1 John 4:4-6(HCSB) You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.
The Christian faith that once existed in the background of American life and culture has diminished to such an extent that America is now a post-Christian nation. “Christians are ostracized. Gay marriage is celebrated. Abortion is literally destroying an entire generation. The culture around us is a Post-Christian Culture where the Christian ideological belief system is frowned upon. This is happening all around us, yet many Christians remain oblivious. “The church is dying, and no one is noticing because we’re wasting time criticizing, taking selfies when we feed the homeless or trying to make club members rather than evangelizing.”
Hell is hot, forever is a long time, and it’s our turn to stop making excuses and start making a difference. This is no time to trade in our combat boots for vacation flip-flops. The days are darker, which means our means of resolution must be stronger and our convictions must be clearer.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23(HCSB) Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits.
Believers in Jesus Christ are simply in the world—physically present—but not of it, not part of its values John 17:14-19(HCSB)I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.15 I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by the truth;Your word is truth.18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19 I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Jesus is not asking his Father for his disciples to be taken out of the world, but he is praying for them as they are “sent into” the world. He begins with them being “not of the world” and prays for them as they are “sent into” the world.
So maybe it would serve us better — at least in light of John 17 — to revise the popular phrase “in, but not of” in this way: “not of, but sent into.” The beginning place is being “not of the world,” and the movement is toward being “sent into” the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world — not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world.
Jesus’s assumption in John 17 is that those who have embraced him, and identified with him, are indeed not of the world. And now his summons is our sending — we are sent into the world on mission for gospel advance through disciplemaking.
Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others.
As believers, we should be set apart from the world. This is the meaning of being holy and living a holy, righteous life—to be set apart. We are not to engage in the sinful activities the world promotes, nor are we to retain the apathetic, corrupt mind that the world creates. Rather, we are to conform ourselves, and our minds, to that of Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:1-2(HCSB)Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. This is a daily activity and commitment.
We must also understand that being in the world, but not of it, is necessary if we are to be a light to those who are in spiritual darkness. We are to live in such a way that those outside the faith see our good deeds and our manner and know that there is something “different” about us. Christians who make every effort to live, think and act like those who do not know Christ do Him a great disservice. Even the heathen knows that “by their fruits you shall know them,” and as Christians, we should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit within us.
Being “in” the world also means we can enjoy the things of the world, such as the beautiful creation God has given us, but we are not to immerse ourselves in what the world values, nor are we to chase after worldly pleasures. Pleasure is no longer our calling in life, as it once was, but rather the worship of God.
Mark Driscoll explained a simple classification that helps guide what to do with various things in culture:
•Receive – use as an opportunity for the gospel message of Jesus
•Reject – don’t use because it is contrary to biblical faith and Jesus’ will
•Redeem – could be used in a way that honors or dishonors, so use it in a way that is glorious, godly and good
1. We REJECT whatever is explicitly anti-Gospel.
Bottom line. If it is a clear violation of Scripture (not one’s tradition, etc.) we reject it. For example, songs that demean women, encourage sinful behavior, etc. fall into this category. We do not want to encourage or promote what the Bible forbids. When the Bible speaks of “worldliness” it is referring to the value system of the world. The church must not be “of the world” in that it does not promote the sinful values of the world. That being said, it is a false argument to say that because a song (art, movie clip, etc.) is “in the world” automatically means it is sinful. Therefore, we reject what the Bible rejects.
2. We RECEIVE joyfully whatever is explicitly pro-Gospel.
At the same time, we want to joyfully receive whatever promotes what the Bible promotes. If the song (art, skit, media, etc.) is Christ-centered and Gospel-explicit we are free to use it whether it be traditional or contemporary; old or new; organized or unstructured. Because we believe God is a big God and worthy of many worship forms, we should be open to all things explicitly Christ-centered.
3. We REDEEM whatever can be used for the Gospel.
However, not everything is black and white. There are lots of culture (songs, art, literature, movies, etc.) that are neither explicitly worldly or explicitly Christ-centered. So what do we do with those things? We redeem them! As Augustine said, “All truth is God’s truth wherever it is found.”
This tends to be the more “controversial” option. I believe we are free to use these things by redeeming them in the Gospel for worship, teaching, and instruction. Therefore, things we see in culture that centered on family, love, generosity, etc. or art that portrays beauty, dance that is creative, etc. can be used as a means of worship and praise to the Creator of all things. It is a part of God’s common grace in the created order. By no means do we want to water down the Gospel by focusing on what is moral instead of Christ. When we redeem “secular” art, we are not presenting it by itself, void of context. Part of “redeeming” culture is showing how culture points us to the Giver of all things. While “non-Christian” art may not frequent our Sunday services or other activities, we believe we can and should use things in culture for the sake of worship. God is worthy of that.
There are aspects of culture that—as Christians—we can receive: technology, or an opportunity to do good in our city, like fighting human trafficking. Then there are things we have to reject. There’s no such thing as Christian pornography, Christian Idolatry,Christian illegal drug use, Christian fornication, or Christian adultery. And there are other things that we can redeem. They have the potential of being used for doing good, but are instead being used in a way that dishonors God. Sex is one thing that needs to be redeemed—it needs to be recovered by God’s people in a way that honors him.”
Our culture is full of distractions. Social media outlets flood us with information, diluting the important with noise. “We have more information, but that information tends to be trivial. We have become very selfish, very narcissistic, completely self-absorbed, and have a very small view of what’s actually going on in the world,” says Driscoll. “We’re more interested in what celebrities are wearing, what diets they’re on, who they’re dating, and what they’ve done with their hair than we are about human rights issues or political issues or economic issues or justice issues.”
Instead of just absorbing everything that comes our way, we need constantly ask how culture interacts with our faith: “How do we redeem? How do we have cultural engagement and creativity in a way that is faithful to God?”
“We live in a culture where it’s all about being real and being authentic and being honest. And it’s not about hipster; it’s not about cool. What’s honest and relevant is what’s truthful. When Christians ask how they can be cool, they’re asking the wrong question.”
“For us it’s about showing the relevance of the gospel. We don’t try to make gospel relevant. There’s a big difference there.”
Romans 10:14-16(HCSB) But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16 But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
The place to start is in our homes. By all accounts, we live in a post-Christian culture. We can no longer depend on the community at large to help instill Christian values in our children. The moment they walk out of our homes, they confront a radically secularized world. One of the profound problems we currently face as a church is that the culture and worldview of most Christians is also post-Christian. Sound like an oxymoron? Sadly, it is not. Our homes do not look substantially different from the world. The culture of our homes mirrors the culture at large.
What I mean is that our homes need to be the sharp contrast from the pressures and dangers that are outside of the home. We can’t be hypocritical when it comes to the gospel. We have to be the same in and out of church and also in and out of the home. Be real, not fake. Don’t wear a mask.
John 6:43-44(HCSB)43 Jesus answered them, “Stop complaining among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.