Standing for Christ in a Collapsing culture
- February 8, 2022
by Linda Piepenbrink
If you’ve been worried about where American culture is going and wishing it could be reclaimed, you may want to change your focus.
At the Thursday, February 3 evening session of Founder’s Week 2022, Pastor Erwin Lutzer delivered a sobering, timely message, “Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture.” Pastor Lutzer, who served as senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago from 1980 to 2016, predicted difficult times ahead for the church in America but also offered a powerful prayer against fear.
As the culture declines, Pastor Lutzer said he is most interested in reclaiming the church, encouraging believers to stand for truth even at great personal cost.
Is America being Sovietized?
Pastor Lutzer started with a story from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’a book The Gulag Archipelago, which relates a speech Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin gave in Moscow in 1937. The crowd delivered a standing ovation that continued nonstop. After 11 minutes, the applause finally subsided when the director of a paper factory stopped clapping and sat down.
Later that night the man was arrested and sent to prison for 10 years. During the interrogation, he was told, “Don’t ever be the first to stop clapping.”
Lutzer posed the question: Is America being Sovietized? Citing Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution, Pastor Lutzer gave two reasons why he believes the answer is yes.
In the Soviet Union’s communist system, there was no escape from ideological indoctrination. Pastor Lutzer hearkened back to the days in America when a good chemistry student could get a university job without having to believe in gender fluidity or plural pronouns.
“Not today,” he said. “Almost certainly your social account is going to be looked at, including anything you’ve put on Facebook.”
Pastor Lutzer shared two examples of Christians who have been impacted by the prevailing ideologies in America. A dentist was forced to take implicit bias training on gender identity, plural pronouns, and sexual orientation (or face potential legal trouble). A woman’s business was sued and destroyed because she was committed to Christian principles of morality.
“She was a very spiritual woman, loved God, but refused to clap,” Pastor Lutzer said.
The Soviets fused their press (Pravda) with the government. The press became a mouthpiece for the prevailing orthodoxies. Pastor Lutzer applied that practice to America’s Big Tech censors, who have “censored people with different views of the vaccine, different views of climate change and gender issues,” he said. “I personally know Christian ministries that have been deleted because, after all, they do not fit the cultural narrative of the time.”
Other ministries succumb to the enemy. In Nazi Germany many churches had swastikas on their buildings during the Holocaust, as if to say, “Don’t come for us because we are on your side.”
That’s why Solzhenitsyn said, “How does freedom die? With thunderous applause.”
Lessons from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Pastor Lutzer turned to Daniel chapter 3, where King Nebuchadnezzar required everyone to bow down to his golden image when the music started. Three Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, would not bow (clap) and were threatened with the fiery furnace.
Given a second chance to bow, they remained resolute because they believed in the power of God to deliver them. “But if not” (v. 18), the trio said, they believed in the providence and presence of God, content with whatever God wanted, even if it meant being burned in the fire.
How do the lessons of Daniel 3 apply to the United States?
1. We must learn to stand alone. Of the 10,000 Jews who came from Jerusalem to Babylon in the exile, only those three Hebrew men refused to bow. Are we willing to stand alone? “In this culture, the road of obedience is going to get lonelier and lonelier as the cultural pressure mounts,” Pastor Lutzer said. “The only thing that really matters is what matters forever.”
2. We must relearn the fear of God. These men feared God more than they did the fire. “We’ve so emphasized grace that we no longer really fear God,” Pastor Lutzer said of the church. “So we feel very confident in sinning because of grace.” Instead, be committed to the fear of God.
3. It’s not necessary to win in this life to win in the life to come. Focus on eternity!
4. Learn the power of a faithful witness. Pastor Lutzer expects King Nebuchadnezzar to be in Heaven. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego witnessed to him, and after God humbled him and he lived like an animal for seven months, he became a worshipper of Israel’s God and God’s sovereignty (Daniel 4). “You never know who might believe on Jesus because of your witness,” Pastor Lutzer said.
'We witness of Jesus Christ’
Solzhenitsyn, who had rejected his childhood faith and become a communist, was in a labor camp when a doctor witnessed to him about Jesus. Consequently, Solzhenitsyn later turned back to faith in Christ. That night, the doctor was clubbed to death, not knowing he had just led a man back to Christ. Solzhenitsyn would go on to become a great historian and write books exposing the communist system.
As for America, Pastor Lutzer, whose latest book is We Will Not Be Silenced, concludes: “What an opportunity to witness to a nation that has lost hope, with all of its depression, all of its unanswered questions. God asks us today to be that kind of a witness for His glory and to be able to say we stand here without compromise to the culture, but we witness of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.”