Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain
“The descent is easy.”- Virgil
I read a lot. Thanks to my mom, I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. Mom enrolled me and my brother in a book club where we’d excitedly wait to receive the new reads we ordered each month. As an avid reader today, I am also selective in what I read and what I feed my spirit. Two years ago, a great book passed my litmus test and was added to my collection.
Sometimes you read a book and from the first page the author’s words grip you. Their words resonate with you so much that you are nodding your head all the way through. You might even highlight certain text that you want to remember. You might even say as I did in reading this book, “He (or she) is speaking my language!”
Real Christianity, written by English abolitionist and politician, William Wilberforce (1759-1833), is the book I am referencing. Wilberforce and his book’s message were instrumental in stopping the slave trade in England. In his book’s introduction, Wilberforce pens an “author’s apology” telling the reader that because he is not a theologian he may not be taken seriously but that his message is nonetheless important, truthful and worth strong consideration. After he apologizes, he writes this:
“Enough apologies and justifications; let me get on with the task at hand. Here is what I am going to attempt to accomplish in writing this book. I’m not going to attempt to either convince skeptics or answer the questions unbelievers seem to ask, but rather point out some of the problems with the beliefs and actions of those who already claim to be Christians. I’d like to attempt to contrast what we see in the lives of many, perhaps most, who make this claim with what I understand the Bible teaches about what it means to believe in Christ. I am disturbed when I see the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess…
…Life as we know it, with all of its ups and downs, will soon be over. We will all give an account to God of how we have lived. Because of this fact, I’m not going to pull any punches in what I write. I hope you will seriously consider what is contained in these pages. If what I write seems too rigid or austere, I would only ask that you check what I have to say against what the Bible teaches. That is the only opinion that counts. If you accept the authority of the Bible, I assume you will agree.” – William Wilberforce, Real Christianity, 1797
Wilberforce’s words written more than 200 years ago are “speaking my language” today. Wilberforce anchors his message in the infallible, unchanging and often offensive Word of God. His straightforward writing from the book’s start to finish makes no apologies for upholding God’s Word as the standard by which we should live, particularly those of us who proclaim to follow Jesus. In his day, Wilberforce was disheartened by a climate that was gradually abandoning authentic faith and embracing something far easier to swallow; something that would allow people to live how they wanted to live and make themselves more likable to others: cultural Christianity.
Cultural Christianity is a watering down of God’s Word and relationship standards to make it more palpable to those who want to do what they want to do anyway. In watering down the truth, we strip the Word of its power to truly heal and restore people, communities, our nation, world and situations. This action is akin to using a placebo to treat an illness instead of the medication prescribed by your doctor. You allow the illness to fester and worsen. Either you want to be healed or you don’t. Wilberforce said it well:
“Nominal or superficial Christianity does not have the ability to create such outcomes (that overcome any social, economic or racial barriers). (Societal) and political decay can thrive under cultural Christianity but authentic faith will bring it to a sudden halt.”
As society was pursuing greater degrees of progress, Wilberforce saw more people wavering in their convictions. Trust and believe that today, we are reaping those decisions made then.
As the Roman poet Virgil wrote in his popular work the Aeneid, “The descent is easy.” In essence, the seemingly “little” and “insignificant” compromises we make become even easier to do so the next time, and harder to ascend back up to truth. If we decide to be “all in” then we’ll never be satisfied with living as a halfway Christian, making the descent into cultural Christianity and candy-coated messages less likely.
In leading Voices Against the Grain, to boldly advance God’s Kingdom in a ‘do your own thing’ society, I too, pull no punches. I desire to deliver God’s Word just as it is — not adding to or taking away from it. Like Wilberforce and many others who share/teach God’s Word, I am not seminary trained. However, I have gained much knowledge revealed through the Holy Spirit and spending significant time communing with the Lord. God has also placed great and studied spiritual teachers in my life who have aided in my further understanding, teaching and administering of His Word.
Introspection and Call for Authentic Faith
Many of you reading this are living out authentic faith in a time when unbelief, strange teachings and “live and let live” ideals are preferred. Thank you! You have no idea the amount of moral, political and social decay and injustices that have been stopped simply by your prayers and commitment to truly share the Gospel, unfiltered. Yet, God desires that the entire Body of Christ exercises authentic faith— not only some. When we gradually fall in with societal trends, we are accelerating society’s decay. In Matthew 5:13-16, we are described as “salt” and “light.” Salt preserves and light shines a path out of darkness. Neither occurs when we compromise the truth.
Where are you on the spectrum of truth? If you are a Christian, do you see truth from the view of our God who “changes not” (Malachi 3:6)? As a Christian, are there areas where you’re likely to compromise and if so, why?
This is a call for authentic faith. We can’t walk the fence between pleasing God and pleasing the world. The compromise is never worth hindering someone’s true liberation found only in Christ Jesus. We should trust that God is big enough to overcome opposition. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up (exalted) from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32). The attraction of the cross of Christ and the matchless love of God will prove to be the mightiest revelation to draw those far away near to Christ, those with whom you may fear sharing truth.
We share truth (Jesus) because we love God and we love people. We desire for those who will to become beneficiaries of truth, no longer slaves to deception but freely living as intimate co-workers with God. We desire that no one lives less than the abundant life Jesus promised. This can only be acquired through sharing and living authentic faith.
Can you be counted on to never compromise the truth (Jesus)? Will you live “all in” and not halfway? Pray for courage. Pray to grow in deeper love with the Lord that gives way to your unwavering obedience to Him.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”- John 8:32