Friday, November 24, 2006

Exhortation-Thinking Like a Christian

One of the issues that we try to emphasize in our church is thinking like a Christian. That is much easier said than done. All around us there is an attempt to get us to think like the world. And this attempt is often more successful than we like to admit. We often raise alarms against the attempts. We are disgusted by the world’s systems and its desire to allure us into its clutches. All around us are images, sounds, smells and tastes that draw us in, that frame our way of thinking. It feels worldly but we are so caught up in the center of it, that we are often unable to tell what exactly it is that feels so worldly.

I believe that the reason this is the case is because we have not been trained to think like Christians. From our earliest days, we have been programmed to think according to our culture. If our culture is particularly Christian, then our tendencies lean in that direction. If our culture lurches away from the Christian faith, then Christians lurch with it towards the world. It is a true lurching but since the entire center shifts, Christians find themselves at the right of what use to be the left. This is true of conservative politics, as well. What we now call moderate conservatives, would have been the right wing liberals just fifty years ago. Many modern conservatives are pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-big government. What we now call a conservative, isn’t.

This sort of thing is rapidly sweeping modern evangelicalism in America. Modern evangelicals are beginning to embrace (perhaps already have embraced), the extreme relativism of the liberal movement of the 1920’s. Gresham Machen articulated this clearly in his book Christianity & Liberalism, first published in 1923. He outlines liberalism as a rejection of historic Christianity. This is significant because Machen was attacking the prevailing views of his own denomination. He was a Presbyterian. It appears that his fight was with the creeping scientism of his day. That is, science trumps the infallibility of Scripture, so we better get our doctrines lined up with science. Out with miracles, then, the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus must go.

Today, even science is not king. In my opinion, culture is now king. Our authorities have become teenagers with an attitude. And this adolescence is drinking at the fountain of youth, so the teenager does not grow up when he hits 20. At 30, 40, and 50, he is still cool.

But what is culture? Well, a loose definition is simply what a given group of people in fact believe and practice. So, you could have any number of cultures, vast or broad. A national culture, a local church culture, a family culture and so on. What strikes me as odd in this, is that there seems to be no driving mechanism of our current culture. This is as true in the political realm as it is in the church. The shifting nature of the culture is the determinate factor of the next shift. It is like an ocean liner adrift without engines or a rudder. It simply blows where it will and wherever it blows is somehow, inexplicably, declared the right place to be. Perhaps it is not culture, per se, that drives the ship but, rather, the logical end of strict democratic government. The people have become god.

This is what happens to a culture that sails without a destination, without a map, without a navigational system, without a captain. In our culture, when the mapmakers actually do arrive, they get hooted out as representing a place that either cannot be a real place or one that certainly can never actually be achieved. So, out with the mapmaker and his map. Back to sailing, if you can call it that, at the mercy of the winds. The fates again direct the aimless wandering of the ill-fated crew.

The modern evangelical church is no help. At the risk of getting tossed off the ship, instead of maps, they offer advice. Their advice is appreciated, sort of, but never followed and the ship continues wandering aimlessly.

I started this exhortation thinking about thinking like a Christian. How do we do that? We are all on this ship. It is going where it is going. We cannot get off. What do we do? We need a new culture but we cannot change the one we are in.

So, we must grow a new one from within. We must be subversive in the greatest possible way. We must overthrow the crew. As long as the ship is sailed by the captain’s orders, and it always is, total victory is our only recourse. We offer a simply solution. Look at the map. Steer the ship. Arrive at port. But we have an advantage over our adversaries. We have time. We have homes. We have spouses. We have children. We can teach our children to read maps. We can raise a new captain. We can get to port.

We have begun this task. We are raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We have high expectations of our children, of our marriages, and of honoring God in our worship. We are learning the Word of God and that it applies to every area of life, church, family, work, government, cooking, art, education, and recreation. We reject every form of liberalism, changing the Word of God to suit man. Christ came to make us new, to renew us and to change us into His image. He inaugurated a New Heavens and a New Earth. Behold all things are made new. Therefore, we reject liberalism, conservatism, evangelicalism and every other ism. For all isms are merely new gods in old clothes. But we stand on the authority of the Word of God, inspired, infallible and able to change body and soul into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our culture has too long had a strangle hold on us. By God’s grace, we are prying its death grip from the throats of our children. May He teach us, and them, to rise above the prevailing wisdom of the day, to a bolder and higher calling. But not one that is couched merely in such politically sounding meaningless words as that last sentence. No, our calling is in Christ and Him crucified. His death is the only hope of life for such a hopeless culture. Our meandering must stop as we anchor to Him. Perhaps, by His grace, He will sink the ship we are on, baptizing it to new life and set it sailing again, powered by the Holy Spirit, directed toward the port of last call, Eschaton Bay. They are building a cathedral there.

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