CultureWatch

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

Christian Persecution: Will You Go Against the Flow?

Sep 17, 2017

As anti-Christian bigotry and persecution ramps up in the West, there will be more and more reasons why Christians will be targeted. Some will be good reasons and some will be bad reasons. Let me explain. Sometimes Christians get into trouble because they have brought it upon themselves.

If a Christian is caught stealing, killing or whatever, and his name – and church – is splashed all over the media, he discredits his faith and he deserves his just punishment. We read about this in 1 Peter 2:20: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

And we find more on this in 1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits.” And again, 3:16-17: “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

These various texts make it clear that we are to live lives of integrity. Being punished for doing what is wrong will not bring glory to God. But if we suffer for doing what is right, then God is still glorified and our witness is still intact. That should be the aim of the believer: living lives which are above reproach before the watching world.

That way, if they do seek to find fault with us, it will not be in our bad behaviour or conduct, but something else. They will have to make things up if they want to bring accusations against us. They will have to lie about us and falsely accuse us if they want to see our lives and testimonies discredited.

I raise all this because I just read about this very thing happening with Daniel. He lived such an exemplary life that his many enemies had a hard time trying to pin something on him. They could not accuse him of being dishonest because he was not dishonest.

They could not accuse him of being corrupt because he was not corrupt. So to discredit him and attack him, they had to find something else to bring against him. Let me look at this story in some more detail. Most folks know a little bit at least about Daniel.

Most people know about his time in the lions’ den, and his amazing escape from it. But they may not know why he was thrown in there in the first place. Well, Daniel 6:1-5 tells us all about why he had to endure this frightful fate. It says:

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

Note what it says: his enemies “tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”

He was of such sound character and he lived such a righteous life that they could not find anything to accuse him about. So they had to try to find something having to do with “the law of his God.” And that they did, as we read about in verses 6-9:

So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.

That is how Daniel got into trouble. He of course insisted on staying completely loyal to the one true God, and he kept praying to him three times a day. For that, he was tossed into the lions’ den. And the rest is indeed history. A major truth found in this passage is how God is able to save those who are his.

But let me focus on a few other lessons here. The importance of godly character and personal integrity is also a key issue found in this story. We all must put a premium on living lives that reflect our Lord – so much so that non-Christian detractors cannot find anything about us that the mud will stick to.

However there is yet another important lesson here I wish to stress. As days grow darker in the West, and the enemies of Christ and Christians become further emboldened to silence the faith and keep us from having a witness to the world, if they cannot get us on trumped up charges dealing with our character, they will seek to get us in trouble with human law versus God’s law.

That is, they will increasingly push for laws to be passed which will directly violate the conscience of the Christian – especially in terms of being able to freely preach the gospel or to uphold basic biblical values in the public arena.

Thus we are getting a raft of anti-vilification laws, anti-discrimination laws and the like, all designed to silence Christians and sideline their public presence. And the current wars over the meaning and purpose of marriage is a clear case in point.

Wherever homosexual marriage has been legalised, direct attacks on Christian witness have taken place. Religious freedoms have been greatly curtailed as Christians find themselves at war with the state and its laws. When push comes to shove, we may be forced to say “No” to such ungodly laws.

As Stephen Miller comments regarding Daniel 6:

Daniel deliberately defied the law of the land. . . . There may be times when the law of the land and the law of God come into conflict. Corrie ten Boom broke the law of Germany when she hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II, but she would have broken a higher law had she not tried to prevent the murder of innocents. Today Christians are being called upon to make difficult ethical choices. As the world becomes more and more secular (and sinful), believers will increasingly find themselves taking stands that are unpopular and positions that may even violate the law of the land.

John Lennox wrote an entire book about Daniel called Against the Flow (Monarch, 2015). His subtitle is important here: “The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism.” He discusses the events covered in Daniel 6 and notes how the enemies of Daniel focused on the law of his God. They were “well aware of his allegiance to God.” He continues:

Again, this is impressive. As a student Daniel had decided that he would not keep his head beneath the parapet, reluctant to witness to his faith in case it would disadvantage him. The satraps knew what he believed and could see that it had no negative effect on the quality of his work.
This is a challenge to all of us. There is great pressure in the contemporary (Western) world for the privatization of the expression of religious belief – if not for its outright abolition. It is a widespread conviction that naturalism is the default belief system; and, ironically, Christian theism has no place in the very academies that it founded in the first place! Daniel was prepared to swim against the flow. Are we?

Good question – are we? And this pressure to conform and compromise can arise in many ways. Just the other day I had someone say he wanted me to take down an old comment of his that he had posted on my website, which stood up for biblical truth. He said he is wanting to get a new job and he does not want what he said to make things difficult for him.

I told him that while gaining employment is a good thing normally, it is not a good thing when we start to backtrack on Christ, truth and our public Christian witness. I said that trusting God with our livelihood as we stay true in our Christian witness is much more important.

But this is just one example of many. Far too many believers will never speak a word about the current debate over marriage for all sorts of lousy reasons: they do not want to have folks dislike them; they do not want to rock the boat; they do not like controversy; they do not want to lose any friends; they just want everyone to like them, and so on.

Given how very important God’s institutions of marriage and family are, it is time these cowardly and compromised Christians either take a stand for Christ and biblical values, or admit that they are really faux Christians. Things are that serious here.

Will they go against the flow (as only a strong, living fish can do), or will they just go with the flow (as any dead fish can do)? Will they be like Daniel and stand true to their God and to his values and purposes, regardless of the consequences, or will they cave in at the slightest bit of pressure and opposition?

I decided long ago that I would be a Daniel – no matter what. What about you?

[1742 words]

21 Responses to Christian Persecution: Will You Go Against the Flow?

  • And when they expose themselves as faux Christians we must sift them out otherwise they will further weaken our already weak churches.

    Do we have the courage we need or will we be too worried about declining membership numbers and church “life cycles”?

  • Hi Bill, thank you for a good solid article. Daniel is such a great Book. There are fresh and vital treasures to be uncovered each time you sit down and read it. Daniel stood true to his God, surely with HIS HELP, we can weather the fury that is increasingly being inflicted on us by the lgbtqr community. After all we will be spending eternity in His Presence, we don’t want to spend that eternity carrying unnecessary regrets. Bill, I know you get it in the neck from all directions, and it is so appreciated that you have never sugar coated the fight that we are all now in. P.S. can I put in a plug for Cory Bernadi and his team. They are out there in the thick of it. Blessings, Kel.

  • Excellent article on Daniel as it applies to us today. I too decided that I would be a Daniel a long time ago. If we are true to ourselves and our faith, its the only decision that makes sense and also allows us to live free of guilt.

  • Thanks Bill. The accuser of the brethren has not changed in thousands of years. He wanted to ensnare God’s people to deny Him then and he wants us to deny Him now. Now more than ever we must focus our gaze on eternity and call upon the grace of God to help us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

  • Attacks on Christians who dare to preach the truth are already taking place, even before the legalisation of SSM. Campbell Markham and David Gee, facing charges at present under Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws…..
    https://www.eternitynews.com.au/australia/pastor-street-preacher-face-anti-discrimination-complaint/
    Bravely following the example set by the original Daniel.
    Please pray for them.

  • I already have gone against the flow at work, and felt the brunt of the PC brigade. But I quickly realised that that was just a training ground for what is to come. The fact is, folks, if you are not going to stand up against ‘correct thought’ now, when things are not that tough, you are definitely NOT going to remain standing when things get really tough. God is training us up. Better count the costs now, not when its too late!

  • Thank you yet again, Bill.

    We’ve spoken with our children many times about Daniel, and about the way that we can be presented with choices to deny Christ and God’s Word. We’ve even had the very difficult conversations about how to respond when one of the family is threatened, as is the case for many of our brothers and sisters overseas.

    I recently told the children about the state sanctioned churches in China and the tenets of “Three Self” under the Communist Party. I told them about the penalty paid by those who had Bibles, attended non-sanctioned churches, or otherwise broke the “rules”.

    The children are unequivocal. They want us to continue to speak God’s Word truthfully. I think that I must have been expecting that they would suggest compromise/lying low. They understand that there is a cost and also that bad things can happen to good people (e.g. John the Baptist).

    You’ve said before that courage is contagious. Thank you. I do falter (worrying about the children and forgetting the 365 Biblical “Do not fear” statements) but I am always greatly encouraged by your articles.

  • The big issue at the moment is education of the young. There is huge battle going on for the minds of the next generation but unfortunately, the young are very much being corrupted into covetousness, through inescapable advertising, educated in violence, through movies and video games and trained in sexual immorality through the internet and the politics of our day. It is not without cause that the Bible speaks of the “image of the Beast” that people worship.

  • Thanks, Bill…..I must have missed the article about Campbell Markham and David Gee, but just read it.
    As somebody remarked, even if they win their case, the process is the punishment.
    We can all help these brave men with the costs involved in the court case…..details http://cornerstonehobart.com/legal-defence-fund/

  • Parents are able to run their household such that advertising, internet, movies, and games have little or no presence. They can manage their own lives such that hypocrisy , deceits, and slander can be recognised for the counterfeits that they are.

    More troubling is the force of Law used to remove children from their families under the pretence of “abuse” or being “at risk” because of parental disagreement with the prevailing government view on Gender theory, comprehensive sex education, Biblical vs Communist worldviews etc.

    It is not easy to say “the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand … But even if He does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the image … you have set up.”

    Not easy at all. But it must be done.

  • Thank you for providing the link, Jan.

  • So concerned about implications of SSM I recently wrote ” a letter to my kids” which can be freely shared.

    Here the link to google drive..
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6iDrZ_f099ARzZrdmFJWmdQeTA

  • Dear Michael, I think you have hit the nail on the head there.

    I was alarmed to learn recently our youth pastors and leaders will not use the word “sodomite” so not to offend anyone. I also learned our youth leaders who are “dating” will not be reprimanded if they go on holidays together sleeping in the same bedroom!!

    Bill, do you know of any theological colleges that are graduating pastors who will only ever teach a strictly traditional view of sexual morality and a firm line against homosexuality? I feel colleges like Morling and Moore are producing pastors trained to not offend the world beyond our churches rather than teaching the Truth of God’s Word in our churches.

    This is our last chance! We already have one generation of Christian youth who have been raised believing it’s okay to have homosexual friends, and who tell their elders off for calling them “sodomites”. If we allow them to lead the next generation without correcting these errors our traditional values will be lost forever.

  • Thanks Bill,
    One thing to perhaps notice is that Daniel was delivered, and so were the three from the fire, and so was Esther, but there is no guarantee that God will deliver us. Neither was there a guarantee for them. In fact the three facing the furnace had the same attitude as Esther, “If I perish I perish”.

    Deliverance is a wonderful testimony, a wonderful story.
    BUT, even more wonderful is the testimony of them who were not delivered in this time and world, but kept true to the faith in the face of torture and death.
    e.g. Heb 11.35-40 “others submitted to torture, refusing release … some had to bear….. They were too good for the world….. These are all heroes of faith..” Jer

  • Good comments and a great article Bill.

    Another great and beautifully written article is from this rabbi http://www.smh.com.au/comment/as-an-othodox-rabbi-i-will-be-voting-no-but-it-is-not-a-vote-against-love-20170916-gyiw0s.html

  • Dear Bill,
    Thank you for this article.

    I have just e-mailed the PM as one Catholic to another to remind him of Pope John the 23rd’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. I cannot just stand by whilst a man who says he is a Catholic and who has the most responsible position in the country as leader boasts openly that he will be voting yes in the SSM plebiscite.

    The encyclical starts with the words “Peace on Earth – which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after can never be established – never guaranteed except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.”

    In short we cannot have peace in the world unless we follow God’s law.

    SSM IS CLEARLY AGAINST IT. ABSOLUTELY NO ARGUMENT!

    Therefore the Western World in particular is in for more disorder and chaos as more countries legalise it. It will inevitably lead to its disintegration as God will turn His back.Remember it was humans who abandoned Him first.

    I think the numerous natural disasters around the world, terrorist attacks and the real threat of nuclear war are not just coincidental either.

    Therefore we must pray and offer sacrifices and be prepared for the worst as Christians.

  • Good post Bill. I too many times find myself falling for this problem:

    “We all must put a premium on living lives that reflect our Lord – so much so that non-Christian detractors cannot find anything about us that the mud will stick to.”

    less (these days) in the sense of sin that I consciously know is wrong in advance but still commit, but more of a side of my fallen nature that appears in a given situation. For example today I reacted strongly to a work situation where it seems ‘office politics’ was being displayed when wisdom would have called for more discretion in my reaction.

    This mildly weakens Christian witness and while I know I am not condemned, that repentance & forgiveness is available, and I can learn for next time, I believe it is part of our sanctification process.

    That said, I am disappointed in how some churches are approaching the upcoming New Zealand General Election next weekend. As an example, a sermon from one church (https://shorevineyard.church/sermon-archive/notsodirtypolitics) mentions that we need to consult widely, think deeply and engage and vote. Was there any mention on homosexual marriage, abortion or euthanasia – all tremendous examples of the wickedness of our age with at least the NZ Labour Party calling for abortion to be decriminalized in a similar way as done in Victoria? So. Meanwhile another church:
    1. Calls its members to fast for Wednesday through Friday this week
    2. invites its members to a 2-hour prayer meeting this Friday evening.
    3. Makes a clear statement from the pulpit that we must be aware of the seminal evils in our time of abortion, euthanasia and marriage equality

    If the church is reluctant in part to name the wickedness in our age and clearly display the salvation that is only possible through Jesus Christ, then how are we to grow and be a vital witness?

  • Seems to me that the church leadership where I fellowship are reluctant to say anything against homosexual “marriage” and don’t want the members saying any such thing either.

    They also deny being religious, rightly emphasizing “its about relationship”. This in my opinion is the same as denying Christ before men, they had better hope Jesus sees it differently or they’ll have a very hot future. See Mat. 10:32-33 & others

    Am not happy about that.

    Thanks for the blog, you write it faster than I can read it.

  • Thanks Ken. Stand strong.

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