“And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:15
If the hard challenges of today are to be met successfully by Christians, they must mature in the practice of their faith. The nominal Christian, social church-goer, one who gives only lip-service to the Son of God, is as much part of the secular world as the frankly agnostic or atheistic. Unless faith in the Lord Jesus Christ results in a way of life, attitudes and behavior that are different from that of the surrounding materialistic society, the divine origin of the Biblical faith will not be proven.
Our Caribbean societies, led by liberal democracies, are pluralistic in many ways. Differing philosophies, theologies, life-styles compete with each other, all claiming priority of place. Of course, in these democracies (we are not theocracies), each is guaranteed the right to offer itself in the marketplace of ideas. What we must always strive for is to have disagreements without disrespect, freedom of choice without murderous confrontations. Unfortunately, the present atmosphere of partisanships and divisions in politics, religion, social sectors has produced a state of ongoing tensions that resemble a war-zone of camps hostile to each other.
A practical atheism is in evidence everywhere, even in circles where the name of God and Christ has become a mere rubber stamp of social habit. The reality of the Presence of Almighty God and the revelation of Himself in the Bible are effectively denied. One writer has said that the great danger to the church is the “film of familiarity”, where the great truths of Scripture have become clichéd jargon in the mouths of church goers, who have lost the sense of the mighty, present reality of the God of the Bible in their daily lives. A certain “Sunday school” familiarity with popular Bible stories and texts memorized from childhood have covered over and not led on to a maturing of faith and knowledge.
In the wider society, the absolutes of Biblical law and its viewpoints, based on the authority of the Scriptures and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, no longer direct the majority of lives. A post-modern world denies the reality of “absolutes” and rejects the “meta-narrative” set out in the Bible that presents its story of beginnings, human progress and the end of all things. Certainly, it is obvious that the church in its various denominations, no longer has the influence it once had. Religion is still important to many of our citizens, and many take their faith seriously, even though this article warns against a kind of religiosity without spiritual substance.
Today, many openly deny the authority of the Scriptures and the Deity of Christ. Much that was once taboo is accepted as a matter of course and modern progress. We must respect the right of citizens to make their own choices about how they will live, even if those choices go against our religious and moral standards.. The most Christian teachers can do is to set out as clearly as possible the Bible’s teachings about God, man, Christ, salvation, judgement to come. “..sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience…” (1 Peter 3:15).
One often hears the view that this society is “Christian.” All evidence points to the contrary. Yes, the majority religion is Christian in various denominations. We are not, fundamentally, a “Christian” society if this means that the direction of the majority of lives is towards the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Saviour, LORD and coming Judge of all our societies and cultures. If we are a “Christian” society, where is the corresponding Bible-guided way of life? The nightly news is of gun killings, rapes with murders, lawless driving with multiple accidents, many resulting in death and serious injury; dangerous fights among school children, parents confronting teachers, noise in neighborhoods with no regard for residents, relentless disposal of garbage on beaches and other places, and the list can go on. Where is the “Christian” society?
Speaking to the Greeks, the Apostle Paul proclaimed what is still relevant today: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a Day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31). This is a sobering declaration, one that should give us pause.
The reality of our times demands of serious Christian believers an approach to their society that will draw again on the boldness of the early church and the church in days of reformation and revival. Christians must be recalled afresh to the basics of their faith, to the God and Christ of the Bible. They must be certain of the inerrant authority of the Bible as revelation from God. These are the roots of Christian maturity. The people of God must always be called to return urgently to the clarity of Biblical vision from which they are so easily seduced, by both the world and false prophets. The Apostle Peter exhorted the church of his day to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18).
Maturing in Christ means coming to a renewed conviction that the people of Christ must proclaim again, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), the Name of Jesus Christ.
If Christians, both leaders and members of churches, are to mature in Christ, and are to prepare themselves for the work of faithful witnesses today, they must have a real, close, personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. They must know and practice His Presence! Through daily Bible study, careful personal prayer, calling on the Holy Spirit for counsel, through visible purity of life, practical love for one another — through these come the mature spiritual life and the Spirit-filled power of Christian witness. It is only as we live the reality of Triune God and the Risen Christ, and practice obedience of God’s commandments will we become mature children of God, attaining the goal of “a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13).