Concerns for a Future Life
In light of modern trends, discussions (or lack thereof), and policies, the church of Christ is fearful. Recent conversations with fellow believers has made it apparent . . . Christians are scared. They are scared about the status of our culture. They are scared about the status of the church. Ultimately, they are scared about the status of their own faith. The concern is that in this moral decline of society, perhaps persecution of Christians for their faith is on its way.
Persecution references an intense time of extreme and consistent brutal treatment, usually characterized by physical abuse, against a select group of individuals generally based on religious orientation. It is hard to fathom that we live in a society that as a group, could go the direction of such extremism against its own constituents. Quite frankly, I don’t think this will happen any time soon, because it would take time to build up to that level of intensity. What is certain however, is that while we may not live in an era of persecution, we are living in an era of oppression.
That oppression is the result of the post-modern culture in which we live. It is a culture characterized by secularism, skepticism, pluralism, positivism, humanism, hedonism, relativism, and whatever other –ism you want to include. With this mindset, oppression is no surprise. In a culture where truth and morality are relative, the only sin that exists is the assertion of absoluteness. To be absolute in something is to be intolerant of something else. So what are we Christians, the stewards of absolute truth, to do? How are we to live in a culture that values everything else except the sureness of truth?
The answer lies in a very unlikely person: Abraham. Surely a man who lived thousands of years ago could not be an example for us today. What insight could he possibly have on our post-modern culture? Plenty! Abraham’s life in his time is the example we need for the life we live today.
Conclusions from a Past Life
We turn to the initial parts of Genesis 12 to find some very compelling indicators of a believer’s life lived then and now. However, to see this you need to understand the background of Abraham’s circumstances, particularly the two cities in which he spent his life before receiving the Lord’s call.
Abraham was originally from UR, which is where he received the call of the Lord (Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:2-4). However, he eventually left from Haran after the family moved there (Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:2-4). Both cities were flourishing. Haran, being located on a trade route, was a commercial center (Ezekiel 27:23) and a provincial Assyrian capital. Ur was prosperous and well-known in its own right. Both were cities of pagan worship and home to a culture that knew nothing of God or His ways. The same words can be used to describe our culture today. Prosperous and flourishing according to material standards, we live in a secularized culture content with worldliness over godliness. Our response to a culture in which the God of the Bible has been dethroned and the God of self now reigns can be found by looking at Abraham’s call from the Lord in Genesis 12:1-9.
From Abraham’s acceptance and response to the call of God, we see the following three things:
- Obedience to the Lord (Genesis 12:4-5): Upon receiving the words of the Lord, Abraham responded by going. Note the words in verse 4, “So Abram went.” There is no higher calling than the call of the Lord. It is a radical calling that necessitates a radical response: obedience. It is not easy to obey the Lord because the call upon our lives is such an extreme calling. Just take a look at Luke 9:23-27; it is the passage in which Christ calls believers to pick up their cross. What absurd words! Yet, the Christian life is a life of obedience that is characterized by self-denial and servant-hood.
- Faith in the Lord (Genesis 12:6-7a): The words of Genesis 12:7 are profoundly important in understanding Abraham’s obedience. The Lord has clearly indicated that it is not Abraham that will receive the land, but his offspring. Surely he understood the significance of those words. The Lord has just made a promise to make Abraham a great nation, but he will not live to see that come to fruition (cf. Galatians 3:16). In a culture that demands answers and riches now, the step of obedience requires faith. Abraham demonstrated his faith in the Lord by his obedience to the Lord. Our willingness to obey the Lord is dependent upon our faith in the Lord.
- Worship of the Lord (Genesis 12:7b-9): Again, Abraham’s faith is exercised and demonstrated in yet another way. He builds altars and worships the Lord. If we had just received the promise to have our own nation and oversee it, our response would lack patience and declare that it must happen now. Abraham doesn’t do that. Instead, Abraham has just received attention from the Lord and turns it around to give attention back to the Lord. Despite the oppression of any culture, our call is to worship the Lord. We take every opportunity to glorify Him alone to a culture that stands alone.
Charge of a Current Life
We learn from Abraham the need to obey the Lord, to have faith in the Lord, and to worship the Lord. So often, Abraham is built up as an example of the Christian life, and rightly so. An issue of today though is that he is built up as a super-Christian, a man so pious that there is no way we could ever reach the level of Christian nobility that He attained. The result of this is a life that often gets ignored because it is so extraordinary we feel we could never live like Him in our Christian walk.
The reality is that Abraham was an ordinary man with an ordinary faith. The difference was his willingness to obey the Lord as a result of that ordinary faith. It was definitely counter-cultural. It was a stark contrast to the world in which he lived. The same is true today, and so we live in the same way.
The call of the Christian life has not changed. It requests of us obedience, faith, and worship. These are not profound points, but they are necessary points to the Christian life. Note how each ends:
- Obedience to the Lord
- Faith in the Lord
- Worship of the Lord
Each is dictated by our relationship with the Lord, not our relationship with the culture. The culture doesn’t dictate or necessitate our faith, obedience, or worship . . . God does. The life we live in a changing culture does not change because our God does not change, and it is He whom we serve.