“…so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
Preachers used to say ours was a “cut flower generation.” The bloom was still there, all the blessings of our godly heritage, in the same way the floral arrangement on the dining room table carried the colors and delights of the garden. However, preachers would point out, this generation has cut itself off from the faith of our fathers, and while we enjoy the blessings of their faith and their labors, we are doing nothing to keep the faith. The next generation would pay for our failure.
We’re there now.
For most of the decades of my life—I arrived in 1940—Christians were in a majority in this country, and it was pretty much agreed that ours was a Christian nation. If anyone countered that, we never heard it.
We sang hymns in school and decorated for Christmas and even dismissed classes so those who wished could attend a local church service or see a religious film. As a young pastor, I was invited to preach Christian messages to student bodies of public high schools. No one mentioned a limitation of any kind.
Those days are over.
The nation has changed.
Blame it on whatever forces you choose—immigration, the influx of other religions, the influence of the devil, the encroachment of the world, sin—it has happened and it is here.
This country is never going to be what it was. It’s never going to be the way it was.
The Lord’s people living in these United States have been handed a choice.
We can bellyache and blame and lose our religion. We spend our time and energies blaming Obama and the Clintons and liberalism and Communism and materialism. We can accuse Osama bin Ladin and ISIS and Hussein and radical Islam. We can credit illegal aliens and the Internet and pornography.
We can fight with one another and argue over what steps we should have taken to reverse this decline and whose fault it was we didn’t.
Or we can man up and seize this opportunity.
We can forget about blaming and accept that it is what it is, and the only question now is what would God have me to do.
God would have us to shine.
Finally, we get a chance to shine in darkness.
The world has always been dark. Christ came into a dark world. “The light shineth in darkness and the darkness apprehended it not.”
There was no light time in world history, no era of enlightenment when most people acknowledged God and worshiped Christ and believed the Bible. If you think otherwise, you’re fooling only yourself.
However, the superficial veneer of religion that our country lived with for generations masked a deeper problem of sin. The country may have given lip service to the pre-eminence of Christ and its debt to the Judeo-Christian tradition and its need for godly citizens, but much of that was so much talk. In World War II, both FDR and Winston Churchill spoke of the battle of Christendom against the forces of darkness. Everyone, it seemed, sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” as kind of a national rallying song. But those who truly knew the Lord were not fooled.
Today, those whose nostalgia convinces them the nation was godlier and more righteous “when I was young” are probably fooling themselves.
In some respects the veneer of righteousness and religiosity made it harder for true disciples of Jesus. We were respected and Christ was honored and then we were ignored. Corrupt politicians and dishonest merchants and other immoral, unethical citizens gave lip-service to God and the church.
In those days people said to me, “I don’t know anyone who is not a Christian.” Those enrolled in soulwinning classes I taught didn’t know anyone to witness to.
But no longer.
The darkness—always lurking in the corners and looking for a way to advance—gradually moved in. Today, that darkness is calling the shots.
The present darkness is all around and is only getting blacker and deeper.
Things are just going to get worse. Darker. More wicked.
Getting used to the dark
Vance Havner used to preach a sermon on “Getting Used to the Dark.” We enter a dark room and stumble. We can’t see our hand in front of our face. But stand there a moment and your eyes dilate and adjust and you begin to see more. Eventually, you adjust and walk on.
We do this with morality. What is accepted today was once acknowledged as sin of the worst order. But through the influence of movies and the decisions of liberal judges and the like, those old standards now seem archaic. And we have gotten used to it and accept it as the norm.
Millions of Christians in this country now defend Roe v. Wade and accept that aborting unborn babies is not immoral. On the other hand, many of those same people will scream to high heaven when a dog or cat is mistreated or a baby seal is slaughtered.
We have become used to the dark. And it’s not a pretty thing.
“A crooked and perverse generation”
The deeper the darkness, the greater the need for God’s people to let their light shine.
“You are the light of the world,” said our Lord. And He said, “Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”
We have mouthed those words for generations without feeling the urgency of obeying them. No longer.
The time for shining our light is now; the place is here.
God’s people must be willing to stand apart from the majority, to not participate in the pagan celebrations and rituals, and yet to be Christlike while doing it. They must speak love and show love at all times, remembering that to love one’s enemy, according to our Savior in Luke 6:27-38, means doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who threaten us and giving to those who would take from us what is not theirs.
The light is love. Love is something we do. Loving others means doing good, blessing, praying, giving.
This darkness is our opportunity.
Less and less often will our candidates be elected. Fewer and fewer of those sharing our values will be given places of leadership and influence in this country. And when they are, often it will be only as tokens to assuage us.
More and more of those with traditional biblical values of righteousness and morality will be marginalized and attacked as extremists.
For one who believes what Christians have always held to, now to be attacked as an extremist, is almost funny, if it weren’t so tragic. What it reveals, of course, is that while believers have stood firm and held their ground, the culture around us has changed and moved past us.
We must be willing to be scoffed at and persecuted for holding to the truths of Scripture, if we are to be true to Him.
Let us be faithful and consistent in our devotion to Christ. Above our loyalty and patriotism is our devotion to Jesus Christ. There will be times when we will have to disobey a bad law. We may find ourselves saying, “We must obey God and not man.” And when that happens, we must be willing to pay the consequence.
And when we are jailed or persecuted or put on trial for faithfulness, we must not plan what to say when asked why we did what we did. It will be given us in that hour what we are to say, for it will not be us speaking, but the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:16ff).
More and more, this is what the immediate future for the USA looks like. How it will appear in the long run no one knows yet. But one thing we know: Our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in any government or nation or political entity.
Let us determine: We will be faithful.
–We will do everything without grumbling and arguing (Philippians 2:14).
–We will strive to be blameless and pure (Philippians 2:15).
–We will hold firmly the message of life (Philippians 2:16).
When we do these simple but increasingly difficult things, we will gradually see several things: the culture around us puzzled as to how to treat us, some Christians attacking us for not being more active in opposing the wrong-doers, and one by one, people in the darkness recognizing that the way of darkness holds nothing but misery and there must be a better way. Then, one by one, as we are faithful some will turn to us and come to Christ.
Let us be faithful.
And let us diligently teach our children and prepare them for life in a hostile environment.
Many of God’s best have wondered how they would do in a foreign culture, one that was opposed to everything we stand for. Now, we are beginning to find out.
Let us be faithful.
“Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).