Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Faith

Over the past couple of decades, there has been a slow, but steady effort to move people away from their Christian faith. The incidents of church burnings have increased over that same period and nonbelievers are emboldened to openly attack believers. It is one thing for a person to say that he or she doesn’t believe in God, but it is quite another thing for them to attack people when it comes to their faith. You would think that atheists would respect the thoughts and beliefs of another individual. I have friends who are agnostics and a few who are atheists. They don’t attack my faith or what I choose to believe. I respect their decisions and continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to speak to their hearts. I don’t hate them for their beliefs. 

However, there are those who would like nothing better than seeing Christianity go to the wayside and ultimately disappear. During the Age of Enlightenment, the atheist movement began. People began to question and finally reject Christianity. At the time, the movement was small and was more of some fringe idea. Over time, things began to change.

The atheist movement in the United States can be traced back to the founding of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism in 1925 and the American Humanist Association in 1941. In time, atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, freethinkers, and other nonreligious and nontheistic Americans have grown in both numbers and visibility. There has been a sharp increase in the number of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated, from under 10 percent in the 1990s to 20 percent in 2013.The trend is especially pronounced among young people, with about one in three Americans younger than 30 identifying as religiously unaffiliated, a figure that has nearly tripled since the 1990s.

As these numbers continue to grow, intolerance has grown almost exponentially. Atheists began to organize and demand the removal of prayer from public school citing the separation of church and state. Very few individuals understand the meaning of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. It prevents the government from creating and imposing a state-sanctioned religion. People are given the right to worship freely without having to worry about the government telling them how and what to worship. It doesn’t stop individuals from bringing their religious convictions into the public arena. 

Instead of respecting others beliefs, there have been those on both sides who have gone out of their way to disrespect the other. Instead of encouraging acceptance and respect for the other, there have been those who have lashed out in anger and have resorted to name-calling and even threats of violence.

Add social media and the ability to call people names with virtual anonymity, you then have a society that is being torn apart and divided. Mutual respect has been replaced with outright anger and, in some cases, violence. Tolerance for differing opinions has been replaced with threats and screaming. In short, society, for all of its advances, has de-evolved into a sort of tribalism that we have never seen before. Instead of seeing our neighbors as neighbors, we have started to see one another as factions defined by traits and characteristics.

For Christians, the message is clear. Don’t allow anyone to change your mind about your faith. Your faith is very precious and you shouldn’t ever be ashamed to call yourself a Christian and a follower of Christ Jesus. You should stand firm in your faith and not allow yourself to be swayed by threats or words.

Jesus, in chapter fifteen of the Gospel of John, said to his disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.

The world has a deep-seated hatred for Jesus and showed its hatred in a very profound way. Jesus was crucified as a criminal and a threat to those who preferred the darkness and the things of this world. When they felt threatened, those in power lashed out by crucifying the one who was sent to this world not to condemn it, but, rather, to save it.

Just as Jesus was persecuted, Christians are persecuted daily. In the United States, it is safe to practice your faith. In other countries, it isn’t the same. They have to worship in secret out of fear that they may be sent to prison or reeducation camps. But, we must remain strong in our faith, continue to follow the teachings of Jesus and walk daily in righteousness with the Lord.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

Like Paul, we should never be ashamed of our faith or to share our story of salvation with others. By sharing the Good News and remaining grounded in our faith, we are doing the work that the Lord has given us. We are to go to all nations and preach the Gospel. There will be those who refuse to hear the message of love and salvation and some will call you names or become angry. It will happen, but you should never be ashamed of your faith. The world hated Jesus first. As a follower of Jesus, they will hate you, but always remember that when you stand firm in your faith, you are standing shoulder to shoulder with all those who have preached the Good News. You couldn’t ask for better company. You stand in the ranks with the disciples and apostles of old and with all those who preach the Word all around the world.

As you continue your daily walk with the Lord, always know that He is there with you and how much you mean to Him. He sent His son to die for your sins and for the sins of all. You can show your love by remaining faithful and unashamed of that faith. When you do all those things, you can definitely stand firm in His grace.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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