Christianity typically thrives under persecution.
We see this demonstrated as we read the book of Acts and see the incredible growth of the first century church.
We also hear this principle playing out as we continue to hear of the growth of the church in oppressive countries like China and Iran.
One of the many reasons Christianity does so well under persecution is because it purges and purifies the church. Those who align themselves with Christ have done so with the full knowledge that they will probably pay a (high) price for following Jesus. So, typically, the church is made up of nothing but serious believers who have counted the cost. This creates a healthy church and healthy churches typically grow.
But, the flip side of the coin is also true. Christianity has not always done so well in places where it is not persecuted.
Most of the folks who will read this blog post live in the same country as me – the United States of America. Our country was founded 242 years ago and one of the things that set us apart was the conviction that we should have the freedom of religion. We should be able to worship our God without threat of persecution.
We would all agree that this is a good thing. It is wonderful to worship our Lord throughout the week and then to worship with our family of friends at the churches across our land without threat of consequences.
But, the blessing is also a curse. While we enjoy the blessings of worshiping our God freely, we are worshiping in a place where we don’t have to count the cost. There is no “fire” that is purging the church so we end up with believers and non-believers (who think they are believers) gathering together in the churches across our land.
In our churches, we have folks who love the Lord and generally pursue holiness. They don’t do this out of duty. They are motivated by gratitude because of what Jesus has done for them.
But, then there are folks who gather in the churches across our land who attend church simply because “that’s what good people are supposed to do.” They have no desire to read their Bibles. They have no desire to speak with God in prayer. They have no desire to pursue holiness (be like Jesus). They are satisfied with being good (be like their peers).
Well, a verse I read in my time in God’s Word this morning puts things in perspective.
2 Peter 2:21 (CSB) “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy command delivered to them.”
Did you get that? God’s Word says that if someone isn’t going to be serious about pursuing holiness, it would have been better to have never known the truth of the Gospel. But, since they know how to be saved and how to pursue holiness, they are doubly guilty if they don’t pursue holiness.
They cannot plead ignorance. They heard the truth. They simply rejected it. So, they are without an excuse.
Those folks who think they are gaining points with God for showing up to church but have no intention of pursuing holiness are worse off than folks who aren’t pursuing holiness but have never heard the Gospel.
Pew-warmers aren’t gaining points with God – they are making things worse for themselves.
What is the answer? Stop going to church? Of course not! The answer is to get serious about following Jesus. Hear the truth and put it into practice.
After all that He has done for us, the least we could do is give our lives back to Him.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CSB) “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.”