By / May 18

The political scene is heating up. Many Christians need to know how to think about and act upon civil engagement. The ERLC will be hosting our 2015 National Conference, “The Gospel & Politics,” on August 5 in Nashville, TN in order to better equip you to apply the gospel in this area. Click here to find out more information and register an individual or a group. 

Regardless of how you interpret the data from the latest Pew poll, it is no great mystery that America is becoming less amenable to faithful Christian witness. This shouldn’t cause Christians to succumb to hysteria and alarmism, but a joyful courage. After all, the gospel has always been counter-cultural.

This is why I think 1 Peter is so prescient for Christians. In this short epistle, Peter addresses the Church and reminds them they are exiles, temporary residents of this world. They belong to another Kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ.

At the end of 1 Peter, the apostle closes with a stirring call to courage. You will notice in the text the words, “stand firm” and “be firm.” He encourages the believers to “resist, to testify to the truth.” In a word, Peter is calling the people of God to courage, to stand strong, defending and proclaiming the very words of life found in the Scripture: the gospel story that God has rescued mankind from sin and offered hope and forgiveness in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is what gospel-shaped cultural engagement looks like, for every generation of believers. Every generation must stand for justice and prophetically speak to the image of God in every human soul. Every generation of the church must “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) must “guard the deposit of faith” (2 Tim. 1:14), must “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).” We cannot just “assume” the gospel, we must study it, articulate and proclaim it anew in our day.

D.A. Carson has said that a church is never more than three generations from losing the gospel: one generation to believe it and proclaim it, a second generation to assume it and a third generation to lose it.

For this, we need courage. Every generation needs leaders willing to sacrifice, to stand, to hold firm to the faith once delivered to the saints.

Peter here is writing to believers—he’s an apostle soon to pass from the scene. His words give us a four-fold blueprint for courage:

1. Embrace godly ambition (1 Pet. 5:6-7)

We often talk of ambition as something less than godly. But clearly, in Peter’s famous words about humility, he doesn’t condemn ambition. Notice Peter says that “in due time” God will exalt you. Now, this exaltation isn’t a promise of success in the way we might identify it. It could be pointing to exaltation in Heaven, when we’ll be in glory with Christ. But the words “in due time” seem to indicate, to me, that this is referring to the point in your life when you are most used by God, when your gifts, your desire and the world’s needs maximize into God’s calling for your life.

You will notice that the pathway to this kind of platform is humility. You’ll notice that it is God who exalts, not us. You’ll notice the words “in due time.” I think courage has to include the willingness to live out a radical mission for God and the humility to accept the call when that opportunity comes. It turns the world’s economy on it’s head by reminding us that greatness in God’s kingdom begins by stooping low.

2. Engage the battle (1 Pet. 5:8-9)

It’s not fashionable to talk about such things in polite company, but the Bible teaches us that there is an enemy out there who prowls the earth looking for souls to devour. Sometimes Christians say ridiculous things about the devil that are worthy of satire. But a courageous Christian is mature enough to understand reality. He realizes that he is in a war, not against people, but a spiritual war against the “rulers of darkness” (Ephesians 6). Every temptation, every opportunity to sin, every chance to give up the gospel is a skirmish in a long, losing cosmic war against God.

Courage rejects both head-in-the-sand naiveté and conspiracy-mongering panic. Peter’s letter warns against both. Genuine courage has an honest appraisal of the war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, understands that God’s people are enlisted soldiers in the war and rests in the confidence that God has already won at Calvary. In my experience as pastor, I find two disheartening extremes among Christians: those who see a world-dominating conspiracy behind every news story and those who are blissfully ignorant. Both are wrong approaches.

3. Entrust your life to God (1 Pet. 5:10-11)

Peter reminds us that our lives are not our own. To be a disciple of Christ is to die to the old life and to live anew. It is to entrust our whole selves to God. At first glance, courage seems like the opposite of faith. How can one be brave and yet dependent, fearful and yet fearless?  The answer is this: we are not the source of our own strength. I love how Peter writes that God will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish.”

The only way we can live for God is to live in God through Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who equips us for the battle. All Jesus asks for is the one thing we can give: our lives.

4) Enjoin yourself to Christian community

Courage is not a solo enterprise. When you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Christian community, you are enjoined to the family of God, with members of every nation, tribe and tongue. You are joined not only to God’s people alive today, but to God’s people gone before, the great “cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1)” who have gone before. You are linked to 2,000 years of Church history.

American evangelicalism has too often individualized faith. It’s a mistake to live apart from Christ’s body, for doing so severs you from the life and love and fellowship you need to fight the good fight. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with God’s people is courage. Standing alone is foolishness and leads to a Messiah complex, like Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 19).

By / Aug 6

June has passed, and the wedding explosion on your social media is finally decreasing. I’m part of the trend—my husband and I just celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary during June — which The National Center for Health Statistics reports is the most popular month for weddings.

However, there’s another growing statistic about weddings that is deeply alarming: fewer and fewer people are tying the knot, and those who do are getting married later in life. Blogs and op-eds abound on the Internet with reasons to wait to get married, not to get married, and how to know you are ready for marriage. All of the articles agree that you should wait to marry until late 20s, most suggest waiting until your 30s.

There is not a magic age for getting married; it is a decision that necessitates wise counsel and prayer. However, after reading several articles against marriage, I’ve noticed that there are four common myths about marriage that may be swaying Christian singles away from marriage for unbiblical reasons. In full disclosure, I admit that I was a young bride. My husband and I were both 21 when we got married. However, I’d like to know when our culture suddenly decided that young adults (yes—adults) are incapable of making significant and/or important decisions?

Myth 1: There is no significant difference between unmarried Christian couples and unmarried non-Christian couples.

This is a foundational myth, a presuppositional myth—meaning it’s something many people believe without actually recognizing it. Being a Christian couple goes beyond commonly shared beliefs. Christ’s salvation transforms us to new life in Him, which has a deep impact on who we are as well as what we do. One specific difference is that Christians believe that sexual intimacy is reserved only for the marriage relationship.

While the world postpones marriage for several reasons, they do not postpone becoming intimate with each other.

Thus, when non-Christian blogs cite reasons why couples should postpone marriage, it is always couched within the belief that sexual intimacy acceptable—even preferable!—within the couple’s relationship. This difference is significant because as Christian couples may consider marriage according to the world’s myths, they neglect to consider that non-Christian couples are dissimilar to them at their very core. Christian couples must always recognize that there is a foundational difference between them and the world, which will effect what they believe and how they act out those beliefs. Thus Christian couples recognize that because sexual intimacy is designed to take place only within a marriage relationship, they should choose to wait or cease from sexual activity until then (regardless of sexual history). To put it bluntly, from the start, the world plays according to a different set of rules—rules that simply do not work when applied to Christian relationships.

Myth 2: You have to fully know yourself before you get married.

Embedded in this myth is the belief that, as you age, you transform into an entirely different person and you must not get married until you discover your true identity. The first problem with this view of marriage is that it perpetuates the idea that marriage is profoundly about yourself. Your spouse is only useful so long as he helps enhance who you believe you are as a person.

Ultimately—and unbiblically—it teaches that marriage is founded on a self-serving love rather than self-sacrificial love.

The second problem with this myth about marriage is that the concept of “knowing yourself” is completely subjective. Many young adults today seem to be under the belief that there is a secret person living inside of them, and if they live long enough, experience enough, and travel enough, then this “inner person” will blossom and they will finally “know who they are.”

The truth is we are always changing. Life changes us! In many ways, I’m not the same woman I was at 21 and I wouldn’t want to be. And I hope I’m not the same person at 50 that I am now at 28. My husband isn’t the same person either. I’m glad our marriage isn’t exactly like it was seven years ago. It has matured. It has deepened. It has grown. While it isn’t easy, the process of growing up and maturing is important and should happen, and there is definitely a place for growing and maturing as a single adult. What’s important to realize is that you will never stop growing as a person, single or married. Choosing to live a biblically examined life rather than just experiencing life is what will help prepare you for marriage.

Myth 3: You need to achieve financial stability before getting married.

This myth may sound responsible, and to a certain extent I agree with it. Both you and your spouse need to be mature and responsible enough to be able to hold down jobs, pay bills, and be able to generally live like adults. However, at its core I believe this myth is teaching Christian single women to focus on the wrong thing when considering a potential spouse. Don’t look past the person in order to see their annual income first, because current income is not a reflection of a person’s work ethic or future income.

There is a significant difference between someone who is lazy and isn’t making much money versus someone who is working to prepare himself to be a better provider.

A man with a poor work ethic often isn’t financially stable, so it is a valid red flag for a relationship. What’s more, poor work ethic transfers over more often than not into poor spiritual leadership. A Christ-honoring man with a good work ethic may not be at the peak of his financial career, but he may be trusted to protect and provide as you grow as a couple.

Working to build a life will be full of challenges and difficulties, but it also provides you as a couple the opportunity to learn and grow a new life together. The vulnerability shared during the years of a “rice and beans” budgets allows a closeness and appreciation in your marriage that has the potential to help strengthen you as a couple. In other words, just because you are not making your dream salary yet doesn’t mean you have to stay single until you do.

Myth 4: You won’t have as much fun after you’re tied down.

…Really?

I wish this one was a joke, but I’ve actually heard it many times. Like I mentioned in the first myth, the world plays according to a different set of rules when it comes to relationships. Because most non-Christian couples have a different foundation upon which marriage is built, they portray marriage as a life of drudgery, responsibility, mortgages, and lame movie nights. I’ve heard several Christian singles spout off lines like, “I want to do this now because I can’t when I get married” to which I often want to reply, “why couldn’t you do that if you were married?”

After fleshing this myth out more, I believe it’s ultimately a lie of Satan attempting to lure strong Christian singles into a delayed period of adolescent living.

Realistically, there are few activities you cannot do married that you can do while single. However, getting married does require a spiritual/mental/emotional maturity that some singles don’t want to face yet. Claiming, “I need to do ‘X’ while still single” sounds much less immature than “I’d rather live like a adolescent a little longer.” In no way am I suggesting that all young adult Christian couples think this way, but I do believe all Christian young adults ought consider carefully the reasons behind a decision to delay marriage.

The world says your 20s are for making mistakes and having a lot of fun while you do it and then you “grow up” and get married. Christ calls us to more than that. Abundant life in Christ is not achieved through the world’s “live and learn” mantra. The world says marriage is just a serious commitment between two people who are serious adults. Scripture teaches that marriage is about two people—two sinful, still maturing people—who by God’s grace get to live their lives in Christ together. It’s not always (although sometimes can be) the glamorous, high action packed picture that Hollywood or the storybooks portray. It’s something much more beautiful, fulfilling, and real. It’s life. It’s fun.

There are many reasons why a couple should decide not to get married, or wait to get married. Marriage was created and blessed by God and should never be taken lightly. It’s a beautiful image of Christ’s relationship with us, His Bride, the Church. It’s mysterious and challenging, yet infinitely rewarding. There are plenty of biblical reasons why you may need to delay or postpone getting married, but don’t let the world’s inaccurate myths of marriage keep you from the blessings God may have intended for you to receive.

NOTE: This article was originally published at Biblical Woman.

By / Jan 3

A New Year is a time for new beginnings, new ideas, and fresh starts. At ERLC, we’re excited to launch several new inititiaves that help Christians apply the gospel of the Kingdom in the public square.

Starting next week, we’ll launch one new initiative each week of January. That’s four shiny new things (who said Christmas was the only time to open gifts?).

So keep following our Twitter feed: @erlc.com our Facebook page: Facebook.com/erlcsbc and keep your browser fixed on erlc.com. Look for the hashtag #4in14.

Daniel Darling
Vice President of Communications,
ERLC