Taking a Stand (Part One)
A number of years ago, young orphaned elephants were introduced to the Pilanesberg area of South Africa having been removed from other over-populated reserves. Within a relatively short matter of time, these juvenile elephants turned delinquent to the point of becoming harmful and destructive. They were responsible for the death of many rhinoceroses and became a threat to tourists in the reserve. One tourist was literally ejected from his battered car and trampled. In another incident a professional hunter was also killed by a rogue juvenile elephant. It was concluded their aberrant behavior was the consequence of no adult bull elephant supervision. When new adult bulls were introduced into the reserve, the delinquency was naturally and quickly arrested thereby alleviating the entire situation.
The history of the chosen people of Israel is an erratic one of spiritual highs and lows with respect to their relationship to the Lord. It is marked with periods of obedience intermixed with times of flagrant idolatry. The book of Judges literally ends on a very sad note with this disparate message: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 21:25 NKJV). The desire and quest for a literal king in Israel was the misguided and shameful behavior of a people who wanted to pattern their lives more after the other nations than be the unique people of God. Israel was never intended to be like the other nations governmentally; they were called to be a theocracy with God alone as their king.
While serving at Cherry Point Marine Air Station in 1966, I recall an interesting conversation with a weathered, old Gunnery Sergeant one afternoon at a squadron party. The Gunny was sharing his experience of having at one time departed the Corps for civilian life. On listening to his exploits, I asked him why he came back into the Marine Corps if things were so good on the outside. His response was terse and telling: “Because there ain’t nobody in charge out there.”
As I survey the moral landscape of America today, I can’t help but think of these illustrations as germane to our present conditions of growing lawlessness as we have systematically removed God from literally every institution in the land. We are living in a day where people are literally pilfering armloads of merchandise from store shelves with impunity. We are witnessing federal and state governments pass law after law that virtually ignore and violate the spirit and letter of our Constitution. We are seeing national foundational guidelines such as language, borders and culture utterly ignored and cast aside. We have watched as faith and confidence in government has eroded to the extent of near nonexistence. Unquestionably the young elephants have gone rogue. For all practical purposes, there is no king in the land. The Gunny was prophetic: There ain’t nobody in charge!
America was founded with what may have been the most unique and challenging form of government known to man—a democratic republic. A government of, for and by the people. A government summed up in the preamble of our Constitution, “We the people…” A government that shunned top-heavy autocratic authority but required the citizenry to assume self-rule and to exercise appropriate restraint and self-discipline. Instead of a hierarchical oligarchy, Americans were given the incredible opportunity and freedom under constitutional guidance to be self-governed. One cannot help but see the parallelism with Israel’s theocracy. In our case, however, individual choices became paramount. In a very real sense, one could live by law or by grace. Rejecting God as one’s king meant living by and under the law. As previously stated, we have digressed in our unique experiment to the point where God’s presence is at best token and the law itself despised.
One might wonder, given the apparent presence of Christianity, how a nation comes to such moral degeneracy. If the existence of churches dotting the landscape across this nation is any indication of Christianity’s presence, how can a people come so far in forsaking fundamental values of life? How do we come to the place where the good life is defined more by the accumulation of worldly goods and wealth than by living righteously? The church has been called to be salt and light to a lost and turbulent world. Just as Israel of old was meant to bear the reality of the one true God to the other nations, Christians today are called to live their lives in a culture-transforming manner that makes Christ attractive to those around them. But when the salt loses its savor and the light is under a basket, where is the hope for the world? Tragically, the world seems to have had more influence on the church than the church on the world. Consider these germane quotes from George Barna’s work at the Family Research Council:
Frankly, the culture is impacting the Christian church and the Christian faith more than the Christian church or Christian faith are impacting the culture.
We are moving into a very different culture where people are saying, ‘I don’t want the Bible, I don’t want God, and I don’t want the church.’
The real tragedy here is in how most confessing Christians today have rejected a biblical worldview and are basically seeing and responding to life through a very secular lens. According to the Barna Group, a biblical worldview is defined as follows:
… as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.
Among American adults, only 4% hold such a view. However, among born again Christians, those holding a biblical worldview is only slightly higher at 9%. This more than explains why the salt has lost its savor. The predominant worldview among Americans today is referred to as “syncretism.” This is a blending of ideas and applications from various worldviews into a unique combination representing one’s personal preferences. George Barna calls this “…a cut-and-paste approach to making sense of life.” Referring to the study by Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center, Barna concluded: “…that America’s dominant worldview is Syncretism, which isn’t actually a worldview at all but rather a disparate, irreconcilable collection of beliefs that people paste together to suit themselves.”
One cannot help but conclude that America’s moral crisis is first and foremost in the church itself. With the wholesale abandonment of biblical truths and acquiescing to the standards of the world, the church has virtually tarnished its witness in the world to the extent of nonexistence. When we refer to the church, we are really talking about that set, that collection of persons who profess Christianity as their religious belief. Given the eclectic, syncretistic belief systems pieced together by so many Christians today, it is not hard to realize why the church is not transforming our culture. The meaning of “Christian” is virtually being redefined in non-biblical ways in order that so-called Christians can feel comfortable as they adopt the world’s goals, values and practices.
We have a major example of the church “re-writing” God’s Word in how it has gone soft on homosexuality, a sin which the Bible says is an abomination to God (Lev 18:22, 20:13, Rom 1:26,27). Satan always begins in ways that he gets his foot in the door and then massively expands on the initial sin. Once there was passive acceptance of homosexuality by the church, there came a steady progression into pedophilia, cross-dressing, transgenderism and self-identifying as to whatever sexual orientation suits your fancy at the moment.
We have cultural and societal degeneration now to the extent that we have drag-queen presentations to little children, schools pushing children to accept and celebrate Pride Month, men identifying as women and commandeering their athletic programs, the opening of locker-rooms and restrooms to both sexes and the practice of gender-affirming surgery on minors. No one would have dreamed 25 years ago that we could come to such a despicable state of moral degeneracy in America but it has happened and with very little pushback from the church. The church’s dismal response is no longer surprising when one realizes over half of evangelicals reject absolute moral truth, 61% don’t read the Bible on a daily basis and 75% believe people are basically good (“American Worldview” survey by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University).
The Bible is most clear regarding the reality of spiritual warfare:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph 6:10-13 KJV)
We are in the gravest spiritual battle of our lives and maybe in all history and the only entity on planet earth remotely capable of confronting the enemy appears oblivious a spiritual war is even raging. Behind all the moral degeneracy in America are corresponding evil spiritual entities executing Satan’s strategies designed to thwart the coming of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Set over against this is data from the Barna Group showing that “Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective.” When nearly 60% of confessing Christians deny the biblical reality of Satan and demons, is it any wonder that the church is far from the front in its responsibility to counter the forces of evil?
The Apostle Paul was a Ph.D. biblical scholar of his day and he believed in and dealt with the hosts of hell. In closing his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul urged them to take up the spiritual battle through putting on the whole armor of God and being persistent in prayer. At least four times he pressed them to “stand” or to take a stand. The Greek word translated as “stand” is “histami” and it includes the following meaning: To stand immutable, stand firm; to stand ready or prepared; to persist, continue, persevere; in a figure, of one who vanquishes his adversaries and holds the ground, Ephesians 6:13; also of one who in the midst of the fight holds his position against the foe (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
The church is not going to impact American culture and life positively, countering this ongoing devastating satanic assault, until believers are willing to take a stand. Not until believers rediscover their biblical roots, embracing the truth of Scripture, and choosing to live in the now kingdom of God as followers of Jesus will the church have a culturally transforming presence in the world.
In Part Two of this article, we will examine the life of an Old Testament king who chose to make a difference by taking a stand.