How to Conquer

"Great reformation and revival... will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program of conquest consisted largely of two elements — gospel preaching and being eaten by lions — a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the the contemporary church." Douglas Wilson

When a post-Christian culture is in decline, leaving the faith, the remaining Christians can have a hard time adjusting to the new reality. They might grasp for political power to restore their heritage. They might retrench, focus inward and separate more from people around, acting more Amish. But whatever it is, they tend to flail about looking for something, anything, that will reverse the decline.

God's people have lived through such declines before. Most notably Augustine as Rome surrendered and sunk to the barbarians. Rome had supported Christianity for a hundred years, on and off, and now the Christians were terrified to lose that protection and be vulnerable to barbarians. Study that history; read Augustine's "City of God." You'll see that the decline didn't happen because the church didn't speak out strongly enough. Her task wasn't foremost to persuade the culture about principles of liberty and law.

It is speaking and believing and living the gospel that makes the difference. God is very clear on this in His Word. "this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith." (1 John 5:4). This faith leads to good works of purity and compassion that make the world notice. Not on the evening news or New York Times at first.

There is certainly a place to work to restore the institution of the family, political liberty, and so forth. But the church's main task is to point to the object of our faith, Jesus Christ - the source of our good works. If we are working only or mainly for a political ideology or higher morality, we are building on a weak foundation. You cannot build a stable and happy society solely on Rand Paul's libertarianism or Bill Gothard's moral principles and consequences. Jesus Christ is the only center that holds. He brings forth from His treasure liberty and morality for a society. But we have to get there by worshiping, loving and trusting Him more than His gifts.

This is why the worship of the church, focused on the Gospel must be the center, on the first day of the week. The rest of the week, we may work for liberty and morality. But on Sunday at church, we rest in the work Christ finished to give us everlasting freedom and purity. We ought not import to the center, things meant to flow outward from it. A sermon on the need for morality that any Mormon can agree with is no Christian sermon. A message supposedly from God's Word that would fit in fine at CPAC is not giving due weight to the center: the Lord Jesus Christ.

The faith that conquers is not faith in principles of liberty or morality. We trust a personal God, whose being and providence, yes, designs our lives according such principles. But our misplaced priorities start to show when our society rejects them.

Do we trust in the presence of such gifts (properly working principles among a people)? Or do we trust the Giver, who sometimes withholds such gifts according to His wisdom and justice?

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