Imagine a nation wracked by killer plagues, divided by cultural factions, rife with corruption and immorality, and all too eager to blame and persecute Christians. A nation whose rulers have rejected almighty God and enthroned themselves.
Did you think I was talking about our country and our times?
Actually, I’m thinking about Rome during the early years of the church.
In the New Testament era, the Roman Empire was a superpower that would soon be headed down a slippery slope. Pockets of prosperity made things seem better than they really were. Immorality, homosexuality and hedonism were rampant, especially among the ruling classes. Graft and corruption were systemic throughout the entire Roman bureaucracy.
By the end of the first century, the persecution of Christians became a blood sport in Rome. Emperor Nero burned Christians as human torches, and Decius ordered the execution of Christians who refused to make sacrifices to the Roman gods.
Yet in spite of all the obstacles, the Gospel of the crucified, buried and risen Christ was exploding throughout the known world, as bold believers filled with the Holy Spirit followed Christ’s Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Just 300 years or so after Roman authorities crucified Jesus, their empire was on the brink of collapse, rotting from the inside out. Rome fell, yet the church has prevailed for millennia.
Now that our nation is in our third century, we need to learn lessons from Rome, so that we don’t end up on the ash heap of history. Some of our threats are external—including terrorism, a virus from China and aggressiveness from nations like North Korea and Iran.
But the greatest threat to our nation is sin.
It’s appropriate that one of the Apostle Paul’s sternest warnings against sin was in his letter to Roman believers. He detailed a long list of blatant sins and said that God eventually gave up these rebellious souls to their vile passions—people “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
We can see this all too clearly now in what has been the greatest nation on earth for so long.
Homosexual marriages have been legalized by the ruling of the United States Supreme Court. The LGBTQ movement has become one of the most powerful lobbies in America, and progressive liberal politicians court their votes and seek their endorsement.
Christian business owners who stand by their Biblical convictions in refusing to promote the LGBTQ agenda are punished by government authorities or targeted by people on social media. Just look at what’s happened to people like Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, Colorado baker Jack Phillips and artisan Chad Barela.
Yet in the midst of all this, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is marching forward. There is a growing spiritual thirst and hunger that only Almighty God can satisfy. The hopelessness of the world is priming multitudes to find the answer in the hope of the Gospel.
That’s what I saw at every stop during our God Loves You Tour along Route 66, starting in Joliet, Illinois, and passing through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in San Bernardino, California. As I preached the Gospel of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, thousands stood to indicate they were committing their lives to the Savior. Praise God!
It’s exciting to think of the great change that has already happened in their lives, and of the changes yet to come. Already, their sins have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and they are no longer under God’s condemnation.
By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit will work to change their behavior, empower them to work and serve in Jesus’ Name, and help them stand boldly for their faith with a firm conviction. The Word of God that they heard when I proclaimed the Gospel now will become a treasure chest full of the Lord’s promises and principles to live by.
That’s why the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only hope—not just for individuals, but for the world. When the Bible informs our conscience and guides our decisions, then local communities and towns, schools and workplaces can be redemptively affected. Their worldview is no longer shaped by an ungodly culture, but submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His Word.
I thank God for the freedom we still have in this nation to proclaim the Gospel. It’s my prayer that many, many more will receive Christ as Savior and Lord as His Word is uncompromisingly preached in pulpits across America in the perilous days and years to come.
This is truly our only hope.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Paul Sherar/©2021 BGEA