Robert D. Pace
Awhile back I heard an alarming report on James Dobson’s, “Focus on the Family,” broadcast. The report stated that two-thirds of America’s Christians consider it unnecessary to express their Faith outside the parameters of the local church. I’d like to think that’s a miscalculation because it’s disturbing when two-thirds of America’s Christians repudiate Christ’s command to spread the Gospel into all the world.
Let me break down those numbers: Since eighty million Americans claim to be Christians this means 53-million Christians consider it unnecessary to express their Faith outside the sphere of the sanctuary. Only 26-million Christians strongly believe their Faith belongs in the marketplace—that’s only one-ninth of America’s population.
I’ve tried to exercise caution in drawing conclusions from this disturbing statistic, but “conclusions” are necessary. Thus, I’ll offer three. When Christians find it unwarranted to share their Faith it means:
First, they are either unaware of Christ’s command to evangelize the world or they flatly ignore that command.
Second, it means many churches are preaching “another Gospel”; a Gospel that places a dim view on being “the light of the world and the salt of the earth.”
Third, it means most American believers don’t recognize the Bible, with its loving and sure guidance, is the infallible ultimatum for living.
The critical question facing this nation today is the question Pontius Pilate wrestled with 2000 years ago: What is truth? And America is experiencing a moral crash because it has abandoned that which was once its standard of truth—the Bible. When the Bible is banned from society there’s no compass to guide us and there’s no conscience to control our thinking. Everyone does what’s right in his own eyes.
When we ignore the Bible it means defining truth is left to the Supreme Court, educators, the media, or, worse yet, Hollywood. And when society seizes control of defining truth it always insists that absolute truth doesn’t exist! What was truth 6000 years ago, 2000 years ago, or even fifty years ago isn’t necessarily truth or even relevant today. That means each generation crowns itself as “god” and defines morality by its own terms.
The apostle Paul had something to say about people like this. He said they are “ever speaking but never able to come to the knowledge of truth.” And it’s frightening when you consider two-thirds of America’s Christians have bought into this. It’s like somebody poked a hole in hell and unleashed this lie directly into the church!
(Transition) How did the American Church adopt this misconception that their Faith doesn’t belong in the marketplace?
I. Why Christians Conclude their Faith Doesn’t Belong in the World
A. One reason two-thirds of America’s Christians believe this is because they have adopted the mindset of the world! Unfortunately, Christians have permitted the world to define their perception of truth and pressure them into adopting secular values.
You see, here’s the myth that secularism proposes: Secularism tells Christians it’s wrong for Christianity to impose its values upon others. They insist that our convictions should stop at the edge of the sanctuary and they shouldn’t infringe on another’s beliefs. They insist Christianity should be kept personal and private. Do you realize what the world is proposing here? They are suggesting a standard by which they refuse to live!
What does the Government do when you disagree with their standards of military service, paying taxes, or traffic laws?
Science, psychology, and social education certainly have views concerning evolution, the inception of life, and gender-based issues.
And what about the entertainment industry? Is Hollywood open-minded about the Christian view of morality?
Sometime back the rock group, 2 Live Crew, cut an album entitled, As Nasty As They Wanna Be. A Florida court ruled they didn’t violate obscenity laws despite using the “F” word 226 times, referred to sex or sex organs 246 times, made 163 references to the “B” word, and made more than 100 other references too vulgar to mention from the pulpit. Does anyone really believe that “convictions” and ethical standards should be kept private and personal? Of course not! And that’s why the standard by which the world judges Christians is contrary to the standard it uses for itself.
But it’s no wonder the world does this. 1 John 5:19 says: “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” In other words, the Bible says culture and society, in large degree, has been indoctrinated by Satan himself. Satan is the invisible, yet certain, force that infuses society with a bias against Christians and the Bible. Satan is responsible for the unbiblical propositions of science, psychology, and sociology. And no matter where you look the spirit of antichrist and deception saturate this world.
Look how the New Testament writers appraise the world’s values. And let me pause here to assure you this wasn’t the arbitrary assessment of the Apostles! They wrote the New Testament under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit! They said the world consisted of: “false knowledge,” “false science,” “false words,” “false testimony,” “false witnesses,” “false apostles,” “false prophets,” ‘false teachers,” and “false brothers.” There’s no ambiguity here! Deceit permeates this planet.
The notable distinction of the generation that will witness Christ’s Return to earth is that it will experience pandemic deception! The apostle Paul warned us about the last days when he said in 1 Timothy 4:1: “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (NASU).
The world believes as it does because Satan influences its thinking. But that doesn’t mean Christians should wave a white flag and surrender their Biblical mandate. Christians that wilfully remain silent against the world’s assault of Truth makes them accessories to the crime. In unwitting fashion they partner with society’s attack against Truth and justice.
Why am I so passionate about Christians holding firmly to God’s Word and withstanding this attack on Truth? Because Christians are tampering with man’s eternal destiny when they adopt the assumption that the Bible is anything less than holy, unalterable, and divine.
Solomon said in Proverbs 14:7: “Leave the presence of a fool or you will not discern the words of knowledge.” Folks, we must recognize that it’s more important to be familiar with the words of this Book than the philosophies and of the world. The Bible is more than literary genius. It’s more than stimulating stories. Jesus is more than a philosopher or miracle-worker. He’s man’s Savior.
There are some beliefs that are non-negotiable. And it’s not just a mistake if we accept the world’s view about the Bible and Jesus Christ. We’re not talking about 1 + 1 = 3; or 5 – 4 = 2. That’s a miscalculation without any eternal consequences. When it comes to calculating eternal life any equation minus Jesus equals death!
For Christians to suggest Jesus is merely one of many ways to heaven is wrong regardless of what society believes. Our duty isn’t to be “politically correct” our job necessitates being “eternally correct.” Saying “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the Life” isn’t like saying: “Coke tastes better than Pepsi.” Eternal life isn’t based on a preference of taste! It’s based on what “Thus says the Lord.” And God has prescribed man’s way of salvation. And the Bible doesn’t ask anybody to use “blind faith” to assume Christ is man’s Savior.
The Old Testament provided over 300 prophecies that would directly relate to what man’s true Messiah would look like. It outlined prophecies regarding Christ’s genealogy, birthplace, the events surrounding His birth, His manner of ministry, His death on the Cross, and His resurrection. And they all came to pass! All these reasons are why Christians can confidently say, “Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life to the exclusion of all other ways!”
(Transition) But there’s another reason Christians keep their Faith from the marketplace.
B. Christians don’t take Christ into the marketplace because they are reluctant to fully identify with Christ. It’s easier to blend in with society than confront it. There’s always the risk of isolating ourselves from certain ranks of society—even being ridiculed or persecuted—when we fully identify with Christ. The appropriate word for this behavior is “fear.”
Let’s admit it, it’s much safer to bridle our Faith and confine it to our homes or sanctuary. But when Christians platform their convictions in the public arena they face being stereotyped as intolerant, narrow-minded, or a hyphenated phobic!
Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He said there was a cost to discipleship. And the cost involves, “denying yourself, bearing your cross, and following Him daily.” If we’re going to impact our generation with Christ we have to risk being identified with Him. But Christ’s great promise is this: If we would testify of Him before a perverse generation He would testify of us before His heavenly Father. And that’s worth the tradeoff! I’ll take Christ’s approval before God’s throne any day!
(Transition) There’s another reason Christians keep their Faith from the marketplace.
C. Christians are reluctant to take Christ to the marketplace because they have lost their “hallelujah” experience. Does that sound strange? When we lose our joy and child-like excitement about Christ our testimony always wanes.
Christianity is doctrine, but it’s more than doctrine. Christianity is a Sunday morning corporate worship experience. But it’s more than that. The catalyst for spreading the Good News into the world is the Spirit’s passion and joy about Jesus! Wesley was once asked how he attracted great crowds. He replied, “I set myself on fire, and the people come to see me burn.” President Thomas Jefferson said he went to hear George Whitefield preach because “he preached like his coat tail was on fire.”
Several years ago Grant McClung, a Church of God minister, wrote the book, Azusa Street and Beyond. The book examines the impact the Pentecostal outpouring made and continues to make in the world. Grant relates an interesting story of a 1956 meeting of ecumenical leaders. Among the attendants was a Spirit filled preacher, David du Plessis, known as “Mr. Pentecost.” du Plessis traveled around the world with great success introducing nominal Christians and evangelicals to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. While attending this conference the Ecumenicals asked him this question about the Pentecostal churches:
What is the difference between you and us? We quote the same Scriptures you do, and yet when you say those words they sound so different. We say the same things that you do, but there seems to be a deeper implication in what you say. You have said nothing with which we want to differ and yet there seems to be a distinct difference somewhere. [du Plessis replied:] Gentlemen, comparisons are odious, and I do not wish to injure anyone’s feelings or hurt your pride. But the truth as I see it is this: You have the truth on ice, and I have it on fire.”
A passionate, joyous, “hallelujah experience” keeps our Faith alive! And you can only maintain a “hallelujah experience” as you live with a pronounced presence of the Holy Spirit upon your life! Saints of God, our power and persuasion don’t lie with skilled words or crafty arguments. It’s not determined by electing a Christian into political office. (And I’m eager to see Christians serving in politics.) The power that changes the world and wins souls is the power of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus said the Holy Spirit should saturate our lives.
(Transition) I want to change gears here. I want to ask something else. Just how much difference can Christianity really make in the marketplace? Can we make a difference? Allow me to examine this by rehearsing the history of 19th Century Great Britain.
II. Christianity’s Force in the World
History reveals that Christianity played a foremost role in reviving their depressed and depraved society and ushering its golden years. When you examine 19th century Britain you’ll find:
The Revolutionary War loomed as a shaming reminder of its inability to control the United States.
Britain was morally bankrupt as prostitutes combed the streets.
Philosophy, secular humanism, and Darwin’s theory of evolution had corrupted their thinking. Christianity was lampooned and under constant attack and ridicule.
In 1818, more than 200 felonies carried the death penalty. The impoverished were disenfranchised and shoved from the main flow of society.”
But the British Parliament or humanitarian agencies didn’t respond. Do you know what changed Britain? The Church! Revival swept through the church and it addressed every issue that secular society had failed to fix. And when the Church rose to its calling the nation surged to its destiny. Great Britain emerged as the governing empire of its day. Its Navy ruled the waters, the Industrial Revolution exploded and London became the financial capital of the world. The population of Britain virtually quadrupled during the 19th century from 8.9 million to 32.5 million. Immorality diminished while evangelism and missions ran unrestrained. Secular historians won’t admit it, but the turn-around Britain experienced is directly attributed to Christians in the marketplace! Here’s how Lewis Drummond described the Christians of that day:
- The Victorian Christians, gripped by a deep commitment, sought to bring religion and its benefits to . . . society. They sincerely strove to integrate the spiritual into the secular. [Christians] . . . entered virtually every segment of society and attempted to touch it with a relevant ministry . . . It is a mistake to underestimate the importance of the church in the life of early nineteenth-century England.” (Drummond, IBID, page 34-35.)
Owen Chadwick said in his Book, The Victorian church: “throughout the mid-Victorian age the evangelical movement was the strongest force in British life.” Not the Whigs, not the Tories, not Parliament, [it was] the evangelical movement! [Owen Chadwick, The Victorian Church, 2 Volumes, (New York: Oxford University Press,, 1966), Volume 1, page 5.]
Prime Minister William Gladstone said of that epoch: “I have known 95 of the world’s great men in my time, and 87 of these were followers of the Bible.” [William Gladstone, No Greater Love, (Wheaton, Bibles for the world, 1967), see back cover.]
And the record translates the same for America. Finney was the great American revivalist of the 19th century, but he was also instrumental in joining forces with Abraham Lincoln and combating the evils of slavery and promoting women’s rights.
Everyone here has heard the Scripture in Proverbs 13:4: “righteousness exalts the nation but sin is a reproach to any people.” While “righteousness exalts the nation” it is only true as righteous people emerge from hiding inside the sanctuary, enter the marketplace, and swarm society. Placid, un-disturbing Christianity affects nobody! We have to realize that Christianity is more than praise and worship. It’s an army Jesus organized to march into every sector of society. And Christians of every generation are responsible for impacting their generation.
Folks, you can learn the principles of God’s Word in private. Nicodemus listened from a living room; Peter, James, and John received revelation atop the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah. But Jesus said: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, [shout] from the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27). In other words: Take your faith to the marketplace.
Christians are meant to be “difference-makers!” The only way a senator, congressman, philosopher, or activist reshapes the cultural landscape is by stepping out and challenging the norms. And the same holds true for Christianity. Imagine what would have happened had Christ confined His message to the synagogues or private settings:
Bartimaeus, waiting along the roadside, would have never seen.
The ten lepers, waving from the field, would not have been healed.
The 5000 on the hillside would have gone home hungry.
The demonized would have remained tormented.
And the greatest miracle of Christ’s ministry, the Resurrection, would have been without verification had He not presented Himself to the masses.
The majority of Christ’s miracles were worked in public settings. As a matter of fact, this Book reveals God’s Kingdom exploding in the secular arena.
For 100 years Noah warned the world of a coming Flood from a shipyard.
Moses’ and Elijah’s worked miracles before the king.
Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego stood their ground in the presence of every other Babylonian citizen.
The Spirit’s infilling presence and power poured from Heaven and directly onto the streets of Jerusalem.
The Apostles were commanded to refrain from using Christ’s Name, but they ignored the edict, and Acts says the outcry was that they “turned the world upside down” with the Gospel.
Folks, expressing our Faith isn’t optional; we must take it to the marketplace because the majority of mankind doesn’t have a clue of how to connect with God!
(Transition) And that’s the purpose of Christianity in the marketplace—“connecting” people with God.
III. The Purpose of Christianity in the Marketplace is to Connect People with God
But how do we make the connection? We know judgment awaits this world and everyone in it. We know Jesus is the answer. But how do we go about “connecting” people with God?
(Illustration) In 1992 my dad led a relief team to Miami and assisted the displaced victims of hurricane Hugo. He organized a food bank during his nine day stay. I talked to him the week following his relief efforts. Other than the devastation of mangled homes and businesses, here’s what amazed him: The people were wide-open to hearing the Gospel message! It was unlike anything he had seen in America. They readily accepted tracts and Bibles. Here’s what he told me: “This place is ready for evangelism because in a short while things will be back to normal and they will be unreachable.”
As it so frequently occurs, the people easiest to reach with the Gospel are those that hurt the most. That’s why Jesus took His ministry public! In His first sermon of record He said: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18). Jesus came to reach hurting, hopeless, helpless people. And there are people just like that all around you. The purpose of Christianity in the marketplace is to rescue these people. Make up your mind to reach them today!