What Does It Mean to Be a Christian in the Modern World?
Posted On July 14, 2022
Written by Dr. Stephen Nichols, president and professor of apologetics
Consider these words of encouragement: “Let us be comforted under the present dark circumstances that the church of God is under, and all the uproar and confusions there are in the world, and all the threatenings of the church’s enemies.”
While these comments may seem like they were written in this current moment, these lines actually come from a sermon Jonathan Edwards preached in 1739. It was the thirtieth and last of a sermon series on one verse, Isaiah 51:8. The comfort Edwards referred to is the comfort of “the everlasting duration of God’s mercy and faithfulness to His church and people.”
To be a Christian in the modern world means to be challenged, to be threatened, to be, at times, surrounded by chaos, confusion, and turmoil. Sometimes when faced by such formidable challenges, the temptation to compromise or accommodate becomes all too strong. So we need to be thinking about what it means to be a faithful Christian in the modern world. We are not unique in facing “dark circumstances.” The church has been here before.
Let’s go back to Edwards for some help. By focusing on Isaiah 51:8, Edwards desired for his congregation to have the right perspective when facing trials. In the historical context of Isaiah, the enemies of God’s people were the Babylonians first, followed by Cyrus and the Persians. These were vast empires ruled by tyrants marked by an overwhelming cruelty, violence, and brutality. They seemed an intractable force, an insurmountable force. But Isaiah 51:8 declares them to be temporary, passing: “The moth will eat them up like a garment.” The enemy, the threatenings, the turmoil and confusion is all temporary. We need this same perspective when facing opposition in our own culture.
We also need to focus on what is permanent, solid, and lasting. Again, Isaiah 51:8 declares that the covenant is permanent: “My righteousness will be forever and my salvation to all generations.” God is a faithful covenant-keeping, promise-keeping God. His purposes will not be thwarted or overturned or derailed. God never fails. That is why, in the words of the hymn, we are simply called to “trust and obey.”
I remember Dr. Sinclair Ferguson once asking, “How extensive is the kingdom of Herod today?” Then he asked, “How extensive is the kingdom of Jesus Christ today?” That is the message of Isaiah 51:8, an encouraging message for us to remember what is passing and what is permanent, so we can be faithful Christians in the modern world.