Recently I started teaching through the first epistle of Peter. The letter opens with the words “…To the pilgrims of the dispersion”. Theologians argue as to who the strangers were and what was/is the dispersion to which he refers. I believe the answer is that he is writing to all true believers since true believers, in any age, are scattered among the nations and while we are in the world, we are not of the world (John 17) and therefore strangers and pilgrims in this world.
It is too easy to ignore the message of Peter by saying it is for Jewish believers in the first century who were facing persecution. That may be true, but that is not the full message. All believers who live godly lives will not fit into the world. They will feel that they are misfits and those around them will see them as such. Jesus said: “… the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14). But, believers in the West are not hated by the world and feel quite comfortable in the world because they are more like the world in their values, thinking, behavior and doctrine. The vast majority of believers are more concerned with making the world great again than with dying to the world and looking for the coming Kingdom.
One of the tests of how genuine someone’s faith is, is whether they suffer persecution because “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2Timothy 3:12). Light and darkness have no fellowship, yet the modern Christian is just as at home in the nightclub as the church (2Corinthians 6:14). This is proven by how many churches now resemble nightclubs since their people are more comfortable in that environment than in, “the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers”. (Acts 2:42).
So here are two tests: Do you feel extremely uncomfortable in the world and does the world hate you? If the answer is no to either, then there is a question about your salvation! You see, Peter says that we are strangers and sojourners because we have been born again – we are no longer citizens of this earth but of heaven. I am an American citizen and have lived here for 15 years but I will never feel fully at home in America, because I was born a South African. The true believer can never feel at home in the world because he is born from above and has died to this world (Colossians 2:20).
Now, here is the thing that shocked me as I was thinking about these things this morning: The true believer is a stranger and pilgrim in the visible church of the 21st century! As the church has absorbed more and more of the world, the church has become increasingly hostile to true believers, and the genuine believer feels very uncomfortable in the company of the vast majority of modern Christians. Even those who claim to be part of the so-called “remnant” have become hostile to true Christianity. Yes, every day I see more of those who claimed to be part of the “remnant” sinking lower in their morals, behavior and doctrine. Personally, I suffer more at the hand of “believers” than at the hands of the world.
I have several thousand “friends” and several thousand more “followers” on Facebook. I scrutinize each new friend request carefully and all of these people are supposed to be Christians and most of them align themselves with what I teach and are leaders in their churches. Yet, every day I unfollow or unfriend several more as they exhibit unchristian behavior, language and values. Many worship Christian leaders who have doctrinally, morally or behaviorally denied the faith while others are more interested in promoting a particular political position than the Kingdom. Every week I have to “unfriend” several (many of them pastors) because they are friends with prostitutes and porn actresses who then send me solicitations! And this is the remnant?
Looking at Facebook now makes me physically ill as I see almost nothing posted by Christians, that is not offensive. Almost every month I see those who were once brothers in arms deny the faith in word or deed. Yes, Facebook is a hostile place, even if you only have “christian friends”. “Christian” television has become the enemy as has most “christian” books and magazines.
I thank the Lord that there always will be a true remnant and that there are still a few who have not bowed the knee to the world, but they are becoming less and less by the day. Indeed the Lord is shaking this earth and purging His threshing floor (Luke 3:17). Lord Jesus, I pray that my faith may be genuine and that I may remain standing in this evil day.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)