A secularized society is one that divorces itself from spiritual truths. It casts off what it perceives to be the foolishness of Scripture, and then each man begins to do that which is right in his own eyes. Over time, a secularized society will become increasingly hostile toward God and the people of God.
We have seen this progression in our own culture.
There was a time when God and Scripture were woven into the fabric of this nation. This is not to say that our nation was ever Christian, but if you look at the seminal documents that gave birth to this nation, you will find them replete with references not only to God, but Scripture. Today we live in a very different society.
As our culture plummets into secularization, it has grown in hostility toward believers. The pathway of American history is the one laid out in the first chapter of Romans. In Romans chapter one, Paul describes the downward spiral of men into the secular abyss.
Paul writes that man rejects Scripture by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), and as a result, the heart of man is darkened; therefore the mind of man begins to engage in futile speculations (Rom 1:21). Then, Paul describes man’s exchange of the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25). Eventually, secular man rejects God and jettisons the values espoused in Scripture. As a consequence, God punishes men by giving them over to the lusts of their heart, in essence, by no longer restraining him (Rom 1:26).
Thus, we find ourselves in a society that is increasingly militant against believers. In fact, secular culture has weaponized aspects of our society, whether that be institutions of higher education, political action groups, or community organizations – all are becoming increasingly aggressive, even rabid against the truths of Scripture. If we express even the slightest resistance to the LGBT movement or its ideology, we are vilified, slandered, and hated.
The question becomes how?
How do we shine the light of Jesus Christ in this increasingly dark world? How do we prepare for the war that is coming and is upon us even now? How are we to evangelize a world that has completely divorced itself from the truth of God’s Word?
WE NEED TO FIGHT
Make no mistake, the world has declared war on us. They are the aggressors. They have brought the fight to us. And as faithful soldiers of Christ, we must fight. We are to be merciless. We are to be severe. We are to be militant. We are to fight relentlessly, aggressively, and zealously.
But not against the world. We fight against ourselves.
The Internal Battle
In the face of impending persecution, Peter writes, “Prepare your minds for action. Keep sober in spirit” (1 Peter 1:13).
The question is how? How are we to be sober in spirit and prepared for action? The next verse reads, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which are yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you be holy yourselves in all your behavior, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
Peter writes of obedience and holiness within the believer. That is how we prepare for action. This pursuit of holiness is an internal war. Peter writes, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lust” (1 Peter 2:11). That is a negative way of urging believers to seek holiness. A war is being waged in the inner man.
But where do those fleshly lusts come from that wage war against our soul? These sinful tendencies that erupt within our hearts come from within (James 1:14). Our redeemed spirits are incarcerated in fleshly bodies where sin still resides (Rom 7:18). Thus, there is a sense in which the war that rages is against ourselves. We are in a civil war as our soul fights against our flesh.
In this war for holiness, we are often our own worst enemies.
Peter and Paul promoted the same strategy in the midst of persecution. Paul wrote to the Philippians when they were facing opposition and persecution from the world.
It has been granted to you for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
In essence, Paul is saying, The battle has come to you, Philippians. You are suffering for the sake of Christ. With conflict at the doorstep, how does Paul instruct them to fight? Paul says, a war is coming, you are being persecuted. As this happens, work out your salvation. The salvation that was placed in you by God, work it into every crevice of your life. Work it out into every aspect of your life.
The first battle is the fight for personal holiness.
The soldier of Christ who wants to fight this war understands this: “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore, let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of life” (Rom 13:12).
Before we can don the armor of light, we must shed our soiled garments. Lest this somehow sound romantic, let us not forget that war is harsh. There is a severity in which we are to wage war against ourselves, a sense in which we are merciless and ruthless, cold and militant, in the manner we engage personal sin (see also Matt 5:29; Gal 5:24; Rom 8:13). There is a take-no-prisoners, scorched-earth policy when it comes to this internal war with sin.
This is only the first half of the war.
The External Battle
While there is a battle within, there is also an external war to be waged. It is between us and this secularized world. But how do we fight against the world?
We fight with exemplary behavior.
In verse 12, Peter writes,
“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may, because of your good deeds as they observe them, glorify God on the day of visitation.”
Excellent behavior among unbelievers is Christian guerrilla warfare. Our strategy against the world is excellence in all that we are and do.
The word excellent speaks of moral quality. All we do is to be noble and praiseworthy, blameless and excellent.
We see this exhibited in Scripture. Daniel excelled in a hostile kingdom, to such an extent that those who sought his downfall could not “find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God” (Dan 6:5). The primary weapon Daniel had against his enemies was his exemplary behavior.
And because of Daniel’s character, both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, first-hand witnesses to the righteous life of Daniel, gave glory to God (Dan 4:34; Dan 6:26). This is exactly what Peter says will be the fruit of excellent living (1 Peter 2:12).
As we fight an internal war for holiness, it manifests itself in outward excellence, which in turn becomes the weapon by which God brings many to glory.
There is another way in which our excellence does battle out on the fields of conflict.
THE RESPONSE OF THE WORLD
One of the greatest campaigns of war that Satan utilizes against believers is perception and attitudes – public opinion. Satan will ultimately focus the hatred of the world upon us by turning public opinion against us. Believers will increasingly be slandered, maligned, and disparaged, to such an extent that the world will one day rejoice to see us persecuted (1 Peter 2:12).
The question, once again, is how? How do we as believers counter the slander? How do we refute the false accusations?
The answer is found in 1 Peter 2:15, “For such is the will of God, that by doing right, you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
The word silence literally means to muzzle. The purity of our lives and an untarnished moral character gags, or muzzles the slander.
We may not be able to stop this mob mentality against Christians, but on an individual basis, we can muzzle the slander against us.
There is a lesbian couple that lives across the street from my family. The day may come when my family, along with all other believers, is slandered as haters of homosexuals and lesbians simply because of our faith.
But my neighbors know firsthand the love and kindness that my family has poured out on them since the day we first met. Were anyone to charge my family and I as haters of homosexuals, I believe that that lesbian couple would be among the first to stand and silence our accusers. We have sought to be excellent before them. And our excellent behavior becomes the stage from which we boldly proclaim the gospel.
As Christians, may we live in such a manner that our lives are a living validation of the message we preach. Let our excellence become our primary weapon of warfare.