Editor’s note: Western China Covenant College is a Christian liberal arts college started by Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. In June, Li Yingqiang, an elder of Early Rain, wrote a letter to this year’s graduating class.
This is the first half of Li’s letter, which warns young Chinese Christians to be on the watch for traps and snares of life, and urges them to remain alert as they begin their adult lives in a society that opposes Christ. He especially urges them to be careful in how they interact in virtual spaces, warning them that virtual sin does not remain in cyberspace, but will leave a tangible mark on their lives and hearts.
Peace to you, brothers and sisters, who are about to leave Western China Covenant College and enter a new battlefield.
As you are leaving, the words “the night is far gone; the day is at hand” appear in my heart. This comes from Romans 13:11-14:
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Let me encourage you with a few things I have learned from meditating on this passage.
Know The Age in Which We Live
From the time Jesus Christ opened the door of salvation, to the time he will return to announce the end of redemptive history, every generation of Christians lives in the age of “the present time.” The present time is an age of “deep night.” [Note: The Chinese words for “night is far gone” also mean “the night is deep.”] The progressive view of history, which believes light is continually overcoming darkness, is not biblical. Right now, we are still in a long, deep night before the morning light dawns and completely illuminates the world.
Will tomorrow be better than today? Not really. Most likely, tomorrow will be darker. Persecution may become more brutal, and resistance to the gospel may become more evident. The visible church may become weaker, and a colder winter, not the spring, awaits Christian education. If we see only a small part of history, it may seem as though God is standing in the distance, and as if the earth is under the rule of the darkness.
However, two things are certain: first, “the present age” is ending and a new heaven and a new earth will descend from heaven; and second, God’s unwavering sovereignty has existed from all eternity, and every detail of this age is in his hands. History has not been derailed, and history is not aimless. Instead, all of history moves toward God’s predestined ends.
We need to view our present age from a spiritual perspective. The transition China is going through now is a fierce spiritual warfare. In heaven, the angelic army is fighting the demonic ruler of China. On earth, the Lord of the Church is waging a war against the devil, the world, and the power of sin. In this battle, ancient Eastern authoritarianism, modern materialism, ethnicism and nationalism have combine dwith the entrenched humanism and pragmatism of Chinese culture. The result is a ruling order of “Emperor Qin plus Marx.” This order has been at war with the Christ-and-gospel-centered church for seventy years. The current round of persecution, since February of 2018, might be the last phase of this battle. We do not know how long this phase will last, but we believe that at the end of this battle, we may face not only an apparent “spiritual harvest” but another, more intense war with secularism.
Watchman: Keep Your Eyes Open in the Dark of Night
Dear students, the most important thing is to stay spiritually alert. In Paul’s words: wake from sleep! Today many things make us drowsy. The world has already fed many of you its magic potion of individualism, materialist ecstasy, and the hypnotic drug of relativism. Because of this, you have lost track of night and day.
When you spend hours on Internet-connected phones and computers, you are not joining a sea where you can swim freely, nor are you coming to a giant supermarket where you can shop freely. You are in a dark jungle full of pits, traps and snares. At any time, fierce beasts may attack. What’s worse, this jungle is filled with a hypnotizing fragrance which makes you lose track of the passage of time and alertness to the coming crisis.
If you are unable to control the time you spend scrolling WeChat and watching videos, you need to be very careful. Not only are you reading unhelpful information, but even more frightening, this will lead you to fall in love with the world’s riches and to dislike the monotony of the church. On the other side, you may come to believe so deeply in the corruption of the world that you forget your own depravity. Without realizing it, you become paranoied and are convinced by conspiracy theories. You feel other Christians are stupid and naive.
Dear students, many of you are born citizens of the “two-dimensional world.” You must to be especially careful, because although the world is virtual, your sin and the time you invest there are not virtual. The virtual world’s impact is imprinted on your soul. To this day, the church has very little knowledge of how to enter the “metaverse” and spread the gospel there in the battle for souls. Because of this, life in virtual spaces lacks the protection of the spiritual state. You will often be alone, exposed to the devil’s flaming arrows.
Elder Li Yingqiang is an elder of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. He and his wife have two children.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese Christians to understand their times, and to remain alert.