Two Dangers Facing Christians Under Cultural Pressure

There are two dangers Christians face when culture pushes against our beliefs. The first is to give in to the pressure to conform, and the second is to stand defiant in an ungodly way. The first danger reveals itself in some professing Christians’ fear of the world’s disapproval. This fear is not only true of some churchgoers but also true of some church leaders. This conforming to the world is one reason why many churches seem to have little to offer in today’s cultural climate.

Churches that fear the world’s disapproval serve man more than the Lord who bought them. God has called them to honor him and preach the word, but instead, they measure their success by the fickle approval of man. This inaccurate aim causes them to flinch when the world is displeased. It will also cause them to back down from the word of God when it does not help them meet their goals.

We should not despise those who give in to this temptation because we are all susceptible. Saints more significant than us have struggled with it. This propensity to shrink back is why Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul was nearing the end of his ministry, was in jail, and was about to be put to death. Timothy knew this and was tempted to step back from his calling. Being able to stand for the gospel against cultural pressure is not something we can do in our strength. It requires a spirit of power that can only come from God.

As the secularization of our nation grows more potent, it appears fewer and fewer professing Christians are up for the challenge. This loss of courage is why we need to hear Paul’s words afresh. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power.

You can imagine what Timothy may have heard as he went out to preach. “Oh, you are Paul’s protégé’, he is locked up and facing death, and if you keep it up, we will do the same to you.” How do you stand at a time like that? Only in the strength of the Holy Spirit. If you believe your mission as a Christian is to gain the world’s approval, you will immediately crumble. However, if you know your calling is to proclaim the light of Christ to dying people by the power of God, as their darkened hearts become more evident, you will become more diligent.

The second danger is to stand defiant in ungodly belligerence, and we see much of this on social media. Before we run out to confront the world, there is more to Paul’s statement we need to consider. It says, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” John Calvin asks, “Why did Paul add ‘love’ and ‘self-control’ after ‘power.'” He answered, “In my opinion, it was the purpose of distinguishing that power of the Spirit from the fury and rage of fanatics, who, while they rush forward with reckless impulse, fiercely boast of having the Spirit of God.”

On the other side of the spectrum of those who kowtow to culture, other professing Christians believe their belligerence and constant engagement in useless quarrels is proof of a God-given spirit of power, but it is not. It is a counterfeit. It is worldliness in Christian garb. The strength our Lord gives us to defy the world’s demands and, if necessary, even specific civil laws that may result in our imprisonment must be regulated by love and self-control. What does it matter if we withstand the world but do not have love?

We must defy a spiritually dead culture and not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord: not because we hate the world, but because we love our God, and we love the lost. We cannot minister to those we despise. Do we love them enough to suffer for them? Even if we are chained up like criminals, the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9). The more the world hates the gospel, the more it needs us to preach it in love.

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

-D. Eaton

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