The world is changing.
Faster than ever.
What once took 50 years to change in a culture…now takes FIVE.
People used to have to write books, put ideas in the newspaper, and hope people would one day read them and tell their friends about them.
Now, we are completely saturated with ideas.
From 478 TV channels (each w/ their own spin), to NETFLIX…to every social media platform, on your computer or your phone.
The culture now shifts…faster than ever.
And as a Christian in America, you can feel this change.
The gap between Biblical beliefs and the predominant beliefs of the cultural is widening.
And as it widens, like a piece of fabric being stretched, you can feel the tension.
The average American doesn’t believe or live like a Bible-believing Christian anymore.
This is not to say that there was a ever a time that America was 100% Christian, or anything like that.
But, any longitudinal study will tell you that the number of people holding to Judeo-Christian values has drastically decreased over the last generation or two in particular.
So what is the follower of Jesus to do about it?
Let me give you three failed strategies…and then we’ll look at the Bible’s strategy.
For one, we could run and hide.
Completely remove ourselves from the world so as not to be polluted by it.
Christians have tried this many times in history.
The problem is you can’t do that…and also obey Jesus.
Who tells you to go and tell the world about Him.
Hard to do when you’re hiding.
It’s a failed strategy.
Secondly, we could fight a culture war.
This was attempted in the 1980’s…and into the 90’s.
Many Christian leaders fought to win back the culture through legislation, politics, and by changing people through morality.
And they lost. Miserably.
Because you can’t legislate morality.
You can’t take rules…and beat the other side into submission.
The Pharisees already tried this people.
Rules don’t change hearts.
And there has been a THIRD failed strategy that Christians have attempted when they feel the culture drifting away from them:
And in this strategy, Christians have reasoned that they must ADAPT
And they ADAPT what their Christian beliefs and morals in order to become more palatable (more acceptable) to the culture.
This strategy has been a very popular strategy amongst groups of Christians over the last 30-50 years
And despite its continual failure as a strategy, it continues to be pitched
So we’re going to compare this particular strategy with the Bible a lot today as we look at where the “power source” is, and we how we can be most effective in interacting with and winning a culture for Christ.
And for clarification, when I talk about “ADAPTING to the culture today,” I’m NOT talking about missionaries or churches using the same style of music, or terms, or language as the culture…Christians have always done that!
The Bible tells us to do that!
What we’re talking about when we say adapting to the culture today is adjusting your morals and beliefs to look like those of the culture.
PHILIPPIANS: OUR CALL TO STAND FIRM
I love the Bible…
It’s 2,000 years old and exceptionally relevant.
When Christianity began spreading to Europe in the 1st century…
Europe was almost completely pagan at the time.
Europeans worshipped idols, and the gods and goddesses of Roman and Greek mythology.
If you think we look weird today as Christians in America, I guarantee you the Christians of the 1st century looked weirder to the average 1st century European in their culture.
And so it’s in that context that the writers of the New Testament are encouraging their young churches…
And their writings are INCREDIBLY applicable to us today:
Paul is writing to the Christians in Philippi…which is in Greece…
And many of the Christians there are struggling with deciding if they want to look, believe, and act like the culture…or like Christ.
Because they’re getting opposition for looking like Christ (sound familiar?)
Here’s the word of God for us today:
(Philippians 3:17-4:1) – NIV
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
In both the letter of Ephesians and in James, in the Bible, we’re told that the culture is like the waves…going back and forth.
It’s always changing.
Any student of history will tell you that.
But the task of the Christ follower, is not to be like the waves coming in to shore & out again), but our task, Paul says in our passage, is to stand firm.
As the waves are crashing into you…pulling you this way and that…
Calling you foolish for believing in the Bible
Making you feel intolerant…or calling you a bigot.
Pulling you to give into your lust or greed instead of living in self-denial…
As you feel the waves pulling you off of Christ…
Paul urges us: Stand firm.
Stand firm…glued to the foundation of Jesus Christ and his teachings.
Paul says in verse 17, “Hey, eyes on me…and our leaders…on Christians you respect…(your elders…your teachers)”
Not the culture.
Because God is unchanging.
His truth is unchanging.
But the waves…never stop moving and changing directions.
And that’s history.
The culture right now wants you to believe that we are on one long climb upward…always progressing towards a greater truth…
And that every generation is more enlightened than the one that came before it
But that is, as C.S. Lewis brilliantly called, “Chronological Snobbery”
The idea that being further down the timeline of history automatically makes you smarter…or gives you a greater sense of morality than those who came before you…is ludicrous
The 20th century is one long dizzying mess of the culture changing its morals back and forth.
And yet still, the culture fascinatingly calls out to you… “Don’t miss it! Adapt with us! Or you’ll be on the wrong side of history!”
But don’t believe them, they’ll be contradicting themselves in just 20 years!
But what always lasts?
Jesus and His Church.
As the witty and brilliant G.K. Chesterton once remarked about world history:
“At least five times the Faith has ‘to all appearances gone to the dogs.’ In each of those five cases, it was the dog that died.” – G.K. Chesterton
WHY STAND FIRM: CULTURE’S DESTINY IS THEIR DESTRUCTION
And so Christians…are called to stand firm on the teachings of Jesus…despite whichever way the waves might currently be hitting them from.
And let me give you 3 reasons…why we should stand firm:
Why We Should Stand Firm:
1: The World’s Destiny is Their Destruction
Look again to verses 18 & 19 of our Philippians passage
(Philippians 3:18-19) – NIV
18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
These are those that aren’t following Christ.
Paul, with tears, says their “mind is set on earthly things”
Their god is their stomach…
They’re adjusting their morals around whatever makes their flesh happy
There’s no fixed sense of right and wrong…
But how does verse 19 start?
Their destiny…is their destruction.
This is the WIDE road that Jesus speaks about
(Matthew 7:13) – NIV
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
It may seem fine on earth to fill yourself with pleasures and do whatever you want to do…
To live as if you are on the throne…
But what will you do when you die…and find out Jesus is on the throne…and you’ve rejected Him?
Stand firm…trust in Christ…or trust in Him for the first time.
WHY STAND FIRM: YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF HEAVEN
Which brings us to the next reason to stand firm…to not feel like you need to adapt your Christian beliefs and lifestyle to the culture.
Why We Should Stand Firm:
1: The World’s Destiny is Their Destruction
2: You are a Citizen of Heaven
Look at Paul’s words again in Philippians:
(Philippians 3:20-21) – NIV
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Some of the Philippians would have been Roman Citizens and some of them wouldn’t have been.
But to be a Roman Citizen was highly prized.
You were then esteemed and connected with the best of the best in culture…in relationships and privilege
And Paul is saying, “Friend, you have a higher citizenship…your real passport reads “Citizen of Heaven,” not just of Greece, or Rome, or America.
And so therefore, you can stand firm when you encounter opposition.
And you will encounter opposition…because if Christians are living as the Bible teaches…we will probably never look like the culture around us.
Jesus told us to expect this!
(John 17:14-15) – NIV
14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
When it feels like the waves are about to knock you over…don’t give in…don’t change…don’t forsake Christ and His teachings.
If you are a believer in Jesus:
You’re a citizen of heaven!
You’re a child of the King
He’s written your name in the Book of Life in heaven.
He’s promised that he’s going to transform your lowly body, and resurrect it to live for eternity.
He’s promised to love you and be with you forever.
Don’t throw that away…for a cultural fad that will be looked at as archaic and obsolete in 50 years.
WHY STAND FIRM: IT’S ONLY BY LOOKING LIKE CHRIST, THAT WE CHANGE THE WORLD
And what happens when Christians don’t stand firm?
History has shown that Christians don’t typically forsake Biblical teaching and ethics in one fell swoop.
It always starts small
Typically, it starts when Christians feel the pressure from the culture and are labeled as “unloving,” or “simple-minded, “or even “narrow-minded”
So some Christians believe the answer would be to adapt Biblical teaching and instead go with the culture on a particular issue or two.
So…it’s never a forsaking of the faith at first.
Usually, it’s, “Let’s keep praying to Jesus, keep all the stuff about loving your neighbor, but leave out some of the stuff about hell, abstinence, holiness, etc.”
Except, as soon as you start down this road of ADAPTING the Gospel…you basically have to give up one of THE most important Christian doctrines, the Doctrine of Inerrancy, that the Bible is full the Word of God…and completely authoritative for how we should live our lives.
And once you don’t fully believe the Bible anymore…and you can pick and choose…pretty soon the Bible becomes, well, just another book.
You’ve usurped God’s authority on your life.
And then, pretty soon, God isn’t important.
And you can track this decline in a whole host of denominations over the last century.
Take a look at this chart, which tracks the religious affiliation of Americans since 1970
This was just published two weeks ago:
(Show Religious Affiliation Chart) – KEEP UP UNTIL THE “3 POINTS SCREEN)
There is so much we can learn from this chart.
Your Horizontal Axis is Time and the Vertical-Axis is the percent of the American population that affiliates with a particular religion or denomination.
Catholics (represented in purple)…whatever you may think about them…they don’t change their beliefs.
And thus…the percentage of Catholics in America since 1970 has barely changed.
From about 26% to 24%
Evangelicals (in red):
These are Bible-believing Christians.
People who believe the Bible is True, Jesus is the Son of God, We are Saved by Faith, Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Again, barely moved
From about 21% of the population in the early 70’s to about 23% of the population today…
That’s 50 years
But look at the Mainline Protestants (in light blue)
If you’re not familiar with that term, Mainline Protestants, are denominations like Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian.
Now, we need to be REALLY careful here
Because there are sub-categories here of those groups, that are still great Bible-believing churches.
The Lutheran Missouri Synod, many Reformed Churches, and of course, even within certain denominations…there are obviously churches that are wonderful exceptions.
But as a general rule, over the last 50 years, the vast majority of those churches, felt the pressure of the waves, decided to adapt their beliefs to be more palatable to the culture…
And they let go of many of their Biblical beliefs (and the beliefs of their founders) on hell, salvation only through Christ, God’s standards for holiness, and countless other Christian doctrines
AND, this is what evangelical Christians need to hear from today…and LEARN from…
…rather than their strategy succeeding in making Christianity more attractive to the culture…and thus reigniting spiritual interest in their churches…there’s almost nothing left of mainline protestants in America
If you go back pre-1970 in America, the percentage of mainline protestants was EVEN HIGHER!
They’ve literally lost tens of millions of adherents in just 50 years.
And the groups that didn’t adapt their message…
Because when you adapt Jesus to not look like Jesus…
And you can each come to your own beliefs…
No one cares anymore…
There’s no reason to come and worship at church when I’ve made myself God.
This is leading us to the third reason for we must stand firm:
Why We Should Stand Firm:
1: The World’s Destiny is Their Destruction
2: You are a Citizen of Heaven
3: It’s Only by Looking Like Christ, That We Change the World
The power is not in looking like the world.
Our “POWER SOURCE” is in looking like Christ.
And when we stand firm and we point the world to Jesus as our God who forgives and can change your life…
The power is in that Gospel.
But when we move off of it…in an attempt to become palatable…we empty the cross of its power.
Imagine that you’re a few feet in the ocean, and by standing firm with Jesus and his teachings, it’s as if you’re standing on this water-proof POWER SOURCE.
It’s what lights you up…points the way…gives power to your words.
But when we let the waves push us off…and pull us with the culture…
It’s as if we lose all power in our words.
And history has proven this time and time again.
WE can’t IMPROVE the Gospel message by adapting it.
You can’t make it better than Jesus made it the first time.
There is a major cultural and religious shift happening right before our eyes right now.
Especially in urban and suburban America
When many of you grew up, almost everyone in your class went to some sort of church.
We had a churched culture
That doesn’t mean everyone was saved…but most everyone was, at least, “in church”
Over the last 10-25 years, as people started leaving churches en masse for the first time, a good portion of America was what we sometimes call “dechurched”
Meaning, they went to church as kids, but they don’t anymore.
That’s why churches hang up banners that say “try church again”
That’s why we can have a egg hunt outreach and people try “getting back to church”
But in 5-10 years…that’s probably not going to work anymore…and here’s why:
If 85% of Blaine isn’t in church today, and surely that number is significantly higher for people in their 30’s than people in their 70’s…think about the ramifications…play it out…
What percent of the elementary kids who will be in this very gym tomorrow for phy ed, have EVER even set foot in a church?
MAYBE 10%. Maybe.
Look at the chart again:
Look at the “nones” (light green)
There’s been a lot written about this lately.
This is someone who’s usually not an atheist, they’re just not ANYTHING.
In 1994 (not that long ago!), this was just 9% of the population.
And now, there is a meteoric rise in this category
And this is for adults…
For kids…the numbers are way higher.
WE WILL NOT REACH THEM…by looking like the world.
If we look like the world…they will never see us.
(Back to Standing Firm slide)
If we want to change this city and this county for Christ…
We won’t do it by hiding and isolating ourselves.
We won’t do it by fighting a culture war.
We won’t do it by adapting the Gospel
We do it by staying in the world…getting to know our neighbors, loving and serving our neighbors…and yet, still STANDING FIRM in Christ and his message.
Listen, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2 that sometimes our message is going to smell like the aroma of death to people…and sometimes it’s the aroma of LIFE.
Think about the message:
We’re saying: We ARE sinners…
There is right, and there is wrong.
And because God has defined that...we cannot redefine what that is…
Yes, sometimes people do react negatively to it (they always have…Jesus told us they would)…
But we dare not change the message, because it’s THAT exact message which is our POWER SOURCE to change lives.
I want you to think about that friend that you have that doesn’t know Jesus.
Maybe you’ve even been thinking about inviting this person to Easter…
If they’re like most Americans, their life is more difficult than they let on.
My guess is they’ve experienced hardship, and anxiety, and are looking for answers more than they’ve let on.
What do we offer them if we tell them, “No, I don’t fully believe the Bible…just the parts I like…and you would like”
What do we offer them??
We offer them nothing.
No one’s interested in surrendering their life to a God that they already know better than.
But what if God is bigger than us…what if God knows better than us…what if we’re not God?
What if they could know the truth of the Gospel?
That yes…we are sinners…major sinners…and we can not save ourselves or turn our own lives around.
BUT… despite the complete ugliness of our sin…Jesus Christ loved us anyway.
So much so that He died in our place.
And He offers you forgiveness and a new life on earth…and eternal life in heaven.
If you would trust in Him…forsake the ways of the world…and embrace His life changing love.
THAT’S where the power is.
The power source is found in standing firm on God’s never-changing truth.
It’s been changing lives and infusing people with joy and forgiveness for 2,000 years despite 1,000 different cultures (most of which don’t even exist anymore) telling it that it’ll never last.
But it just keeps on changing the world.
Stand firm on the POWER SOURCE!
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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