“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Dear Christian – we live in confusing times. Every day it seems we’re bombarded with admonitions and rebukes:
“You can say this but you can’t say that.”
“Live the way we think you should and embrace anything anyone else feels or you’re X-cist and X-phobic.”
“You don’t really believe that stuff about a literal Hell do you?”
“What?? You actually buy that immaculate conception story? Are you crazy”
“Don’t tell me you actually think the Bible is literally the inspired Word of God. Surely you must realize it’s just a book written by men with all their biases and limitations.”
Or one of my favorites from a recent popular daytime talk show featuring five B- and C-list celebrity women commenting on the weighty matters of the day: “Talking to God and hearing Him talk back is what I call mental illness.”
Things Have Changed
Life for Christians today seems different than when many of us first became Believers. Back before social media created John the Baptists out of anyone with a laptop or a smartphone or offered easy pulpits for anyone with a grievance of hate to spew.
Before it seemed like our Bibles had been tossed into cultural blenders, only to be rearranged and reinterpreted to mean anything anyone wishes, at any time and for any reason.
Before secular debates forced changes in our understanding of sacred Scripture to conform Christian faith to the sensibilities of “enlightened” Society.
Before faith was publicly ridiculed as casually as we comment on the weather.
Before our sensitivities to “feelings” overshadows our concerns for the very lives of those around us.
As an unashamed follower of Christ, I’m saddened by what is happening to the message of love and authentic obedience to God’s Word espoused by the Jesus of scripture.
I’m disappointed with celebrities and pastors who place their number of followers, book sales, and secular adoration over Truth and Salvation. With religious pundits politicize faith.
I’m angered over preachers of the Word who build treasures for themselves at the expense of the very congregants they profess to serve.
I’m disheartened by churches that remove crosses and sermons about sacrifice in favor of blithe self-help sermon series and bland walls filled with nondescript portrayals of perfect lives because Biblical truth is somehow “too harsh and depressing.”
Listening to The Truth
When God’s Word became flesh, and God’s voice spoke to both that generation and all of creation about His son, saying a “Listen to him,” His instruction wasn’t a suggestion, or an illustration of just one out of many ways to reach salvation. Jesus embodied the definition of received grace and substitutionary atonement.
Jesus’ life was the fulfillment of God’s promise first made in Genesis 3:14-15, where in response to the serpent’s lies and the subsequent downfall of man God proclaimed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
We see this struggle playing out daily before our very eyes.
Rebellion in Our DNA
When we read this account of Genesis, and then the next few chapters, we get a more complete picture of the fullness in God’s promise of a Savior, and how deeply desperate we are in need of salvation. Rebellion is in our DNA, embedded at the core of our collective psyche, masquerading as “enlightenment” and “independence.” Our search for self-salvation allows sin to constantly lurk outside the doors of our hearts, desiring to consume us.
Every day, each of us makes moral/spiritual decisions. The pressure to make those decisions based on ever-changing social “norms” is overwhelming. We’re told to “feel” our way through life using contemporary measurements, not make decisions based on outdated and archaic writings of men who lived 2,000 or 3,000 years ago.
And so it’s been from the beginning, even with Jesus’ earliest followers after his resurrection and ascension. We read in Paul’s epistles an admonition to the congregations in Galatia to turn from prideful legalism as they fell away from the gospel of grace. He rebuked the church in Corinth not turn a blind eye to the division and rampant immorality that had crept into its midst. To the Colossians he warned against the false teachings of those who were questioning the very identity and deity of Jesus.
Late, when John penned the Book of Revelation as a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus’ own words reinforced the message of vigilance against a diluted faith. They – like many today – had abandoned God’s Word as the only standard for guiding belief and behaviors.
Yet have we as a people really changed that much over the centuries? Our technology may be different, our ability to see the world in larger terms has expanded, but have our hearts grown?
Just like Christians today, early Believers were surrounded by those advocating lifestyles and philosophies in direct conflict with scriptural teaching, often in the name of “tolerance” and “love.” And just like many of us today, early Christians faced harsh criticism, ridicule, and ostracizing for holding to the authentic teachings passed from God through Jesus.
Even popular pseudo-pastors with catchy-sounding blog sites tell us our faith is wrong, distorted, irrelevant in a world where nothing is out of bounds if it’s done under the catch-all of “love,” nothing is counter to God’s direction (unless, of course, it disagrees with their vision of the world).
A Hard Truth
Here’s the hard truth for all who believe in the timelessness of God’s sovereign Word. If we are to heed Paul’s warning not to conform to this world, to immunize ourselves from the moral and spiritual confusion surrounding us, we must first resist the pressure to conform to the Godless standards of our culture.
In his epistle to the Romans, acknowledged by many as the clearest and most systematic presentation of Christian doctrine in all Scripture, Paul warns us that the pagan world system will continually pressure us to fit in and endorse its belief system, to be “normal” and “mainstream.” The true #Resist movement in society is pushing back against this system of societal enslavement.
The enticements never feel like shackles, of course. Just as the Moabites corrupted the Israelites in Numbers 31-33, or the Nicolaitans attempting to corrupt the Ephesians in Revelation 2, these seductions are most often presented as assurances of pleasure, self-gratification, and personal gain. False teachings are filled with prisons masquerading as promises.
Avoiding False Teachings
How do we avoid the whispers of an enemy waiting at our door? At some point, we must simply choose not to listen, refuse to embrace them as enlightened truths of a more openly aware society, and shut them out.
False doctrines, watering-down our beliefs to accommodate a more “tolerant” expression of faith, are like poisonous vipers. We may escape unharmed after one or two encounters. Over time, their bite becomes toxic to our spiritual health.
The lure of cultural conformity works its way into every aspect of our lives – how we live, how we relate, how we worship, how some in society respond to social pressures. When we remove the guardrails of obedience to God’s Word from our lives, all we have left is moral equivalency (that is, morality is what I say it is). And with every example of behavior straying from ever-evolving social norms, the outcry for another man-made remedy in the form of a law or rule emerges.
We’ve forgotten the direct simplicity of God’s plan, replacing it with a society demanding only one rule: agree with us or be exiled. How much more infinitely pure is the direct Word of our Creator?
Scripture tells us “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood,” (Genesis 8:21). How much truer is that today, as the world crowds in to replace God with cultural conformity?
Over the next few days, pause a moment and reflect on where you look for guidance. Is it from the peer pressure screaming at you to fit in or is it from the timeless, inerrant Word of God? The answer may surprise you.