These are good times for the church in the United States. How could that possibly be true? For most of its history, the United States has afforded a safe haven for the real church. Though never a “Christian nation” (There is no such entity: God saves individuals, not nations.), genuine believers could obey their consciences guided by the Word of God and publicly declare their beliefs, generally without fear of repercussions either from the government or from any part of the private sector. More and more, that ceases to be the case. Standing for the truth of the Word of God is gradually becoming difficult and, in some cases, even illegal.
Calling abortion murder, homosexual behavior a sin, and transgenderism gross perversion may now frequently generate animosity, anger, or worse. Businesses refusing to serve the LGBTQ+ movement in ways that would support or acquiesce in their sinful practices are accused of being hatemongers and in some states have been prosecuted for illegal acts of discrimination. So how can these be good times for the church? Consider the following.
The world’s animosity has exposed man’s depravity. The positive moral climate that had long prevailed in America engendered by the prevalence of the preaching of God’s Word in this country has contributed to a certain level of skepticism in the church regarding the true depth of human depravity. But the horrific mass genocide of innocent babies at the hands of their own mothers, the uncontrolled and uncontrollable hatred and violence that erupts across this nation, the explosive increase in the numbers of “inventors of evil” (Rom. 1:30) with their perverse and irrational sexual immorality of all sorts are all making abundantly clear the truth of Scripture concerning man’s sin nature. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1-3). Government, the worlds of art and entertainment, and even mainline churches all offer testimony to the scriptural truth that mankind is utterly depraved.
The world’s animosity identifies those having genuine faith. Believers can provoke animosity when dealing with sinful and unChristlike behavior, and God would not commend us for that. However, when faithfulness to the Word of God evokes hatred, God is honored and the church is blessed. The Lord warned His disciples that “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18, 19).
The world’s animosity is being used by God to sanctify His church. Many believers have unwittingly placed too much faith in the U. S. Constitution, mistakenly believing that it would afford them protection from the ravages of sin in the hearts of unbelievers. Others have had a rather careless belief in the general goodness of American citizens that would enable the church in this country to avoid the persecutions that have attended the faithful around the world historically. Recent events have given the lie to those notions. Paul has told us that “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25-27). The apostle makes a similar claim in his epistle to Titus: Christ Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (2:14). The outrageous rebellion that is being manifested within our borders is certainly leaving lost men without excuse—in their sin they are condemning themselves—but God is also using it to separate His own from the world and from sin and to draw them in sanctifying grace to Himself. A necessary and blessed work.
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