On the World’s False Promises

De Maupassant’s narrative, A Parisian Affair, begins with a pretty woman living in the country who dreams of Paris whilst sleeping next to her snoring husband.

She had never “known a thing beyond the hideously banal monotony of regularly performed duties, which by all accounts was what happily married life consisted of.” For her, Paris is a dream world of escape – the city of lights, “representing the height of all magnificent luxury as well as licentiousness.”

The Promise

The woman’s lusty view of Paris has been cultivated by a steady diet of newspaper gossip, creating in her mind the model of a very different kind of man to her white-collar, small-town, conservative husband. Instead she dreamed of

“Men who made the headlines and shone like brilliant comets in the darkness of her sombre sky. She pictured the madly exciting lives they must lead, moving from one den of vice to the next, indulging in never-ending and extraordinarily voluptuous orgies, and practicing such complex and sophisticated sex as to defy the imagination. It seemed to her that behind the facades of the houses lining the canyon-like boulevards of the city, some amazing erotic secret must lie.”

The Fear of Missing Out

The woman, no longer able to resist the lure of the city, gripped by a nineteenth-century version of “the fear of missing out,” concocts an excuse to travel to Paris.

Giving Into the Allure of the Promise

Once arrived, she searches the streets looking for tantalizing scandal and spectacle. She fruitlessly searches the cafes, “Nowhere could she discover the dens of iniquity about which she had dreamed.”

Her dreams decomposing, she by chance happens upon an aging celebrity writer in one of the new department stores. Throwing aside her usual reserve, she aggressively flirts with him. The writer takes her on a tour of the sights and sounds of Paris.

At the theatre, thrillingly, “she was seen by the entire audience, sitting by his side in the first row of the balcony.” As the entertainment ends, the writer bids her goodnight. She, however, is determined to cross for the first time into the landscape of adultery and offers to accompany him home.

The Let Down

After an awkward and unsatisfying sexual encounter, the woman lies awake in the writer’s bed, wondering what she has done. She spends the night staring at the unattractive features of the man who, like her husband, snores and snorts through the night. She continues to stare, repulsed as the man’s saliva dribbles down his mouth as he sleeps. She flees home feeling as though

“Something inside her, too, had now been swept away, through the mud, down to the gutter and finally into the sewer had gone all the refuse of her over-excited imagination. Returning home, the image of Paris swept inexorable clean by the cold light of day filled her exhausted mind, and as she reached her room, sobs broke from her now quite frozen heart.”

Question for Reflection

  1. When did you discover this world cannot satisfy us?

Resources

Quoted from Mark Sayers, Facing Leviathan, 55-56

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The Need for A Christian Worldview

Earth Space

In its most basic sense, a worldview is how we view the world. You can think of it like a lens that we look through out into the world. This lens is developed by teaching, life experience, and cultural influences.

Importance Of

Worldview is important because it influences how we think about and act on things in the world.

The Need for A Christian Worldview

Everyone has a worldview whether they know it or not. As Christians, we need to make sure our worldview is distinctly Christian. The way we develop a distinctly Christian worldview is by saturating ourselves in God’s Word.

Keep At It

I am sure some of my readers are already developing a Christian worldview. Even if that is the case, let me encourage you to keep at it. We face cultural influences everyday that chip away at our Christian worldview, which means we need to keep saturating ourselves in God’s Word and other resources that are distinctly Christian.

Question for Reflection

  1. Other than reading God’s Word, how are you developing a Christian Worldview?

Resource

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6 Marks of A Missional Church

Missional Church

To be “Missional” is all the rage these days. I am not knocking it. I believe it is a good thing. I would even identify as “Missional” I believe we need to live as missionaries in our own communities, recognizing we live in a Post-Christendom society.

What, however, does a “Missional” church do? Timothy Keller sketches an idea for us in Center Church.

6 Marks of a Missional Church

(1) A Missional Church must confront societies idols

Missional churches recognize those in our society are searching for happiness and self-actualization. Everything is about fulfilling our talents and our dreams. Others do not matter.

A Missional Church must be able to confront this idol. As well as they must be able to diagnose and confront other societal idols, if they want to free those in the community from bondage and make an impact for Christ.

(2) A Missional Church must contextualize skillfully and communicate in the vernacular

Missional churches recognize the need to understand their context so they spend time learning the cultural narrative. They know the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of their culture. As well as they understand the nuanced meanings certain concepts have in their culture.

Not only that, but they recognize concepts such as God, sin, and redemption may not mean what they think they mean to those they are trying to reach.

As a result, they spend time examining their cultures understanding of these concepts and gaining a deeper understanding of the gospel, so they might accurately present it to those they are trying to reach.

Since those in Post-Christendom usually have different ideas of God, sin, and redemption than those in Christendom, our most popular gospel presentations need to be adapted to the context and vernacular of the people. That is not to say, the gospel needs to be changed to match the cultural ideas. No matter the culture, the gospel must remain the gospel.

(3) A Missional Church must equip people in mission in every area of their lives.

Missional churches recognize the laity needs to be equipped to:

1. Be a verbal witness to those they know.

2. Love their neighbors and do justice within their neighborhoods and city.

3. Integrate their faith with their work in order to engage culture through their vocations.

As a result, a Missional Church finds ways to support its people outside its walls, whether that is at work, home, abroad, or in leisure activities.

(4) A Missional Church must be a servant community and counterculture for the common good.

Missional Churches present a strong alternative society in which sex and family, wealth and possessions, racial identity and power, are all used and practiced in godly and distinct ways.

Missional Churches also pour out their resources sacrificially for the common good of the city.

While they exist as a distinct counterculture, they situate themselves within society, so their neighbors can observe a separate but servant community.

(5) A Missional Church must itself be contextualized and should expect nonbelievers, inquirers, and seekers to be involved in most aspects of the church’s life and ministry.

Missional Churches know how to welcome doubters and graciously include them as much as possible in community so they can see the gospel fleshed out in life and process the gospel message through numerous personal interactions.

In order to make that happen, believers in the church must be contextual – that is, culturally like yet spiritually unlike the people in the surrounding neighborhood and culture.

A missional church, then, doesn’t depend on an evangelism program or department for outreach. Almost all parts of the church’s life are ready to respond to the presence of people who do not yet believe.

(6) A Missional Church must practice unity.

Missional Churches define themselves more by contrasting themselves with the world instead of other denominations. They seek unity across denominational lines when appropriate, showing the surrounding community Christ unifies instead of divides.

Question for Reflection

  1. What other marks of a Missional Church would you include?

Resources

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Post adapted from Timothy Keller’s, Center Church, 271-74.

No One is Above Culture’s Influence

Culture's Influence

No one is above the influence of their culture. Even Samuel, the great prophet of God was not above the influence of his surroundings.

Samuel Not Above the Culture

1 Samuel 16 tells of Samuel’s journey to anoint the next king over Israel. After traveling to Bethlehem, escaping the suspicion of Saul, and convincing the elders he came in peace, Samuel calls the elders and Jesse’s family together for a sacrifice.

After they gathered, Samuel noticed Jesse’s son Eliab. He was tall and his appearance was pleasing. He stood out from the rest. Samuel thought he was God’s next king. He was not, however, the one the Lord would anoint as king. Sure, he looked the part, but his heart was not right. He was not a man after God’s own heart; that would be his brother David.

Samuel’s thoughts and the Lord’s declaration tells us something important. No man is above their culture’s influence. When Saul was installed as king, Israel praised and exalted him because he looked the part. He looked like all the surrounding kings. Samuel’s thought shows culture rubbed off on him; it influenced him.

Understand Culture’s Influence

If we are honest with ourselves, we are all influenced by our culture and traditions in one way or another. Knowing that anyone can be influenced by their culture, we must ask ourselves:

  1. How does our culture influence us?
  2. How does our traditions sway our thinking and decisions?
  3. How does God’s Word tell us we should act?

It is important we ask ourselves all these questions when approaching a decisions, especially the last question because God’s Word should be our guide in everything we do.

Question for Reflection

  1. How have you noticed your culture influencing you?
  2. How do you deal with its influence?

Resource

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Sermons, Cultural Studies, and the Heart

Heart and the City

Studying culture is necessary when preparing a sermon. Pastors, including myself, read and devour everything in culture to ready themselves for their sermon. While it is profitable for pastors to know what is going on around them, I think we have to be careful what we take in. Consuming everything is not profitable, and it may even be a subtle way for us to make way for our sin.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount tackles these subtle sins of the heart. Here is what he has to say:

You have never been guilty of adultery? All right. Would you then answer me this simple question. Why do you read all the details of divorce cases in the newspaper? Why do you do it? Why is it essential that you should read right through these reports? What is your interest? It is not a legal interest, is it? or a social one? What is it? There is only one answer: you are enjoying it. You would not dream of doing these things yourself, but you are doing them by proxy.

You are sinning in your heart and mind and in your imagination, and you are therefore guilty of adultery. That is what Christ says. How subtle this awful, terrible thing is! How often do men sin by reading novels and biographies. You read the reviews of a book and find that it contains something about a man’s misconduct or behavior, and you buy it. We pretend we have a general philosophical interest in life, and that we are sociologists reading out of pure interest. No, no; it is because we love the thing; we like it. It is sin in the heart; sin in the mind!

Could we actually be making way for sin in our sermon preparation? Could we be disguising our cultural studies as a way to make room for our heart to fulfill it’s lusts and desires? I don’t believe that is always the reason we study our culture, but these paragraphs gave me reason to pause and consider the reasons behind the cultural studies I do. It gave me reason to check my heart and see what sin I may be feeding. I hope it gives you reason to do the same.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why do you study culture?
  2. Have you ever stopped and considered that some of your studies might be done to make way for sin?

Resource

Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 239.

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