive to where each person is in his belief system! Because we must start where people are. Today, more than ever, Christians bump up against a wide range of beliefs. Not only must we deal with people who believe in denominationalism and atheism, but rampant sexual deviation, witchcraft, anarchism, environmentalism (one of the most extreme religions out there), scientism, socialism, and selfism, to name just a few. Such a gamut of beliefs sounds a bit like the first century, doesn’t it?
It does no good to talk about the evils of denominationalism to a person involved in Wicca. The atheist isn’t interested in immersion for the remission of sins. Both subjects are important, but those can’t be our starting points with such people.
So to be a Christian in a topsy-turvy world, we must be flexible when dealing with people. We have one gospel that is able to save all people, but to get to the point of salvation, we must often start at different points, just as the proclaimers in Acts did, depending upon their audience.
Not only possible, but necessary
God made the faith for every century, with every certainty. He is able to keep us faithful and to make us capable for service and proclamation. We think our times are tough, and well may they be. But God is sovereign. He works in the hardest situations. And he uses his people in the fire of the furnace and in the den of lions to pluck from the mouths of the unbelieving a confession of his glory.
So feel the breath of the beasts and the smell of the burning and praise God that you can be a real Christian in such a world as this.