Beware of Subtle Forms of Denying Christ

Title: Beware of Subtle Forms of Denying Christ
Text: Acts 17:16, Matthew 10:32-33, Matthew 5:10-12, 14-16
Time: May 11th, 2015

Natalie Grant is a Christian contemporary singer who has sung many top praise and worship hits over the course of her career. A couple of years ago she was nominated by the Grammy Awards and so she was invited to attend the annual ceremony and celebration that is televised nationally and internationally by network television. During the course of the Grammy Awards ceremony at a certain point Natalie left early and sent out a tweet (a brief message on Twitter) stating she left early but didn’t say exactly why. Immediately fans started guessing that it was because she was offended as a Christian because of Katy Perry’s satanic witch performance. Or maybe it was because of the pro-homosexual song by a popular rap artist during a mock gay wedding ceremony led by actress Queen Latifa. In other words, there were a number of highly offensive segments of the 2014 Grammy Awards that could have provoked her to walk out. Who could blame her for leaving early under such circumstances? Who could simply sit there and watch as Katy Perry, a former contemporary Christian music artist, performs a satanic ritual on stage in front of millions worldwide. Who could blame her for walking out of a highly offensive live gay marriage that promoted sodomy before millions and millions of people? These are all anti-Christian themes and we totally understand why Natalie Grant might up and leave instead of sitting there and watching such garbage. Ok, so far so good. But then things get a little strange, even weird. After the controversy that starts to brew because of criticism for her leaving early by non-Christians and gay activists such as Perez Hilton, Natalie then back tracks and states, “I never said why I left or singled out any one thing that caused me to leave. At the time I had thoughts in my head that are better left unsaid then and now. I’m just happy to be singing for Jesus.” What’s strange is that she seems to have been provoked enough to up and leave the Grammy’s because of offensive content, yet she doesn’t seem to have enough courage of her convictions to actually explain why she left. Or maybe she thought about the consequences for her musical career in the recording industry or feared she might get blacklisted if she said anything negative against the “powers-that-be.” We don’t really know why she wouldn’t explain why she left early, although it does clearly appear that she was afraid to say what she really thought, saying, “There are thoughts inside my head that had better stay there.” Now my question, our question, is, “Is this the right approach we as Christians should take in respect to sin and culture?” Should we “keep our thoughts to ourselves” out of fear we might get into trouble? Or should we be bold and speak the truth in love without fear of the consequences, trusting God to be our guide and protector? Let’s look at this issue closer, because we may not find ourselves in exactly the same spot as Natalie Grant, but we’ll probably find ourselves in something similar in some way at some time. How will we respond? Let’s think it through now so we’ll respond correctly.

First, it’s a good thing for a Christian to feel troubled over open sin and blasphemy. Acts 17:16, “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” Other translations render the word “distressed” as “provoked.” It really bothered him enough to take some kind of action, so he started debating with those in the city concerning the truth of God. I see what happened to Christian singer Natalie Grant at the 2014 Grammy Awards in a similar light. She attended the ceremony because she was nominated in the contemporary Christian music category and so was honored to be there. But during the course of the evening she saw how the program was going, saw some of the evil and outright devilish performances taking place and was provoked in her spirit to do something, so she left, and not only that she told people she left through a message on Twitter. It’s perfectly understandable and perfectly justifiable that she left. I think I probably would have left myself if I had to sit through some of the spiritually dark and morally depraved aspects of this totally pagan awards ceremony. I’ve noticed that these televised award ceremonies coming out of Hollywood are getting worse and worse every year. I was really bothered this year 2015 that featured the rock band AC/DC singing, “Highway to Hell,” and leading the entire crowd to put on red devil horns, stand and sing along in group participation. I didn’t watch the televised presentation but I read about it afterwards and I was provoked in my spirit by what I heard. But I think what Natalie Grant did in walking out was not only understandable, it was exemplary. It was not only appropriate; it was good of her to do it as a testimony to her Christian faith to all her fans and followers. I think more Christians need to put their foot down and not simply go along with whatever sins the world asks us to participate in and contribute to. Far too many Christians tolerate far too many sins that they really should object to. It takes courage to stand and walk out of an event. I remember a time when my mom, dad, sister and myself went to a movie because we had heard it was good, but after a few minutes it became apparent that it was not a good movie because of immorality and sin, so we felt compelled to up and leave. We paid to see the movie but we couldn’t in good conscience stay and watch morally offensive content of the kind we were seeing. We paid the price and left. God help us all, now and in the future to have the courage to take a stand and object to sin when we are in its presence, no matter what the cost. Natalie Grant was brave. So far so good, but unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story.

Second, it’s a bad thing when Christians don’t have the courage of their convictions to stand for the truth afterwards. Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” These are the teachings of Jesus where he encourages his followers not to be afraid to bear witness of him and his truths in public, “Do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid on those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” Matthew 10:26-28. For nearly 1500 or so years Christians in the West, I mean Western Civilization, have had a privileged place in society due to the historical circumstances of the Roman Emperor Constantine converting to Christianity in the 4th Century. Since that time Christians have had it pretty easy as far as expressing their basic beliefs and lifestyle in western society. But in these modern times this arrangement is changing. No longer is Christianity the worldview of the West. No longer do Christian moral standards prevail. In fact, more and more anti-Christian, immoral standards are becoming the norm. It’s going to get harder and harder for Christians to believe and live out their Christian lives without provoking opposition. How will we as Christians react to this changing reality? Natalie Grant reacted properly in walking out of the Grammy Awards because of the blatant sinful content, but she did wrong in not continuing to bear witness for Christ in the aftermath. Did she go so far as to deny Christ? Not totally, but a little bit, yes, she did. In refusing to testify why she left the Grammy Awards early and in refusing to share her Christian convictions when asked she failed to bear witness to Christ when called upon to do so. She succumbed to fear. She chickened out. According to Youtube commentator Mark Dice she was afraid she might offend the Hollywood establishment, or recording industry executives, whoever, and it might ruin her career or reputation, and so forth. He’s probably right. No, she didn’t outright deny Christ, like Peter during the trial of Jesus, “No, I tell you I don’t know the man!” But she did deny him a little by saying, “I have thoughts that are in my head that probably should remain there.” In other words, I’m not gong to tell you what I really believe because I might get into trouble.” She took the easy way out, the politically correct path, and acted cowardly. Is that what Christ teaches Christians to do in the passage I just read? I don’t think so.

Third, it’s a bad thing when Christians go out of their way to avoid bearing witness for Christ and his truth. Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus encourages his followers to bear persecution patiently, not seek to avoid it. How easy it would have been for the early church martyrs to simply keep silent rather than bear witness for Christ in the ancient world. It would have saved their lives. Here’s what happened in the early days of Christianity before Constantine converted and Christianity became the official state religion of the West – you could believe any religion you wanted provided you were willing to make sacrifice and confess to Caesar. So many a Christian was brought before a Roman official and asked to confess and make sacrifice to Caesar. If they did, they could keep believing and living in whatever way they liked spiritually speaking. All they had to do is give lip service to Caesar. However, for a real Christian that presented a problem because, if Jesus was Lord, then they couldn’t confess Caesar as Lord or sacrifice to him as a deity. The martyrs were the ones who died confessing Christ, all others were cowards who saved their own skins through betraying Christ by confessing to Caesar. After the persecutions ended there was a big controversy in the church over what to do with the cowardly Christians who failed to confess Christ, those who betrayed the faith by sacrificing to Caesar to save their own skins. Eventually it was decided to forgive them and admit them back into the church after confession, repentance and recommitment on their part. But it was an issue in the early church. Now today we are faced with a similar situation only not as severe. Nobody is threatening us with physical injury or death, but we do face possibly financial injury, career death, social rejection, character assassination, and so forth. When the powers-that-be ask us to choose sides, them or Christ, how will we choose? When we are forced to confess Christ in the midst of a hostile culture, will we confess him? Or will we back down, bow out, remain silent, offer no comment, or slip away quietly? Don’t think we don’t have to face the same issue the early Christians faced. We do, only in a different form. How will we respond to the challenge?

I’ve seen this more and more as our culture turns away from Christ and turns toward sin and evil, Christians are going to be tested more and more. Now it’s one thing to stand up and walk into a firestorm as a warrior Christian. The Apostle Paul and those like him are called to walk into the crowd and take their place in front and proclaim the gospel in public without fear of the consequences. That’s a gift, that’s a calling to purposefully place yourself in the center of attention and bear witness for Christ and the truth of God. That takes certain gifts that every Christian might not possess normally. I’m not talking about that gift and calling. I’m talking about the responsibility of every Christian to stand and bear witness for Christ whenever they are called upon through God’s providence. Natalie Grant didn’t seek out attention, didn’t purposefully chase after a platform to preach the gospel or proclaim righteousness in public, she was pushed into that position by circumstances and perhaps by the providence of God. She was given the opportunity to bear witness to the truth of God. She was given a microphone from which to speak by the media. Attention was given to her to say something, to speak what was in her heart and mind concerning her Christian convictions and she refused to speak. That is the problem. That is the issue. I’m not faulting her for not being an Apostle Paul or a Martin Luther or a John Wesley. These men sought after a platform, drew attention to themselves in order to proclaim the Christian truth. Again, that’s a gift and calling. What I’m faulting Natalie Grant for is failing to step up and bear witness for Christ and his truths when she was asked! When people came knocking on her door and asking her about her faith, she kept silent. That is not right. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, . . .” 1 Peter 3:15. Maybe Natalie Grant wasn’t prepared to give an answer for her Christian faith. Are you ready to give an answer for the reasons in your heart for believing the Christian faith? Am I? I hope she’s prepared now. I hoped she’s thought about it in light of her experience and has determined to never again be speechless, silent, give no comment when asked about her Christian convictions. We can all learn a lesson from Natalie Grant’s failure. I’m sure the Lord God has forgiven her by now, as he would anyone who fails and then seeks forgiveness. But let’s prepare ourselves now to give an answer when someone asks us that is based on the courage of our convictions and not based on cowardice. Let’s shine the light of Christ’s truth in a dark world instead of hiding it. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on it stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” Matthew 5:14-16.

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