do we love our brothers and sisters enough to give them the truth?
- Abraham Hamilton, III
In today’s society “culture” is often discussed in very broad and generic terms. What exactly is culture? I believe the ideas, preferences, beliefs, and pursuits of the people who populate a given geographical space create the “culture” of that space. For example, American culture is determined by what we Americans think, what we want, and what we do. That means you and I create culture. Identifying “culture” is the most effective way to engage it with Christian dynamite.
The best way to impact culture is to connect the hearts and minds of its people with the Christian Gospel’s life giving power. Unfortunately, the Gospel is conveyed too often as stale and dry “religion” whereas it is actually the source of true life. Through the Gospel we can move from simply existing, to thriving according to God’s purpose for us. When we are empowered by the Gospel, our daily routine is transformed. Now we hop out of bed with the fire of God to meet the day’s promise. Add to that the joyful expectation of Heaven! That’s good news! The Gospel produces Christ-followers who understand worship is not a task to be done. It is a lifestyle to be lived.
We have witnessed a seismic cultural shift in the United States that mirrors the cultural changes that have occurred in other nations. The United States Supreme Court has kicked prayer out of public schools. It has also declared abortion and homosexual marriage to be constitutional rights.
Yet Planned Parenthood has been caught on camera selling murdered pre-born children’s body parts while our federal government has strapped us with hope crushing debt all while the size of government continues to swell. Racial-tension has reached levels unseen publicly since the 1960s and 1970s. Christians are hard pressed to find churches that preach God’s Word and stand on it unapologetically. As each day passes our culture gets worse and worse. It seems to have fallen off of a cliff. In short, our nation has rebelled against God.
American culture didn’t change in an existential vacuum. The ideas, beliefs, preferences, and pursuits of its people changed. Americans in large numbers think much differently today than the generations of yesterday. The core of that difference is our “shift” away from God.
Recently, I saw a story from a public school teacher where second grade boys discussed having sex with girls on school grounds during school time. Let that sink in for a moment. Second graders-presumably 7 year olds- were discussing how, when, and where, they had sex with girls during school time! When a nation rejects God it must face the consequences. And those consequences have shown up in every area of American life.
Jeremiah 18:1-11 says,
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.' (Emphasis added).
All nations remain subject to Almighty God’s sovereignty. Here, it was the LORD’s “house of Israel” that suffered a cultural nose-dive as a result of rebelling against Him. But the issue was not whether God had the power to change Israel’s direction. The burning question was whether each individual citizen would return from “his evil way.” God sent Jeremiah to provoke each Israelite to amend his/her evil ways and deeds.
The issue of our day is not whether God can change America or whether He can redeem our culture. Scripture is clear. The burning and most pressing issue is whether He can change us. Are we willing, individually, to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and invite Him into our lives so thoroughly that we recognize the evil inside of us and around us? Are we willing to repent and embrace His salvation? Then, having tasted the glorious freedom we enjoy in Christ, do we love our brothers and sisters enough to give them the truth? Just as rebellion against God carries consequences, receiving His gift of salvation carries with it benefits that have the power to permeate culture. Christ shapes our thinking. He transforms our desires. He governs everything we believe. He superintends our pursuits.
Jesus addressed faith in culture in the parable of the soils in Mark 4:7 when he addressed and explained the “seed that fell among the thorns.” He said in verse “Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.” Then in verses 18-19 Jesus said, “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those that hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (emphasis added).
In this parable, the seed is God’s word (Mark 4:14). The Word is sown among thorns and produces growth initially. However, the seed-to-tree process suffers catastrophic interruption. The hearers of the Word, the seed recipients, allow the culture to lull them into personal decline and replace their focus with the cares of the world. They were ensnared by the deceitful rat race and money chase. Those who previously received God’s Word were now consumed by creature comforts, social status, and water cooler popularity. What was meant to grow into a tree of fruitfulness is choked off as a fledgling plant. Satan’s ploys don’t always come in the form of the Rodeo Drive style Hollywood sins. They sometimes come in more subtle forms, like things that strip your focus from the passion and conviction of God’s Word. They may seem harmless, but carry the wherewithal to make you unfruitful, even though you know God’s Word.
Peter echoed this sentiment in 2 Peter 1:8 when he described the conditions that could make a Christian “barren and unfruitful” or “ineffective and unproductive” in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a harrowing thought to consider that you and I, with our memory verses and regular Church service attendance, could become barren and unproductive in our knowledge of Christ. But the scriptures clearly provide that reality as a potential diagnosis should we allow the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts for other things to snatch our focus away from Christ and the centrality of His Gospel in our lives. I believe our Lord intentionally refused to specify what those “other things” are in Mark 4:19 that make God’s Word unfruitful. He left it wide open to provoke us to protect the integrity and vitality of our relationship with Christ and to vigorously combat anything that tries to de-throne Jesus in our lives.
Technology has made it possible for us to communicate without direct contact with each other. It has given each of us a platform to spread our message far and wide. We walk around with mobile pulpits every day. I believe the Lord allowed this to aid us in fulfilling the Great Commission. So, congratulations! If you are a born again Christian you are culture creator. You can show the world what it looks like when Jesus captures your ideas, preferences, beliefs, and pursuits. God doesn’t call super Christians to do great things. He calls those who are willing, and He equips them for the call He has given. How will you use your platform? Will you create the culture you want to live in? Or, can you be properly lumped in with those who are barren and unproductive in their knowledge of Jesus Christ?