Christianity 201

August 10, 2017

Jeremiah and the Popularity Contest

by Clarke Dixon

“Your popularity has gone down 25%!” Such was a new expression one of my boys brought home from school as a way of expressing annoyance. I suppose I should have been happy that my son was learning percentages, or that my popularity was not dropping near as fast as my other sons. What I was not so happy about was the lifting up of popularity as something of great importance.

As prophets go, Jeremiah was not popular, indeed he went beyond being unpopular to being hated. And little wonder, Jeremiah 1:10 gives a nice summary of what Jeremiah was expected to do:

See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:10 NRSV)

You may have noticed that the description of Jeremiah’s call has twice the amount of negative sounding items as positive. Read the entire book of Jeremiah and you will notice that Jeremiah spends most of his time prophesying destruction and hard times. Such messages would not help his popularity rating! Jeremiah’s contemporaries preferred a kinder, gentler, and of course, more popular message, but Jeremiah remained faithful. Had he cared more for his own popularity than God’s truth, he would have faded into obscurity as a prophet not worth remembering. Like most of his contemporaries he would have become irrelevant.

There is a great effort in the Church today to try to be relevant, to regain some of the popularity we perceive ourselves to have lost. There are those who think the Church can be relevant if it pays attention to the shifts in society in world-view and ethics and make similar shifts, “keeping up with the times” as it were. However, the opposite is true. It is by maintaining the distinctive teaching from God’s Word that we become relevant. It is when we play the popularity game that we become irrelevant.

Jeremiah lived in a time and place where his message was necessarily negative. The time had come for judgement, for which there was no sugar coating, and about which Jeremiah could do nothing. As Christians we live in a time and place where our message will necessarily be unpopular.

Let’s consider one of the most unpopular teachings of the Church in our day. Consider our message regarding sexuality. The message of the Church that sex belongs within marriage sounds antiquated to many, judgemental and negative. Should we play the popularity game and change our views? While viewed negatively by society, there is much to commend a Biblical view of sexuality. Sexually transmitted diseases are not transmitted by God fearing people. Marriages are not ripped apart by adultery among God fearing people. The Canadian definition of marriage today may as well be “the relationship among the many we have had that we hope lasts the longest.” Among God fearing people marriage is a fundamentally different relationship from any other relationship ever had, not just the longest lasting among many. “Being faithful so long as we both shall live” rings deep and true when a person can speak of “being faithful so long as I have already lived.” Faithfulness to one’s spouse can and should begin long before the wedding day. But even if there was nothing practical to commend our message, faithfulness to it would still demonstrate our faithfulness to God, and that ought to matter. The message of the Church with regards to sexuality is not popular today. But that should matter to us about as much as the popularity of the message of judgement mattered to Jeremiah. What matters is faithfulness to God, and it is by remaining faithful to Him we remain relevant to our society.

There are many other examples of Christian teaching that will be unpopular; belief in the supernatural, belief that abortion is wrong, belief in the importance of sobriety, belief that Jesus is the only Saviour, belief that other world-views are wrong. We can not expect the Church to win a popularity contest while it holds to these teachings. But neither do we need to enter a popularity contest. God calls us, like he called Jeremiah, not to popularity, but to faithfulness to Him, and to true and lasting relevance.


Read more at Clarke’s sermon blog: clarkedixon.wordpress.com

January 30, 2013

Standing Firm in the Day of Evil

Today we return to our friends Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement where this appeared as, When You Wonder ‘What’s The Use?‘.  (There are a number of additional resources at the source for this article.)

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12,13). “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

On Friday Brooksyne and I, along with several hundred thousand others, participated in the March For Life in Washington DC. It was very much a heartfelt and memorable experience to take a visible stand for something good and so vital to our Christian heritage. In the midst of an evil spirit dominating Washington we were pleased to join other ambassadors in that powerful city standing up for a righteous cause.

When standing for a just and righteous cause against a tide of evil we may wonder, “What’s the use?” This is true at all levels so we hope today’s message will be a special source of encouragement to those who are weary of their ensuing battle and might be saying to themselves, “What’s the use?”.

“Put on the full armor of God” In Ephesians 6 the Apostle Paul urges Christ’s followers to “put on the full armor of God.” Putting on the full armor of God is a daily exercise for believers in every generation. It is never optional for the Christian who desires to be effective in their Christian witness and to live in victory over the enemy.

“So that when the day of evil comes”  We all face the day of evil and in so many ways it seems our young people face degrees of evil that my generation was never exposed to. Of course our parents could say the same thing to us, but it seems that the outflow of sin has greatly accelerated in our lifetime. I read an article about the extent of sexual perversion that is actually being taught and affirmed as “good” in schools and of course this evil is spreading. A state university here in Pennsylvania now has vending machines distributing … (too vile to place in this point in the message, see below [at source] for link but please read our message first).

Godly parents, students and ministers who seek to take a stand against evil are reviled by the powers that be. Good is called evil and evil is called good. I really wonder if we are entering the period known as the great apostasy (see 2 Thessalonians 2).

“The day of evil” is something that believers of all ages, beginning with the original recipients of Ephesus, could identify with. However Paul may also have had in mind a specific day of evil that sure seems to describe our age with confusion abounding concerning two fundamental elements to God’s created order; life and marriage. This confusion is unique to our age. Indeed there have always been perversions to both but now it is asserted that these perversions are good and opposing them is bad. Oh, may God send a revival, a worldwide revival! It’s our only hope for turning the evil tide that has swept through our land and around the world.

“And having done everything, to stand firm.” For many years I have been intrigued by the final phrase in our daily text, “and having done everything, to stand firm.” We must, by God’s grace and the appropriation of His appointed armor, stand firm and unwavering in the midst of false teaching and the resulting sinful behavior. We will most certainly encounter adversity and it will increase as more and more people reject God.

The Life Application Bible notes speak to this: “With false teaching and loose morals comes a particularly destructive disease – the loss of true love for God and others. Sin cools your love for God and others by turning your focus on yourself. You cannot truly love if you think only of yourself.” Aren’t we seeing more and more people who live only for their own desires and don’t care about the pain they inflict on others?

Today we pray for each of you, however old you are or wherever you may live, to have a holy boldness in appropriately standing up for your faith. It’s especially hard when you’re dealing with those in your own family who come against you in your stand for righteous living. Yet I find depth of wisdom and a nod of agreement to Scripture in this popular quote, “Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” Indeed, let us all courageously stand up for Jesus and remember His sobering words, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Daily prayer: Father, I want to be vigilant in equipping myself today as I battle the spiritual forces of evil. Though I wage war in this present and evil generation I have a body guard in the presence of the Holy Spirit who gives me power over the enemy of my soul. Today, I stand against the devil’s schemes because I take on the full armor of God; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  As I prayerfully cover my vulnerable self with godly armor I am fully equipped with the necessary provisions to overcome discouragement, disappointment and seeming defeat. Instead I am an enduring conqueror who stands triumphant by Your grace, through our Lord Jesus Christ in whose name I pray!  Amen.

~Stephen and Brooksyne Weber