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A View from the Altar / Live street lights
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Live street lights

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.  (Philippians 2:14-16)

Thomas Paine opened a political tract with the statement, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Trying times may be ahead if the socialist plans of the present administration succeed.  I hope they don’t, but they seem to have the votes right now.

Christian advocate liberty for the free proclamation of the Gospel.  In a fallen world, the only way for the true Gospel to have free course is for religion in general to have free course.  To ensure political toleration for the religion of Jesus, we tolerate idolaters.  After 233 uneasy but peaceful years of coexistence, the social contract with idolaters may be expiring.  Socialism threatens to deify the state in a way Christians must not accept, though some will.

We haven’t been carried away into Babylon as captives.  Rather, Babylonians meandered into the city while the gates were open, set up their shops and mosques and temples, started inviting their friends, and had way more kids than we did.  We looked down our nose at their hordes of kids until their kids started becoming doctors and engineers, and then some of them ran for city council and school board and got elected.  First thing we knew, people whom we had despised were running things their way.  And they have no concept in their world view of toleration.  We bragged about being tolerant.  They saw wimps — sterile, gutless, stupid.

By the time Christians realized there was a culture war going on, the momentum was all for the Babylonians.  Or to switch to the Egyptian metaphor, the king had arisen who knew not Joseph.  Now all the societal changes proceed in only one direction.  Private property rights, one of the gifts of Christianity to the world, are being smothered by regulation and taxation.  The state, formerly limited, now grows exponentially in power.  The Constitution was framed to be the law of the land by which citizens could hold their government to account.  Now the courts tell us that private citizens have no standing to see that constitutional questions even get a hearing.  Every new sexual perversion gets a following and eventually the protection of law. Environmental fanatics place our natural resources off limits and we are powerless to defeat them.  Idolaters get special protections the followers of Jesus never knew.  Emerging hate crimes and speech code laws threaten to make the preaching of the Bible unlawful.

Some say we’re on the verge of a new dark age.  Maybe so.  I’m no prophet, so I know only what I can see around me, that Christianity is in social decline in the West.  Our trendiest religious forms and customs are embarrassing attempts to stop the slide, and any fool can see they’re more geared to pleasing Babylonians than exalting King Jesus.  The vectors are pointing the wrong way for us right now.

Even if we assume the worst, we know some things for certain.  We know that Christ will return in victory at the last, and the angels will say that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.  (Rev 11:15)  So we’re going to win big.  And we’ll do it the same way we became Christians in the first place, i.e., by his power and not our own.  Second, we know that the Gospel is still the only means by which God has planned to save those who believe. (Rom 1:16)  This foundation stands sure, says Paul, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are his, and, Let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2  Tim 2:19)

Third, and most important for our subject, we know how to conduct ourselves in the new Babylon West.  We need to get on with doing what we should have done all along, with words and deeds of righteousness shining as lights in the world.  By speaking the name of Christ in proclaiming his Gospel, we hold forth the word of life.  The success of the Gospel doesn’t depend upon the social conditions where it’s preached.  It depends on the faithfulness of the church to live it and preach it and the power of the Spirit to bring it to life.  When the Babylonians run city hall, they can make it hurt for us to do all that.  But in the end, darkness doesn’t have power over light.  It’s the other way around.  Suit up in your armor, pick up your sword, and go.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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