God’s Reputation – Our Resolve
These days God’s holiness and the honor of His name are disgraced in abundance. Not only is Christ’s name “taken in vain” with great frequency in daily conversations and throughout the media – but the attack on His truth and trustworthiness is pervasive. This attack is both overt and subtle.
On one hand, books that aggressively belittle people of faith continue to populate the New York Times best-seller list in unprecedented fashion. Authors like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, David Mills, Dorion Sagan, and Richard Dawkins are unashamed in their demeaning of faith and exaltation of atheistic reason. People are reading these books by the millions.
A few years ago HBO’s resident cynic, Bill Maher, released a new documentary specifically designed to attack faith. One news writer described it as “a scathing, searing, stabbing, scabrous, sacrilegious attack on Divinity, Devotion, Prayer, the Supreme Power.”
One right-wing author describes all of this as a pervasive “Christophobia” that marks a growing disdain of Christians, people of faith – and the God in whom they trust. We live in a nation where the number of those who describe themselves as “irreligious” has doubled in the last ten years.
Of course, all of this stirs my heart concerning our desperate need for revival in America. It also makes me jealous for the honor of Christ’s name. That is natural. When we love someone, we are deeply disturbed by the disgracing of their name.
God and His Own Reputation
As I think of this, three key ideas come to mind. First, God is able to protect His own reputation. Isaiah 48:11 says, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another. ”
Recently I have noticed that when King Uzziah played fast and loose with God’s holiness in 2 Chronicles 26:16 – 23, by taking on the priest’s role in the temple, the Lord struck him with leprosy and he died. When Herod was being praised as a god, and received that praise rather than rejecting this misguided worship, the Lord struck him down (Acts 12:20-24). There are many other examples like this. The point is that when He chooses, God can act in a clear and decisive manner to protect the honor of His name. This is His business, not ours.
God and His Primary Concern
Second, He is more concerned with how His own people dishonor His name than how unbelievers mock Him. In just a brief review of the biblical accounts that express God’s concern for His name, they relate specifically to the need to judge His own people because they were defaming His honor. It seems He expects this kind of treatment from pagans and New Age gurus. But, when those who claim to know Him and represent His word dishonor Him – that seems to be when He acts to chastise and correct. The Old Testament accounts of the Israelites provide many examples. In Acts 5, we see an unusual expression of this as He judged Ananias and Sapphira for dishonoring Him with their lies among the believers.
When the Apostle Peter spoke of the hostility in the world, and the suffering of Christians as a result, he said something very profound: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:17-19). My application is simply that, as bad as it may get “out there”, the Lord still wants to clean His own house first. In time He will take care of all opponents of the Gospel – and He will do it thoroughly.
Our Return to the Primary Focus
In the meantime, Peter says we are to commit our souls in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. This is a great segue to my third observation. When the culture becomes hostile, God’s holiness is being defamed, and His hand of judgment is on display – believers must return to “position one” – on their face in His presence.
Isaiah chapter six tells us that in “the year that King Uzziah died” (remember that reference above?) Isaiah saw the Lord in His temple. As we have read, the prophet experienced a fresh understanding of God’s holiness and power, repented of his own sin, and yielded fully to the call of God to continue with the mission. Similarly, after Herod was struck down for receiving the worship that is reserved for God alone, the leaders in Antioch were found “ministering to the Lord” as they fasted and worshipped (Acts 13:1-2). They also surrendered to the call of the Spirit to keep going out with the message as Saul and Barnabas were commissioned for their mission.
In summary, when we have a concern with God’s reputation in this world we can rest in knowing that He is able to fend for Himself. We must continually look at our own lifestyle and behavior, knowing that we represent Him in this world and that our lives and testimonies are His primary concern. Then, we must resolve to continually seek Him, experience His presence, surrender to His call, and stay on task.
His Glory Among Us and Within Us
Again, Peter summarized it well when he addressed Christians in a hostile culture. In 1 Peter 4:7-11, he wrote, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” He went on to tell them to love one another, to be hospitable, to refrain from grumbling, and to stay on task in serving in God’s power and grace. Then he says, “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Regardless of what is going on around us, we have the calling and privilege of making sure that what is going on among us and within us honors His name and brings glory to Him in this world. So let Maher, Harris, Dawkins, Tolle and the rest do their thing. Our lives and godly behavior are really the greater force for good and God’s glory in this world.