“What counts is what people want. People don’t know what they want. Experts know what they want. People are told what they want. People want what they are told.” -John Lucas
“Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Philippians 1:27-28)
We are living in a day where the most illogical, most immoral and most hysterical foolishness is being promoted as being wise and relevant. And, what is more incredible, even inconceivable, American adults believe it! What we used to call common sense is no longer so common.
We are informed that there is more than two genders and it becomes official policy. We are told that there is a curse of systemic white supremacy and it is automatically accepted as reality without proof. We are told that the killing of babies in a womb is not the killing of human lives and a political party makes that lie the main part of its platform. We are told that males who want to be females, can compete with women and the male’s strength of muscle will not impact fair competition. We are told that a certain state’s law is racist in defiance of evidence to the contrary and large companies fall over themselves in a knee jerk effort to be seen as virtuous and woke. We are told that millions of Americans will die because of COVID-19 and consequently we must wear masks, or not wear masks, or seclude ourselves, or not seclude ourselves, or take a vaccine or not take a vaccine, and millions of Americans dutifully, even frantically, comply with each and every directive.
It appears that we have lost all ability to think for ourselves. The so called “experts” are running the show and the sheep are mindlessly following their directives. What makes things so dangerous, if that was not enough, is that to question, to challenge, to resist so obvious nonsense and foolishness is to subject one’s self to the worst kind of labeling from the masses. Conformity, not truth, is the new standard of acceptance. The pressure to submit to fantasy is not going to decrease. It is becoming the new spirit of America.
If you think this pressure to conform will not affect Christians, you are in for a rude awakening. The Church has already been profoundly compromised by beliefs and practices that come not from the Word but the world. Whole denominations are ready to split over issues that come not from the Bible but from contemporary secular winds. Issues once considered wrong because they went contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture are now being advocated by some of our best known “evangelicals.” Homosexuality is not a sin. Abortion is not so evil. The Scripture is not sufficient. Christ is not the only way.
And, the pressure will not just be institutional. It will be personal. If you publicly speak up, you will be cancelled. If you hold fast to your moral convictions and speak out, you will be labeled as a “hater,” “homophobic,” and worst of all, a “racist.” The pressure to conform will be intense and relentless.
I am not sure if this is comforting to you, but this is in many ways a return to normal. Other times and other lands have faced similar, if not more intense pressure. In China, Iran, India, Sudan, Mozambique and most Muslim countries, Christian pay with their lives for standing against the predominant system of belief. The early church in general and the Philippian church in particular, stood against the prevailing pressures of a culture that despised the Church and its message and would allow no variance.
That is why Paul wrote what he did in the passage cited above. He admonishes them to live in a way that was worthy of the gospel regardless of what was happening around them.
The preciousness of the good news, the grace and peace and joy that was poured into their hearts by their Risen Lord, was worth fighting for, suffering for, and even dying for. They refused to be shaped by the winds of the world but shaped by the wisdom of the Word.
Even though he was not there with them, Paul was confident that they could resist the tremendous pressures they were facing. The secret to victory was that they were to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you?” First, you can see that in the providence of God, they would not stand alone. There would be other believers, like the 7000, in Elijah’s day that God “reserved for himself.” God would preserve a remnant who would be faithful, enabled by His presence to honor him in the midst of trouble.
Second, it would mean contending. When lies are being treated as truth, when evil is being declared as good, when compliance is demanded rather than conviction, neutrality and silence are not virtue. They are sin! Christians are called to contend for the truth that saves.
Third, what they were fighting for is the “faith of the gospel.” Notice, Paul did not say faith in the gospel, but the faith of the gospel. I believe he was focusing upon preserving the content of the gospel at a time when the Good News was being attacked. In essence, he was saying something similar to what Jude wrote: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3) The faith, put in written form, detailing what God has done in Christ, is of “first importance.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3) It is the “faith” that saved us. It is the “faith” that is saving us. It is the “faith” that will save us.” It is holding fast to the “faith,” that will give us the confidence and boldness to resist and persevere in the coming days of increasing pressure and persecution.
I am here advocating for what Os Guiness has described as “resistance thinking.” It is refusing to be intimidated and compromised into following the lies of the majority or the delusion of the authorities. Paul prayed this way: “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and blameless until the day of Christ.” We are commanded to love, but our love is shaped by “knowledge” and depth of inisght. (Philippians 1:9-10) It is a call to let the words of the Scripture shape our minds and our convictions. It is a call to interpret and discern current events from the perspective of Biblical faith under the weight of eternity.
Thinking well and thinking right is not easy in the culture we now live. Os Guiness, summed up our challenge in these words: “Thinking and acting Christianly in the blizzard of modern information and change requires the courage of a prophet, the wisdom of a sage, the character of a saint…” He calls it “resistant thinking.” It is refusing to be intimidated into conformity even if you have to stand alone against the whole world. Whether it comes in the force of secular threats or in the form of sacred treaties, we don’t want it! We know what we want. We want God’s truth. We want God’s glory. We want God’s smile. Nothing else matters.