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Society is rapidly sliding away from any concept of a sovereign and loving Heavenly Father guiding our lives. Christ and His teachings are being suppressed daily via the impact of social media, academia, the entertainment industry and the passivity of those who claim to be followers of Christ.
The Western world is becoming less anchored in their traditional Judeo-Christian values, and religious affiliation is decreasing, especially among younger generations. Following are three strategies to help cope with the darkness of this age, and enable us to: “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”? (1 Peter 2:9).
Jesus’ earliest followers set an example of undivided commitment. Every individual from that time forward has had to personally confront who Jesus Christ is by answering the same question He posed to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16).
This knowledge and total allegiance caused Christ’s disciples to break from many of the cultural norms and expectations of their time, often alienating them from family members, neighbours, coworkers and governing authorities, as Jesus had clearly warned: “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
In the pagan world, embracing a new faith typically did not mean doing away with long-established gods, but rather adding any new divine entity to a rolodex of household deities, while mixing new beliefs with old practices. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ meant worshipping God the Father and Jesus Christ exclusively—having no other gods before the true God (Exodus 20:3).
This put Jesus’s disciples into direct confrontation with Rome and its emperor. Since the time of Julius Caesar, an aura of divinity had developed towards Rome’s rulers to the point that the emperors came to be worshipped as gods. To not do so could cost one’s life, and many Christians were martyred.
On the last night of Jesus’ human life on earth, He offered this promise to His followers: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18), and in verse 16 He explained the nature of this promise: “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper [Greek parakletos, meaning “comforter” or “one called alongside for help”], that He may abide with you forever.”
The apostle Paul further defined the presence of this “Comforter” in Romans 8:9-11: “You are not in the flesh [that is, controlled by one’s fleshly mindset] but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His...But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit [which] dwells in you.”
Luke, the Gospel writer and author of Acts, mentions the Holy Spirit 15 times in his Gospel and 55 times in the book of Acts.
Jesus’ first followers made prayer a way of life. The book of Acts describes the disciples praying about the opposition they encountered: “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). When they finished, “the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (verse 31).
Prayer does not always spare us from the troubles of this world, but it does position us before our Father’s heavenly throne. Just before Stephen’s death by stoning, he witnessed He was not alone: “But [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55-56).
Let us all follow the example of Christ’s first disciples in their commitment to Jesus Christ, and allow Him to truly lead us through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
Beyond Today Magazine