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Thoughts For Christians Entering the New Year

Many Christians are asking the question right now, “what can we do?” We see the mountainous obstacles before us, we understand that fundamental issues are hanging in the balance, and we yearn to act, yet we do not know exactly what action to take.
 
 

Responding To 2020…

This past year has brought much tumult, distress, anxiety, and maybe above all, transformation. We have learned (or ought to have learned at least) how little control we possess over our circumstances, and how quickly the things we are most certain of can crumble. We have been taught, very dramatically, the meaning of James 4:13-16

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

And for almost all of the disruption, we have had to respond to it on the fly. I would venture to claim that not one of us was fully prepared for the rapid sequence of events in 2020.
 
There will be no such excuse for Christians in 2021. Jesus condemned those of His day for their inability to discern the times they were living in (Lk. 12:56)—we do not want to receive such a rebuke, and so as Christians, we ought to be observant, thoughtful, and wise regarding the current status of the world in which we live. So with the knowledge we have gathered in our experiences over the past year, and the understanding that our cultural crumble shows no signs of slowing (the first weeks of 2021 alone may well prove to be monumental), what should we as the Church be focusing on and preparing for as we look ahead to the coming year?
 

Counting The Cost

If there is one thing we should have learned from 2020, it is to truly count the cost. For most of us, this is the first time we have endured anything remotely resembling systematic persecution for our faith (and those words still are too strong for our experience in America). However, countless pastors and churches have been fined for gathering in the name of Christ in defiance of unlawful government mandates, and pastors north of the border are now being brought up on criminal charges for having their churches gather.
 
In addition to this, there is the ever more vocal and powerful court of public opinion. “Cancel culture” has overtaken social media, and the world’s shame and scorn directed towards those Christians who take seriously God’s command to worship together has caused many churches to remain shut down out of a professed love for neighbor and a fear of damaging their witness. But perhaps most concerning is the ever-increasing censorship of what have become controversial views, and the seemingly inevitable end of free speech, and with it our freedom of religion. 
 
The runaway train of LGBTQ+ issues, as well as the continuing surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, has brought more and more restrictions on what can be said in the public square, and increasingly in the private sphere as well. With the potential passage of the Equality Act there is a very real possibility that, by this time next year, speaking biblically regarding homosexuality, transgenderism, gender roles, and a host of other topics, will be illegal. It is tempting for Christians at this point to take the path of least resistance—we can still preach the gospel, still talk about Jesus—and if these hot button issues are going to stir up controversy, why not simply omit them? But as Christians, we must not only be willing but determined to speak boldly and prophetically to the issues of our day.
 
Even though the religious leaders in Acts were deeply offended and angered at the apostles’ assignment to them of the guilt of killing Christ, they continued to preach that message anyway (Acts 2:23, 3:14-15, 4:10-11, 5:30). They also proclaimed boldly “Jesus is Lord”, even though almost nothing would be more offensive in a world that affirmed, “Caesar is lord.” The prophets spoke to the sin that was before them—be it syncretistic worship of idols, disregard for the poor, or empty traditionalism—and Jesus came out very directly and specifically against the sins of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 23:1-36). This is where we must count the cost. 
 
We are not permitted to be silent in the face of wickedness, but rather we are supposed to expose the particular works of darkness that prevail among us (Eph. 5:11). In contrast to the Christians who have refused to condemn the whole of the LGBTQ+ revolution and those who have become “woke” in order to remain culturally relevant, we must be prepared to be rejected by the world. We need to accept the fact that we will be perceived by many as intolerant and unloving, and must understand that, very soon, the consequences for speaking on these subjects will be far more severe than social condemnation. This is what it is to count the cost.
 

Consistency and Steadiness In 2021

Along with the counting of discipleship, we as Christians must be focused on consistency and steadiness in 2021. A mark of Christian maturity is to not be carried about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). We have been confronted this year with issues to think through that were not exactly on our radar previously: the relationship between the State and the Church, the relationship between the State and the individual, the nature of worship, the significance of fellowship and hospitality, and the definitional qualities of the Church, to name several. We must continue to develop these positions and stand firm on them, not oscillating back and forth based on what is currently popular and socially acceptable. 
 

The challenges of 2020 have demonstrated how unsteady the world’s foundation is. People have been living in petrifying fear, grudging frustration, and chronic uncertainty, clinging to the proclamations of politicians and “experts” to tell them whether or not it is safe for them to leave their homes. Whatever trust remained in the American political system has evaporated. The world has no true grounding for stability, but the Christian does. We have the sure and certain foundation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, our hope is entirely in that. We must not mirror the panic and fluctuation of the world.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Ph. 4:12-13).

If we suffer loss, pain, disease, death, marginalization, or persecution, we remain steady and joyful in our Lord Jesus Christ. 
 

What Can We Do?

Many Christians are asking the question right now, “what can we do?” We see the mountainous obstacles before us, we understand that fundamental issues are hanging in the balance, and we yearn to act, yet we do not know exactly what action to take. Above all else, what must be in the forefront of the Christian mind, what must be our daily aim, and the most important action we take, is to live out our faith. It sounds overly-simplistic, but it is the most impactful, and also the most challenging thing we can do. We must put to death the impulse to keep our faith to ourselves, to hide it until that perfect moment when we can share the gospel without feeling so awkward. Instead, we must be intent and explicit in living for the glory of God, openly honoring Him in all that we do. 
 
Parents must teach their children the gospel, the full counsel of God, training them in the Christian worldview, in opposition to what the world has to offer. Pastors must shepherd the flock, equipping congregations to discern the craftiness of false teachers and the vain, temporary satisfaction promised by sin. We must gather together to worship God publicly and without shame. We must extend radical hospitality, demonstrate sacrificial love, being with and supporting one another at our own expense. We must stand vocally and unwaveringly against the continuing murder of unborn children. 
 
We must defend the basic liberties of human beings (endowed by God, merely recognized by the Constitution). We must live according to what is true, not validating blatant lies. We must encourage those who have suffered loss, challenge those who love their sin, all in the love of Christ and with the hope of the gospel. We must truly and diligently take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), which will lead to every action being submitted to the obedience of Christ.
 

The Light of Hope

Above all, we must demonstrate the light of hope to the world. We must not imitate the world in all its solemn gloominess. While we understand and recognize the weight of our current moment, we also know that our sovereign King is bringing about His eternal purposes, which are always for the ultimate good of His Church, and He will not allow death and wickedness to prevail. Even if we continue to suffer loss—if our way of life continues to erode, if the enemies of the Church continue to gain apparent strength, we do not lose heart. God uses times like these to refine and strengthen His people, and we should not be so wrapped up in our worldly lives to miss all the blessings of what God is doing. 
 
As time moves forward and all the crises remain, more and more people will be searching for answers; as the hand of the State weighs heavier and heavier on individuals, they will seek another God to serve. The Church must be that institution that provides the antithesis to the world’s broken systems. If we simply mirror the world, we are salt that has lost its saltiness. 
 

As we move into the tenuous situations of this new year, let us seek to demonstrate all the more our unshakable hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and seek always to live in the bold courage of the Spirit.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:6-7).
 
 
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA.  Click here for more RCSH Blog posts. 
 
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