Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Why the Silence?

Sep 5, 2013

The church of Jesus Christ is meant to be a prophetic voice to the world, challenging its assumptions, rebuking its sins, and exposing its evil agendas. It is meant to exist as a sharp contrast to the world, not a pale imitation of it. The church is to be the only genuine counter-cultural institution out there.

But so often the church simply parrots, reflects, and slavishly follows whatever the world is up to at the moment. Instead of being that powerful prophetic voice, it is often an anaemic pathetic voice. The watchmen seem nowhere to be found, the prophets are asleep, and God’s people seem to love it this way.

A good test of just how effective, biblical, and sold out to Christ a church is, is this: if the world loves it, applauds it, and thinks it is really cool, then it is probably a sham church. If on the other hand the church ends up offending people, dividing people, and causing controversy and conflict, then it may well be doing its job.

Of course we do not seek to go out of our way to be contrarian, offensive, or pugilistic. But by its very nature, a faithful gospel-believing and gospel-proclaiming church will ruffle feathers, make some people angry, and polarise the community.

This happened constantly when Jesus was on the earth, and it happened constantly when the early church was in action. They produced a reaction alright – often an angry reaction. But this is part of the Christian job description. We are clearly told to expect this:

-“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Matthew 10:22-23)
-“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18-20)
-“Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)

Of course these warnings – and many more like them – probably go a long way in explaining why so much of the church is not speaking out, not being salt and light, and just going along with the status quo. It hurts to stand up and proclaim truth, especially in a hostile culture.

It is not fun being scorned, mocked, ridiculed and hated by the world – and even by other believers – when you decide to stand up for truth, no matter what. It certainly takes its toll – but we are called to do it nonetheless. That is what it means to be his disciple.

In this regard I wish to highlight just one other verse. It comes from Matthew 10:32-33. In it Jesus said this: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

It is clear that if we will not stand and proclaim Christ in the public arena, but are instead ashamed to do so, then the Father will be ashamed of us. But this proclamation is not just limited to telling people that Jesus died for them and they need to believe the gospel message.

It includes much more. Speaking the whole counsel of God is part of this. It includes speaking up about the things that weigh heavily on the heart of God. Many things spring to mind here, but some clear examples would be the genocide of the unborn, and the destruction of his institutions of marriage and family.

Yet very few believers seem willing to stand up for these vital issues. Far too many never say a word about these things. And that includes so many of our leaders in the pulpits each week. There is deathly silence about some of these crucial matters, as if they have no bearing on our Christian faith whatsoever.

Not only is there way too much silence here on these key topics, but there are even many Christian leaders who think we should not highlight them at all. Indeed, I know of some of these leaders who have actually attacked me and others like me for speaking to these matters.

They think I am quite amiss to emphasise these things, as if God does not care about the unborn, or about the sacred institution of marriage. They think I should ease up on these matters for some reason. Well they will not get me to shut up.

These things are far too important to clam up about, for fear of offending people, or rattling a few cages. The truth is, people do need to be shaken out of their complacency and lethargy here. God cares greatly about the slaughter of 100,000 unborn babies each year in this nation.

Shedding the blood of the innocent, especially to make a profit, is abominable in his eyes, and he will not hold guiltless those who are doing it. We must be his voice here on earth. We are to be a voice for the voiceless. We do not need less believers speaking out about such things, but far more.

We are in desperate need for real prophets of God who will speak his word courageously and resolutely. We need to pray that God will raise up prophets in these dark days to represent him aright. Men and women who fear nothing but God alone and will fearlessly proclaim his word are the need of the hour.

I cannot do better here than to conclude with the induction prayer of A. W. Tozer as a pastor of a church in 1920:

“Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism.

“Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house.

“Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”


[1117 words]

8 Responses to Why the Silence?

  • That’s right Bill, we can take heart that it is Good News that we hold to. We are not to be embarrassed, or to soften the word, God gave it to us because He loves us and to use as a gauge, a light, to test with, and because it is His words. I`m with you here, and yes I still need to be encouraged to uphold it. You are right that the word can be misused too. I can fathom that some would choose to ignore it, but utterly saddened when people choose to misrepresent The Scriptures. Let us remember why God gave it to us, our responsibility, and especially Who gave it to us.

    Johannes Archer

  • We are not to compromise our the Word of God. It is utterly sad when people misinterpret the Bible and cause others to have the same interpretation as it discourages people from seeking God. That is why we as Christians need to stand firm in our values and not go where the wind blows as too many Christians do.

    Janice Tooh

  • After describing the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6, Paul instructs us:

    Eph 6:19
    and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,

    Eph 6:20
    for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

    Part of speaking boldly is to tell the truth about the need for confession and repentance of ALL sin – including the terrible sins of abortion and homosexuality – which are both demonic and sadly celebrated by the pagans of this world.

    When people want Christians to be namby-pamby about such topics, they fail to realize how harshly Jesus spoke of those who “would cause these little ones to sin.” It would be better for them to have a millstone around their necks and thrown into the sea!

    That tells me that Jesus takes sin seriously. As believers and followers of Him – so should we.

    Christine Watson, US

  • Thanks again Bill for your admonition and encouragements. My heart reaches out to you in brotherly affection in the Lord because of the truth and courage you display in these trying times. God bless you richly and please continue to pen these precious articles.

    Keith Lewis

  • You are spot on on the church, i had many time lobby where I’m attending to allowed talking politic in view to promote the brother who are standing in they service to Jesus in serving the nation. The reaction is not as they busy like last Sunday promoting Father’s day and how to be good parents. That ok but why can be found any time to speak up and said to support party and politician who stand against abortion SS marriage, euthanasia and be humanitarian with the one who are less fortunate like refuge. The focus is plant church and mission, mission is also support Jesus representative in the government of the nation. The abortion here whit the other issue is ignore from pulpit and party include Liberal are keeping imposing to Christian and moral people to pay tax that are under medicare pay for abortion. Jesus will had harsh words when the time come not different to what he told the leader and priest of is time with the Jews.
    Luigi Rosolin

  • We would do well to value our prophets, for like physical pain, their words alert us to the fact there is something wrong in our spiritual health. Sin is aptly called spiritual leprosy, as it makes our conscience numb to the shame and pain of conviction that the Holy Spirit tries to alert us with, so we, like David need a Nathan to spell it out for us.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Bill, your courageous voice railing against contemporary Christian inertia is a great rally call. Always an encouragement for my personal faith and also well supported by good men of similar conviction and passion :-

    “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.”
    ― Abraham Kuyper

    Jamie Bowman

  • Well said Luigi. We know exactly what you are talking about. We cannot say one word about Fred Nile or his Party that battles these issues daily in Parliament. In our church we are told nothing is to be said about politics and we can only pray in a general way for government that it will be fair to everyone (not even that they make Godly laws). Before the Election someone asked for prayer for the Election and I asked for special prayer for Tony Abbott and the pressure he is under from his Party to allow a conscience vote for ss marriage. I was howled down by the minister the minute I said “Tony Abbott” and I was told at length that all government is under God’s control, no matter what. That seemed strange to me when they pray specifically by name for people when they are sick and state their illness and what they want done about it. I could not even mention that my husband was standing as a Christian Candidate for this election. But little Suzies visit to the zoo gets full coverage in church as does the Brown’s trip to America….Something is very wrong in God’s House.

    Lesley Kadwell

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