Saturday, November 11, 2017

How to Survive as a Christian in a Post-Christian Post-Truth Culture

The country has changed so much since I was a young boy.  Many like to pretend like it isn't really happening, or that they don't notice the changes.  But I notice these things.  I see them.  And it is a difficult life for a Christian.  We are relatively new believers, in a strange world that seems to have gone insane.  

We gather together, sing songs, listen to the message given to us, and when we are home we read our Bibles and we pray.  We watch things happen in the world around us.  We see people on the streets who live differently than us.  And I remember how I used to be just like them.  I remember how I used to be one of the people out there, doing whatever felt good, and living for nothing but myself.  

Strange things happen in the world, like the Harvey Weinstein affair, and the rash of child sex abuse cases.  And then there's human sex trafficking.  And there is abortion, the killing of unborn children for convenience.  

It doesn't feel as safe as it used to be.  I used to bike around the neighborhood without a problem.  Today it isn't safe.  Today I don't feel like I can trust most people I run into.  There isn't a common ethic, there is moral anarchy.  Relationships are haphazard in such a place.  And if one spends any time at a bar, they might worry that one may drop something in their drink with the intention of taking advantage of them.  

Worse yet, there is a genocide being carried out against Christians in the middle east.  No one seems to care.  President Obama ignored it. The media won't talk about it because it doesn't fit their narrative of imperialist Christian oppression.  But hundreds of thousands are dying.  ISIS is decimating the Christian populations across Iraq especially, and the middle east at large.  But the media won't talk about it, and the corrupt UN won't even acknowledge it's even happening. 

Christians are tormented and murdered, yet regarded as mean and judgmental by people in the west. There is social justice, race baiting, and identity politics.  There are all sorts of mad things around us.  The truth is so hard to discern is a climate of deception.

In the media we see hatred, fake news, and vitriol on all sides.  Ideologies war against each other. Christian values are misused and abused, and most often, simply neglected.

What can we do? We see that Christianity has changed the world before.  We've seen how the gospel has transformed entire societies, and we wonder how things can change in our society.  We wonder if the field is even ripe for the harvesting anymore... 

We hide indoors sometimes.  We hide behind the four walls of our churches.  And we're afraid to speak, at times.  We hear about attacks on religious liberty.  We hear about people being shut down for speaking out on social media.  We're told by the media that there is no threat to religious liberty and if you even think there is a threat, then religious liberty is a code phrase for hatred, bigotry and white supremacy.  If we dare to speak up about religious freedom or identity politics, or political correctness we're slandered as racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes.  

We dream of great awakenings, of revivals, of movements of young people turning to Jesus in droves.  But we don't see it happening.  What are we to do?  

We'll do what we can, is the answer to that question.  We'll do what the Spirit of God, our high commander instructs us to do in this conflict.  We'll pray hard, and we'll pray often.  We'll throw off the shackles of sin in this world.  And we'll pull the plugs from our arms and legs and torso, of the worldly views and secular thoughts that have invaded our Christian worldview.  And we'll participate in the holy resistance to the kingdom of Satan.  That's what we'll do.  And if we're destined to go down on the sinking ship of western civilization, then we'll go down in the ship preaching the gospel, though few believe.  And if we're destined to rally the people of western humanity to revival, and Christian great awakening, then rally we shall.  We'll obey the Spirit.

But we are in need of rest.  We must rest, regularly. And we ought to realize that we can't do it all ourselves.  We shouldn't try.  The Spirit will do His work.  We dishonor the Spirit if we think we can do ourselves with excessive work.  So rest.  

You know, let me tell you something: We can't help everyone.  We can't save everyone.  And I don't mean that some people are beyond help, though many certainly are.  

My point is this: I can't do everything.  I'll go crazy if I try, and I'll burn out.  So I have to be strategic in how I do my work.  It's OK if I can't reach every person out there in the neighborhood with the gospel.  That's not what I'm here for right now.  I'm here to learn and study, to be a minister.  It's OK to focus on that right now.  But can you understand how I could lose track of that?  I hope you can.  Because I get convicted about everything, and I get burdened about a lot.  That's OK.  But I can't do it all, I'm not God.  I'm just a man.  And that's OK!

Additionally, I need to pick and choose my battles.  This is a hard lesson for me, because I am someone who is outspoken.  I like to speak my mind.  In fact, I believe Jesus calls me to speak up when it matters.  But sometimes I need to shut up and listen, especially at the beginning. Sometimes you have to punt on 4th down.  But there will be times that I speak, and everyone won't like what I say.  But it's not all about people's feelings.  It's about my responsibility to Jesus.  Fundamentally if I do something, it's because I'm trying to do what God has called me to do.  Sometimes that gets me into trouble.  

We have an odd ethic today.  We seem to think being a Christian means never offending anyone, never pointing out sin, and never speaking tough truth.  By the ethics of the culture and the world, we think even talking about something controversial is bad.  We treat even bringing up a difficult topic as sinful.  But it's not sinful.  In fact we're called to deal with sin, to preach the gospel and to be different from the world.  

Jesus offended people.  He did it out of love and a desire to speak the truth.  Jesus was speaking to a crowd, including some pharisees.  
Recorded in Matthew 15:10-14 NIV: "Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Am I arguing that we should intentionally offend people? Absolutely not.  What I'm suggesting is that we should speak the truth, the truth of the scriptures, applied to our day and age, and we should speak it in love.  But we should speak it clearly and not shy away from those difficult conversations.  And we shouldn't shy aware from controversial topics.  Because everything important and relevant today is considered controversial.  We can't be silent on controversial topics, otherwise we end up rendering ourselves irrelevant. 

Love is the answer, right?  No. Jesus Christ is the answer.  He came full of love.  Yet He also came full of grace and truth.  He spoke truth and he showed mercy.  Yet he instructed the woman caught in adultery: "I do not condemn you. But go and do not sin again."(John 8:1-11).  If we leave out that second part, we're not speaking a full gospel. 

A full gospel is that we repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15).  Repentance is key.  Time and again in the epistles, the letters of Paul specifically, address first the grace found in Christ, and secondly Paul will speak in the strongest terms for our need to live in holiness.  Holiness is our calling as Christians.  We're saved 100% by Jesus, but our response to God is the most pure and holy life.  

We want so badly to be loving. We want so badly to obey Jesus' teaching about not being judgmental or condemning.  That's certainly an important thing to do.  And yes, love is a central ethic of the Christian worldview.  But the Christian concept of love is quite different from the worldly concept of love. 

Christian love is sacrificial love.  Christian love is a love that speaks difficult truth.  Christian love is selfless.  Christian love is grounded in doctrine and the teachings of Christ.  Christian love is scandalous love, a love that is not mere emotion or words, but deeds and actions. 

So in conclusion, we will fight, we must fight, there's no other choice, we must continue.  

As Winston Churchill said: "We must all hope it will bring a blessing; that after we have averted our gaze for a while from the process of subjugation and liquidation, everyone will breathe more freely; that a load will be taken off our chests; we shall be able to say to ourselves: “Well, that’s out of the way, anyhow. Now let’s get on with our regular daily life.” But are these hopes well founded or are we merely making the best of what we had not the force and virtue to stop? That is the question that the English-speaking peoples in all their lands must ask themselves today. Is this the end, or is there more to come?

There is another question which arises out of this. Can peace, goodwill, and confidence be built upon submission to wrong-doing backed by force?" (The Defense of Freedom and Peace, 16 Oct 1938)

And: "Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
We shall fight on the seas and oceans,
We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our
Island whatever the cost may be,
We shall fight on the beaches,
We shall fight on the landing grounds,
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
We shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender." (We Shall Fight on the Beaches, 4 June 1940)

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