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Contending for the Faith: What It Is and Isn’t

16 Jan

I received an email today, forwarded by a friend from a grass-roots-y, activist-y web group. I want to start by saying that I think it is good for Christians to be actively involved in giving voice to the direction of our nation. One of the perks of our present political structure is that we have a bigger open door (in the natural, anyway) to speak into our government than most people through history have ever dreamed. It’s good to care about the state of our country and it’s good to stand for what we believe.

With all that said, this email made me sad.

I’m sure the author is a deeply sincere believer who cares greatly about the Bible. However, I’m also sure that the email is not very reflective of the truths in Scripture. I wanted to share a few excerpts with you. (To set it in context, the email is bemoaning the lack of public prayer and other displays of Christianity. This is a legitimate reason to be troubled, but… well, you’ll see what I mean.)

One or two [unbelievers] will tell thousands what they can and cannot do. I don’t think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world’s foundations.

If it won’t, then we should all quit right now.

Admittedly, the short prayer at the football game is probably more of a traditional recitation than it is an actual dialogue with the Most Holy. In that sense, I concede his point. But I still cannot agree with his statement. 

I have placed a lot of stock in 30-second prayers. Someone comes into my mind, so I ask the Lord to be with them and bless them. I remember a friend who’s sick, and I ask God to heal them. I am troubled over the state of our nation, and I ask God to send us revival. It’s usually nothing prolonged, and sometimes I don’t feel a ton of emotions with it, but I try to pray anyway.

If these prayers aren’t shaking the very foundations of the world, then what’s the point? If our prayers are admittedly powerless, then there’s no reason to fight to keep them in the football game. If our God doesn’t hear and answer prayer, every time, our faith is a pretty pathetic one. And if your public prayer is merely invoking the name of God for some sort of display of pride in your religion, perhaps it’s time to stop.

Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights. 

…Does the author realize that he just said that Christians are sick and tired of practicing the Sermon on the Mount? Does he realize he just said that we are fed up with the teachings of Jesus? This statement may be true, but if so, it should be a point of mourning and repentance, not a slogan for our pep rally.

Again, as I said at the beginning of this post, we need to be responsible with the stewardship we have been given in our government. We need to speak up about the things that matter. But we must do so in a way that is in line with the Sermon on the Mount. That’s not optional, no matter how ugly the opposition gets.

Jesus gave this Sermon specifically in the context of an oppressive, ungodly government. The whole “going the extra mile” thing (Matthew 5:41) refers to how Roman soldiers could force a commoner to carry their armor for them for a distance of a mile. In fact, the people to whom Jesus exhorts us to turn the other cheek are explicitly “evil person[s]” (Matthew 5:39). We have no room to use the excuse, “But, Lord, they’re really mean and they hate You!” Jesus might reply, “Perfect; that’s exactly who I told you to exercise meekness towards.”

Jesus said that we are blessed if we are persecuted for His sake (Matthew 5:10-12) — something that the Roman government would, in fact, inflict upon believers just a short time after He preached. The early Church endured imprisonment, crucifixion, decapitation, burning, boiling, exile, scourging, rioting, and to top it off, being put to death in coliseums as a spectator sport. Yet these saints sang while they were martyred. They exhorted their captors to be saved (i.e. Acts 26:29). They preached tough truths (Acts 7:2-53), but they also cried out for the forgiveness of their killers (Acts 7:60).  

Jump back to our nation and our time, where the extent of our persecution is atheistic people complaining about “under God” being in our Pledge of Allegiance. We are already sick of turning the other cheek.

Friends, we’re living in the End Times. The antichrist spirit is just getting warmed up. “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses?…” (Jer 12:5). If we’re willing to call it quits on holiness already, we’re in big trouble. We need revival.

The silent majority has been silent too long.  It’s time we tell that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard that the vast majority doesn’t care what they want.  It is time that the majority rules!  […] We are fighting back, and we WILL WIN!

I agree that the Church should not be silent. But our responsibility to open our mouths is not because we are the majority (assuming we even are the majority any more). It’s not because we’re facing off with a vocal minority. After all, our struggle has never been against flesh and blood.

If we open our mouth, it should be to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. The last thing this country needs is another set of talking heads spouting outrage about their ideals. We need prophetic voices who will proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, and call for the people to prepare the way of the Lord.

This is why we speak out against unrighteousness. This is why we stand for the truth. The King is coming, and anything that is exalted against Him will be brought low. Real lives are at stake. The glory of our God must be made known. That’s why we lift our voices — not because we are mad at the vocal minority. We are not called to plead the case of the silent majority. We are to plead on behalf of Christ Himself (2Cor 5:20). In the words of Allen Hood, as intercessors, we are to position ourselves in the place where “love waits and wrestles for God to be heard and man to be pitied. The courageous are found there, fighting for God to be adored and man to be accepted” (Excellencies of Christ Syllabus, Kansas City, MO: Forerunner Books 2006. p. 217).

I think it’s critical that we pick our battles, as well. This email opened with a familiar cry that this nation was founded by believers on Christian principles. We can argue to what degree that is true (I’m not going there, but interested readers may want to catch some thought-provoking posts by Kyle Gebhart here). Whatever conclusion we come to, I think something is abundantly clear: America is not a Christian nation now. America is “Christian”, sort of, in the sense that we’re not predominantly Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu. But of the large (though dwindling) number of people who go to church and consider themselves Christian, a comparatively small sector actually care enough about the Lord to try and live His Word. As a whole, we’re a pretty apathetic bunch, so busy trying to make peace with the world that we cease to live consecrated from it.

We can throw temper tantrums and have marches and write letters to congress about the wording of our Pledge of Alliegiance, or not calling Christmas “Xmas”, or saying a canned prayer at the football game, or what have you. But at the end of the day, we’ll discover that we’re fighting to make a  mostly apathetic agnostic country act Christian.

We’re fighting to maintain the vestiges of the appearance of our old time religion, while our hearts (as a nation) are cold towards the God in whom our currency claims we trust. We have a fit about whether or not a nativity scene is displayed at City Hall, while our babies are being slaughtered by the thousands, our young women are selling their souls and bodies to anyone who looks twice, internet pornography is claiming the hearts of millions of our young men, human trafficking festers within our cities, religious syncretism is becoming increasingly fashionable, etc…. I could go on.

I don’t intend to dwell on the negative here, but I do want to say this: I am much less concerned about not being able to say “one nation under God” than I am about the fact our nation is doing everything it can to not actually be under Him. We need to fight for more than just emblems of our faith. We need a wholesale turning of our hearts back to the Lord.

Back to the above email excerpt. Supposing that the Church is still the majority, we will not “win” by our grassroots organizations. True, they may help us get some jurisdiction passed or blocked. They may prove to be useful tools in doing what we need to do in the political realm. But we don’t win these battles in the court system or in Congress. We win in the heavenly realms, and from there we impact the infrastructure of a nation.

Supposing our grassroots organizations suddenly worked as well as we could possibly dream. The Pledge still said “under God”. Our quarters still said “in God we trust”. Every town in the U.S. displayed a nativity scene and the Ten Commandments in their courthouse. Supposing we even got laws passed on really important issues like abortion. Let’s imagine every law in every district suddenly fell our way and our grassroots organizations won every battle they’re fighting right now. We would still be in massive trouble.

Our laws may change, but they can’t solve the fundamental evil at work in our midst — we, as a nation, hate God. At least most of us do. As badly as I long to see the abortion laws change, I know that the laws alone don’t stop the spirits of murder and convenience that hover over our culture. As much as I would rejoice to see internet pornography or same-sex marriage outlawed, I know that it won’t address our nation’s addiction to perversion. No matter how many court cases are ruled in our favor, as long as this is still the heart attitude of our country, we haven’t won.

I remember being in high school and studying the Great Awakening for a history paper (one more reason to love homeschool, by the way). I read incredible things. Many bars and taverns in New England shut down, not because the legislation changed, but simply nobody wanted to go any more. Jails emptied out, not because of prison reform, but because people got saved and stopped committing crimes. Even today, if you look at other regions in the world which have experienced spiritual transformation, the massive breakthrough in society, morality, and even agriculture and environmental concerns did not come because of any passage or blocking of laws. It happened because people turned to God and He showed up.

 This is what America needs. And it’s not something that any earthly court system can give us.

By all means, let’s not be silent. But we need to be lifting our voice in prayer and prophecy, not merely protest. We need to stop fighting for our rights and start pouring out our lives. We must stop confusing whose cause we represent. We must approach the throne of the King and Judge of the whole earth, knowing that He is fully able to turn the hearts of our judges and rulers. We must cry out for not just the laws, but the hearts of this nation. It’s not enough to honor God with our lips (and monuments and currency and postage stamps) if our hearts are far from Him. We must have revival. We must return to the Lord our God. Nothing short of that will save our nation, no matter how loud we shout or how well we organize.

Majority or not, the Church walking in fullness will be the most powerful group of people on the earth. At the end of the day, we will win, and we will do it through weakness (prayer, fasting, humility) that casts itself upon the mercies of an awesome and holy God. Ultimately, we will win, because the One we pray to will set His throne upon the earth and usher in everlasting righteousness. Our voices will matter and be heard when they arise as incense to the heavens and thunder as true prophecy upon the earth.

Let’s fight for change in this nation. But let’s do it where a real difference can be made, and where the impact will echo through eternity.

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13 Comments

Posted by on January 16, 2009 in Intercession

 

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13 responses to “Contending for the Faith: What It Is and Isn’t

  1. danseuse

    January 17, 2009 at 1:26 am

    I live in a small town in Texas. We say prayers at games. Last week our school district hosted a Christian outreach. We have nativity scenes. We say the Pledge of Allegiance. In Texas the state law (not that all follow it) says all public schools have to say the US pledge, and the Texas pledge–“Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God and indivisible.” Under God was ADDED in 2007. My town is pretty typical for many Southern and Texas towns. I am with you. I am far more concerned by the big issues. The ones in that email are not even issues everywhere, but the big problems are as you say. That was the long way to say “Amen, Amanda.”

     
  2. Amanda Beattie

    January 17, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Ah… the unique experience of living in the Bible Belt. 😀

     
  3. mitch

    January 17, 2009 at 2:16 am

    wow…thank you for sharing your thoughts. i appreciate reading them. i’m encouraged and inspired.

     
  4. christiankane

    January 17, 2009 at 3:56 am

    I always find it intriguing how much Western (read: American) Christians tend to forget that signing up for life means signing up for the ending of your life. I bet if we were to do a case study, football injuries would go up if we stopped prayer at Highschool games nationwide… not because the prayers are that specifically anointed, but more because God is good and we are neurotic.

    However, beyond the specific players affected by these injuries, I’m not sure that the arguments being made by the Email sent to you actually prove anything. No, the earth “will not shake” in the physical sense if we pray before a football game or not. By equal right, it won’t shake if we didn’t pray before the game either. I think that other than Providence in someone surviving a massive injury, God is relatively dispassionate about sports. Yes, Christians are “tired of turning the other cheek”… that is kind of the point. We get tired, so we lean on God for our justification. Appropos, the atheists aren’t too thrilled about having to do it either.

    It will be very interesting to see what the uber-grassroots crowd will do when all of our cushy American rights are gone and Jesus is setting up a non-democratic autocracy…

     
  5. John Barker

    January 17, 2009 at 4:01 am

    Totally off subject. Met one of your friends tonight at Detroit IHOPE, Aaron Sweadger (I think I got his last name spelled right). He says he is a BIG fan of your too. Didn’t know you had such a following! Great guy. Is it true you are only 20?!

     
  6. Amanda Beattie

    January 17, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Mitch: Thanks for the comment. 🙂

    CK: That’s why it’s pretty important that we get the USA and the Millennial Kingdom good and distinct in our minds…

    John: Aaron Swanger. He actually called me and told me he met you. And I agree, he’s a fantastic guy! I met him when he joined our worship team a while back–now he has gone to a day schedule, but we still hang out from time to time. (And for what it’s worth, I’m 23.) 🙂

     
  7. Jacquie

    January 17, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Hi Amanda,

    I have often felt exactly what you described here, yet you were able to put it into words much better than I would’ve been able to. You communicated your message with clarity, boldness and heartfelt concern. I am grateful for bloggers like you who have such a foundation in the Word and intimacy with the Holy Spirit, fueled by time in the prayer room, who are empowered to proclaim what is on God’s heart to people while also being a voice where it truly matters – in the courts of heaven. Thanks for writing this!

    Blessings,
    Jacquie

     
  8. brianbeattie

    January 17, 2009 at 10:11 am

    That’s great preaching, Amanda!

    I especially love this:
    “…we need to be lifting our voice in prayer and prophecy, not merely protest. We need to stop fighting for our rights and start pouring out our lives. We must stop confusing whose cause we represent.”

    Good citizens speak out for righteousness, vote for God-fearing governance, advocate justice in the public square – but our citizenship is in heaven (Phillipians 3:20).

    I saw in the news recently that a Christian bus driver, somewhere in Great Britain, arrived for a regular shift to find that her assigned bus had been emblazoned with an advertisement from an atheist group, stating there was “probably no God”. She refused to drive that bus, and since there were no other vehicles available, her supervisor sent her home. The company spokesman told the news that in the future, every effort would be made to assure that this bus driver would be assigned to drive busses that did not carry these particular ads.
    I applaud this brave bus driver who made a stand.
    Funny that was so remarkable it provoked news coverage.
    I wonder how many Christians paid to ride that bus anyway?

     
  9. danseuse

    January 17, 2009 at 11:30 am

    RE: the lovely Bible Belt–yes, it’s funny and yet you often find the most surface Christianity in the midst of God-dominated culture. I think that is sort of the point of all this, though. These little things do not add up to the big thing. I doubt, as a whole, we are much of a threat to anyone. I, however, plan to be a really big threat to the kingdom of darkness, even in the Bible Belt, so let the 30 second and 30 minute prayers continue.

     
  10. Francisco

    January 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Thankfully there is hope…….

    For Miracles do happen…….

    Hope is there would be those who experience The Miracle that is receiving, not just reading about, “the love of The Truth”…….

    Those who receive will realize The Truth of “the WHOLE(not just a portion) world being under the control of the evil one”(1Jn5:19) indeed and Truth…….

    And they will take heed unto The Call of The Only True GOD to “Come Out of her, MY people”…….

    All who do so will “Come Out” of this world and it’s systems of religion…….

    Truth is never ending…….

     
  11. anita

    January 19, 2009 at 7:44 am

    amen sister! keep going Amanda!!

     
  12. Ben Varner

    January 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Easily the best post I’ve read of yours. Reminds me of a message a friend of mine gave in AMS as a response to Obama’s campaign slogan, where he gave the history of man and at the climax of each period ended with: “No, we can’t”, and crowning Jesus as the only Man in whom America has hope, both historically and eschatologically. Brilliant. – Ben

     

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