Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devout … and Out

Lydia of Thyatira was a devout woman, a worshiper of God. When the Lord opened her heart, she became a convert to the faith. Many devout Greeks in Thessalonica were also persuaded by the message of Paul and Silas. Titius Justus was yet another devout man. He demonstrated his nascent faith by giving Paul shelter when the apostle was opposed and reviled in Macedonia.

But not all devout people responded favorably to the gospel when it was presented to them in the first century. In Pisidian Antioch, the “devout” women served as shock troops for the Jews persecuting Paul and Barnabas.

In ideological conflicts, we call such people “useful idiots”. They believe in what they are doing, but are grossly misinformed or insufficiently attentive. They are being cynically manipulated by others.

A Statement Without Content

The devoutness of the Pharisees was of this type. It was intense, but based entirely on the religious commandments of men rather than the true doctrines of God. Their piety was mere lip service, rather than genuine and from the heart.

As the word is used in the New Testament then, to say that someone is “devout” is really to make a statement about them that is largely without content. We are describing the intensity of their commitment without really getting into what exactly it is they are committed TO.

Devout people are drawn out of secularism or paganism into the religious sphere by some quality that emanates from it. It may be its orderliness, or its morality, or its charitableness, or its apparent implications for social justice, or the gravity and ambiance of its ancient buildings, or the beauty of its art, hymnology and/or literature. It may be the sort of people it attracts, or its history, or its liturgical routines, or its association with family values. It may be the possibility of better understanding the universe, or of escaping hell. It may be a faint hint of the beauty of Christ yet to be revealed.

That, or the attraction is not personal at all. Devout behavior may be passed down as “normal” through families. Many are devout out of mere inertia, and some of these prefer their masses in Latin and their Bibles in incomprehensible, 400-year old English.

This is because it is the religious aesthetic they prize, not the actual content of their professed faith.

The Pre- and Post-Gospel Devout

The unsaved devout in Christendom today are of two types: pre-gospel and post-gospel. The pre-gospel devout are like Cornelius or Lydia, practicing religion to the best of their ability and just waiting for the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to the truth. The post-gospel devout are like the first century Jews who persecuted the church; perhaps not yet obviously opposed to the truth, but with the potential to be weaponized against the real people of God the moment there is something serious at stake. Having dismissed the relevance of the gospel to their own lives, their allegiance is always to the thing or things that drew them to religion in the first place, not to Christ himself.

The gospel is always the watershed.

Provided they know no better, even those who really “get it” may remain among the religious masses, indistinguishable from the pious unsaved unless you really know what to look for. Alternatively, provided they are able to find other like-minded believers, they may come out of all the trappings of religiosity into a small group for whom the things which originally attracted them to religion have paled in the light of the glory of the person of the Son of God.

Those who do not “get it” inhabit institutional Christendom but have never exercised saving faith in Jesus Christ. Perhaps they form the bulk of the visible church.

Christianity and the West

I bring this up because I have never in my life seen a time where more people are talking about the value of Christianity to the West. It is everywhere, on the lips of all sorts of nationalists and traditional conservative types, even hardened atheists or wistful agnostics. We are told — even by those who transparently do not know Christ or practice a first-century Christian lifestyle — that Christendom is an indispensable part of any future political scenario that does not devolve into chaos and barbarism.

And they are quite correct. They are scared of the increasingly revolutionary social implications of post-modern globalist progressivism and are smart enough to recognize the comparative orderliness, kindness and sanity that a Christianized society has historically produced, sometimes even in those who do not fully believe it.

In the face of a very unpleasant alternative, they are quite prepared to become more devout. They are not necessarily prepared to be saved. Many do not even grasp the difference.

Where We’re Headed

That fact is key. I believe if the Rapture occurs on a Saturday, church buildings will be full of devout people on Sunday, but not one of them will be a real believer. A respectable, institutional sham-Christendom will undoubtedly survive into the Tribulation period, eventually to be co-opted by the false prophet of Revelation and turned into outright worship of the “beast” he promotes to the world.

Further, I believe these “devout” folks will violently persecute those who come to faith and bravely name the name of Christ during the Tribulation period.

This is where we’re headed. It may be next year, next decade or next century, but it’s coming. In the face of it, true believers need to preach Jesus Christ above all else. He is the watershed. He is the real issue. Everything else — all the societal and personal benefits we enjoy because of him — is mere baggage. We need to draw a sharp, Spirit-illuminated line between the Way, the Truth and the Life and the often-beneficial earthly consequences of knowing him.

That will almost surely mean shortly leaving behind our buildings, our seminaries, our camps, our parachurch organizations and our veneer of public respectability — such as it is these days.

Behold, he stands at the door and knocks. It is NOT the door of a church building.

Are you interested in a good meal?

1 comment :

  1. At this time I would like to suggest a midcourse correction. I fully recognize the attempt on this site to make a significant contribution to individual lifes as well as to institutions and society. I have arrived at the exact same conclusion that society in the long term will inevitably have to turn to more fully incorporate Christian values and principles in it's dealings or face the threat of moral, mental, social decay on an ever accelerating scale that will be recognized as a threat to personal and public order and even survival. There is no coercion in this by a dictatorial deity except the one we experience by choosing wrongly. That seems like a fair arrangement to me.

    In that process we have zero knowledge of who is and is not saved by virtue of their actions, attitudes or declarations. Only God truly knows and we only know that you potentially can be saved even on your deathbed but cannot make a claim concerning certainty as is apparently the custom in the Protestant faith. Only God knows for sure and what he allows us to do is make a high likelyhood estimate based on following his recommendations and guidance and our knowledge of his fatherly concern and care. That also seems like a fair arrangement to me.