The goal is to tell you what to think about abortion, racism, and sexuality
Has our faith come down to statements: Don’t drink. Don’t dance. Don’t let your kids play with atheists.
This doesn’t reflect our faith. The mindset was awful.
You’ve probably had people come into your office and want to talk about why the church should split or why they should take their kids out of school because of the bad influence.
So I’ll ask them, what brought you to this decision?
Then I’ll ask them what in the Gospel, what in Scripture brought them to this?
And they’ll begin to speak about their education or a vague notion that they have or a gut feeling.
As far as I can tell in Scripture, the Cross and the Way and the Gospel define everything about us. And if they don’t define everything about us, then the Gospel is not what we say it is.
We need a renewal in thinking, coming back to the ways of Scripture, back to the ways of the Gospel.
Christianity gives you a frame for thinking about all of life. Typically the conversation goes to a worldview, but there’s been a recent shift in the conversation of worldview. That helps us as thinking beings, but we are more than that. James K.A. Smith says we are agents of love, and it is what we love that defines who we are.
So the perspective has been shifted to story. There is a story rooted in your heart and mind that is dictating our lives. Many of us believe this is the Gospel for us but we are mistaken.
I want to give you four large, meta-stories that we encounter everywhere: education, television, media…
A story is supposed to describe the way the world is so should be abandoned if it is wrong
- Personal fulfillment, the pursuit of happiness – As a result we consume: entertainment, products, even other people. Even our housing industry is based on this want for more. Everyone else in this story is just a supporting cast for you. You should be happy. If you are not, then something is wrong. Difficulty and suffering are always wrong.When the feeling of happiness erodes, we try something new. New job, new marriage, etc. So we horde, accrue debt… it makes us miserable. It doesn’t work. Solomon proved this thousands of years ago. He had it all, but it didn’t make him happy.
- Pluralism – History teaches us that the US is a melting pot. All of these different cultures, foods, ethnicities, and religions came together and mixed.Religious pluralism is especially popular. It says that all religions are equally valid and valuable and are to be accepted. The central figure in pluralism is tolerance. There is nothing demanded of you. There are no arguments over dogma. Everyone can go to Heaven… until there is a terrorist, and then he can’t. When something comes along and says it has the truth, it can’t be true.A house divided against itself cannot stand. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense.
- Naturalism – There is nothing beyond just the physical universe. There is nothing outside of the universe and nothing outside of it is needed to explain the universe.A couple tried to have doctors and psychitrists determine if they were truly in love and could get married based on their brain patterns. That is the epitome of naturalism.Naturalists say that religion is useless.The problem with naturalism is that there’s too much that isn’t explained by what’s in the box, by what’s in the physical universe.
- Therapeutic moralism, quaint moralism – This is especially held in the southern part of our country. God withholds blessing from the bad and gives blessings to the good, but this is a chaotic, disgruntled, grumpy God.You are the main character here, and God is merely supporting you.Paul says that quaint moralism is the worst. It destroys you. When you make a list of things not to do, you’re making yourself God. God is your cosmic puppet. You do some good things, and he has to respond to you.I drove by all of these old churches in my hometown, huge churches with no one in the parking lot. The problem is quaint moralism. The average doubter and seeker intrinsically knows the ridiculousness of moralism. If I do 2,800,000 bad things but 2,800,001 good things, but God is going to be happy with me? That’s absurd.
There are roughly 200 million people in the US that claim to have some sort of Christian story, but really they have their own story and just have some nice Christian stuff on top. When you dig, it’s not the Gospel. We’re humanists during the week, but on Sunday we’re Christians. We’re legalists with Christian stuff on top. It’s our sermons, our parenting strategies…
The Gospel to us is a best a paradigm shift. If you don’t horde your stuff and start sharing, God will bless you. It’s just a surface change. It’s not in your heart.
This leaves us with one of two options.
There are a lot of cultural Christians that aren’t saved. That aren’t truly born again.
Or there is an inseparable divide between their heart and mind that is never bridged by the Gospel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a lawyer say there’s no relation between my church and my law practice. Schaeffer has this to say: Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural but a Truth with a capital T.
I have great hope, great hope for the church, for the Gospel… Why? Because we have been entrusted with the most powerful thing in existence, the power of God. The Gospel is powerful. It doesn’t need to be defended, just let out of the cage.
The Gospel is dependent on Jesus and his completed work.
We teach our folks creation, fall, redemption, restoration. And that’s great, but something has to come before that. We have to teach something that powerfully breaks people out of their moralism, their naturalism, their pluralism, their hedononism.
Plato’s cave metaphor: Imagine people were chained facing a wall and had only ever seen shadows cast by a fire. Imagine they were set free and turned around to see the fire. Imagine how amazed they would be by the sight of the fire. Now imagine someone took them outside the cave, and they saw all of creation, they saw the sun. Imagine their wonder now.
Jesus is the Sun. He is the one that brings light. With the rising of this sun we begin to understand what reality is. Why? He is the image of the invisible God, the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of God, the one holding the universe together by his very word.
When men and women encounter him, everything changes.
This happened to Saul. His desire for fame and glory faded away. He encountered the king and the power of the king. He was instrumental in bringing down the Roman empire.
When you’re in Christ, it’s changing all of your reality. Your past, present and future is redeemed. You are in him. Everything he has done you have done. He lived a perfect life, and you have lived a perfect life.
This message changes the heart, mind, and soul of a person. When this happens, old stories fall away. New stories develop.
So how does this define what we think about abortion, racism, sexuality.
A rationalist says you are just the rising of animalistic urges.
A legalist says there’s a written code: Don’t engage in sexuality until your married, so just stop it.
But the Gospel says there’s a great king who created you in his image and likeness, and he created you for a promise, for covenant. HE created you male and female to bring together in a beautiful covenant. It’s a signpost of the glory of God. And it’s worship of the Most High God.
If you’re a pluralist, the idea is that you’re equal to other people, and so you ought not treat them badly.
If you’re a legalist, you say you shouldn’t treat other people badly, so stop it.
But the Gospel says that there will be a day when people of every tounge, tribe, and nation will stand before the King and you will look around and realize that they are all brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the Most High God. And I would never mistreat my brother and sister. And suddenly it’s bigger than just don’t do that. I begin to organize a church that works to solve these problems. We want to worship the King by loving his sons and daughters.
If you’re a naturalists, who cares? It’s just a hunk of tissue.
If you’re a legalist. It’s the same old drum. Just don’t.
I’d like to submit to you that as the people of God we’ve taken the easy way for far too long. We’ve tried to just change policy. Should we do that? Yes. But that’s not the end of the process. That’s the beginning.
We’re not the first ones to deal with this. In Roman culture, infanticide was acceptable. The Christians said they would not do that because those babies were created in the image of God and were beautiful. But they didn’t stop there, they began to search for the places where people would abandon their children and families would take them in. And the church would support it. And people hated them for it, but they hadn’t seen anything like it.
If we’re going to be hated, let us be hated for our brotherly love above all things. If we’re going to be hated, let us be hated because we’re too sacrificial. If we’re going to be hated, let it be because we refuse to allow any child anywhere to be an orphan. That will give us an audience with the world we haven’t had in 1700 years.