Contend for the Faith

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  Hebrews 10:33-35

Our country has become a virtual cafeteria of different religions, cults, and non-Christian world views that are all vying for supremacy on America’s religious landscape.  Our country is also currently confronted by many tough domestic and global issues.  We need Christian wisdom and biblical discernment as never before.  

Ron Rhodes, 5 Minute Apologetics for Today

That phone call that dreary night will never be forgotten, at least by me.  And I wasn’t even the person in trouble.  I wasn’t the one who desperately needed to hear the right words to save a life.  But I was in need of knowing the right words to say.  And because I didn’t have the wisdom, the strength of faith I have now, I must take part of the blame for ending a life that night.  

My friend’s voice was filled with desperation.  She was pregnant.  She was also just 19, a college student far from home, a woman who was having an affair with a married man (who had also gotten another woman pregnant).  I had counseled her before, over and over, trying to get her to stop seeing this man.  He was slimy and untrustworthy.  But of course, he was oh so different with her – a genuine prince apparently.  And so, a life of unwanted, unprepared motherhood was staring at her in the face.  What would she tell her parents?  How could she show her face?  My immediate response? “You must get an abortion of course.”  

This young woman who dreamed of being married one day and having many children was looking for a way to erase her mistakes.  To reboot her dream of becoming a nurse first then having a family.  And I helped her take what seemed to be the easy path.  We washed our hands of it all and moved forward with both our lives.  But I have never forgotten what I did.  And I doubt she has either.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time but I was a member of the human race.  A person that valued fairness and justice.  A person who for the most part thought she was a “good person.”  I had no one in my life telling me different, showing me a different way.  It wasn’t until I drew closer to Jesus that I realized how far from the truth I was really living.  

The problem was I then swung too far in the other direction.  I took up the mantle of “truth” and forgot about the Royal Commandment – to love one another.  And I think when we Christians get ourselves mired in political and social issues we can forget about that place of balance that God seeks for us.  We can forget about what we are really needing to accomplish in God’s name.

In the United States, the Republican/conservative/right leaning parties are automatically associated with Christians.  And yes, there are many of the same values involved.  But to assign our faith to one political party’s platform is a mistake in so many ways.  For one, it politicizes the message of Jesus. For another it assumes that all party stances are within the biblical realm.  It also assumes there aren’t people in other parties that profess their Christian faith.  

And so, when we come personally up against a faith/biblical/moral issue we may frequently pull back from our commission of helping others out of a sin-filled life because we don’t want to be labeled a “right winger,” a “bigot,” a “nut job” or any other derogatory statements.

To be fair, too many of our churches have either abdicated their responsibility to teach their flock about so many hot button issues such as homosexuality and abortion and how to respond correctly.  While others have so politicized their churches you can’t tell the difference on a Sunday between a patriot rally and a sermon.

A new friend of mine told me how she was visiting various churches trying to find a new church home.  One visit took place on the 4th of July – the U.S. Day of Independence.  As she stood for the beginning worship, she noticed all the songs were patriotic ones.  And when the US flag was marched in by worshippers, she got up to leave.  At the door the pastor stopped her and asked why she was leaving.  Her response?  “I came to worship God, not the United States.”  She loves her country but her love of God doesn’t have anything to do with her country.

And so, like the women in my Bible study groups we ask questions that our churches fail to address or in the way they need to be addressed.  We feel safe to dig deep into what the Bible truly says about homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and more.  But we aren’t theologians – that’s why we go to church.   To hear the Word of God taught to us in ways we can turn around and use them out in the world.  It’s sad, to be honest, to hear Christians desperate for knowledge and yet left unfed week after week.

One of the ladies in my study group recently had a profound breakthrough related to this topic.  She is very sweet and prides herself on creating good relationships.  But she realizes her desire to not “rock any boat” has also been an excuse for not speaking the truth + love when it is needed most.  “I’ve realized that in the past I had the excuse of being naïve as to the expectation of what God wants from me.  But I can’t use that excuse anymore.  I know he wants me to contend for the faith.  I know what is truly at stake.  I’m now struggling to see what that looks like for me,” she said.

I’m not going to take each major issue facing our world today because I am not a theologian with lots of important degrees to back up my words.  But I will direct you to the steps you might take to be better prepared when your friend tells you their daughter wants to start hormone treatments to become a man.   Or, when your co-worker tells you that having a nice house in a nice neighborhood is white privilege and you should be ashamed.  We also need to be prepared to step back and know when a political issue maybe doesn’t have any biblical connection at all and just must be looked at from a “good citizen” point of view.  Because yes, not everything we deal with is a faith hill to die on – but how we deal with those issues is.

You’ll remember at the beginning of this post I referenced the book 5 Minute Apologetics for Today.  It was written in 2010.  But you’ll find most of the issues we face currently.  It’s a great, easy read for giving us biblical perspectives.  In addition, here are 4 steps that were recently explained in my current Bible study on Jude.  

As background, Jude (Jesus’ brother) was writing to a church that was infiltrated by false teachers.  Teachers who were leading lives and encouraging believers to give themselves over to sexual immorality and more.  Towards the end of his letter, before he tells the believers how to confront the false teachers, he gives them these four pieces of advice:

  1. Build up your knowledge and confidence in the Word.  Learn about and study the Bible, God’s character, His promises and the judgment to come.  Be immersed by also finding a good biblical teaching church – not one that just tells you some good stories each week.  Join Bible studies and do the work! Jude 20/Eph 2:19
  2. Pray not in the flesh but in the Spirit.  Go to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in what to pray.  By doing so you’ll show God your dependence on Him.  Ask for help in knowing what issues you should be concerned about and which you should just leave alone. Jude 20/Rom 8:26-27
  3. Keep yourself in the love of God.  Fight to resist your own passions and doctrine that keeps you separated from God.  Lean into God for His promises and His direction. Jude 21/John 15:9
  4. Stay in the hope of the mercy that is waiting for you.  As Jackie Hill Perry says about this, “We have been saved from God’s wrath for God.”  The knowledge and hope of what is to come when Jesus returns should feel like a protection.   We have something better in store for us than man’s approval.  We need to keep our sights on this so the persecution we might face doesn’t silence us. Jude 21/Heb 11:25-26

On a final note, I want to encourage you to do a study on Revelation.  It helps to do it with others.  Don’t just read Revelation.  It’s probably too confusing to be honest.  A good study with people you trust will reveal to you what so many of our churches seem to fail to remind us each and every week – that judgment is coming to all.  We have a greater commission than just being “nice Christians.”  We are commissioned to help God save souls.  We might want to start in our own households.

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