When the Apostles moved out of Palestine they faced a new kind of challenge. Greek philosophy, pagan religions and the heathen life-style stood as great barriers blocking the progress of the gospel. Those obstacles they had to overcome...and they did. The kingdom of Christ prevailed.
Our forefathers, here in America, evangelized in a society consisting mainly of believers in Christ who were wedded to the denominational parties and their doctrines. The primary discussion was what does the Bible actually say about matters such as salvation, worship, etc. With Bible in hand, they persuaded their hearers to let the Bible be their guide.
Since World War II, all of Western Civilization has been steadily devolving back into paganism. Paganism encompasses all religions beyond Christianity and Judaism. In most cases it involves idolatry. Here in America there are scattered Hindu and Buddhist temples with their images, there are Muslim mosques, and a few shrines for Voodoo worshipers, but the neo-paganism of the 21st century is of a different variety. Today's idols are not images of stone or precious metals. They consist of wealth, material possessions, nature, youth, beauty, sexual indulgence, celebrities, sports, philosophy, science, technology and power.
Among the evidences of this idolatry are the following:
* The sharp decline in belief in Jehovah, Jesus, Christianity and the Bible.
* Shrinking and dying churches.
* The collapse of public and private morality as great numbers of the new pagans have chosen to pursue a life of personal, sinful indulgence and ruthlessness.
* Our professional sports and our entertainment industries have been coopted by advocates of pagan values and behavior.
* The educational establishment of our nation has been captured by pagan forces. They are using their position to indoctrinate our children in their pagan ways. This is seen from kindergarten through graduate school.
* Virtually every level of government is now conducted according to pagan standards. Christian standards have officially been renounced.
* Most of our news media is very receptive to the new paganism. They glorify it. Their attitude toward Christians is tepid at best and more often disdainful if not hostile.
* Even the historic churches of Protestantism and Catholicism have been overtaken by leaders whose worldview is shaped by anti-Christian philosophy The majority of their clergy no longer subscribe to the miraculous aspects of Christianity or to its biblical standard for faith and conduct. Evolution, humanism and secularism are enshrined
* The overwhelming majority of our citizens must be classified as illiterate in terms fo biblical knowledge. They might attend an occasional worship service and profess faith, but their hearts and their conduct are far from Christ (Mark 7:6). We can well describe many of them as baptized pagans.
Into this world of paganism our Master sends us to seek and save that remnant of humanity that yearns to know the true God and the truth that will save their souls from Satan's power.
Our pagan audience is variegated. Some are atheists, others skeptics and doubters. Some are woefully ignorant of spiritual matters. Others are snared in sin and wickedness. Some are curiosity seekers, exploring every cult or ism. They are searching for something superior to what they presently have, but they know not what it is. Some are filled with intellectual pride, thinking they are above Christians and that belief in God is beneath their dignity. There are thousands whose minds and hearts have been filled with pagan, anti-Christian philosophy. Filled with hubris, they view with scorn the Christian way. There is a vast number of neo pagans who devote their time and energy to crime and violence, preying on their neighbors. They give no thought to God, Christianity or eternity. Then there are the thousands who make their living by producing, promoting and profiting from the hedonistic life style which indulges the sinful lusts of the flesh. There is the obsession with sports that leaves no time for Christ, his church or his way of life. There are the secularists who live for the present with no thought or interest of God or eternity. There are the materialists who are consumed with accumulating wealth. To them God is a nuisance.
Most of modern paganism has neither rites nor rituals, nor priesthood, but it consumes the lives of its devotees. It is a lifestyle.
To this horde of pagans, Christ sends us, inviting them to come to Him and partake of the water of life (Rev. 22:17). Our message is the same as that delivered by the earliest Christians. It is the simple gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), the good news of the Savior and his great salvation (Heb. 2:3). Since we are appealing mainly to pagans, we must begin where they are. To penetrate their blind and hardened hearts, we must be prepared to deliver lessons proving the existence of God, the supernaturalness of Jesus and the divine origin of the Bible. We must be able to touch them with the message of the sacrificial death of Jesus on their behalf. They must be convinced that he was raised from the dead and that he ascended back to heaven (I Cor. 15:1-3). They need to hear the simple terms of salvation and the superiority of the Savior's way. They need to be convicted regarding sin and the judgement to come (John 16:8).
The effective teacher will haves studied the basis for belief in God, the evidences of Christianity's divine origin. He will be familiar with the prevailing philosophies of our day and how to expose their fallacies. He will need a heart large enough to be touched by the plight of this great herd of humanity rushing blindly into the pit of destruction.
We do not need a new gospel, or a new church. We do need improved methods of communication to reach these lost souls. We need renewed dedication and zeal.
Not all pagans will want to be saved. This fact we must accept. Some will ignore us. Others will scorn us and our message. Yet others will hate and persecute us even as the Lord predicted (Matt. 5:11-12). But there are some who will receive the word with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11). Our job is to sow the gospel seed as broadly as we can, God will give the increase (I Cor. 3:6).
By John Waddey
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