For the glory of God, let us blaze out from our obscurity and once more bring the Light of Christ to the world so they, too, can see with the “spiritual glasses” of faith, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).
The current downgrade of the visible church of Christ on the world stage is heartrending to watch with the naked eye. Surely everyone, including unbelievers, can see its conspicuous tumble from the heights of religious and moral influence, especially in the West where our current truncated Christian “message” is nothing more than an annoying gnat that our willful society can easily swat away.
The mainstream culture, in fact, hardly seems to bat an eye these days when Christians are persecuted or killed, instead focusing their sympathies on the poor perpetrators who are so offended by Christianity that they had no choice but to commit violence against these “obnoxious Bible thumpers.”
But is Christianity really fading away into obscurity? The Bible certainly speaks of the disappearance of the true Church into a hidden, inconspicuous wilderness (Revelation 12:6). According to John Gill, a major reason for this kind of vanishing act is because professing Christians become “vain, proud, ambitious, and careless” from riches and honors; and thus they obtain “false doctrine and superstition” which “obscures the true Church, makes it invisible, hidden in the cleft of the rock, like a person in a wood or wilderness, not to be seen, desolate and uncomfortable.”
So what exactly are we seeing (or not seeing) with Christianity these days?
The View from the Cheap Seats
It is not a pretty sight. Recently, the largest protestant group in Britain, the Church of England, became the latest institution to kowtow to the world with their decision to officially bless same-sex couples, but not officiate at same-sex weddings. This clumsy theological sleight-of-hand was no doubt performed to maintain some dubious appearance of Anglican virtue even though, as one wise critic observed, such a position still clearly rejects the “Biblical understanding of sex and marriage by departing from the apostolic faith we are called to uphold.”
Alas, this desperate attempt to “make nice” with the world by tossing aside the “mean ol’ Bible” has lately become the standard. Many of our most popular Christian leaders, while dressed in the fashion of “orthodox” sheep, seem more inclined to scratch the world’s itching ear with their wolfish claws. No wonder the world so easily shrugs off our message of salvation when some within our ranks have joined with unbelievers to downplay the sinfulness of sin. How does the Cross hold any significance for the sinner if their rebellion against God is considered but a trifle?
Sadly, it seems, the world may never again see the likes of a Peter, Paul or John, or any other great servant of God from the early Church who joyfully abandoned all prestige and creature comforts to proclaim the Gospel to the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captives of their day. These selfless disciples were without purse, scrip or shoes, and yet they lacked for nothing! (Luke 22:35).
Oh sure, many of today’s Christian pop stars would argue that they lack for nothing as well. With their mansions, private jets and social media influence, they can proudly say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” yet they do not see that they are actually “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Considering their spiritual blindness, we should not be surprised when these false professors are unable to guide the lost towards God or show them the Way to eternal life. Most assuredly, they are the blind leading the blind! (Matthew 15:14).
Wiping the Tears from Our Eyes to See
So where, pray tell, can the world still clearly see the men and women of God who stand firm in His revealed truth for the sake of Christ and His righteousness? Where can they observe the staunch defenders of the faith and the fearless trumpeters of the Gospel in the public square? Perhaps, if we wipe the tears from our eyes, step back a bit and squint intently into the distance, we might make out the faint outline of a multitude of witnesses to which we can point.
Undoubtedly, throughout history, we’ve been blessed beyond measure to behold notable preachers, missionaries and theologians that have held to the Biblical standard of truth and driven the Gospel further into the world. And even now, if we have ears to hear, there are strong voices in this present spiritual wasteland that rightly handle the word of truth and implore sinners on behalf of Christ to be reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The Holy Spirit, too, is ever present and moving like the wind to wherever He wishes (John 3:8). Trusting this sovereign Power, the Christian doesn’t need to hear about a “revival” being reported on CNN to know the Spirit is still at work convicting sinners and drawing them to Christ. Such newsworthy events can certainly be a boon to our faith when they advance the Gospel and bring forth fruit (Galatians 5:22), but the Spirit’s involvement may be absent if the unbelieving world can celebrate some of these “feel good” church stories without conviction or offense (John 16:8; 1 Peter 2:8).
Above all, we should pray that Christ’s name be exalted in these various unhindered moments of Christian spectacle (Mark 9:39) and hope that the watching eyes of the world might witness a true Spirit-led wave of believers who will go forth from the meeting house to spread the Gospel, saying like Peter, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation… Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-40).
Spiritually Viewing the Things Not Seen
When looking to appraise the wellness of the Church, our eyes of faith need not be dependent upon witnessing a modern-day revival making the news. The happy fact is, there are many inspired men and women of God already out there, if we would only put on our spiritual glasses to see them. Peering through the demoralizing darkness and past the false professors that add to the shadows, we can clearly spy out the millions of unnoticed, yet hardworking disciples of the Church who are helping to expand His spiritual Kingdom as humble slaves to Christ.
As Charles John Ellicott reminds us, “There will be many folds, in many nations, in many ages, in many climes. But for all Christians there will be one true Shepherd who layeth down His life for the sheep, and all these differing folds shall, through living unity with Him, make one vast flock.”