■ By Susan Beckett / Contributed
I was watching the evening news recently when a short news brief played across the bottom of the TV screen and caught my eye. It was in the single line of running news at the very bottom of the picture. It read, “China ramps up persecution of Christians and other religious groups.”
Digging a bit deeper on my computer that evening, I came across a mountain of information about what Xi Jinping is doing to stomp out Christianity in China. Here’s just a sample of what I found: “The Chinese government is destroying crosses, burning Bibles, closing churches and forcing Christian believers to sign papers renouncing their faith as the crackdown on religious congregations in Beijing and several provinces intensifies.” How sad I thought, but that could never happen here in America – or could it?
I’ve been amazed in recent years at the number of local and state courts who have been ordered by federal judges to remove copies of the Ten Commandments from their buildings. Of course we sure don’t want people reading things like, “You shall not steal” or “You shall not murder” or how about “You shall not commit adultery” and one of my favorites, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (In other words, don’t lie!)
Time Magazine did an article entitled “Our Violent Kids” in which they described in detail the increase of violence from our children. Many now believe that this generation’s inability to define absolutes, plus the abandonments of Biblical standards of morality and integrity, will result in a destructive conclusion for America.
So the question begs, why do Christians continue to build churches, witness to others and proclaim the singular message of Jesus Christ, often to their own hurt? I think it’s one of three things: Christians are either crazy, or they believe the teachings of a lunatic or something has truly happened to change their life and they want that for others too.
Of course, I can only speak for myself and our church, but I do believe I represent many others in my answer. We care deeply about the souls of men and women and know that coming to an understanding and acceptance of God and His Son Jesus Christ is THE most important decision a person can make in this lifetime.
In fact, Jesus tells us in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father (God) except through Me.” It’s all about changed lives and changing lives for eternity.
There’s a great story of Bible teacher and pastor, H.A. Ironside, who was living in San Francisco when one evening he came upon a group of Salvation Army workers holding an impromptu meeting on a corner. They immediately recognized Ironside and asked him to share. When Ironside was finished, a well-dressed man approached him and challenged him to a debate the following Sunday in the Academy of Science Hall. This gentleman happened to be a well known agnostic and often lectured against Christianity. Ironside’s response was classic Ironside.
He told the man that he would debate him on one condition. The agnostic would find one man and one woman whose lives were wrought with sin and evil doing, but after hearing the message of agnosticism turned and became productive, righteous people, all because they had become agnostics.
In turn, Ironside would bring at least one hundred people who had for years lived in ‘sinful degradation’ but after hearing the good news of the gospel, had totally changed and are now living amazing productive lives. You can probably guess what happened. The man wanted no part of debating Ironside; it was impossible for him to find two such people.
So why are leaders so often fearful of Christians and their Bibles? Could the answer lay in the fact that Christianity does indeed change lives? That here is a force more powerful than the strongest government? I think so! I love Walvoord’s take on this subject: “Wherever the Bible has been consistently applied, it has dramatically changed the civilization and culture of those who have accepted its teachings. No other book has ever so dramatically changed the individual lives and society in general.”
I would add only one more thing to all this, which is the verse in Romans 1:16: “I refuse to be ashamed of sharing the wonderful message of God’s liberating power unleashed in us through Christ! For I am thrilled to preach that everyone who believes is saved …”
Pastor Bob and Susan Beckett are pastors of The Dwelling Place City Church in Hemet. For more information you can go to DPCityChurch.com