Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Called to Live Differently: Counter Culture Lifestyle in a Dark Society

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

Jesus has changed the world.  The God who came, has come.  We face a daunting task of carrying the gospel to the world.  But in his power we can do just that.  

We've been called to a holy life in Christ Jesus.  We're called to live in holiness.  We're called to be different. What does it mean to be holy?

To be holy means to live well.  It means to serve others, and live with a selfless attitude.  This attitude of course does not come all at once, it takes years and years of growth in the Christian life.  But over the long term it can be done.

We need to challenge ourselves in this area.  How can I be more like Jesus?  We've got faith down pretty well, but we're slacking on the holiness side.  

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. -2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV

The two biggest pressure points, where the rubber meets the road are: sex and money.  Anyone can claim to be a follower of Jesus.  But look at how they use their God-given sexual desires, look at how they use their money, and you'll know very shortly if they are truly a follower of the way.  

Screwing friends and strangers isn't a game.  It isn't harmless.  In fact it's quite destructive.  It looks like simple pleasure, but hidden beneath the surface is a cost immaterial, heavy, dark, insidious.  Much like many of the tender chocolates of the delicacies of this world.  

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV

There is so much more to life.  But sex has become the center, the penultimate. It's the obsession, driven by the media, for the sake of profit. Such a system leaves young people desolate, broken, poured out.  So much sorrow flows from sexual acting out... internal brokenness, aborted babies, emotional disturbances, codependency, and of course the spread of disease.  But my generation wanted to have fun, and it ain't so fun anymore.  

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.  -Hebrews 13:4 ESV

We were once in the high noon of the sexual revolution, today we find ourselves in the grizzly morning after.  We're hung over, left alone in an empty room at the rising sun, wishing we could forget and trying so hard to hide from the shame of what we've become.

It reminds me of a Smashing Pumpkin song called "Tonight, Tonight" in which the words are written: Time is never time at all, you can never ever leave, without leaving a piece of you.

It's the same way with life I'm certain, every lost friend, every broken relationship, and every one night stand leaves a part of you behind, marked eternally in history, a part of your soul you can never, ever recover.  It's true.  

Is that frightful, or oddly beautiful?  Perhaps a bit of both.  Inevitably we do leave ourselves behind along the trail of life.  We're strewn out about the trail, year after year, poured out for ourselves, or another.  

The song continues.  "And our lives are forever changed.  We'll never be the same.  The more you change the less you feel."

Greater is he who conquers himself, than he who can conquer a city (Proverb 16:32).  Have you conquered yourself?  Or are you slave to your own urges?  In the world out there, we find ourselves bombarded by imagery, sound, all sorts of magic.  So often in the bombardment we find ourselves naked, succumbing to desires that can never be truly fulfilled.  They are bottomless pits, always demanding more.

And again, "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control." (Proverb 25:28).

In ancient times the only possible way to defend a city was by building a wall around it.  A city without walls was open to being pillaged and sacked by enemies at any moment.  How similar it is for someone who has dropped their defenses in regard to sex.  Or in regard to alcohol.  Or spending.  Or drugs. Or just about anything else! 

Now about money.  Money is not the root of all evil.  The love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.  As Americans we were raised on this mentality.  Money is what you need.  Get money and you can then use money to get everything you need or want.  Is that really true?  Can money really bring me everything I want?  Of course not.  In fact the richest of our society are often the most disturbed, drug addicted, and lost.  Think of how Robin Williams hung himself in his closet.  Think of the myriads of celebrities who "had it all" who killed themselves or overdosed on drugs.  Just to name a few: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Chris Farley, Kurt Cobain, Keith Moon, Jack Kerouac, Marilyn Monroe, Sigmund Freud, and David Waymer.

Money isn't evil.  But when we let it dominate our lives, our love for it becomes evil.  What grows from the love of money is the love for power.  Because money is really a source of power.  We see many political and business leaders who have been led astray by the love of money and of power.  

How can we be wise with our money?  We ought to give 10% of our income to charity.  Or 10% of our income to our local church.  Or 5% to each.  It should be at least 10%.  If you think about it, that's not much.  After all, all of it belongs to God.  Come to think of it, you belong to God.  

Or as the amusing story is told, an atheist met God along an ocean beach and suggested to God that making life wasn't so hard.  So God challenged him, "Then go ahead and draw up life from the ground as I did."  The atheist thought to himself, sure, no problem.  He got down on his knees and began to work.  God quickly responded, "Hold on. Get your own sand."

There are many resources out there to help with managing money better.  There is an excellent organization called Thrivent Financial that can help with money management.  Another organization I've heard about is Samaritan's Purse.  Still another resource is the Dave Ramsey radio show.  He is an expert on money management.  

Recently a man at the church I serve in spoke to me about tithing.  He told me, "Justin, you can never go wrong with tithing 10%."  This man had tithed his entire life.  He told me how he slowly began to tithe even more than 10%.  He said that God always blessed him with enough money.  And he closed the conversation by saying how today, by the grace of God, he was a millionaire.  And every year he made just over $50,000.  But since he was generous with his wealth, God blessed and multiplied his wealth again and again.  

Or as Proverb 11:24 (NIV) states "One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty."

In a world where we're constantly bombarded by advertising and sensual temptations, it's a real challenge to live in holiness.  It's an incredible challenge.  We perhaps unlike any other nation in human history are bombarded by more temptations on a daily basis than any other.  I've seen studied that suggest a single person is exposed to hundreds of advertisements per day.  Still other studies suggested it's higher, in the realm of thousands.  

We must be aware of this.  We must be aware of the stimuli.  I know I've felt it.  Many a times, I've wondered why I'm so crazed with desires within my soul.  Why do they keep piling up?  Well, when I do something as simple as driving down the road or stepping into a gas station I'm literally being exposed to dozens of stimuli.  And virtually all of those stimuli are attempting on a certain level to tingle my senses and manipulate my desires enough to cause me to pour money out of my wallet.  It's true.  I'm not saying the intent is overtly insidious, it's just about making money, but the affect can be quite insidious.  It's destructive to the mind.  I recall a liberal book I was required to read, as part of my education in the University of Wisconsin school system was on this topic.  It was called "Affluenza" by John De Graaf. Though I felt put upon by social justice culture, the message was fair enough.  

I really believe the decline of western civilization and the collapse of meaningful culture is all interrelated to media.  The television America, it's destroying us.  It's pouring hot garbage into the minds of the young.  The young who are left naked and defenseless to the schemes of media and business by the pathetic, broken public school system.  

Commercials, they affect us.  TV shows, they affect us.  Movies, they affect us.  Music, it affects us.  There is a message being communicated to us in media. So we've got to take a stand.  We've got to be radical holiness types.  We've got to be counter-cultural warriors.  

One of the gravest complaints against the church is that it looks so much like the world.  That's quite an indictment.  But there is also much good that the church does.  

It gets ignored and minimized as a general rule.  Anything good the church does, is minimized.  It won't get any air time.  But if a tiny little hell hole church called Westboro Baptist comes out to protest military funerals and holds signs that say "God hates fags" then the media will be all over it.  Because Westboro Baptist fits their narrative perfectly.  In much the same way, Donald Trump fits the media narrative perfectly.  He is the wet-dream of any leftist who wants to pigeon-hole conservatives as racist sexist bigamists. 

The mainstream media, especially the television media is radically secular.  The progressive agenda in our country is destroying the minds of young people.  The depravity flowing out of the television is corrupting an entire generation.  It's amazing to witness.

Especially when it happened to me personally.  It's just astounding, especially reading about the (uncensored) history of our nation, the history of our nation that shows how Christianity was once the very center of life.  Then seeing the revisionist history taught in schools and college campuses.  And how the United States and it's founders are demonized as wicked, self-interested despots who lived on the backs of slaves and committed genocide against Native Americans.  What a farce.

In the Truth Project curriculum by Focus on the Family it's taught in one of the lessons how Christopher Columbus' original Christian intent has oft been omitted from school textbooks.  And scores of other revisions to American history.  The Truth Project is a must see series, if you haven't already.  It's simply astounding.

The good news is we're waking up to the false narrative.  We're waking up to the truth of God almighty and his presence in the affairs of humanity.  America may turn from God, and it seems America has done so in large part, but we can be a holy remnant.  To do that we have to live differently from the world.  

It starts with you and I.  Are we going to really do it?  Are we going to really live it out in the tough areas like sex and money?  I understand how it feels!  I'm single myself.  I'm a single male, 31 years old.  It's not easy.  I have desires at times that are very hard to control.  I'm not preaching at you from on high, riding upon a white horse of purity.  In fact just a few years ago, I was the debased hedonist of hedonists.  I sat in basements in tie dye smoking from grass pipes, philosophizing about how bad "the corporations" were.  Yet never doing anything about it.  I was the hypocrite liberal puking out anti-war sentiments, feeling a very high and mighty sense of unearned moral superiority.  Yet in my personal life I spent a great deal of my money on weed, and was willing to sleep with any girl I thought was hot.  

I understand, because I've lived it.  It's not easy.  But in the power of God almighty, with Christ, and the Holy Spirit we can't be stopped. We've got the victory in Christ.

Will we take a stand?  Or will we give in to temptation?  
Is it such a big deal?  The answer is yes.  You'd amazed what a small compromise can do.  It can open a door that begins to open wider and wider, until it seems impossible to close.  I opened those doors in my heart and mind, time and again.  It had become impossible to close them.  It was only by the power of Jesus Christ that they were closed once again and I was given another shot at life.  

It starts in personal conduct.  Am I waiting for marriage?  Am I refusing the temptations of pornography and masturbation?  Am I giving a certain percentage of my income to charity?  Or am I hoarding it all for personal pleasure?  Or even worse, am I descending into crippling debt?  Am I letting unchecked pleasures run amuck through credit cards and loans?

When we start living differently, others notice that.  And eventually others begin to do the same.  Our personal conduct flows out to those around us, and it rubs off.  More so than you might realize.  We're inevitably humans in community, we can't escape each other and the influences we have, whether good or bad.  So take a stand.  Be an example in your conduct.

We have to be counter-cultural Christian powerhouses, standing against the corruption of this world.  That starts on a personal basis, in holiness. Once the personal is checked and the walls are built, then we can also interact as Christian activists, fighting day and night in the realm of ideas to free the young and the led astray from the strong delusions and false worldviews.  Those false worldviews include progressivism, relativism, post-modernism, naturalism, and atheism.  But if we walk around limping, hearts beset with sin after addicting sin, we won't be able to stand as powerhouse Christian activists.  If we do stand firm and resist temptation, day in and day out, God will bless our activism with success and growth.  

A movement is already forming, are you part of it?  Or are you on the sidelines?  Get on fire for the Lord, and join the battle.  You are needed.  We are outnumbered.  Every single soul matters in this fight for the hearts and minds of western civilization. 

May God be with you in all you do, blessing your efforts with multiplication, preparing hearts and minds to receive the sacred truth you carry on your sleeve.  God be praised, in Christ, amen.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. -1 John 3:6-10 (ESV)

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