Let's start by stating the obvious: Things are not good, nor do they look like they are
getting better. Normally such a point of view would characterize a pessimist but I suspect that today it would be that of a realist. It is hard for anyone, especially for someone for whom the age of sixty is rolling up on the biological odometer to remember a time when a look in all directions miserably fails to reveal a light at the end of any tunnel be an economic, societal, geopolitical, natural, or religious one. For one standing at the intersection of them, the view is pretty dark indeed. In such a world, it's only natural to feel helpless, caught up in forces over which one has seemingly no control.
Recently, the discontent has reached a level where people are standing together for change, as in the case of the Tea Party and Occupy movements. I do very much applaud the fact that people are finally tired enough of the status quo to actually get out there to do something visible and totally consistent with the standards of a free society with their frustrations, but I do wonder if these will ever develop a set of unifying goals and the traction to make a real difference. I also hope they will not be co-opted by individuals who manage to manipulate them for their own ends. We'll just have to wait and see.
But how about those of us who call themselves Christians? Do we have a responsibility to stand up and be counted? According the Bible, the answer is a definite "Yes!" Let's look at the Great Commission:
Matthew 28:18-20 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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
This is not a suggestion but a directive. By how we live and what we say, we're supposed to be passing along the things Jesus taught, and by extension, the rest of his Written Word - the Bible - as well. That doesn't mean coming across with a "holier than thou" attitude that we see in the Pharisee of Luke 18:10-14, but it does mean actively conveying the message whenever the opportunity presents itself - which in these days is pretty much all the time if you think about it. I believe that this also calls for each Christian to make his or herself heard when he or she sees something that's just not right. But what can we do as individuals? How can we make ourselves heard? For the next few minutes, let's look at some possibilities. They all are amazingly inexpensive and simple enough so that even an average near-60 guy, such as yours truly, (or gal) can do them.
So let's get started.
1) Educate yourself!
First and foremost is to read your Bible on a daily basis. My favorite is the King James Version, but the Revised Standard Version and Good News Bibles can be a help for those unused to the Old English of the King James. However with a little practice, this is easily remedied. A good concordance is a valuable tool as well. I use The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible which also contains Vine's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries. It is based on the King James Version of the Bible.
If you begin by reading the Gospel of John, Luke, and Book of Acts, you will be giving yourself an excellent foundation upon which to build the rest of your Bible studies.
2) Write to your local newspaper's op-ed section.
The possibilities here are only limited by how many letters from readers any publication may decide to set, but the selection of topics is not. They can come from news articles, or even from letters from other readers. But a word of caution - be ready to have your own letter criticized. I've been doing this for years and I've had a few - and I want to emphasize only a very few - responses that were what one might consider abrasive. Most of these were obviously the result of me hitting a nerve and I consider them confirmation that what I had stated was probably on target. Here are some examples of the topics covered:
A) I have openly confronted Muslims for misrepresenting their religion as one of peace while they patently ignored all those verses of their own Koran. If you go to this website: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/k/koran, you'll find a searchable electronic Koran. Type in "Christians," "Jews," or "unbelievers" and I promise you that within less than half an hour you'll see what exactly I mean.
In my most recent exchange, a well-educated Muslim challenged me via e-mail to show him that Islam is hostile to those outside its fold and I provided him examples from his own book plus facts right out of historical and recent events of terrorism. I provided also a contrast between the restrictive societies under Islamic rule and the freedom of those following a Judeo-Christian world view.
To his challenge that Muhammad claims that Jesus is not the Son of God (nor God himself), I posed the question as to which is a better witness - those multiple witnesses who knew Jesus and their associates, or his single prophet which lived 600 years afterward?
He never replied.
B) I have challenged those who promote abortion with Bible verses such as:
Proverbs 17:6 Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.
Jeremiah 1:4-5 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost
Luke 18:16 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
In addition, I asked pro-abortionists to consider that a fertilized egg is every bit as human as an 80 year old genetically and since they are using a given point in time to determine when it is "legal" to kill someone unborn, what's to stop someone from arbitrarily raising that age past birth? And if we devalue the most helpless of our society, namely the unborn, where do we stop? How about race? I suggested they read what Hitler thought along those lines.
3) Write to your government representatives on a local, state and national level.
If you see something going on you don't like, some laws being pushed that you find offensive, then contact your reps and let them know. Most people don't bother so when these folks do get a communication they view it as representative of a larger segment of the population than just one person. In my experience, local officials usually respond while the response rate generally falls off the higher up the political food chain you go. But don't give up or settle for a "form letter" type response that is a very common practice. Keep sending them in. Often you can use e-mail which is free and fast, though I suspect some politicians make their websites decidedly "user unfriendly" making snail mail a real alternative. Remember that these people may not have caused the mess we are in, but in my opinion, they are doing precious little to fix it.
4) When you see Christian freedom and principles threatened, don't just sit back and let it pass!
This legacy of Christian passivity has allowed our Supreme Court to kick God out of our schools since June 1963, and the legalized infanticide of the unborn since 1973. As I write, some school districts are now incorporating a homosexual-friendly curriculum into the classroom. Silence on the part of those who call themselves Christians has probably been a greater contributor to the proliferation of evil in our country than the devil himself who is the initiator of it.
Remember what James said:
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
5) Confronting error in the church.
Some of my biggest arguments have been with members of the liberal clergy. This is admittedly not the easiest thing to do, especially if one of these people is running your own church. The best way to handle it is to bring your concerns directly to that clergy person, especially if it concerns an area where Scripture is abundantly clear, especially:
a) Regarding salvation. This is through Jesus and him alone: John 3:16; John 6:28-29, Acts 4:8-1
b) Regarding human sexuality. This is to be between a man and woman, faithful to each other within a marriage: Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6. Homosexual behavior is specifically condemned: Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:21-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
c) Praying to anyone else but God. This includes Mary, angels, and the saints. God (and Jesus, who is God) is to be the ONLY one to whom we pray: Exodus 20:1-6.
d) Hostility towards Israel. There is a growing anti-Semitic tendency arising, ranging from the divestment of church investments in that country in favor of their adversaries to the false doctrine of "Replacement Theology" which states that the church has supplanted the promises God made to Israel. Now God does NOT forget his promises - ever! Here is what he said concerning Israel: Genesis 12:1-3, 21:12; 35:9-15; Deuteronomy 7:6-10.
Now it is certain that no church is perfect where doctrine is concerned. As Paul rightly said, we see into the glass only darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12) while we are in the flesh, but on the basic principles of faith there really is no room for compromise, Scripturally speaking. Should you find yourself in a church where these fundamentals are being misrepresented, it is, in my view, the duty of a Christian to voice his or her concerns. If it is discovered that your words are falling on deaf ears, then, quite frankly, it's time to shake the dust off your feet and move on (Luke 9:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Titus 3:10-11).
Admittedly, leaving a church where one has been a member for a long time is not easy, but to remain in one that willingly preaches fundamental error is assenting to it by your presence. I won't mislead you - in this day and age you may not be able to find a church which adheres to the Bible. You may end up having your own service at home. If you are by yourself, remember that God is there, too. If you have family or friends, that's all the better. Do include Bible readings, and the Lord's Supper. Regarding Communion, Jesus said:
Luke 22:19-20 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
The "rule" that only ordained clergy can "celebrate" the Lord's Supper is merely a church rule, not a Scriptural one. What is my basis for this statement? When Jesus instituted his Supper, the upper room was filled with lay people. At that time the priests were those of Aaronic descent and served in the temple. As far as we know, none were present in that room on that fateful night. In fact, it was at the instigation of the religious elite that Jesus was ultimately captured and, with the help of the Roman authorities, crucified. The separation of Christians into laypeople and clergy came later, mainly as a need to organize the growing number of Christians and to provide elders and overseers to teach and lead them. Before that, Christian disciples gathering together to share in worship and Communion on Sunday appears in Acts 20:7.
Unfortunately, the history of the church is peppered with accounts of power plays by the clergy over the laity. The result of the abuse of power and conflict over doctrine has been the splintering of what was initially one church into thousands of denominations and independent entities. In recent times, many people are leaving the traditional churches because they are not doing the job of proclaiming God's Word and people walk out of these places every week just as spiritually empty as when they walked in.
Such was my personal experience with the Episcopal Church where I had belonged for fifty years. Within the last decade it plummeted into the false doctrines of pluralistic salvation, the acceptance of homosexual behavior even among its clergy, along with a blasphemous "Mother Jesus" reference in a sermon by Katharine Schori as she was elevated to the position of TEC's presiding bishop. Those few TEC parishes which had the courage to oppose these revisionist policies had and are being subjected to having their properties and assets seized as a result. Most, however, have looked the other way, and even so many are closing their doors now due to attrition.
5) The one-on one approach.
There is no substitute for a one-on-one discussion of the faith. One must necessarily be careful not to get "pushy," but also not to compromise. The idea is to lay the facts out there and then let the other person make his or her own determination. If you don't know something, admit it, with the offer to try to find out. This is not an arm-twisting contest, after all. The more you know about the Bible the better prepared you'll be. Also, never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you, even in the most challenging situations. That's a biblical promise:
Luke 12:11-12 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
I hope that this short guide will be helpful to you in making a stand for Jesus. I do not promise doing so will be trouble free and smooth-sailing. Quite the opposite. Jesus promised that those who stood for him would not have an easy time of it because the prince of this world, Satan, won't like you rattling his cage. But as we come to what I feel are the Last of the Last Days, the witness we give now is especially important. We may never see the results, in fact, we may often feel that our efforts are totally fruitless, but persistence is the key.
Of course we can't earn our salvation by our works, because we received that by believing in Jesus and him alone. In other words, we don't make a stand for Jesus to get saved, but because we are saved.
In the fullness of time, when we stand before the King of kings, I believe we will one day see what has grown from those seeds we have planted.
And I think He'll be very pleased!