In an blog written by Rev. Mae Elise Cannon titled, “Religious Persecution: The Tide of the 21st Century?” dated, September 30, 2014, in Huffington Post, Rev. Cannon noted that “an elderly faith-filled individual who has worked in inter-religious dialogue for decades, suggested that globally we are moving into a time where religious persecution and oppression is increasing around the world and toward numerous different religious communities” (quote source here). The rise of ISIS and it’s growing persecution of Christians and other groups across Iraq and Syria is the latest example of this persecution. And we are not immune to its effects here in America.
In a commentary by Lyle Brennan titled, “Religious Persecution in the U.S.? Christians are Fair Game,” published in “Nevada Business,” on October 2, 2013, the opening paragraph states, “Although more than 79 percent of people in the United States identify themselves as Christians, there’s a growing body of evidence that the media and the government, including the military, are doing their best to turn Americans against Christianity” (quote source here). Mr. Brennan cites examples and makes a plea for us to “pay attention to what’s going on in this country.”
But do we?
Oftentimes, we view persecution as something that happens to people in other countries and not so much here on American soil. I’m reminded of an article regarding an upcoming event that was recently posted on Twitter that brings attention to this very fact. A well known ministry is sponsoring a “Caribbean Study Cruise” in early 2015 whereby the cruise passengers will be cruising the Eastern Caribbean while attending a conference covering topics on “persevering in the Christian life, looking to Christ’s call to endure persecution and suffering faithfully” (quote source here). The irony seems to be rather apparent.
While many Christians here in America tend to view the Christian life as a sort of playground with lots of pluses (money, materialism, and entertainment being three of them), a large portion of the rest of the world sees and experiences it for what it really is, a battleground. This battle is clearly described in Ephesians 6:10-18 (click here to read the passage). And America is not somehow immune to this ongoing battle. In fact, if we would take a good hard look at what is really going on in our own society underneath the surface, we would see just how very much we are in the thick of this battle, and for the most part, we are totally unprepared for it.
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote on this very topic back in his day, and a book on his essays titled, “This World: Playground or Battleground? A Call to the Real World of the Spiritual” 2009, compiled by Harry VerPlough, speaks to the issue that was very apparent in Tozer’s day, and so much more today. The book is also available online to read at this link. The first chapter of the book is titled, “This World: Playground or Battleground?” Here is that chapter (the entire book is available to read online at this link):
by A.W. Tozer
Things are for us not only what they are – they are what we hold them to be. That is to say, our attitude toward things is likely in the long run to be more important than the things themselves. This is a common coin of knowledge, like an old dime worn smooth by use, yet it bears upon it the stamp of truth and must not be rejected simply because it is familiar.
It is strange how a fact may remain fixed, while our interpretation of the fact changes with the generations and the years. One such fact is the world in which we live. It is here and has been here through the centuries. It is a stable fact, quite unchanged by the passage of time, but how different is modern man’s view of it from the view our fathers held! Here we see plainly how great is the power of interpretation. The world is for all of us not only what it is – it is what we believe it to be. And a tremendous load of woe or weal rides on the soundness of our interpretation.
Going back no further than the times of the founding and early development of our country, we are able to see the wide gulf between our modern attitudes and those of our fathers. In the early days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. By their very nature, these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Man, our fathers held, had to choose sides – he could not be neutral. For him it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if he choose to come out on God’s side, he could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. Men looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them.
Sermons and songs in those days often had a martial quality about them, or perhaps a trace of homesickness. The Christian soldier thought of home and rest and reunion, and his voice grew plaintive as he sang of battle ended and victory won. But whether he was charging into enemy guns or dreaming of war’s end and the Father’s welcome home, he never forgot what kind of world he lived in – it was a battleground, and many were wounded and slain.
That view is unquestionably scriptural. Allowing for the figures and metaphors with which the Scriptures abound, it is still a solid Bible doctrine that tremendous spiritual forces are present in the world. Man, because of his spiritual nature, is caught in the middle. The evil powers are bent upon destroying him, while Christ is present to save him through the power of the gospel. To obtain deliverance he must come out on God’s side in faith and obedience. That in brief is what our fathers thought, and that, we believe, is what the Bible teaches.
How different today. The fact remains the same, but the interpretation has changed completely. Men think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land; we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, but we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. This, we believe, is a fair summary of the religious philosophy of modern man, openly professed by millions and tacitly held by many more millions who live out that philosophy without having given it verbal expression.
This changed attitude toward the world has had and is having its effect upon Christians, even gospel Christians who profess the faith of the Bible. By a curious juggling of the figures, they manage to add up the column wrong and yet claim to have the right answer. It sounds fantastic, but it is true.
That this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians. They might hedge around the question if they were asked bluntly to declare their position, but their conduct gives them away. They are facing both ways, enjoying Christ and the world, gleefully telling everyone that accepting Jesus does not require them to give up their fun – Christianity is just the jolliest thing imaginable. The “worship” growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.
This whole thing has grown to be so serious that it is now the bound duty of all Christians to reexamine their spiritual philosophy in the light of the Bible. Having discovered the scriptural way, they must follow it, even if to do so, they must separate themselves from much that they had accepted as real, but which now in the light of truth is seen to be false.
A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have a right view of the world in which we live and of our relationship to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it.
“That this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians . . .” We look, act, react, and want the same things as the rest of our culture. And that statement speaks volumes about the true state of Christianity in America. Many Christians today have become too comfortable in their lives, their homes, and society at large here on Earth and have forgotten that “this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” (Heb. 13:14 NLT).
And we need to get back into the battle where we belong . . .
Before it’s too late . . . .
by A. W. Tozer
- This World: Playground or Battleground?
- A Scared World Needs a Fearless Church
- We Face Tomorrow Without Fear
- We Must Have True Faith
- When All Thy Mercies, O My God
- On Wrestling in Prayer
- Men, Our Most Critical Need
- The Spiritual Person
- Our Resources for the Years to Come
- Let’s Stay by the Scriptures
- A New Look at an Old Question
- Books and Moral Standards
- On Getting Smaller Trying to Get Big
- Imitative, Conservative or Creative–Which?
- Motive is All-Important
- Something Beyond Song
- On the Misuse of Scripture
- Meditation among Fallen Leaves
- We Must Not Defend, But Attack!
- Easter Meditation
- The Importance of Direction
- Faber’s “Good Confession”
- Let’s Watch Our Conversation
- We Must Have Spiritual Leadership Again
- The Christian is the True Realist
- Praying Till We Pray
- Obedience: A Neglected Doctrine
- Honorary Christians
- Let’s Give Generously, But Wisely
- Symptomatic Word: “Fair,” “Unfair”
- More symptomatic words: “Resent,” “Resentment”
- The Prophet Is a Man Apart
- It’s Not A One-Way Street
- The Holy Spirit Is Here
- The Angel of the Commonplace
- A Rule for Obscure Texts
- No Substitutes Accepted
- Flee from Idolatry
- Human Self-sufficiency Is a Myth
- Why We Can Never Escape Problems
- The Captain of Souls
- What Is the Deeper Life?
YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” sung by Shirley Caesar:
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