David Gushee, in his book “The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust,” seeks to explain why some European citizens stepped forward to become rescuers of Jews being hounded by their Nazi persecutors and others did nothing, or actually informed on them. One of the common denominators he found among those willing to endanger their own lives to rescue Jews being sought by authorities was a thing called “group influence.” As he put it, “some rescuers reported that they saved Jews because of the moral example or exhortation of a group that was important to them. Such groups included family, friends, church groups, etc. Everyone knows that we are profoundly influenced in our decisions by those whose opinions matter to us.”
This made me ask the inevitable question, “If this whole issue had been lived out in the present day, and our country was occupied by Nazi invaders, would Cactus Christian Fellowship be a force so strong that its people would immediately recognize the issues involved and reach out to help, endangering their lives to protect the oppressed? Or, would our influence be so minimal and the ethic we stand for be so shallow that each person would seek to do only what most of the Christians of Europe did—avoid the uncomfortable and dangerous at any cost.”
This is not a hypothetical question. Actually, it is being asked and answered every day. We don’t have to wait for some great showdown between good and evil to see how we would respond. As Jesus put it, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). How are you handling the little ethical battles that rage around you each day? Do you find yourself justifying your conduct by quoting favorite phrases of the Enemy like “It’s no big deal,” or “Everybody’s doing it”? Or does the Spirit of God within you constantly send up the red flags of ethical warning that you are walking on dangerous ground?
Those of us who have pledged that Jesus Christ is our Lord must live in accordance with His teaching and conform our lives to His will and example. This is what it means to call Him Lord and to be His disciples. And it isn’t just for ourselves we need to do this. We are leaving behind us a legacy for our children and others to follow. Depending upon our conduct will it be a legacy of spiritual compromise and convenience or of courage and conviction?
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)
Have you ever met someone who laughed, sneered, or jeered when the subject of Jesus Christ came up? While most people are more polite and tolerant of someone else’s point of view, there are many who just find the whole subject of faith in Jesus Christ as, well, just a little bit ridiculous. This is, by the way, one of the chief reasons so many Christians refuse to talk about their faith with anyone, ever. It is one thing to express a point of view with which others disagree. It is quite another to have it laughed off the stage. We shouldn’t be too harsh with those who respond to this sacred subject with a laugh. They are only reflecting the real state of things as they now exist in our increasingly pagan society. It is not that there is something inherently funny about the subject of faith in Christ. It is more like trying to get a serious discussion started on the person of Santa Claus. The first shock to them is that you actually believe in Him and the second is that you are trying to get others to believe in Him. While the serous Christian may not understand how this mindset came about in a so-called “Christian nation” it is certainly becoming firmly entrenched.
How is this possible in a country that overwhelmingly says it believes in God? With churches on every corner and mega churches sprouting up everywhere, how could so many people miss the message? While the temptation is to blame Satan for this newest twist or to bemoan the spiritually backsliding society we live in, I put most of the blame squarely on the backs of Christians themselves. While so many Christians talk about God, faith, church or even a “relationship with Jesus Christ,” their unwillingness to live out their faith openly before their peers is the one thing, more than any other, that continues to move the subject of Jesus Christ into the realm of fantasy. For instance, if you had a neighbor who professed to love the country of Italy more than any country in the world, yet he spoke no Italian, never read books on the subject, never listened to Italian music, never went to an Italian restaurant, nor ever visited the country, wouldn’t you begin to suspect that the country of Italy never really existed?
Jesus Himself has the answer for us: “You are the light of the world...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16). You see, our speech will mean absolutely nothing unless it is supported by our actions. It’s as simple as that.
You can deepen your faith in 2016 but you must be intentional about it. Here are some steps you can take that will help you grow your faith:
1. Meet with God before you check Facebook.
Start the day with God. Commit yourself to reading God’s Word and praying before you get absorbed in the latest media updates.
2. Choose a Book of the Bible to study this year.
We’ll be reading through the Bible again, but there is great value in digging deeply into one book of the Bible. If you don’t know where to begin, start with Ephesians.
3. Buy a study Bible.
Owning a study Bible is like having a seminary faculty on your bookshelf. It has notes on every passage, outlines, maps, charts, diagrams and illustrations. It will jumpstart your knowledge of God’s Word.
4. Get involved in a Small Group.
While it is possible to grow on your own, you will grow much faster when you are involved with a small group of other Christians. Join a Sunday School class, a men’s group, or a women’s group. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Share your life with others.
5. Start a Journal.
Where has God shown up in your life? Where have you seen the fingerprints of the Lord? Write it down so you won’t forget it. Over time you will see how God’s plan is unfolding in your life.
6. Memorize Psalm 1.
Psalm 1 stands at the head of the Psalter for a reason. It describes the fundamental difference between a life lived for self versus a life lived for God. We need to tattoo these verses on our heart so we won’t forget them.
7. Become a quick forgiver.
There is nothing sadder than a bitter Christian. Don’t fall into that trap this year. Be a quick forgiver. Remember, God said, “Vengeance is mine.”
8. Pray for Missionary Eyes.
Every day you will meet people who need the help only you can give. Some of them need a word of encouragement, and you can do that. Pray that God will give you the eyes to see the real needs of the people you will meet. And don’t forget to share your faith with them. Remember, no one becomes godly by accident. Intentionality is the key if you want to grow this year. ---Adapted
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship