About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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The Privatization Of Faith


If you were a closet Christian in the first century Roman Empire, you'd live in relative comfort.  Nobody, including Caesar, would be on your case.  Caesar had no problem with your faith locked up in your closet.  However, if it slipped off your closet shelf, onto the floor, and rolled onto the street, you'd be food for the lions.       


If you were a closet Christian in Hitler's Germany, you could live in relative peace and safety.  Hitler could have cared less about your faith as long as you kept it private.  However, if you exposed it in public, all hell would break loose. 


If you're a closet Christian today, that's no big deal either.  Nobody will bother you if you keep your faith bottled up inside.  However, if it seeps out into society, watch out.   


The thing that sealed your death in the first century Roman Empire and Hitler's Germany was your public confession of faith.  This is what makes Romans 10:9 important to us as it has been for Christians over the last two thousand years.     


In Romans 10:9 the Apostle Paul spoke to the issue of our confession of faith.  He said, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved".  I recall this being a memory verse in my Sunday school days as a child.  In obedience to Paul's admonition, every Sunday evening during what was called "testimony meeting", I routinely mouthed my confession of faith in a brief, albeit a nervously spoken confession.  As fast as I rose to my feet I was back in my pew.  Such a confession among believers is important, but I don't believe that was Paul's thinking when he penned these words.             


The Christian confession of faith is a public proclamation that Jesus rose from the dead and is now Lord over all things.  It's public because Paul said we must confess with our "mouths", not with our thoughts.  Confessing our faith in a private gathering of saints is relatively easy, but for first century Christians their public confession was a matter of life or death.  It brought them into conflict with Caesar because he considered himself, and himself alone, to be Lord over all things.  He had no problem with Christians proclaiming that Jesus was one lord among many secondary lords, but he would not tolerate any hint of someone telling him that Jesus was Lord over him and his empire.  Hitler felt the same, as does our culture today.    


No matter the culture in which Christians live, a private faith is no big deal, but once you go public with your faith, that's a different matter.  Jesus told us to go public when He commanded us to preach the gospel throughout the world.  The foundation of the gospel is that Jesus has risen from the dead and is Lord over all things spiritual and all things material.  He submits to no one but His Father, and, in the end, all must submit to Him.  The fact of the matter is that our faith dictates that we publicize it; thus our present conflict with culture.  Even though our culture preaches tolerance, like Caesar and Hitler, it will not tolerate Christians proclaiming that Jesus is Lord over it.


John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus' first coming by publically proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and that all must repent and turn to Him.  John wasn't tolerated by the social establishment of his day, and we all know what happened to him.  Like John the Baptist, we must prepare the way for Jesus' second coming with the same public proclamation.  This is a huge challenge in the present cultural climate, but it's a challenge we must embrace. 


I find it a bit ironic that as some in society are coming out of their closets these days, Christians are being told to find a closet to hide in.  This is to be expected.  The natural consequence of the secularization of society is the forced privatization of faith.  We can't agree to a private faith.  If we privatize our faith, we deny the very faith we're mandated to publicize.



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