It Is A Fearful Thing...
This morning I spent a good bit of time reading through some of my old journal entries. Sadly my journalling has tailed off as my blogging has increased. This is sad because journalling was an important spiritual discipline for me. While I often wrote about the same things I write about on this site, journalling was an opportunity to be more personal - to write things that I suppose only God and I will ever know. It is often interesting to go back and read entries from two, three, five or more years ago. In one old notebook I even found the rough notes I made for my wedding speech. And flipping back a few pages, I found some things I had written almost ten years ago now, when I was well, ten years younger! Some of these things make me wonder at my own youthful wisdom, and some make me laugh out loud at my youthful folly. One thing I know for sure is that we should all be glad that I gave up on writing poetry. Oh me, oh my!
I can see that many of the journal entries I wrote eventually turned into articles on this site. There was one in particular that jumped out at me this morning, probably because of other reading I did this morning. Carla was writing about her husband’s fascination with the ugly side of “Christianity,” represented by men like Jack Van Impe and Peter Popoff, and said “Is it any wonder the world looks at Christianity and laughs? These guys are downright embarassing.” Over the weekend I received several emails that expressed the same feelings - embarrassment about so many of the men and women that people outside the church believe are our representatives as Christians. As a Christian it is, of course, easy to disassociate myself from Van Impe and the too-many scheisters like Popoff, but those outside the church often do not.
In my journal I had written about a study we were doing in our small group Bible study about the prophet Daniel. We were looking at him as an example of one who stood strong in his convictions. When commanded to cease worshipping God, he never considered disobeying God. Instead, he pressed on with his routine of praying three times each day. He knew there would be fearsome consequences, yet trusted that obeying God was preferable to any punishment he could face at the hands of men. You can read the story, known to children around the world as “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” in Daniel chapter 5.
Studying Daniel made me think of another section of the Bible that had been on my mind recently. Romans 2:24 reads, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” This passage refers to behavior among the Jewish people of Rome during Paul’s days. These people had turned their backs on God and sunk into every type of ungodly behavior. I found it a sobering thought that people who do not know God can blaspheme His name because of my behavior. What a responsibility it is to be a light to the world and to live in a way that is consistent with the Scriptures.
This brought me back about 650 years to Daniel. Had Daniel backed down and ceased worshipping God, or even if he had partially backed down and made his worship private, the name of God would have been blasphemed by the Persians. They would have seen Daniel as a man who was afraid to stand for his convictions. But Daniel did not back down. He stood firm and rather than being blasphemed, the name of God was exalted by the Gentiles. In Daniel 5:26 - 27 we read the proclamation of the Persian king:
“For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Here was a man, a Gentile and an unbeliever, who praised God for His greatness. He was driven to this proclamation because of the wondrous work God performed in rescuing Daniel. It goes without saying that had Daniel allowed himself to be intimidated and had he refused to stand strong for his convictions, the king would never have praised God. Rather His holy name would have been blasphemed.
In Romans, Paul provides the solution to those who cause others to blaspheme God’s name. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” We could as easily say today that “A Christian is one inwardly.” A man who has a television program and a ministry and reads from the Bible a lot, may not be a Christian inwardly and may not have the Spirit within.
What an honor and what a great responsibility it is to call ourselves by the name of our Savior and to be His ambassadors on earth! As Christians we bear the name of Christ. Through our example - through our lives - God’s name can be praised and God’s name can be blasphemed. What a fearful thing it must be one who not only blasphemes God’s name, but through evil and careless words and actions, causes other people to blaspheme His holy name! The judgment facing those who cause others to blaspheme God’s name must be fearsome. “‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31) So we must live a life that consistently brings praise and glory to our Lord, that His name may be honored in and through us.