There was a CNN story the other day, citing a survey whose findings were that the United States is a “less Christian” nation, and that people were now more likely to say than ever before that they had NO religious beliefs. I question this, but not because I think the numbers of professing Christians are too low (seven of every ten), but because I have a feeling they’re too high — and have always been.
The scary thing is how many people out there are describing themselves as Christian without any real knowledge of what it means to be a Christian. The early believers were given that name because their lives were centered on Jesus Christ. They were the “Christ-ones”. They were the believers of Berea, who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so [what Paul taught about Jesus]” (Acts 17).
Another story in the Christian Science Monitor said it even more strongly: Western Christianity is about to complete pushing itself over the cliff. While he’s right about all too much, I don’t agree with all the author’s conclusions. For one, I think independent bible-teaching churches will continue to do well and likely even grow, as people who are fed up with the mainstream denominations’ continuing apostasy will look for places where God’s word is taught without politics or hidden agenda and Jesus is glorified and not the church building or the pastor.
Jesus and St. Paul have both taught that as we get closer to the End Times, the church would contract and those who were only nominally Christians would siphon off into the world:
“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:10-12)
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that as God he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God […]” (2 Thes. 2:1-12 – KJV)
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their consciences seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1-3 -KJV)
There have always been those at least apparently in the Church who were there because it was expected of them or because they thought they should and even some who “think” they believe who weren’t really saved. We tend to call them hypocrites. [Did you know that the Greek word “hypocrite” was their word for “actor”?] What’s now happening is that the masks are coming off as the world becomes more open in accepting those who have no faith and people can stop pretending to be what they aren’t. The process is really just beginning.
Next stop, Laodicea.