The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently conducted a fascinating study of religious restrictions in 198 countries, reviewing the governmental laws and legal prohibitions relating to religious expression. The Forum found that seven out of every ten people on this planet – 70% of the world’s population – live in countries with high restrictions on religious expression and practice. There are 64 nations highly restrictive, and these tend to be nations that are very populous. Communist and Islamic nations are among the most restrictive, while Japan and Brazil were among the least restrictive. The United States was also noted for its freedom of religion.
It seems to me there’s an enormous implication to living in a land of freedom. It’s easy to go to church in our country. We don’t have to sneak into a cave . We don’t have to risk anything. We don’t have to whisper when we worship or worry about being killed for our faith, or being fired from our job, or denied entrance to the university. No one is going to kidnap or behead us for going to church here in America. We are part of the 30% of the world that has freedom to worship as we choose.
As a result, we sometimes take it carelessly. If we feel like going to church, we’ll go. If we’re a little under the weather or it’s an overcast day or if there’s an exciting event on television, we’ll skip.
In my message tomorrow, I’d like to advocate a high view of the church. In 1 Peter 2, the Lord uses eight different phrases to describe the church. A couple of them are repetitive, but they are repeated for emphasis:
- Living stones – verse 5
- A spiritual house – verse 5
- A holy priesthood – verse 5
- A chosen generation – verse 9
- A royal priesthood – verse 9
- A holy nation – verse 9
- His own special people – verse 9
- The people of God – verse 10
And Peter gives us two great reasons for our existence on this earth.
- To offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ – verse 5
- That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light – verse 10
What a calling, and what an opportunity! For the whole message, click here — and I’ll see you at TDF tomorrow!