In Search of Just One Good Example
My wife and I have recently been making our way through a period drama on TV. We have enjoyed much of it, especially the first couple of seasons. I noticed in the third season the program started introducing Christians into the story, Methodists in particular. One ought to expect to see Christians in 18th century England. The program rightly shows that the England of the Wesleys and Whitefield was a mess when their Methodist movement got going. In fact, some historians have pointed out that England was moving in the same direction as the bloody revolution in France when these men, and those who followed them, began to faithfully proclaim the Gospel.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, this series has not had a great deal of positive things to say about the Christian faith. I have no gripes against showing the dark side (fallen, sinful side) of Christians. Christians have never officially taught they were morally perfect people, even if some over two millennia have hypocritically pretended otherwise. However, Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with well over two billion people who claim a commitment to Jesus Christ. Therefore, it does not seem unreasonable to think that with so many people claiming to follow Christ, there would be at least one or two positive stories worth telling, or at least including in an episode or two. Scholars have written extensively on the positive difference Christianity has made in this world, whether it relates to education, freedom, equality, mercy, etc. My goal here is not to list them all, though if you are interested, I encourage you to take look at the recommended reading list at the bottom and dive in. (Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like a suggestion for your first read.)
Consider the Consequences
Instead, my question is this: Do cynical unbelievers really want a world without Christians? I qualify “unbelievers” because I realize most of them do not want such a world. And yet, the more cynical among them may say, "absolutely." To them I would say, just consider the consequences of such a thought-experiment. If Christians disappeared, there would still be organizations, and even governments, that would continue to provide care to those in need, to stand for the rights of the oppressed, etc. But for how long? For even those right tendencies find their roots in the Christian worldview. Many of the common, everyday virtues people appreciate, and even teach, come from the Christian faith. Our country might continue to practice many of those good and right things if Christians all disappeared. But again, I ask: for how long?
Our culture, despite its move toward secularism, still enjoys the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview, however much it protests to the contrary. Unbelievers can say it doesn't because they don't presently have to test their thesis. Yet everyday there are signs that point toward a dwindling of that borrowed capital. Every passing day seems to produce evidence that a consensus of Christian belief and virtue is not appreciated, much less believed and practiced in our culture. A foreboding sign of the times to be sure.
In no way, shape, or form am I suggesting Christians have no blemishes on their side of the ledger. We do. Way too many. But that fact is why we need a Savior. The only answer to our private and public sins and shortcomings is Christ - his perfect righteousness, substitutionary atonement, indwelling and sanctifying Spirit, and continuing Lordship in our lives. Only Christ and his grace can redeem us and then set us on the right path. He's the only solution for everyone else too.
To those cynics out there I would say this: Don’t be too hasty in wanting to get rid of Christians and any vestiges of their worldview and its influence. To do so may seem like a victory, but it will be a fleeting one. And then may God help those left in a comprehensively post-Christian culture, because there will be no Christians left to do so.
· With two or three other people, think of and talk about all the ways Christianity has influenced our culture and your daily life.
· What are those areas that are so much a part of our culture that they’re no longer attributed to the influence of Christians and their worldview?
· What are some ways you can be the salt and light influence of Christ in your home, workplace, neighborhood, community, city, and beyond? Write your ideas down so you can reflect upon and pray over them. Get as practical and realistic as possible and begin to pray for the Lord to lead you toward faithfully exercising that influence in the various spheres of your life.
· Select a book in the bibliography below and read and discuss it with two or three brothers in Christ.
· The Micah Mandate by George Grant
· What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? by James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe
· How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin Schmidt
· The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi
· How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey
· Being the Body by Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn
· Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
· Why You Think the Way You Do by Glenn Sunshine
· Kingdom Agenda by Tony Evans
· The Kingdom Turn by T.M. Moore
· The Kingdom Economy by T.M. Moore
· The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark
· How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
· Turning Point: A Christian Worldview Declaration by Herbert Schlossberg and Marvin Olasky
· Renaissance by Os Guinness
· The Lordship of Christ by Vern Poythress
· Culture Making by Andy Crouch
· Joy for the World by Greg Forster
· Onward by Russell Moore
1 Chronicles 12:32 - Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.
The Mission Field in Our Backyard
If you were called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land, you would no doubt seek to learn as much as possible about that land and its inhabitants. You would want to learn how to speak the language of the people, as well as discover their customs and beliefs, in order to get to know them and communicate effectively with them. How else would you be able to meet their eternal and temporal needs?
In our world today, what is true about ministering in a foreign land is equally as true in our own. As many missiologists and evangelists have pointed out, if we desire to effectively reach our diverse culture for Christ, we must know the language, customs, and beliefs of the people we’re around every day. Jesus reminds us that these people are our neighbors whom we’re called to love.
Yet, we know that behind people’s perceived temporal needs there lurk real and eternal needs that only the Lord Jesus Christ can meet. Irrelevance is not a mark of faithfulness or a virtue to celebrate. Seeking to understand where people are “coming from” spiritually, philosophically, psychologically, and emotionally is not necessarily accommodation and compromise. Building relationships, meeting needs, and giving answers that never include the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel is. It was the Apostle Paul who said that he had become all things to all people that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). We can be certain that he was able to do so without sinning or selling out. Should we not seek to follow in his footsteps?
Called to be Like the Men of Issachar
Issachar was one of Jacob’s sons whose descendants grew to become one of Israel’s twelve tribes. By the time of King David, we are told in 1 Chronicles 12:32, that among the great fighting warriors of Israel were the men of Issachar, who were distinguished by knowing or understanding the times in which they lived and were able to advise Israel accordingly. It was the Lord Jesus who castigated the religious leaders of his day for being able to predict the weather but not being able to interpret the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3). God continues to call godly men to know the times in which they live in order to provide a faithful witness for Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.
Godly men should help their neighbors view the temporal world in which they live with and through the light of God’s eternal perspective. Whether the focus is theology, worldview, ethics, culture, Western civilization, peace, justice, economics, etc., godly men are called to provide those in their spheres of influence with biblically faithful, culturally aware, and practically useful wisdom and guidance. The goal should be to lovingly equip those entrusted to their care as well as to faithfully confront unrighteousness and evil with God’s truth. Such vigilant ambassadors of God’s Kingdom are called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in their own personal mission fields to which they have been called to serve.
The King of Our Mission Field
Jesus Christ is the Lord over every mission field and we want to communicate that touchstone truth to every man, woman and child in a way that is true, significant, and attractive. We cannot save people ourselves but that doesn’t mean we should not bear witness to our Lord as lovingly, clearly, and faithfully as possible.
Like the men of Issachar, we need to know the times in which we live and effectively, humbly, and respectfully give an answer to everyone who asks us about the hope that we have in this world and the world to come.
Heavenly Father, help me to be a faithful steward and ambassador of your Word – the loving truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. As your ambassador, enable me to speak only your message to others, and not my “new and improved” version of it. As your steward, remind me that you have not only entrusted me with your truth, but you have also entrusted others to my care, that I might humbly share your truth with them. Your truth does not belong to me. It is yours and you have chosen to reveal it to the world. Therefore, help me faithfully communicate it to others in such a way that they will not only know how much you love them, but how much I love them as well. Remind me that it was the faithfulness of those who came before me that brought me this same good news. In Christ I pray. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petition – prayers for yourself
· Help me to mature in my faith and to increasingly please God by my thoughts, words, and deeds.
· Particular struggles in various relationships
· My activities for this day
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My Family
· My local church
· My denomination
· Para-church ministries, particularly Christian education and discipleship
· Evangelistic ministries
· Other needs
Click the image above to learn more about my books for men.