|Volume 23 Number 12 December 2021
Culture or Christ?
There is no doubt that culture has always had an influence on the body of Christ. An examination of our Lord’s letters to the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 2-3) speaks of the problems that happen when congregations reflect the world around them, rather than seeking to be lights to the world to make a difference in the world. For example, the church in Laodicea had the attitude they were “rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (NKJV), like the city itself, which had found great wealth by its sale of eye salve and luxurious wool. Jesus, however, pointed out they were ignorant of the spiritual Truth they needed to understand, and were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). They needed a spiritual focus that would enable them to be more like their Lord and less like the sin-filled world in which they existed.
The allure of the world around us has a very strong influence on the Lord’s church. Recently, a popular preacher apologized for saying in the past that certain sexual activities and gender identifications were sinful. Certainly, God loves everyone (John 3:16), and we are to preach the Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). That does not negate, however, the need to preach and teach truth (2 Corinthians 4:2). Our society equates feelings with truth; in other words, however you think or feel is your “truth.” Such a viewpoint has permeated the church to accommodate those in the world. It seems for many, the worst sin one can commit is to offend someone with the truth of Scripture. By tolerating any and every viewpoint others may have, we commit the greatest sin of all, having the truth that can save souls but remaining silent with the Truth that saves. Paul asked the churches Galatia, “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (4:16). Many would answer his question in the affirmative today.
The message of the Gospel is relevant in any age and must stay the same. The norms of society constantly change, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Long ago it was said, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). This is why Jesus could say with authority, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Paul also added, “…let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged’” (Romans 3:4).
People can decide wrong is right and right is wrong; they can call evil good and good evil. However, neither is such new (Isaiah 5:20), nor does it change what is true, what God’s will is for us or how we will be judged in eternity. We don’t stand for Truth to be hateful or because we feel we’re better than others. We stand for Truth because we love God (John 3:16). We do it because we can’t stand the thought of others being lost by believing error and rejecting truth (Romans 9:1-3). We stand for truth because God’s grace and mercy can forgive all sin if one believes, repents and obeys His will (Hebrews 5:9). We do it because we want to be united in eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). In reality, to speak the Truth in love is the greatest act of love we can show others. Others may disagree, become angry and reject the Truth, as well as us, because their hearts are hardened by sin. Yet, we love them enough to put ourselves at risk of being rejected by offering them the Truth that can save them.
Until the Lord returns, Satan will be active and seek to harden hearts against the Truth, because he desires everyone to be lost. Until the Lord returns, we should reveal the truth of the Gospel so hearts and lives can be changed. Thereby, others can leave the path of sin, which leads to condemnation, instead following the path of righteousness that leads to life. We perpetrate the greatest injustice against others by not letting them know the Truth, by leaving them in their sins and by going along to get along. Do we reflect culture or Christ?
Today’s message from Scripture comes from two passages. First, 1 Corinthians 16:14 reads, “Let all that you do be done with love” (NKJV). Second, Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
When we go about the activities of everyday living, these two passages should be the litmus test of how we as Christians respond to the Lord and to each other. The love of Christ dwelling in us is to be the prime motive of how we engage others, in what we say and do. Before we say or do anything, we should ask ourselves if it falls under the prime directive of the love of Christ. If this is true, then selfish ambitions and conceit will have no part in our living since we consider others as more important than ourselves and their interests important in our response to them. If we all responded this way to each other, then selfishness would evaporate, and everyone’s needs would be met.
However, how often do we do this? Do we put our wants and desires first? Do we give little or no concern how our choices affect others? Do we want what we want to take priority over everyone and everything else? There is no question practicing what the foregoing passages teach can be inconvenient to what we may want, but what if Jesus considered responding to our spiritual needs as too inconvenient to fulfill? What if He had decided the glory of Heaven suited His desires more than becoming human and offering Himself on the cross for our sins? What if He became agitated at having to deal with our weaknesses and having people asking for His help? What if He had acted just like we sometimes do toward each other?
All Jesus did was done in love for us. He took the role of a slave and was crucified so our needs could be met. How do we respond to each other? Scripture needs to change us from the inside out. Do we love others enough to serve them? It’s what Christ did and what He expects of us. Have you practiced 1 Corinthians 16:14 and Philippians 2:3-4 today?