Christian, seek to shine as a light for Christ by loving others

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” (Phil 2:14-15)

Christians, we are lights shining hope into a dark world. Hope the world desperately needs, especially during this time of division in our country. What we need to be about right now is the gospel of Jesus, not political arguments or armed battle. We should live as blameless and innocent children of God without blemish.

We can shine as lights in the world by “holding fast to the word of life” (Phil 2:16). It is God’s Word that should provide our marching orders, not a politician or political party. It is God’s Word to which we should look for guidance and how to live in this difficult time in the life of our country. God’s Word tells us that we should love one another and seek unity, not division.

It is our love for one another, even those who are on the other side of the political aisle, that allows us to shine as lights. Loving your enemy is not easy. It is an upside down way to approach the world. But approaching the world in that upside down way is exactly what allows us to push back the darkness.

Christian seek to shine as a light for Christ by loving others.

The World is Passing Away

I don’t mean to be morbid, but we are all going to die one day. It’s inevitable. No one is going to live forever. Sure, some of us may live longer than others, and some of us may live longer than we want. I hear getting older isn’t for wimps! But regardless of what you do, you aren’t going to live forever. That age-defying cream, magic pill, and new and improved workout routine may help you look younger, even help you live longer and improve your quality of life, but the end is eventually going to come. We all are going to pass away. In reality, we are already passing away. Every breath we take brings us closer to the inevitable.

The World is Passing Away

Just like we are passing away, John tells us that the world and its desires are passing away too.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

(1 Jn 2:17)

On one undisclosed day, this world is going to come to end. Jesus will return, judge the world, and restore it to its former glory. We can be sure that will happen because God told us in His Word to us it will. God’s Word can be trusted because God’s promises have consistently and perfectly been fulfilled throughout biblical history. The world and its corrupt and evil system is passing away.

Knowing the trajectory of the world and its declared and promised end should drive us to place our hope and trust in God and not the world.

So if you have been betting on the world, hoping it was going to fulfill your every desire and longing, that if you just held on a little longer everything would be alright, know that it won’t. The world can’t and won’t fulfill you, nor can it provide ultimate salvation because it is passing away.

Question for Reflection

  1. Where have you placed your hope?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon Why shouldn’t we love the world?

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How is the culture trying to absorb Christians?

Not too long after I moved to the community of Sycamore I made an interesting discovery. I was walking around the church property checking things out when I came across two trees with a board wedged between them. Evidently, the board had been there for quite some time because the trees have grown over the edge of the board, so much so that you couldn’t pull that board out of there if you wanted. You would have to cut it out.

Now, I have no idea how long that board has been wedged between those two trees. But what I do know is that those two trees didn’t grow over that board overnight or even in a matter of weeks. Instead, that board was quietly and slowly absorbed by its environment over a long period of time.

What happened to that board is a good illustration of what could happen to us and what we are in danger of every single day. As those who are supposed to live set apart lives, we are in danger of being absorbed by our environment. Specifically, what I mean is that we are in danger of losing our unique Christian identity and beliefs. To be sure, that loss isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a slow and subtle process that takes place over a period of time. A process we must guard against. But how?

How can we avoid being absorbed into our environment?

Daniel provides a good example. He lived during Israel’s exile – a period of time when Israel was carried off from the Promised Land to Babylon because of their disobedience to God (Da 1:1-4). The exile happened in several waves. Daniel and some of his friends found themselves in one of those waves (Da 1:6). It is here that Daniel begins to teach us how we can avoid being absorbed into our environment. What did Daniel do? How did he avoid being absorbed into his environment?

He Understood the Babylonian’s Plan

Beginning in Daniel 1:3 we read,

“Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.” (Da 1:3–5)

The Babylonian’s plan was to immerse the youth from high ranking families in Judah into the culture of Babylon. They would be given new names, clothing, and a new diet. They would also be taught a new language and be schooled in Babylonian literature and customs. All of this would take place over a 3 year period. Essentially, they were attempting to absorb the Israelites into their own culture by giving them a new worldview, and they were starting with their youth.

Daniel, however, wasn’t fooled by all the glitz and glamour, the perfectly prepared meals, and a chance at acquiring a high ranking position in his new home. He knew their plan and what it entailed. He knew he would have to give up his heritage, his connection to Israel, and more importantly his faith. As you read through the rest of the chapter and book, you see that Daniel resisted their attempts to absorb him into their culture. Over the years, he remained faithful to God. As a result, he was able to have an impact on their culture and king. To be sure, Daniel’s actions took courage, and he did experience persecution and suffering, but he was also successful in accomplishing his God given purpose – to glorify God. He was able to do that because he knew the Babylonian’s plan.

How is our culture trying to absorb us?

While Daniel knew the Babylonian’s plan, we may not always know how our culture’s plans to slowly absorb us. While we don’t have time to discuss them all, I do want to point out one major tactic our culture is using to slowly absorb Christians and change our worldview, and that is through the use of entertainment. Look at what one author has to say,

“Those who produce it [speaking of entertainment] want to instill their values, and thus far they have been very successful in doing so. Much of what is produced for viewing on television and in the movies and much of what is produced lyrically in popular forms of music is clearly depraved. Every form of God-hating thought and behavior, from blasphemy to sexual perversion, is glorified, and we as Christians watch or listen to it hour after hour after hour. And then we wonder why there is so little discernible difference between the thinking and behavior of Christians and non-Christians.” [1]

So the world uses entertainment. The world uses entertainment because it is a powerful worldview shaping tool that exists in many different forms – social media, news, talk shows, print media, novels, television, YouTube, video games, the arts, etc. Entertainment comes in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Americans are voracious consumers of these entertainment mediums.

Entertainment’s Ability to Shape Our Worldview

Entertainment has a powerful ability to shape our worldview because when we are being entertained we generally let our guard down. After a hard days work, the last thing we want to do is put in more work analyzing that which we are seeking to be entertained by. I know that’s true of me. After I have worked all day in my study – reading, writing, thinking, and interacting with others, after I have taken care of the kids, played with them, bathed them, and put them to bed for the night, I’m worn out. The last thing I want to do is analyze the worldview significance of the show or YouTube video I’m watching, the novel I’m reading, or the podcast to which I’m listening. In reality, I don’t want to do much of anything. All I want to do is relax on the couch as a passive consumer for a few minutes before I go to bed.

While there is nothing wrong with relaxing while being entertained, we must realize we are still being influenced, and in some sense to a great degree. Stories play on our emotions, shaping and changing us, while at the same time entertaining us. I was reading an article the other day in the opinion section of the newspaper. I can’t remember which newspaper it was, but the article centered on how to win people to your side. One tactic the article kept coming back to was the power of story. They told their readers not to enter into a debate, but to simply tell their story. They chose that tactic because stories affect and move people in a way that debate and argument can’t.

Our secular culture knows the power of story and they use it in the form of entertainment to try and shape our worldview.

Now, I’m not telling you this to ruin your time of relaxation at the end of the night. We can still be entertained, but we do need to think more carefully about that which we are allowing to entertain us. We should do that thinking before we get to the end of the day when our bodies and minds are worn out.

So if we want to avoid being absorbed into our environment, and as Christians we should because we can’t be salt and light if we are the same as our culture, then we need to know our culture’s tactics. While our culture uses other tactics, one powerful tactic used is stories in the form of entertainment to shape and change our worldview.

Question for Reflection

  1. What other than entertainment is our culture using to absorb us?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon How Can We Avoid Being Absorbed into Our Environment?

[1] Keith A. Mathison, Table Talk Magazine, July 2017, 16

The Evil World In Which We Live

“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” (Ps 36:1–5)

In our day, evil is embraced, celebrated, and propagated instead of rejected. The wicked don’t fear the Lord. There is no reverence for God. No recognition that He is the all-sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe. God is believed to be nothing more than a figment of the imagination of a fragile mind bent toward a need for religion in order to cope with the world as we know it.

The Result

The result of these thoughts is self-flattery, pride, trouble, deceit, unwise actions, evil plots, walking the wrong path, and solidarity with evil acts.

The Evidence

You can see these actions today in political and court decisions. Any and all efforts to place limitations on abortions are met with extreme resistance, even from the highest court in the land. Transgender and LGBT issues are trumpeted from every post in an effort to normalize these lifestyles. All who disagree are silenced, plotted against, and are met with trouble. Lies, deceit, and corruption exist at the highest levels of government.

Moving from the courts and government to the local arena, neighbors turn on neighbors. Innocent Police officers are picked off one by one by cowardly snipers. Terrorists detonate bombs in an effort to kill, maim, and destroy peace. The world in which we live is evil, and the evil is embraced because there is no fear of God.

Steadfast Love

Thankfully, amidst all the evil, the Lord’s steadfast love continues just as it did in David’s day. Thankfully, God does not reject the faithful, those who seek refuge in Him. Thankfully, the Lord embraces the righteous and provides for them a fountain of life, a light shining in the darkness, which illuminates the path of righteousness. Thankfully, the Lord will deal with the unrighteous and set this world right.

Trust in the Lord all who are faithful! Trust in the Lord all the earth!

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you trust in the Lord?

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Why Aren’t Christians Growing?

Why aren’t Christians growing? More specifically, why do Christians become stagnant in Christ-like growth?

What Occurs in Salvation?

If we think about some of what occurs in salvation, this question becomes even more urgent. When we come to Christ, we are:

  • Delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ, releasing us from bondage to sin and Satan (Col. 1:13; Rom. 6:5-7).
  • Redeemed from God’s wrath and forgiven our sin, restoring our relationship with God (Col. 1:14).
  • Given the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 8:9-11).
  • Made a new Creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • Given a new desire for the things of God (Rom. 7:22).

If these things, and more, occur in salvation, how can we be stagnant in Christ-like growth?

How is it Possible to be Stagnant in Christ-like Growth?

Paul addresses this issue with the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3, when he says starting in verse 1,

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh (1 Cor. 3:1-3a).

The reason they had not grown. The reason Paul wasn’t able to feed them solid food, even after some time, was due to their source of wisdom.

Prior to penning the opening verses of chapter 3, Paul spends the better part of two chapters expounding the difference between the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. Paul ends chapter 2, by telling us the natural person is not able to understand the wisdom of God; therefore, they believe it is foolish. On the other hand, Paul tells us, the wisdom of God is understandable to the Christian, and it is prized instead of rejected.

Why are Christians able to understand God’s wisdom, when the world can’t? Christians are able to understand and prize the wisdom of God because they have the mind of Christ. They possess His mindset, which leads them to see God not as a foolish old man in the sky, but as a wise Father who is to be worshipped, sought, led and governed by.

The Ability Isn’t Used

But while the Corinthians have the ability to understand the wisdom of God, they are not seeking it, nor are they living by it. That is the reason they aren’t growing. They aren’t looking to God for wisdom, even though they are able; they are, instead, looking at the world, allowing its wisdom to direct and guide them.

We Do the Same

The Corinthians aren’t the only ones guilty of leaving their God-given ability on the table. We do the same. I believe that is because we often forget the pervasive nature of the world’s wisdom. We forget that the world’s wisdom is there confronting and influencing us every time we turn on the radio, television, and computer. It is there when we open the newspaper and magazine. It is there wherever we go. Since the world’s wisdom is all around us, influencing us in ways we may not readily be aware, we naively believe that that’s just how things are supposed to be done.

We Must Fight With a Christian Worldview

We, however, must fight the tendency to go along with the status quo of society, thinking that is the way we must do things. We must instead turn to God’s Word, to His wisdom, as often as we can, in order to develop a distinctly Christian worldview. One that allows us to judge the world’s advice, thoughts, and judgments with Scripture. One that causes us to look to God’s Word for advice, instead of the latest New York Times best seller. One that causes us to seek Christian counsel, instead of asking our non-Christian co-worker what therapist, pill, or self-help guru pulled them through their latest crisis. If we do that – if we turn to God’s Word and use our God-given ability to discern and understand His wisdom, we would see more Christ-like growth in our lives.

So why do Christians remain stagnant in their growth in Christ-likeness, in their ability to understand the deep things of God’s Word? Because we consistently seek and live by the world’s wisdom, rather than God’s wisdom.

Question for Reflection

  1. Whose wisdom do you often turn to in times of need?

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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?

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