There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not the church is being persecuted in America in the 21st century. To be honest, it’s hard to say. We are not being persecuted in the same way the early church experienced. People are not being put on poles and used as street lamps, being boiled in tar, wrestling with lions or worse. So, is the church being persecuted? Not in that way.
But, is the church being persecuted? Well, the definition of persecution is:
“hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.”
According to wikipedia, persecution is:
Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, racism and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, imprisonment, internment, fear, or pain are all factors that may establish persecution, but not all suffering will necessarily establish persecution. The suffering experienced by the victim must be sufficiently severe. The threshold level of severity has been a source of much debate.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution
Are Christians being mistreated, some. Are Christians being harrassed? Yes. Is the suffering “sufficiently severe”? I don’t know. And what is the threshold of severity?
But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is a war against the church taking place in modern society. Now, I will be the first to tell you, much of the perceived mistreatment is not persecution. In fact, much of the mistreatment is retribution for Christians who sought to impose a Christian way of life on people who don’t have the desire or frankly ability to live that way. Most, if not all Christians struggle to live a Christlike life and they have the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help them.
Now, it’s also true that anyone – believer or non-believer – who lives by God’s standards will thrive. So, is it evil to suggest that non-believers live within God’s parameters? No, not at all. But, neither is it right to try to force someone to do so against their will. If they don’t want to live that way, forcing them will only create a more entrenched rebellious spirit.
But, what about the war against the church?
Yes, there is a war taking place against the church. There always has been. Unfortunately, many Christians have misplaced the originating point of the war. There are two groups Christians have wrongly focused on for the attack. Non-believers and the media.
Do non-believer and the media attack Christians? Sure. Is there an assault against Christianity and in the media. Definitely. But, are they the source of the attack? Not at all.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:12, NIV
The two primary causes of the war
What are they? Fallen humanity and fallen spiritual beings.
1.) Fallen Humanity.
Evil is in the world because we invited it in. The series we’re in right now at SixEight Church is dealing with this specifically. (Click here to watch it) If we as humans had chosen to obey God’s one rule, all we would know is God and his goodness. But, we wanted more and that’s what we got. From the moment we rebelled against God we have been facing the consequences of our decision. Evil isn’t in the world because God isn’t good. Evil is in the world because mankind chose to trust ourselves instead of trusting God.
As a result of our choice, mankind went from being completely good and embracing God’s good life to being somewhat good and a whole lot of bad. The problem is, rebellion is like an aggressive disease that takes over the host. Without an intervention, on their own, people will continue to become more and more corrupt.
2.) Falling Spiritual Beings.
But there is more to the story that bad people. People are not the only being to have rebelled against God. The Devil and his angels did the same. These are those who were cast out of heaven. I know my non-believing friends will have a hard time with this, but there is a great video by The Bible Project that helps. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CamYtVpoTNk)
The two primary tactics of the devil and his minions are isolation and deceit. You can see it in the garden. The serpent got Eve by herself and deceived her. The Devil was a liar from the beginning, and doesn’t have any truth in him.
The Devil’s Cocktail
Rebellion + Deception = Destruction.
When you take people who have embraced rebellion and add deception to that rebellion what you get is complete destruction.
If you’re read much of my writing or heard my teaching, you know I constantly rail against rebellion. This is why. The prophet Samuel said to Saul when Saul rebelled against God by trying to act as a priest: “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”
Being rebellious, while celebrated by our modern society, is actually the entire problem. Rebellion opens us up to more and more tactics of the Devil to deceive us. The more we embrace rebellion, the more likely we are to embrace deception which only leads to greater levels of destruction in our lives and the world.
Staying in the light and avoiding deception is incredibly hard as a believer. Especially in an age where so much false teaching is prevalent and available on our devices 24 hours a day. Avoiding deception when you’ve embraced rebellion is impossible.
This is what is happening in the world today. People have embraced rebellion and that rebellion has opened them up to greater and greater deception by the master deceiver. The end result is destruction.
Is There A War Against the Church?
You better believe it. There always has been, there always will be until Christ returns and destroys the devil and his works. Is it getting worse? Clearly. The further away from God we get, the further away from truth and good we will get.
What is the answer?
Jesus, people who live like Jesus and share Jesus with those in bondange to rebellion.
Yes, Jesus is the answer for the world today. The song is still true. Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus has chosen to share himself with the world through people who have rebelled against the rebellion by surrendering their lives to God and His ways. What the world needs now is Christians living more like Christ. And what the world needs now is Christians who aren’t afraid to talk about Jesus, share Jesus and invite people to the well that never runs dry. People are thirst and Jesus is the living water. Everything else people do to satisfy their thirsts leaves them wanting more. Jesus satisfies.
What should we do?
Well, I believe a part of the attack against the church is getting people to stop participating in church. For decades now the enemy has been working to entice people to spend less and less time at church with other believers. This year, as a result of the pandemic, more believers than ever haven’t been to church in months.
The isolation has been crippling to many. When you’re alone, you’re far more susceptible to deception. So many have been deceived in so many ways during this time. So, yes, I’m going to say it. If at all possible, I think you should go back to church. Whatever church that may be. I know that may bother some people. Yes, I understand the risks. I’ve done the research and tried to get to the facts. But, there are other facts. What good is it to save your life but lose your soul? That sounds familiar…
We have to get back into actual community with other believers who are seeking to live by the truth. And our time with other believers needs to be spend on Jesus and not the war. When we get together with other believers, we need to be resolute in our focus on Jesus and the gospel and the way, the truth and the life. Don’t waste your precious time with other light-bearers by being obsessed with the lies the enemy is swarming society with. Yes, address the mistruth in them. But, don’t be obsessed with them. Be obsessed with Jesus.
Digital connection is good, but it’s not the same. If that’s all you have, then do as much of it as you can. But, if there is anyway for you to look in the physical eye balls of another believer, do that. Neuroscience has shown that our brainwaves align when we are together. There is more to being physically together than can be replicated via Zoom, Facebook, Facetime, texting & phone calls. Those are great, but they are not replacements.
Are you afraid? Talk to another believer about your fears. You can search the web if you want, but there is so much misinformation out there, it’s so easy to be deceived. And so much of it is fear driven and manipulative. Without getting to controversial here, from what I’ve read from the CDC, you are much more likely to die in a car crash on the way to church than you are from getting covid at church.
The truth is…
We will never be safe from disease. That’s a consequence of the curse. Sickness is in the world because we rebelled against God. Sickness will be in the world until Jesus makes all things new. Many people, trying to stay safe from physical illness have only become victims of mental illness.
Should you be safe? Absolutely. Be safe. But don’t equate safety with isolation.
Two are better than one,Ecc 4:9-12
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
There is a war taking place against the church. But, it’s a war that has already been won by Christ. When we come together, we are the body of Christ. Which means, together is where we experience victory over the devil and his tactics, because Christ conquered the devil. Victory over the devil is found within the community of Christ.