Scotland is one of my favorite places. Pam and I were prayerwalking the streets of Stirling, Scotland, several years ago with some of our IMB missionaries. We were in awe over the many displays of witchcraft, occult, and new age “spirituality” in the storefronts.
Everywhere we looked false religion was promoted. Churches were few, and those we saw stood more as monuments to the past than houses of worship for today.
Strolling down one street of this historically Christian country, we were praying for the people of Scotland when we happened upon a souvenir shop displaying a poster of the song, Amazing Grace. What a contrast to the displays of artificial religion!
I thought about Paul on the streets of Athens (see Acts 17:22-23). While he walked this city he observed idols and monuments to many different gods, but one altar read, “To the Unknown God.” The Greeks of this city had erected a representation of any god who is “out there” whom they might have overlooked.
Paul was observing an altar to an unknown god. I was looking at the words to a song about the KNOWN God, who was unknown to the present generation. Amazing Grace was written out of the personal crisis of John Newton. His miserable life as a slave trader was spared by the grace of God at a time when he should have died in a storm at sea. He knew first hand how God’s judgement was withheld by His mighty act of grace.
It has become one of the most recognized songs in the world and a clear favorite among Christians. But on the streets of Scotland it was little more than a sentimental, unofficial national anthem, telling a story the people of that city were not hearing. They had eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear. To be fair, we saw some pockets of great activity where God is working among the Scots. But just as in America, the streets of the cities do not reflect the proclamation of the gospel. The religion of relative secularism is the only acceptable lifestyle on the streets.
The challenge of living in a secular nation opens the door of opportunity for us to proclaim God’s amazing grace to people who are walking in darkness. A new year brings both challenges and opportunities, forcing us to reflect on our personal direction as well as the direction of our country.
Christians are saved by the grace of God and uniquely called to be His chosen people of light. Peter summarized it clearly. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, NKJ). As His chosen people, we must live as trophies of His grace and light in the darkness of a fallen world. When compared with the world, we should stand out as unique.
2012 will be a very important year for Christians to display our uniqueness. North Carolinians will vote on the definition of marriage in May.
The United States will elect a president in November. Other major decisions will be made throughout the year. Some of those decisions will be on a personal level. Some will be church decisions. Others will impact our nation and world.
How many of those decisions will be made after spending time in prayer? How many will be made based on truth from God’s Word?
How many will be made by listening to the deceitful claims of secularism or prevailing political views? Will our decisions be made and our votes cast from the perspective of the will of God?
I pray that 2012 will be a great year for the advance of the gospel and for the glory of God around the earth. It is my prayer that God’s people will be faithful to stand on the eternal truth of God’s Word. May the light of truth shine through us into a very dark world.