This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wedding Photographers and the Sweet Land of Liberty

Jesus told His followers what to expect. We can expect to be hated and mistreated by a world that declares its independence from God. Few prophetic utterances are made more clearly in scripture than those that promise us difficulty from our world.

John 15:18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jesus is fully expecting His disciples to experience persecution from individuals and from governing authorities. He tells them to expect it too! The history of the Christian church bears the painful, bloody marks of the truthfulness of Jesus words.

I am thankful that Christians living in America have lived in a country whose governing charter rests upon a commitment to religious freedom. For this reason, Christians in America have not only been free from experiencing any persecution from governing authorities, but we have been free even from fear of the strong arm of government trouncing upon our religious consciences. We have sung joyfully of our sweet land of liberty for over 200 years.

As Christians, we recognize that this sweet experience is an anomaly on the face of this earth. Over the whole course of human events few people have even dipped their finger into the well of liberty that we have gulped from so deeply. We Christians also recognize that our religious liberty is not due to our nation's respect for humankind, but due to our nation's respect for God. A professed respect for humankind separated from a respect for God inevitably leads to a contraction of religious liberty. John Adams recognized this as he wrote, "It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."

As our nation loses her spiritual light and life, we can expect liberties to fail. This past Thursday (May 31) the New Mexico Court of Appeals made a landmark decision that illustrates the kind of loss to religious liberty that is fast approaching us in our nation. In 2006 a Christian photographer named Elaine Huguenin refused to photograph a "commitment ceremony" for Vanessa Willock and her lesbian partner on the basis of Huguenin's Christian views of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman. Her Christian conscience did not permit her to participate in the celebration of this union. Huguenin was sued for violating Willock's civil rights and this week the appeals court found her guilty and required her to pay a fine of nearly $7000. Contained in the 45 page ruling, the court said that the photography business is a public accommodation and as such the business cannot use their faith to discriminate against others based upon sexual orientation. One excerpt from the ruling reads, “The owners of Elane Photography must accept the reasonable regulations and restrictions imposed upon the conduct of their commercial enterprise despite their personal religious beliefs that may conflict with these governmental interests.” Our nation's spiritual lifelessness shakes the foundation upon which our liberty rests.

How are Christians to respond to these news events which will likely multiply in our land? One large reason that we experience spiritual rebellion in our country is because of the spiritual rebellion found in the church. While this is not the only problem we face, my thoughts of our response center around how we might strengthen the church as persecution increases. I ask you to consider five specific responses to strengthen the church as we endure hardship of various kinds:

1. Pray for spiritual revival in our own personal lives. We cannot impart spiritual life if we do not possess it in our own souls. Seek the LORD. Confess sin. Tear down the idols of the heart. Grow in our communion with the Triune God.

2. Pray for spiritual revival in the church and diligently work toward that end. Become active in making your church more like Jesus. Be the gift that God intends for you to be to the church for its health and strength.

3. Be bold and clear in proclaiming the Gospel to a dark world. Only the Gospel can bring spiritual life, let us not shrink from daily declaring Jesus to be both Savior and Lord. Use any hardship to promote the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

4. Be patient in enduring persecution. The cause of Christ is not promoted when we complain. Yes, we are right to argue in the public sphere for freedom and liberty. Yes, we are right to battle against abuse from government. We are right to use political means to secure liberty. But we must not become a whining people. We speak God's truth from a position of peace and confidence, knowing that God is Sovereign.

5. Give thanks to the LORD for His kindness in both prosperity and pain. He sends us difficulty to help us become more like Jesus. Opposition to our faith gives us greater opportunity to worship the God who is worthy of praise. To God alone belongs the glory.
Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing; long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; protect us by thy might, great God, our King.

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