This is a story from Australia, but it has direct implications for Americans and anywhere else people embrace biblical truth and morality.
Andrew Thorburn was chief executive of the Australian Football League club Essendon only a day before reports emerged that he was also the lay board chairman of an Anglican church called City on a Hill. In 2013, the church published an article urging people with “same-sex attraction” to seek help from senior Christians to “survive these temptations.” A 2013 sermon also stated that while we “look back [with] sadness and disgust over concentration camps, future generations will look back with sadness at the legal murder of hundreds of thousands [of] human beings every day through medicine and in the name of freedom.”
Daniel Andrews, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, told reporters, “Those views are absolutely appalling. I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry. It is just wrong.” Essendon President Dave Barham quickly issued a statement: “We acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organization’s official website, which are in direct contradiction to our values as a club.”
Thorburn resigned his position as a result, stating, “Today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many. I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed.”
Dr. Albert Mohler is right: “This story tells us a very great deal about the velocity of social and moral change and the challenges that will face Christians, if not immediately, then very quickly.” If we want job security, he suggests that we join a church that celebrates LGBTQ ideology and all other progressive agendas. But if we do, we will find ourselves in direct contradiction to the word of God.
He concludes: “This is how the issue in our world is now shaping up, and it will be a huge test of Christian faithfulness. Your church may cost you your job, but your job may demand your soul.”
“He must labor to make us lovable”
When our faith is tested, whether by public opposition or by private temptation, how do we pass the test?
Yesterday we celebrated the fact that when we place our faith in the Son of God, he makes us the children of God (cf. John 1:12). As a result, we are free to love and serve others whether they love and serve us or not, secure in the fact that we are loved absolutely and unconditionally by the God of the universe.
Today, let’s take our status as God’s children a step further.
C.S. Lewis notes in The Problem of Pain: “We were not made primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased.’” However, “to ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because he is what he is, his love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us he must labor to make us lovable.”
Lewis adds: “What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view, but when we are such as he can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.”
Here’s how the process works. In the moment of our salvation, we are spiritually “born again” (John 3:3). We exchange the sinful nature we inherited from the “first Adam” (Romans 5:12–14) for the spiritual nature we receive from the “second Adam,” our Savior and Lord (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 8:29).
In that moment, the Holy Spirit who comes to live in us when we trust in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16) begins working to transform us into people God can “love without impediment.”
“Rebels who must lay down our arms”
However, you and I have a choice to make.
We can strive in our own strength to stand publicly for Christ against the rising tide of secular animosity and to defeat the private temptations brought against us by Satan. Or we can yield our lives completely to the will and power of the Holy Spirit, trusting him to make of us what we could never make of ourselves.
Returning to C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain: “We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved; we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms.” Lewis admits that this is hard for us: “To render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain, . . . to surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death.”
This is why Paul described himself as being “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20) and called us to present our lives to God as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). It is why Jesus declared, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, my emphasis).
“The resources to do what God requires”
What is already true in Communist China, North Korea, Cuba, and many parts of the Muslim world is becoming true in the secularized West as well: to follow Christ faithfully, we need courage and perseverance beyond ourselves. Consequently, we need to begin every day by submitting that day to the lordship of Christ in the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). And we need to practice consistently and passionately the various spiritual disciplines—prayer, Bible study, worship, solitude, fasting, and so on—to position ourselves to be transformed daily by the One we worship.
I have warned for many years that “self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide.” Never has that fact been more true for American Christians than today.
Erwin Lutzer was right: “You become stronger only when you become weaker. When you surrender your will to God, you discover the resources to do what God requires.”
Will you make this transforming discovery today?