The Solid Rock Philip Pinckney

September 4, 2017

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

So goes the first verse of the classic hymn written by Edward Mote on his way to work as a 37-year-old cabinet maker. Originally titled “The Immutable Basis of a Sinner’s Hope”, the hymn now known as “Solid Rock” has achieved near ubiquitous status in hymnals across denominations, cultures, languages and races. The fierce clarity in which the hymn states that there is no other basis for hope, life, or strength outside of Jesus Christ himself has emboldened and comforted generations of Christians. But although this hymn is sung in hundreds of churches across the country each week, we seem to have lost the truth at the heart of this song.

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

Christians in America are, in many ways, fortunate to live in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” We have freedoms and liberties that should never be taken for granted, especially in light of the suffering and persecution our Christian brothers and sisters face every day around the world. A conservative tracking of persecution by Opendoors.com estimates that every month 322 Christians are killed for their faith. Some estimates place that number much, much higher. In America, persecution has often meant not being allowed to speak at events or not being treated fairly in civic matters. We are truly fortunate.

In this relatively safe environment, the Church in America has grown less vigilant, less distinctive, and less dependent upon each other and upon God himself. Some churches have found comfort in wealth, security in political power, and a sense of progress through our culture’s nominal acceptance of “Christian values.” For much of the Church in America, we have built our kingdoms on sinking sand and the tide is coming in. We see our wealth being threatened as church giving declines. We feel vulnerable as our political power diminishes, The false sense of progress we felt when the Ten Commandments hung in public spaces is now being threatened as the memorials to Christian values are being removed. For some in the Church, we are losing the war. For the first time we are beginning to feel like aliens and strangers in our own country. Good.

My Hope is Built On Nothing Less

Maybe without the opiates of political power, wealth and cultural acceptance we will wake up from this idol induced stupor. Maybe when “Christian values” are under attack, we will dust off the transforming power of the Gospel. Maybe when the monuments to Christianity are removed from public spaces, we will focus on changing hearts and minds, not just the landscape. And maybe progress should be measured by not just bringing prayer back to schools, but bringing prayer back into living rooms and churches. Maybe when we have no other choice, we will look back to God.

Today, one out of four Christians live in Africa and Pew Research suggests that number will increase to 40% by 2030. In Asia, Christianity grew at twice the growth of the population across the entire continent. One of the countries with the fastest growth of Christianity is Iran, with 19% annual growth. In countries that are non-accepting or even openly hostile to Christianity, we are seeing the fastest growth of Christianity. The Christians in these countries don’t often have wealth or political influence, yet their presence is transforming entire nations. There might be something to the often quoted (misquoted?) verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

Political engagement is good. Seeking to endorse a Christian ethic in civic life is good. Using our wealth to fund Christian activity here and abroad is good. But these things are not a replacement for God’s presence and power. Christians are ultimately aliens and strangers, passing through this country and this world. We are meant to live as ambassadors of a future Kingdom ruled by an eternal and loving King: God the Father. Citizenship into this Kingdom is secured, not by living sanitary lives or holding “Christian values”, but by rejecting any thought of earning God’s favor by anything you can do and then looking to Jesus. This promised savior drank the full cup of God’s wrath so God could demonstrate both justice and mercy. Jesus earned our salvation and gives it freely to all who would believe. And to not leave us alone in this strange and foreign place, those who have become citizens of this Kingdom through Jesus receive the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is a comforter, an advocate, and the down payment on the promise that Jesus is coming back to take us home.

We are not losing America. It was never ours. This is not our home. America, or any other country, is not God’s Kingdom. Let’s replace fear with faith and cultural idolatry with submission to Christ. Yes, we should work for the good of our nation. We should protect the marginalized and the vulnerable among us. We should live and give sacrificially. But we should do these things not to make America a more palatable place to live, but to demonstrate how God’s Kingdom operates. To give people a taste of God’s justice, mercy, and love in this life so that they too will have an invitation into the eternal Kingdom of God. Then together, as one new people, we can sing aloud:

When He shall come with trumpet sound,

Oh, may I then in Him be found,

Clothed in His righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne!

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

*************************

NOTE: This article will also be published at the Radiant Church blog. http://radiantcharleston.com/

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