By Brett Andrews
“I love agitation and investigation and glory in defending unpopular truth against popular error.”
—President James A. Garfield
My father-in-law died of cancer a few short weeks after being diagnosed. Until diagnosed, he worked, hunted, and enjoyed his grandchildren to the fullest. Although slowed by lower energy levels, he still worked. Although bothered by nagging back pains, he still felt he had many good years left to enjoy working, hunting, and time with his grandchildren.
Then he dared see a doctor. The doctor dared to be honest about what he saw. And my father-in-law didn’t like what he heard.
If cancer is growing inside you, do you want to know? Do you want a doctor who tells you the painful truth, or a doctor who feeds you a beautiful delusion?
Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote, “Make no mistake. We as Bible-believing evangelical Christians are locked in a battle. This is not a friendly gentleman’s discussion. It is a life and death conflict between the spiritual hosts of wickedness and those who claim the name of Christ. It is a conflict on the level of ideas between two fundamentally opposed views of truth and reality.” By the time Schaeffer penned those words in 1984, he had been shouting to the church for a generation. As early as the 1970s, Schaeffer warned of a “Great Evangelical Disaster” if Christians didn’t wake up to the reality of the battle.
Sadly, Schaeffer’s fears have become reality. The question for our generation is this: Would you rather live in denial or be honest about reality?
The Bible teaches—and experience confirms—that our nature tends toward minimization and denial and away from brutal honesty. In Jeremiah, the prophet twice drives home this reality, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (6:14; 8:11, author emphasis). In other words, the issue in every generation is not, “Are we in denial?” but “How deep is our denial?”
To see evidence of our denial, Christians need simply ask, “What makes you blush?” Jeremiah chastised his generation for their lost capacity for shame: “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (6:15).
More than 70 percent of Americans claim Jesus Christ as Savior, but how many are embarrassed about 1.21 million abortions every year? How many weep over the destructive nature of the practice of homosexuality?
These are the sins of Sodom. Yet, are Christians ashamed of this loathsome conduct? Are we alarmed? No, we are sophisticated. We don’t even blush anymore. Like Lot’s family, many Christians have grown to tolerate Sodom. In the name of evangelism, we don’t want to make enemies by speaking out against the sins of Sodom. Sadly, for Lot, the price of his love for Sodom was the life of his wife and the character of his daughters.
A cancer is growing, but many would rather live in denial. Further evidence of the depth of our denial is our passion for indifference. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. Unlike President Garfield, the modern preacher finds no glory in defending the unpopular truth against the popular error. So, sermons are preached and articles are written championing the new apathy. “Those religious right people are trying to change the world through politics,” they broad-brush. “But this is a spiritual warfare,” they argue, conveniently overlooking that the spiritual warfare is fought in a flesh-and-blood world with human casualties. Yet, the underlying theme is consistent, “Peace. Peace. There is no real problem. Don’t get so worked up.” Like an alcoholic who has yet to hit bottom, our language is denial, our virtue: apathy.
Psalm 106 describes the nation of Israel in decline: “They did not destroy the peoples as the Lord had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them” (vv. 34-36).
Free from the Snare
How do we free ourselves of the snare?
First, we need new hearts. We must let God teach our hearts to blush again. Allow sin in the media to shock you again. Allow sin in your heart to shock you anew. Then, with Jesus, dare to weep over Jerusalem—not because you want Jerusalem to be utopia so your life is easier, but because sin destroys the people God loves.
Second, we need new minds. The battle is for the mind. Too often, we baptize bodies without converting minds. In our nihilistic generation, people want to experience Jesus while they think like Friedrich Nietzsche (i.e., as practical atheists). As preachers, we teach the Bible, and then lead like John Stuart Mill (i.e., as utilitarian pragmatists). How would our lives and our churches change if we were to take every thought captive for Christ?
Finally, we need new action. Garfield dared to speak boldly against popular myths.
Do we? Do we preach to be pleasing to God, or are we more concerned with being palatable in Sodom? Do we dare to be bright lights in Sodom, and not be shocked when that light hurts the eyes of those in darkness?
A minister from China recently visited churches in America. Before leaving, his host asked, “So, what impressed you most about churches in America?”
His answer? “It is amazing how much they can accomplish without God.”
Every generation engages in a great battle for eternal souls. God has called us to battle the spiritual cancers of this generation. Victory begins with honesty. We have a problem. It is time for sober judgment to begin in the household of God.
Brett Andrews is lead minister with New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, Virginia, and CEO of the nZone (thenzone.com).