Christian, Interrupted


An intense spiritual assault is being waged against believers today, anticipating fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The devastation has been wrought on two major fronts: behavioral and doctrinal.

The personal lives of Christians are under attack. The vacuum created by Christians' retreat from the public forum has been filled by a relativist and toxic culture. As the postmodern sphere of influence widens, major and minor temptations bully their way into the inner lives of believers. From time to time we hear stories in the news about a church scandal or of an egregious act committed by a Christian. Our resolve is weakened by personal failure, doubts, and compromises with the world. To resist sin, we shift vainly from reliance on Christ to reliance on our perceived goodness. When faith in God is reduced to faith in humanity, but is not labeled or regarded as such, the inevitable disillusionment can be crippling. The tragic result is behavior begins to determine doctrine, and it is now very commonplace.

Christ summons us to Him as we are, in our state of forlorn imperfection. The prerequisite for submission to Jesus is not "self-improvement" but rather a broken and contrite heart. Attempts to live the Christian life through human merit and endeavor lead only to disillusionment, despair, and an ultimate decline in faith. To the devil, believers present an enticing, albeit challenging, spiritual target. The spiritually oppressed believer is an ineffective Christian soldier who can do more harm than good to unbelievers. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:11) The full armor of God means immersion in His Word and total faith in Christ, not in ourselves or others.

The other major front is the attack on doctrine, in essence an attack from within. Perhaps it is more accurately described as the gradual usurpation of doctrine. Jesus warned of this danger when he said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15) False or incomplete doctrine will lead a Christian down a path of "virtual" Christianity. That is where the spirit of Antichrist (i.e. "in the place of Christ") is most powerful.

Contemporary humanist theologies attempt to resolve the Biblical discrepancy between God's standard for perfection and man's real world inability to measure up by convincing people of the "inherent goodness" in mankind. It is, of course, in total opposition to God's Word — that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. In many Christian churches today, these incompatible concepts are presented together without a second thought, and indeed with great arrogance. This kind of compromise can be recognized in the words of church leaders like Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The world of Christian publishing is replete with successful books like John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, which are simply "self-help" books with a Christian sheen. Targeted at Christian men, Eldredge's book attempts to build a Christian identity from a pop culture paradigm.

Such exercises in vanity only serve to drive believers away from Christ rather than to Him. Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries expands on Christ's metaphor of a person (personal identity) as a house (cf. Matthew 12:43-45). For many believers, the Holy Spirit is kept in one corner of the house, but something has to occupy the rest of it. Ritualistic or utilitarian Christianity (legalism) may exercise a high level of human cognition, but not a powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Or, at the opposite end, Christianity in the grip of humanistic philosophy and ill-defined "love" ceases to be Christianity altogether.

In her most recent book Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey describes modern evangelical Christians as "boxed-in," unwilling or unable to translate the truth of Christianity to the world in which they live. They exchange their Christian beliefs for secular or even pantheistic ones when interacting with the world outside of a personal "faith-based" sphere.

The pressure on Christians to conform to what Pearcey describes as the "sacred/secular" dichotomy was ever so present in the Terri Schiavo tragedy. By not acting on behalf of the dying woman in Pinellas Park, Florida, the sitting U.S. President failed to act upon his conviction, a classic example of a Christian interrupted by a self-imposed public ban on his belief system. This kind of self-imposition is quickly being manipulated into imposition from without, which is why the scared Christian will transition into the persecuted Christian.

Because many Christians today struggle to maintain a sense of Christian separation (being not of this world), they have consequently been unable to push back the rising tides of amorality and unbelief. When belief is diluted, its distinction in the world is muted. By definition, Christians must stand in opposition to the spirit of this world. The difficulty of this struggle is heightened in nations where Christianity is culturally ingrained. Since the secular arena has so successfully co-opted many Christian precepts (charity, moderation, justice), and Western Christianity in turn has allowed so much humanism to creep into it, nominal Christians are now artfully deceived into denying the core truths, that Jesus is the only path to salvation.

Only the hard truths can break the hardened hearts of man, and believers must be at the point of the charge. If the tip is dull, the sword can crack or fail to penetrate.