He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
England and Wales are no longer majority Christian according to newly released census data. The two British nations have fallen from 59 percent who called themselves Christians in 2011 to 46 percent who did so in 2021; the number of respondents saying they had no religion has risen from 25 percent a decade ago to 37 percent now.
We are seeing the same pattern in the US: while 90 percent of Americans identified as Christians in 1972, only 64 percent did so in 2020. The damaging impact of this steady retreat from Christian faith and morality is on display every day in our culture.
Chaplain fired for biblical views on marriage
For example, the United States Senate has passed the so-called Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) to protect same-sex and interracial marriage; the House is expected to approve the legislation as early as next week. The bill will then be sent to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. If this happens, an unbiblical and unprecedented definition of marriage will become the law of the land both by Supreme Court fiat and by congressional action.
The legislation was amended to include some religious liberty protections, which critics claim “codifies discrimination” on behalf of “antiquated, patriarchal institutions.”
However, Sen. Mike Lee warns that these protections do not go nearly far enough. He writes that “under the RFMA’s current language, many religious schools, faith-based organizations, and other nonprofit entities adhering to traditional views of marriage would be at risk of losing tax-exempt status and access to a wide range of federal programs. Many small businesses would also be affected.” He cites the example of wedding vendors, including kosher caterers, who would be “subjected to endless lawsuits and harassment based solely on their beliefs.”
He also cites the example of Dr. Andrew Fox, who created a chaplaincy program at the Austin Fire Department and served as lead chaplain in a volunteer capacity for eight years. In a personal blog unconnected to his work, he shared his religious views regarding marriage. City officials then demanded that he recant his statement and apologize for the harm his blog post allegedly had caused.
The chaplain explained that he only intended to foster discussion and not cause offense and apologized if anyone was offended. However, the officials demanded total compliance with their preferred views on marriage and forced Dr. Fox to hand in his uniform. As Sen. Lee noted, “He could keep his job or his beliefs, but not both.”
Meanwhile, critics are demanding that Justice Amy Coney Barrett recuse herself from a December 5 Supreme Court case in which a Colorado website designer is defending her right to run her business without being forced to make websites for same-sex weddings. Because Barrett belongs to a religious group that holds a biblical view of marriage, it is alleged that she cannot rule objectively on the case.
If Christians who hold biblical beliefs cannot participate in our legal system, we have obviously taken a massive step toward becoming a post-Christian or even anti-Christian nation.
"Let me not eat of their delicacies"
In his inaugural lecture at Cambridge University in 1954, C. S. Lewis noted (PDF) that the Western world could now be divided into three periods: the pre-Christian, the Christian, and the post-Christian. He added that “Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not.”
In our post-Christian world, the news stories we have discussed today should therefore not surprise us. Nor should further escalation of opposition and antagonism to our faith.
Clearly, we must be prepared to defend our beliefs as they are attacked (1 Peter 3:15-16). But our even more foundational response to our ever more sinful culture must be to resist its omnipresent influence in our lives.
David prayed, “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies” (Psalm 141:4, my emphasis). His prayer recalls the biblical description of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6).
Satan is better at tempting than we are at resisting. Of course he will make sin attractive to us. He will seek to convince us that its “rewards” outweigh their cost; so-called “private” sins are especially useful to him in this way.
When your enemy knocks at your door today, remember this fact: “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). There are no exceptions to this rule.
"You can't impact the tree-ness of a tree"
Here’s the good news: the God who came at Christmas comes again into the lives of all who trust him as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). As we have noted this week, he loves you not because you are lovable but because he is love (1 John 4:8).
Now you can claim his promise: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If you will name your temptation, turn it immediately over to him, and ask him for the strength and insight you need to refuse, he will answer your prayer. This is because “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and you can say with Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Max Lucado noted: “You don’t influence God’s love. You can’t impact the tree-ness of a tree, the sky-ness of a sky, or the rock-ness of a rock. Nor can you affect the love of God.”
But you can trust it and be transformed by it.
Will you today?
Publication date: December 1, 2022
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jantanee Rungpranomkorn
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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