I don’t know about you, but when I read stats that set Christians apart from other groups, I am pretty suspicious. “How do you know they are really Christians?” is my immediate thought.
Making recent headlines is Pew research poll data reflecting a departure from Christianity in the U.S. with a corresponding rise in other faiths and those unaffiliated religiously. Ironically, within the figures, a gem of hope is hidden beneath the surface.
The poll reflected an alleged overall decline in Christian faith from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Some suggest that while the numbers are decreasing, they represent a trend toward strengthening (not necessarily in overall numbers) of true biblical Christianity. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary appeared on Lauren Green’s Fox News program Spirited Debate in late May to draw a similar conclusion.
When I think of our culture as a whole, it is difficult for me to believe either figure (78.4% in 2007 or 70.6% in 2014) truly represents the percentage of Christians in our nation. I tend to believe the numbers are much lower. After all, polls are typically based on what the participants claim.
While those claiming to be Christians are declining in number, it is logical to conclude that some have simply taken a more honest position with respect to their faith. And this conclusion leads me back to my suspicion that many more making up the numbers are name-only Christians.
If over 70% of Americans hold to biblical values, how can the remaining minority of our population generate the consumer base to support the gross immorality streaming through electronic devices and TV screens, making pornography a multi-billion dollar business? How could a largely Christian nation sustain the sex-saturated advertising, legitimizing of homosexuality, babies being torn apart in the womb, and a government that operates with little semblance of truth or order?
Our day-to-day choices are true representations of what and who we love, and what we believe. While a Christian is not immune to temptation, and we will inevitably sin, a life filled with active and ongoing sin is foreign to one who has been baptized into Christ. John said, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:4-6, NASB).
Attitudes have been shifting rapidly in the last few years, and biblical beliefs have increasingly become socially unacceptable. “Oh you are one of those judgmental bigots,” might be a fellow American’s response to your claim or admission to Christianity.
Those who reject God’s love and rebel against His precepts will likely hate Christians. We are warned by Christ Himself of this phenomenon (John 15:18). Being a Christian today is not quite as easy, not as acceptable, not as kindly embraced as it was in past decades.
For those who have been going along for the ride on the Christian bus, it is likely becoming a less appealing form of public transportation. This concept is well personified through a cartoon by Adam Ford that identifies three groups of people, 1) Christians, 2) Non-Christians, and 3) Meh Christians (one who lacks interest or enthusiasm).
Jesus said to the lukewarm church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit [vomit] you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16, NASB).
In the end, we know our Lord’s desire is to see everyone come to repentance. His letter to the lukewarm church continues: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 13:18-20 NASB).”
As those in the fading middle ground step to the left or to the right, those holding true to Christ and His Word become marked – a separated people, a precious remnant.
Things are different than they were even a few years ago. We cannot be anonymous, unenthusiastic or silent in our faith. We need each other like never before. We must be faithful in assembling together, standing in unity, prayer and love. Jesus came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16 NASB). It’s time for us to be that fire.