What If We’re Pagans Now?

In a couple of months, some candidates will win an election, and some will lose.
In preparation of whatever happens, I would ask disciples of Jesus to consider a possibility that they might not want to consider…
One of the “hard” passages of Scripture comes from Romans chapter 13:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience” (Romans 13:1-5).
The particularly hard part is: “The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
We struggle with the concept that even the bad authorities that exist have been established by God in order to accomplish His purposes.
Daniel wrote: “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21).
And: “The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people” (Daniel 4:16).
Jesus stated to Pontius Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).
Peter likewise wrote: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14).
All of these statements were said or written while evil men and pagan governments were in power. Therefore, they applied to even those evil men and pagan governments.
To make my point in more recent history, when Bill Clinton was president, he was established as such by God. When George W. Bush was president, he was established as such by God. When Barrack Obama was president, he was established as such by God. Donald Trump was established as president by God.
No matter which side you are on, it probably upsets you that some of those names are on that list. And here is were it really grinds us; all of them were equally established by God for His purposes; whether or not you know, understand, and/or agree with those purposes.
God has never been defeated in an election. There has never been a time when God wanted someone to win an election and they lost.
So, no matter who wins the next election, God and God alone established them in order to accomplish His purposes; even if you don’t understand how that could be.
Billy Graham quoted his wife Ruth as once having said: “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” (This statement has often been wrongly attributed to Dr. Graham himself.)
Moreover, I have heard multiple preachers and teachers in my life repeat this same sentiment.
Of course, we obviously know from the Old Testament that God often placed evil men and pagan governments in power in order to correct and chastise the people of God.
What we don’t want to consider is the possibility that God would still place evil men and pagan governments in power in order to do the same in modern times.
But why not? There is not a sin that ancient Israel committed that hasn’t also been committed on a regular basis in modern America (and in the rest of modern civilization). We could even argue that worse sins have been committed on a more regular basis in modern “Christian” cultures.
Moreover, the state of the church in modern civilization is abysmal. When we read the warnings issued to the seven churches in Asia Minor in the beginning of the Revelation; it sounds like an accurate description of the church today.
Jesus famously warned the church in Laodicea:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:15-19).
I’m no prophet and I’ll never claim to be; but from where I’m sitting, I’ve never seen the modern church be properly rebuked and disciplined for its lukewarmness. It would seem to me that we are overdue.
What if the unrest and discord we see occurring in the world around us is just part of the process of God rebuking and disciplining His church?
For the last 4 decades of my life, I have listened to preachers preach, “If we keep going down the road we are going down, we are going to end up….”
Well, we’re there.
And we’ve been there for a while now.
The train has left the station and it might not be coming back.
And unfortunately, the church holds a significant amount of culpability for getting us there.
Go back and read everything A.W. Tozer wrote and preached to the church in the mid-century. Not heeding the warnings of men like him back then is how we got where we are today.
And in my humble opinion, there might be no going back to the way America “used to be.” We might be too far gone.
America has made it full circle back to its pagan, European, Roman Empire roots.
Don’t get me wrong; please vote and vote for Godly men. But what are you going to do when there are no Godly men to vote for?
And yes, I completely understand voting a certain way in order to get conservative federal and supreme court justices on the bench; but even those are getting harder to find. And at what point is it worth the loss of our credibility?
In my opinion, our time and effort will be better spent (and will be more fruitful) when we accept that we live in a pagan, European, Roman Empire-like society where you will first be ostracized, and then possibly persecuted for following Jesus as His disciple.
Jesus and the Bible were clear that this would happen and that we would be persecuted for following Him. At some point we need to stop acting surprised that it is actually happening and get on with the business of being and making disciples of Jesus who imitate and obey Him by knowing and keeping His words, teachings, commands, and example; whether America is “Christian” or pagan; whether we are persecuted or not.
Of course, I could be wrong. The United States (and even all of modern civilization) could break out into a massive revival. And if it does, I’ll be the first to admit that I was overly pessimistic and join in the party.
But what if I’m right and God is establishing evil men and pagan governments to which we must submit and be oppressed by in order to rebuke and chastise His lukewarm church?
What will you do then?
Will you stand firm under persecution?
Will you still be a disciple of Jesus who imitates and obeys Him, and make more disciples who do the same?
Re-read Paul’s famous words written to Timothy and consider the times in which we live:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
“They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
“You, however, know all about my teaching my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconius and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 3:1-4:5).

What would it look like for you, as a disciple of Jesus, to keep these same instructions in a modern pagan world that is opposed to those who follow Jesus?
If you live in the Morganton, NC area and would like to know more, please reach out to us at hwhwf1@outlook.com, or visit us on Sunday mornings, 10:00 am, at 1110 Carbon City Road.
If you would like to learn more about what it means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, and to be conformed to His image, start here and follow the link at the end of each article to the next one: The Four Principles of Discipleship…