Are Christians Losing Their Freedom?
Are Christians Losing Their Freedom?
- This is a very American question. It doesn’t mean that it is not worth asking or thinking about, but we should be clear that it is a question mostly relevant to the United States of America.
- I don’t mean to imply that American Christianity is more important than Brazilian Christianity, or Ugandan Christianity, or German Christianity or anything else. Numerically speaking, there are far more Christians in the world outside of America than in America. That’s a simple fact. We can reliably estimate that perhaps 10% of the population of China is Christian – there are 1.4 billion people in China, so there are perhaps 140 million Christians in China! I don’t know how many Christians there are in America, but that number is nowhere near 140 million.
- Regarding health and vitality, it’s probably correct to say that American Christianity is not the most healthy or vital expression of Christianity in the world.
- Still, American Christianity has enormous influence in the world today. Some of this is because of America’s influence in the world – whether that be political, economic, cultural, or military influence. American Christianity also has great influence in the world because of the prosperity and the generosity of American Christians.
- I say all that to say this: the question, “Are Christians in American losing their freedom” is a question that impacts world Christianity, not only Christianity in America.
So, are Christians in America losing their freedom? I believe the answer is, yes, in some sense. I think this is starting small – and it is important to not exaggerate the present situation – but in small ways, we see that the government (in various forms) is asserting its power against the church. Because our culture is becoming less and less religious and more and more secular, the concerns of the church and religious people makes less and less sense to politicians and policy makers.
Today, more and more the church or religious people are seen as strange and foreign. If they are not seen as dangerous, they are often seen as useless – the ultimate non-essential organization.
A few points to consider:
- I don’t think that Christians should argue for absolute religious freedom. In other words, you don’t have the right to do whatever you want because you call it religion. If a person wants to perform human sacrifice to appease their god and claim the freedom of religion to do it, we say “no.” Freedoms for religion should be generous, but not absolute.
- Freedom of religion is not just a “right” – it is a responsibility or a stewardship. There is a principle of stewardship in God’s created order: if you have something and want more of it, then use what you presently have well. If you have something and use it irresponsibly, you will end up with less of it. Christians in America must ask themselves: have we used our religious freedom well? Have we used it to honor God and to bless our neighbor? Our religious freedom is not just a right, but a responsibility.
- Ultimately, religious freedom is not granted to us by a government – it is given to us by God. I’m grateful for the provision for religious freedom in the US constitution, in the first amendment, what is called the Bill of Rights: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. However, ultimately our rights don’t come from government – they come from God. So we will do what God tells us to do. If they government prohibits it, we may pay a price – even a great price – for doing it.
- Losing freedom is bad, but there are worse things than losing freedom.
- We see in the book of Genesis that God preserved the family of Jacob from twin dangers: starvation and assimilation. They came to Egypt and were rescued from starvation, and because the Egyptians were an exclusionary culture, they were also spared from assimilation in Egypt
- However, in Egypt they were slaves for 400 years! We might think their 400 years of slavery was the worst possible fate, but that isn’t true.
- Starvation or assimilation would have destroyed Israel as a people before they could bring to the world the Messiah who would be the Savior of the World.
- For the church today, a loss of freedom isn’t the worst fate. It’s bad, and we should work to preserve and keep our freedoms. But there are dangers worse than losing our freedom: the dangers of starvation and assimilation.
- If we lose the word of God (starvation), or become just like the world (assimilation), then all the “freedom” one can imagine won’t do us much good.
I don’t say that to imply that Christians in America should not guard their freedoms – they should. In whatever ways that are honoring to God, we should protect our freedoms. But, I am simply saying that there are worse things than the loss of our freedoms – and the example of Israel at the end of Genesis shows us that starvation and assimilation are worse dangers.
How do we combat anti-Christian training in the workplace, such as Critical Race Theory?
The important thing when we might be trained or indoctrinated in things that are contrary to the Word of God is that we need discernment, so that we can really understand this danger that may come against us and simply not agree with it.
People may try to impress upon us the belief that the most important dividing line in the world today and in human history is race, and that we should understand the world fundamentally by racial dynamics and power structures. This is not what the Bible says. Now, believe me, the Bible certainly does not ignore race and the problems or solutions of it, but the Bible does not support the idea that the fundamental or the most important dynamic between human relations in human history is race. Nor does the Bible support the idea that it will always be that way. There’s nothing that can be done to change that. That’s not a biblical analysis of society.
So, if you had to attend a training at your workplace that taught you that, you need to inwardly resist that. Now, should you outwardly resist it? I have to leave that between you and your conscience before the Lord. Sometimes, we’re silent, because we know that if we were to speak up, we might incur great loss. We might get fired from our job or demoted. You need to recognize the price that you may pay, and if it would honor God more for you to speak up, then you should speak up.
There are times when God would have us just silently reject and resist. There are times when we should vocally reject and resist, but we should not agree with lies and lies that are brought to us by the culture, whether they’re lies about economics, power structures, or race. We need to reject those lies and make sure that our thinking about these critical things, about sexuality, power structures, racial dynamics, etc., are informed not by the fashions of the world but by what God declares to us in and through His Word.
Does Ephesians 5:6-7 teach that we should never be friends with the ungodly?
Ephesians 5:6-7 says,
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
These verses are speaking about not sharing in their sins. Jesus was known to be, in His earthly ministry, the friend of sinners. So, can you be friends with people who act in ungodly ways? Yes, but there has to be a limit or a boundary to your friendship or your partnership. That boundary exists in your own heart and mind. You don’t necessarily have to declare that boundary to someone else. There may be times when it’s important and useful to do it. What you need to do most pointedly is to have within yourself that boundary of: I can befriend this person. I can show them the love of God, and I can treat them as someone who’s made in God’s image without sharing in their sinful conduct or activity.
In the early church, Christians were criticized as being, what was sometimes called, haters of humanity, because they would not share in the same sins that people commonly shared in that day. There are going to be times when Christians are accused of being unfriendly or antisocial, because we will not participate in the same sinful activities that perhaps our culture embraces. It doesn’t mean that we have to break off all contact with those who do not yet believe and who live lives marked by sin.
We need to do this thing that Jesus told us to do, which is very difficult. Jesus didn’t tell us to do it because it was easy. Jesus was able to do it, and as he fuels our life, we can do it as well. It’s simply this, we need to be in the world and not of the world. We can err on either side of that phrase. We can err by not being in the world, by removing ourselves from having no contact with those sinful unbelievers. That’s not how God wants us to be. We can also err in regard to that command of Jesus by being of the world. In other words, by assimilating into the deceptive and wrong thinking of the culture around us.
Is it biblically sound to say that the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God launched a plan to bring peace back into a broken world?
It’s not that I think this statement is wrong, it’s just not exactly how I would say it or perceive it. God did not place Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden wondering if they were going to sin or not. God knew they were going to sin. God wasn’t saying, “Well, you know, let’s see how this turns out. We’ve got Plan A if Adam and Eve don’t sin, and we’ve got Plan B if Adam and Eve do sin. Let’s see how it goes.” God knew, and one of the ways we know that God knew is through this fascinating phrase from the Bible that speaks of Jesus as the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world.
In other words, there is some sense in which Jesus was already sacrificed or crucified before God created anything. He wasn’t actually sacrificed or crucified before in act but in intention and in plan. God did that because He knew that the fall would happen. Therefore, God did not launch His plan after Adam and Eve sinned. The plan was launched before that. Adam and Eve’s sin was actually part of the plan. God did not make Adam and Eve sin. God is never the author of sin, but God did create a world where it could happen. God knew that it would happen, and He incorporated that in His sovereign wonderful plan.
Is Matthew 24:36 referring to the rapture of the church or the return of Christ?
Matthew 24:36 says,
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
I’m going to give you my take on this, and I’m going to say that my take may be a minority position. I know that there are many who might agree with my general framework of end times events, what we call eschatology, but would disagree with me on this particular point.
I believe that this is speaking of the catching away of the church that’s described in 1 Thessalonians. Now, I need to explain a little bit here. First of all, I do think that it’s referring to that, but you make a distinction here between the rapture of the church or the return of Christ. Now, I know what you mean by that question, but I want to emphasize that I believe that the catching away of the church and the glorious return of Jesus at Armageddon are twin aspects of the return of Christ. Christ returns for His church in the catching away described in 1 Thessalonians. Christ returns with His church at the end of the book of Revelation, at the battle of Armageddon. These are different aspects of the return of Jesus Christ.
Now, I believe that the aspect spoken of here in Matthew 24:36 is the return of Jesus. It is completely unexpected, and no one knows the day or the hour. I think that the aspect of the Second Coming in reference to Jesus coming at the Battle of Armageddon can be known. The book of Daniel and other passages in the Bible say it. it’ll be marked off a specific number of days from any event that will happen in the world.
Now, there are people who want to attribute this to the millennium. Honestly, I just don’t agree. Now, I do want to say one more thing. I do not impose a chronological flow upon Matthew 24. I don’t think that Jesus speaks with chronological consistency and speaks about events in different orders. I think this is according to the pattern of Old Testament prophets and of what sometimes people call apocalyptic literature. We should not impose a strict chronology upon it.
If a believer sinned and did not confess his sin or ask for mercy before he dies, is he going to hell even if he has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior genuinely?
I’m going to say yes. Now, I’m taking it just on the basis that you phrase your question. You say, he has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior genuinely. If a person has done that, they are going to heaven even if there is unconfessed sin in their life. We are not forgiven fundamentally because we confess our sins and repent. We are forgiven because of the work of Jesus Christ.
Now, there has to be a genuine and a general confession of sin and repentance, but it would be impossible for us to confess and repent of every single sin that we commit by name. We need to confess and repent generally of our sin. That’s part of just having our faith in Jesus Christ. We also need to confess and repent of specific sins that the Holy Spirit would call to our attention. Now, we don’t do that necessarily for the basis of going to heaven or hell. We do that for preserving and maintaining our true relationship of fellowship with God. That’s the sense in which John often speaks about it in 1 John.
We don’t earn our salvation by the confession and repentance of every single specific sin that we commit. There must be general confession and repentance, and there must be specific confession and repentance where the Holy Spirit quickens us, but it would be impossible for us to actually confess and repent of every single sin that we commit.
How do you get baptized by the Holy Spirit?
The answer to this question is, at the same time, more simple and more complicated than people might think. I would ask that perhaps we should consider the baptism of the Holy Spirit more to be a condition rather than an event. If we focus so much on the event of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we have a tendency to think either it happened or didn’t happen. If it happened, it happened once, and there’s nothing more to be said about it.
I encourage myself to think of the baptism of the Holy Spirit more as a condition. In other words, not to ask: Have I been baptized by the Holy Spirit? I’m not trying to say it’s an irrelevant question, but I think a better question to ask is this: Am I baptized in the Holy Spirit? Am I immersed in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit right now? The Bible says that if a person is born again, they have the Spirit of God. We have a definite experience with the Holy Spirit when we are born again.
I also know that the Bible tells us that what we experienced with the Holy Spirit at our conversion is not the end of our experience with the Holy Spirit. We will have continuing experiences of the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life after our conversion.
So, instead of focusing on the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an event that maybe happens when a person has converted, think of it as a condition right now. Am I immersed? That’s what baptism means. It means immersion; to be dipped into something. Am I immersed in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit right here right now? We want to be, as Ephesians tells us, continually being filled with the Spirit. That’s a great rule for the Christian life.
What is a good example of casting pearls before swine?
I’ll give you what I believe is one example of this. It’s continuing to present the gospel to hardened rejecters of Jesus Christ. The pearls of salvation that we have offered to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of who Jesus is and what Jesus did to rescue us, especially what he did at the cross in the empty tomb is a precious pearl. When there are people who are determined and hardened in their rejection of that good news, we shouldn’t feel compelled to continually cast those pearls of the gospel before those people.
We find something of this at the end of the book of Acts where Paul, dealing with hardened rejecters of the message, finally said, “Stop, I’m not going to preach to you anymore. I’m going to preach to people who will hear it.” You see the difference between those two things? There’s just simply a difference between continuing to preach to hardened rejecters and then preaching to those who actually receive it for the precious pearl that it is.
Why did Saul and his soldiers start to prophecy in 1 Samuel 10?
Can you explain why Saul and his soldiers started to prophesy in 1 Samuel 10?
In 1 Samuel 10, the soldiers Saul sends to capture David come back prophesying. The whole context here in 1 Samuel 10 is God showing His sovereignty in a situation. God is showing His sovereignty to Saul. Saul was anointed to be the king of Israel, and as king, he was anointed with God’s Spirit. God had His hand on Saul. Maybe Saul felt, because God’s hand was upon him, he could do whatever he wanted to do. There are people who think that way. There are people whom God uses that think they can do whatever they think or whatever they say because God’s got their backs, so to speak. I believe Saul had slipped into some of that thinking. “Hey, I’m the king. I’m anointed. God will have my back no matter what.”
What God did in this strange display that’s described in 1 Samuel was simply to show Saul that He can put His spirit on whoever He pleases and whenever He pleases. I think that that’s what God was doing in and through what He said and what He did to Saul through this event of Saul prophesying and his soldiers prophesying. It was a demonstration of God’s sovereignty to do whatever He pleases with His spirit, and Saul shouldn’t think too highly of himself because of that.
How do you confront false teaching in the church?
The first and perhaps most important thing is to be persuaded of what God’s truth is yourself. The most important thing Christians can do in regard to false teaching, is be Bible students themselves. It’s our own understanding of the Scriptures that protect us against the counterfeit that’s out there, so we need to be biblically literate people. We need to be Bible readers and Bible understanders. That’s the single most important thing for us to do regarding false teaching.
Now, when it comes to confronting false teaching, it depends on what particular responsibility God has given you in the church. We all have some responsibility. We have responsibility to one another, so I may, in personal conversations with other people, warn them about false teachings. That’s just ministry one to another that we should be doing in the body of Christ, but there is also ministry that we do because God has given us some particular role. We’re a Sunday school teacher, a pastor, or a Bible study teacher. If we have that responsibly, then, where we see the church threatened by some particular kind of false teaching, we need to speak about it and teach the truth.
It really needs to begin with us being diligent Bible readers and understanding it ourselves.
Is there a certain sign that starts the final 7 year period (the tribulation)?
Is there a certain sign that starts the final seven year period, the tribulation? Is it the rapture or could that happen apart from the tribulation?
I believe that the scriptures indicate the thing that will be the start of that last seven years is this covenant that the man of sin makes with the people of Israel, with the Jewish people. That’s what is indicated to us in Daniel 9 where it talks about this last seven year period that we’re dealing with in this 70th week of Daniel known as the Great Tribulation. This is what begins it.
I’ll let you in on a question that sometimes I ask myself. What if that covenant isn’t public? It’s possible that such a thing could happen and the world wouldn’t know much about it, but we would assume that such a thing would be publicly known. A covenant would be made between this last world leader and Israel, and that would be the start of this last seven year period.
I believe that God’s catching away of the church will happen either right then or sometime before then. There could be some period of time between the catching away of the church and the signing of this covenant. We’re not told specifically. Again, when it comes to the catching away of the church, no one knows the day or the hour. We think there could be some distance before, or it could happen very, very close to the establishment of that covenant, but we just don’t know.
If infidelity takes place in a marriage and the husband and wife stay together–does the marriage covenant need to be renewed?
If infidelity takes place in a marriage and the husband and wife stay together, does the marriage covenant need to be renewed since it has been broken as Jesus states in Matthew 19:9?
It’s important for us to understand that though the Bible gives permission or allowance for divorce, in the case of adultery or sexual immorality, it does not command it. It’s good when couples, even when a marriage covenant has been sinned against, can work through that and stay together.
There does need to be a renewal of the marriage covenant. The question is, does it need to be a public renewal of the covenant or can it just be a private renewal of the covenant? I could see a situation where a husband and wife feel it’s best to have a private renewal of the covenant. Together, before God, in a very formal way, renew their covenant. Maybe they do it with a trusted pastor there with them or someone they really respect spiritually in their life, but it’s somewhat of a private affair. I could also see a couple do it very publicly. They have a public renewing of their vows, and that could be appropriate as well.
So, I do believe there needs to be a renewal of the marriage covenant. The question is simply this, does it need to be a public or a private renewal of the covenant? I would leave that up to the leading of the Holy Spirit and good wisdom before the Lord.
Are there prophets today?
Are there prophets today? I’m so confused with all these prophets on here now. Does God really prophecy upcoming events to this day? Isn’t it all in His Word?
I do believe in the gift of prophecy. I am not, what is sometimes termed in modern Christian theology, a cessationist. I do not believe that God ended some of the gifts of the Spirit back in the days of the apostles. I believe that gifts such as prophecy, healing, and tongues are for today. Now, I don’t believe that everybody who claims to be a prophet is a prophet from God. I don’t believe that every exercise that is claimed to be the gift of tongues is actually the gift of tongues. I certainly don’t believe that everybody who claims to be a healer God uses them to heal people. I don’t believe those things.
Because of our present day and dynamic, when there is so much abuse and foolishness among Christians today regarding these spiritual gifts and spiritual practices, I am comfortable saying that the gift of prophecy is valid today. I am uncomfortable recognizing anyone as a prophet. Now, I understand you’re probably thinking, “well, David, you’re contradicting yourself. If somebody can exercise the gift of prophecy that makes them a prophet.” I’ll just accept some of my contradictions, and say that because of our present moment, it is not helpful, useful, or good to recognize people with the title of prophet. You recognize somebody with the title of profit, and things get weird. Even if the, so called, profit does not get weird, people will be weird towards them. I would much rather hear somebody say, “I don’t claim to be a prophet, but sometimes God has used me to proclaim the gift of prophecy.” This is one aspect.
The other aspect is this. Understand that the prediction of the future is only one aspect of prophecy. The Bible tells us fundamentally in 1 Corinthians that the gift of prophecy is for encouragement and edification to believers. That’s the main thrust of the gift of prophecy, so we shouldn’t think that the gift of prophecy is only to predict future events.
As somebody has said, prophecy is really forthtelling, speaking the mind and heart of God, much more than foretelling, announcing events before they happen. If someone does predict a future event and it doesn’t happen, we should definitely take that into account as we consider them being a true or false prophet. We shouldn’t ignore if someone claims to be a prophet and they prophesy wrong. We should take that into account. We shouldn’t stone them or excommunicate them, especially if they repent, but we should not ignore the fact that they have spoken mistakenly in the name of the Lord.
Now, I do believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today. I don’t believe that everything that is claimed to be done in the name of the Holy Spirit is done in the name of the Holy Spirit. I think wisdom should say that people should not call themselves prophets today, and that prophecy isn’t necessarily foretelling the future.
Finally, I would say this. We should not seek the Word of God from prophets. This is a dangerous thing in the church today. People get recognized as prophets and people flock to them and want to be prophesied over. I understand the attraction to that. People are attracted to that for reasons deep within, but that is more like seeking after a fortune teller than it is truly seeking the mind and heart of God.
While I do believe there is a true exercise of the gift of prophecy in the world today, I don’t believe that is what we should seek. If you want to seek the voice of God, seek it in His Word. God may give us a word through a person, but that’s not what we’re supposed to seek. Don’t seek after words from prophets. That is a dangerous pursuit. Seek after God’s voice in His Word. Again, if God does want to bring you a message through the gift of prophecy, He knows where to find you. You don’t have to seek after it.