Volume 18 Issue 9
In a recently released book entitled, Defending Identity, Natan Sharansky writes, The Pentecostals in the Soviet Union were prohibited from teaching their religion, persecuted remorselessly, exiled, and moved deeper and deeper into Siberia, all the way to the border of China and Japan, and even there were not left alone…and were willing to be imprisoned to teach their children their religion (PublicAffairs, 2008).
What was source of their strength? Sharansky makes the case that ultimately without one knowing and valuing his identity there is little likelihood that he will be able to maintain his position, or even survive. He shows the relationship between identity and freedom and argues that Americans and others are slowly being deprogrammed and taught to discredit their own countries and its ideals. Sharansky, a Jew, gives historical reference to the struggle of the Jewish people and points out present dangers that are overwhelming Europe. The book references the Pentecostals of the Soviet Union as a people who understood who they were and discusses how this understanding gave them courage to place their lives on the line. Many of these Pentecostals were oneness believers.
He states, The enemys will is strong because his identity is strong. And we must match his strength of purpose with strong identities of our own. Identity is a persons history. That to which they are connected. Or as Oxford dictionary puts it, The fact of who or what a person or thing is. Sharansky says, The universal quality of identity is that it gives life and meaning beyond life itself.
Personally, I believe the great struggle of the Oneness Apostolic movement today is the matter of identity. This was not always a struggle, but gradually it has become an obstacle we must address. My parents never had a problem with being Pentecostal or with being Oneness in doctrine. They never second guessed their own identity or their commitment to Holiness and their conviction and strength passed to me. It was not that I never questioned things, I did. But my parents unwavering passion for the truth and clarity of thought actually served as the confident foundation for my own Oneness Apostolic identity. This confidence did not proceed from one isolated event or conversation, but came from open Bibles throughout house, endless meals with friends that were topped off with lively Bible discussions, mornings greeted with prayer, a thousand touches with the words, In Jesus Name, and protracted five-week revivals that seemed joyful not laborious. Speaking in tongues was normal, church was Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (the devils night so lets have church), and of course Sunday in your best clothes no less. All of this helped me to know who I was through every temptation and every juvenile doubt. I knew where home was and how to get back there. I knew where my parents stood. My friends at school knew I was Pentecostal and still elected me class president from the seventh grade though my senior year. My faith did not hold me back. It saved me. It defined me. Today, I fear this kind of certitude is being replaced with a growing atmosphere of whining, doubt, and ultimately a dangerous self-loathing.
Reflecting on the past several years one can see identity problems developing throughout Christianity. Many have developed an admiration for success and shifted from declaration of the Truth to imitation of personalities and church-growth formulas. Politically correct values have distorted the churchs voice with regard to morals and the absoluteness of salvation through Christ alone.
Inconsistency with regard to values, morals, standards, and even doctrine, has weakened our young peoples sense of identity. If adults do not know clearly what they value, who they are, and the importance of Godly living, how can they hope to convince their children that they are serious about their faith?
Everyday the world hammers the dogma of devils into the brains of our youth. The modern tools of media – ever so cool, pervasive, portable, intrusive, intoxicating, calculated, and controlled largely by anti-Christian corporations that reap billions in profits – are the most effective weapons the devil has ever possessed. There is a spirit in this world, and the spirit is the spirit of the Antichrist.
Victory over this spirit will not come by attempting to duplicate the devils weapons. The media, the machine and the technology are not the attraction. The content, evil imagery, lust, and sensationalized lifestyles are the attraction. Getting our message delivered in some modish media format will not win the battle. Putting the Bible or a sermon on a movie screen does not make it more powerful, more appealing, or more relative. It is not that simple. The power of God demonstrated through the gifts of the spirit and preaching of the word will overcome the enemy, and thankfully the drawing power of Christ operates independent of our talents. Jesus said, I will draw all men unto me.
The battle is won by knowing who we are in Christ, knowing Him, and living in his presence. Its not the entertainment that will keep young people. It is the power of the Holy Ghost. The baptism of the Spirit will identify for them His purpose in their lives. Only God can give man the resolve to, if necessary, die in Siberia like the Russian Pentecostals. It is the anointed, spirit-intoxicated services that will transform Apostolic young people into soldiers of the cross prepared to face the threat of militant Islamism. We scarcely need another service fashioned like and imitating some asinine television show. Be Pentecostal. Have church. Preach. Cry out. This is how identity is shaped, hearts are transformed, gifts are imparted, callings are transmitted, and destinies are understood. This is how the fiery torch is passed to the next generation of whom the world will say, These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth (Revelation 14:4).