Thursday, March 13, 2014

Using our Unique Talents to Impact Culture

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Let me tell you about the post-modern man in his 20s from suburbia, or the inner city.  He is quite the character, and loves to party and have fun.  Are those things evil inherently?  Not at all.  The post-modern man has many beliefs, but they are in stark contrast to the modern man's beliefs.  The modern man might've had certain political beliefs, scientific beliefs, spiritual beliefs, and even philosophical beliefs.  The post-modern man has no such interests and thus no such beliefs.  The post-modern man is the ultimate entertainment junkie.  He has favorite movies, favorite musicians, favorite celebrities, favorite alcoholic beverages, and favorite sports teams.  This is often the extent of the post modern's interests and thus has few further beliefs on topics we in the church might've considered important to the masses at some point in history.

The post-modern man's heaven is the ultimate party experience.  It is often described in movies like American Pie, Dazed and Confused, American Graffiti and so on.  The ultimate party experience!  Everyone is dancing to trendy music, alcohol all around, the good old boys all hanging together, with trophy women on their arms.  The ultimate high, the ultimate experience. 

Morality and truth mean little to the post-modern man.  Satisfaction is his goal.  As belief is the engine for the spiritual walk in Christianity, money is the engine for the pleasure seeking walk of the self-worshiper. 

Laughter is at the top of the list in any social interaction.  Grotesque jokes, obscene comments, derogatory language, and constant sexual references.  One could say sexual intercourse is the method by which the post-modern man in his twenties worships his maker, which he considers to be himself.  The post-modern man considers women to be a commodity, and he loves his bros, or at least however far his bros will get him to the ultimate "fun" feeling, the commodity of women, the supplies of tap alcohol, and sometimes even the supplies of multicolored pills and poppers. 

Often this lifestyle will not bother the post-modern man, but if it does, there are many facade pseudo-spiritual remedies for such depravity.  Many a hippie would claim to be buddhist, or new age, or just spiritual in general.  That way there is no need for a lifestyle change, but a significant possibility to cover up their own guilt at depravity, drug addiction, alcoholism, cheating, stealing, lying, and pornography addiction. 

The post-modern man loves video games, computer games, the latest gaming consoles, facebook, twitter, the internet, and free pornography websites galore.  He expounds constantly on the corruption of politics and religion, and refuses to work a job because he would never want to support the evils of such sinister mega-corporations. 

All the while his words may expound a certain level of truth, his own utterly selfish dope infested beer can littered room at his parent's house tells a different story.  He cries constantly at the evils of the world, yet very much serves them in his daily life.  He always has a new idea and a new thought, but never any action to back up all his random delusions while tripping on coricidin, half drunk, and wired up on clonazepam and amphetamines that he stole from his dad's bathroom cabinet. 

Victory for this man in his twenties is vast riches, bursting bank accounts, fancy new cars, and a dyed blonde orange skinned trophy wife with breast implants. 

There is no place for truth or religion in this young man's deranged mind.  He's drunk on what the mainstream media has fed him, what Hollywood has called good, and what the music industry has blasted into his ears as "cool."  A topic like Christianity is as foreign to the post-modern kid in his twenties as a UFO sighting.  That's no "fun" to talk about.  It's no "fun" to do.  It's "boring" and "I don't care."

It's not pretty is it?  I know, let me tell you, I know.  I used to be that kid. 

This lifestyle is the proliferation of Satan's plan for humanity.  His work is quite completed in that young man.  It's not that there is no God and is no Satan, it's that even if there was, the young man wouldn't care anyway.  The effects of sin, and the deceit of Satan is the evil one's ultimate power to deceive humanity (John 6:66). 

So, how can we as the body of Christ on Earth reach out to this twisted fellow? 

We can't.

He doesn't care and he doesn't want to talk to us.  Which is why prayer is so important.  It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit moving among the nations that this young man can begin to hunger for spiritual truth.  Prayer, prayer, prayer. 

Of course if the church had a larger and more powerful voice in the public circles, television, the internet, music and so on, this young man might not be in such a depraved state.  Engaging culture is so very important, and that's the wonderful thing; we as Christians absolutely can engage culture. 

This is where our diversity comes as a great asset.  There are Christian musicians, Christian businessmen, Christian photographers, Christian graphic designers, Christian writers (like myself), Christian speakers, Christian product designers, and on and on and on.  There are Christians among every demographic, every social circle, every interest group, and every level of income in western society.

We are to be conformed to the image of Christ, yet that conformity is once again a paradox within Christianity, and there are many.  In this case, we are to conform to the image of Christ, yet ironically this also means pursuing our own unique spiritual gifts, and our innate God-given talents.

There is an aspiration to live as Jesus Christ lived, with his perfection of resistance to sin and sharing of the truth, but that does not mean I have to buy sandles, grow my hair out, grow a beard, and wear white pajamas everywhere I go.  To be Christian is to be unique and diverse, with unique strengths and creative talents to contribute to the culture, to the body, and to the glory of Jesus Christ.

I'd like you to be thinking on that topic, what unique gifts do you have to contribute to engaging culture for Jesus Christ?  How can you share his message with your own unique gifts? 

This is an absolutely wonderful thing, because we have certain things we love to do, like for me, I absolutely love to write.  And look, I can be in this blissful state of writing on my computer, be loving every minute of it, and be able to share the Bible, share the love of Jesus Christ, and encourage other Christians, in my spare time.  Isn't that wonderful? 

You've got talents to contribute, so be thinking on that.  And let me encourage you, you've got it in you to be not just an average Christian, but a powerhouse Christian of incredible faith.  We've been saved from the ugly fate of the post-modern man, women, whatever.  We've been spared from that.  It breaks my heart, the new heart Jesus gave me, to see so many still lost in that.  So let me encourage you, step up onto the battle lines, the front lines of cultural engagement.  Many Christians have been saved from death by Jesus, but hang back, quiet when they are so deeply needed on the frontlines.

The final work is of the Holy Spirit, which will be moved by God's sovereign will, but will also be moved by our earnest prayers, as the representative body of Christ on Earth.  So be in prayer.  But then also engage culture with your unique talents, via the internet, via your local coffee shops, local government, businesses, missions, your college or university, or just your day job.

There are so many little things we can do.  Imagine if every person reading these words started leaving free Bibles at laundry mats, or put spiritual journey pamphlets on community boards at gas stations, or just spoke to a coworker about coming to church sometime.  Imagine if every Christian in the world started doing that.. today.  Wow.  That would be something.  Not every Christian is willing to, but I bet you are.  And those are just things every Christian ought to be doing.  Engaging culture is more than leaving Bible's at coffee shops or talking to coworkers about Christ.

Engaging culture is really synonymous, in the United States at least, with engaging and interacting in secular media outlets, like the internet for example.   Another example, in a corporate sense, would be Liberty University in Virginia, the college I attend, by distance.  Liberty University engages culture by having division 1 teams in basketball, football, and so on.  They can then represent Christianity in those hard to reach arenas of sports and entertainment.  An individual example in music would be LeCrae a rapper who constantly represents for Jesus to other high level musicians.  In the NFL you have Tim Tebow.  In the realm of reality TV there is Duck Dynasty.  Be in prayer about God raising up more brave and vocal representatives of Christ in all areas of our extremely corrupt media and culture...

Get creative, and think outside the box with engaging culture.  I always mention the internet first because it's a great starting point to build confidence in publicly declaring, plus it's effective, because of the sheer volumes of people that can be reached almost instantaneously.  I want people all over the globe, from every tribe and nation and language to know and receive the love that belongs to them in Christ Jesus.

I love Jesus so much, because he saved me from being a drug addicted money chasing womanizer.  On a personal note, I've now been clean and sober over 16 months, and yesterday I had my first day of work at Salvation Army of Wausau!  So exciting!  I'm an intake worker at a homeless shelter now, and so far I love it.  I love helping others.

I love the light feeling Jesus puts in my heart every morning.  I love it so much, it's so foundational, it's so incredible, it's redeeming to everything I used to be, and feeling how I now feel, I want everyone to know about how awesome and loving Jesus Christ is, and how Christianity is the complete and utter truth of life on Earth.  

I want everyone to know Jesus has died for their sins and has made a way for them to eternal life.  He will help you today, to change, to become a decent man or woman, and he also vertically completes all requirements on, under, and above heaven for your eternal salvation in heaven, in the next life, at new Jerusalem, our hopeful coming city.  The place that is real and true, and does actually really exist.  This I believe.  The moment one has believed in his heart in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, he is saved.  Nothing can take that from him.  The vertical work is complete, the eternal life is finished, by Jesus on the cross, and now horizontally, we want to live well and love others, not because of a list of rules, but because of the grace and mercy we've been shown.

It was mercy for God to remove our sins on the cross, but it is grace that he would walk beside us all the days of our remaining lives, sanctifying us, changing us, encouraging us, and comforting us.  And as if the moment of the removal of our sins as we believed wasn't enough, he wipes our feet clean daily as we walk through the muck and sin of this world.

What a God we have!  What false god of Taoism, Buddhism, pantheism, new age, or Hinduism can compare to our God?  Broken clay figures, scattered on the grounds, lies a plenty when we truly understand Jesus Christ, our wonderful personal God, what a wonderful God who Saves!

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  -Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)