If you were to ask me, “What is the most surprising thing that has happened in our culture in the past 10 years?”
Here’s how I would answer it.
In fact, I’ll tell you, I’m endlessly fascinated by this…it’s so surprising to me…
10 years ago in American society, we were neck-deep into relativism.
Relativism is the idea that there is no absolute truth…
Relativism says, “What’s true for you, isn’t necessarily what’s true for me…
It says that morality (which is how you should live) is relative to your own culture, or even your own personal desires.
Each person can decide what’s true and right for them.
I might even say that describes America say…2000-mid 2000-teens (if we can call them that)
And it appeared that everything was going in that direction…
That we were just all going to drown ourselves in the intellectually ridiculous idea that we all could make up our own truth.
But then, almost like a boomerang making it’s turn back, our culture started to shift.
And now, in 2021, our secular society at-large is becoming fiercely moral…
Something I don’t think hardly anyone would have predicted 10 years ago
Now, we’re in a transition phase, so you still hear, “You can’t tell me what to think…I decide what’s right for me,” but the tide is turning fast.
Let me give you a few examples of how our culture is shifting so you know what I mean when I say society at-large is becoming fiercely moral
Pick a moral issue.
Maybe sex…or how we treat each other…marriage…or any of the classic issues people have debated for the last 50 years (abortion, racism, classism, sexism, you name it)
People have always had opinions on these moral issues, and they always will.
The difference is, 10 years ago, if you brought up your opinion to someone who disagreed with you, they were most likely to say:
“Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me. Don’t tell me how to live my life”
Back when I was in high school, I remember taking an ethics class on all the hot-button issues.
And to this day, I have NO clue what my teacher actually believed.
He could make an amazing case for each side.
But educational philosophy has shifted out of this post-modern, relativistic worldview
The culture now believes we should educate, and tell people, what to believe…because what we believe (as the culture) is RIGHT…not just up to the individual anymore.
You can see this type of thinking just about anywhere in 2021
Turn on your TV, read the news online: Celebrities, athletes, and even corporations all take moral stances on things…
If you could have told people 10 years ago that Target or WalMart would be issuing statements regarding what is, and what isn’t moral,…. not a soul would have believed you.
We’d say, “No way, corporations, famous people….they stay out of that stuff, because people can believe what they want!’
Now, TIMEOUT, before I go any further, I don’t want you to think so much about WHAT the culture is saying or what any corporation or celebrity or institution is saying, but just the fact that they’re even saying it!
Because as a product of the political world that many of you’ve grounded yourself in, some of you just went, “yeah, those liberals…always telling people what to believe”
And others of you went, “Republicans, trying to force their morals on everyone”
Don’t concentrate so much on what they’re saying, or what side they’re coming from, but on the mere fact that they’re telling you what to believe in the first place!
That is incredibly different, and a massive culture shift that’s happening in America before our very eyes.
And by the way, some of this is GOOD!
Not absolutely everything the culture at large is saying is wrong or bad.
And secondly, it’s actually more difficult to share the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, with someone who believes there is no truth.
There’s no starting point, no foundation to share off of.
So why are we talking about this today?
As Christians, if we are going to bring Jesus into our culture, we want to be able to intellectually understand where our culture is coming from
Just like a missionary will spend, sometimes even years, first studying the culture they’re going to before they bring Jesus
And I truly believe our Bible passage for today will help us better understand and speak into our shifting culture.
And let me remind you, our aim is not to win an argument with the culture, but to win the culture to Christ.
I’m going to say that again:
Our aim is not to win an argument with the culture, but to win the culture to Christ.
Don’t get that backwards.
THE PASSAGE & AN INTRODUCTION TO AUTHORITY
We’ve been walking through the Book of Luke as a church, one of 4 books about the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
We had to jump around a tiny bit for a few weeks to fit in Palm Sunday and Easter, but we are now back on track, and in Luke chapter 20
This takes place in the last week of Jesus’ life.
On the first day of the week, Sunday, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
On Monday, he cleared the temple of people who were hindering others from encountering God because they were trying to get rich off of their exchange rates
And now, it’s Tuesday, and Jesus is back in the temple
(Luke 20:1-8) – NIV
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
This is the passage about authority.
The Jewish religious leaders say to Jesus, “Who Gave you this authority?”
“Who gave you the authority, the power, the right to clear everyone out of our temple?”
“Who gave you the authority to tell people how to live and treat each other?”
“Who gave you this authority to teach this way about how people can be forgiven, know God, and go to heaven?”
“WHO GAVE YOU THIS AUTHORITY?”
And the reason the Jewish leaders are asking Jesus this question is because they believe that THEY have the authority to determine right & wrong, and the big questions of life, not Jesus!
And that is the same reason why so many have a problem with Jesus and the Bible today.
Now that we’re moving out of the age of relativism, and back into a battle for truth…
Many more people are having a harder time with Jesus than they did…say even 10 years ago.
Because, if you truly read Jesus’ teachings, he teaches, the Bible often says, “With authority”…
In fact, in the verse before His famous Great Commission where he tells us to “go therefore and make disciples,” Matthew records this:
(Matthew 28:18) – NIV
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Jesus and His Word are the supreme source of authority for how we live our lives.
And the Word of God contains the supreme authority, revelation, and answers to life’s biggest questions.
NO MIDDLE GROUND
But as the culture around us now tries to find its own version of right and wrong (from different angles & different sides), people in the culture are finding that Jesus’ authority and way of life sometimes goes against what they want…
…and much like the Pharisees, many don’t like it
In verse 4, after the Pharisees have asked, “Who Gave you this authority?”
Jesus says, “What about all the baptisms that John was doing? Was that from God or just another human idea?”
He’s referring to John the Baptist…the prophet who prepared the way for Jesus.
We covered this back when we were in Luke chapter 3 back in May of 2018
John told the people to repent (to change their ways) and give their lives back to God
And people, in masses, were turning to God.
But John also called Jesus the Messiah from heaven…the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
And so, if the Pharisees say that John’s teaching was from heaven, from God, then they have to recognize that Jesus is from heaven…and has authority over all things.
But if they say John’s teaching isn’t from God, they’re afraid the crowd will stone them because the crowd knew that John was a prophet.
And so the Jewish leaders lie and say, “We don’t know where it was from.”
They choose some middle ground that isn’t really there.
These people still want to be spiritual, but they don’t want to fully submit to the authority and Kingship of Jesus.
They want Jesus to fit into the box of their rules and their culture, and there are plenty of people like this today.
I was talking with a pastor once who pastors a church that doesn’t fully believe in the Bible…which is like having a doctor that doesn’t believe in medicine…
But there are still churches out there like this.
In history, I will tell you, they don’t last very long.
Because eventually the people in the seats say, “Why am I coming here every week to listen to a teaching on a book that I do not believe?”
But anyway, I said to Him, “You clearly don’t believe a lot of what the Bible teaches about how people are saved, who is saved, or how people should live…”
“And I said, and much of the letters of the New Testament clearly contradict what your church believes on a number of things, so tell me, how do you determine what’s right and wrong? What’s your authority on that?”
And he said, “it’s Jesus!”
And I said, “What do you mean?”
And he said, “We know that Jesus is SO loving and SO kind, so we always ask, “What would our loving Jesus say on this particular issue? And when we come up with what Jesus would say, we go with that.”
And there are many “churches” today that worship this made-up version of Jesus.
Where they embrace the stories of Jesus hugging the little children, but cut out the stories of Him teaching on hell or flipping over tables.
And they’re worshipping a false God…a Jesus that they’ve disfigured beyond recognition so they could fit him into the box of their culture.
They’re adapting Jesus so he fits into their worldview rather than adapting their worldview to come under Jesus
And I’m not sure they’ve even recognized that their ultimate authority is the current culture, not Jesus.
BY WHAT AUTHORITY?
Let me give you a key question that every human being should ask of themselves that VERY FEW people actually ask.
“By what authority are you answering life’s biggest questions?”
Questions such as: “What is right and what is wrong?”
Or, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? What happens when I die?”
How are you determining the answers to those enormous questions? And by what authority?
“And if you just stop for a moment, and think, the culture-at-large is not answering that bigger question about authority.
They’re simply telling you what to think (again from different angles) without telling you the foundation for why you should think it.
And my friend, that is incredibly dangerous
If you look really hard at culture (any culture in the world), the reasons behind their moral beliefs are often incredibly shallow
They’ll just say, “Oh, we do that because it’s loving.”
Who gets to determine what’s loving?
And why is love the #1 determiner of right and wrong?
Who determined that?
And you’ll find there are no answers to the deeper questions…because the culture has no authority other than what the majority currently think
And THAT is America right not…in a POST-Postmodern age
The MAJORITY gets to determine morality
And the danger that many don’t realize is “majority opinion” is always shifting…always evolving.
Let me give you an example of this from American history.
I read this illustration from Timothy Keller years ago, and it’s always stuck with me.
Do you remember who Joe McCarthy was?
He was the senator who, in the 1950’s, kept accusing famous government officials and celebrities of being communist spies.
Well, you can imagine that almost everyone in Washington was trying dig up dirt on McCarthy so they could get rid of him.
And here’s the thing, Joe McCarthy was a known sexual harasser.
He was always touching his secretaries in very inappropriate ways when he came near them.
He was always trying to embarrass them with dirty jokes.
The guy was a textbook sexual harasser
And everyone was trying SO hard to publicly disgrace McCarthy in the 1950’s, but they couldn’t because he had never committed adultery…he was faithful to his wife.
And see, in the 1950’s, the dominant culture in power said that sexual harassment was a very little sin…basically not worth even talking about
If you were faithful to your wife but you harassed your secretaries, you were still a good guy they said.
But if you committed adultery, your political career was over.
Any sex outside of marriage was an enormous sin according to the majority of the culture.
Now think about this, this is fascinating…our culture today says the exact opposite.
A politician can have sex outside of marriage, and their career isn’t over at all.
But if they’re caught in sexual harassment, they’re dead in the water, it’s over.
Now, I’m not making a political statement, nor am I saying one of those flips is better than the other (I actually agree with the Bible that both of those actions are sinful)
But what I’m trying to show you is that if you are letting the “culture-at-large” be your authority that answers life’s biggest questions, you better realize that culture’s viewpoints are always changing!
See, the culture right now (in 2021) is coming at you as if it is a moral authority on how one should act and determine their worldview, but the culture fails to remember that it has been contradicting itself since the dawn of time.
And yet it somehow convinces each new generation of people that their current “snapshot on the timeline of human history” is morally superior in its understanding than any other part before it on the timeline.
C.S. Lewis called this “Chronological Snobbery”
Chronological Snobbery idea that we understand morality and life better than previous generations simply because we are farther along on the timeline.
No one who has studied the awful ups and downs of history…the wars, the genocides of history…thinks that history is one long upswing of moral enlightenment and improvement.
And what gives a society or a culture the authority to determine what is right or to answer life’s big questions anyway?
Just as the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Who Gave you this authority?”
We should ask the culture at large, “Who gave you this authority?”
The authority to say what is right and what is wrong and what life is all about?
And why is the culture right in 2021? And not 2003? Or 1950?
And if you’re right right now (in 2021), but not 50 years ago, won’t you be wrong according to the people of 2031?
So, doesn’t that make you wrong right now, not right?
And why is your American, Western culture of 2021 right, but not the culture of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021?
A lot of people don’t want to stop and think at this level.
Even the Jewish leaders didn’t of Jesus’ day didn’t
In verse 8, Jesus won’t even tell them by what authority he’s doing his work…because he knows that they are insincere seekers.
Jesus will absolutely reveal himself to those who truly seek Him, but not to those who just want to fit him into their box…
THEN WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE HIM?”
Now, I’m a bit worried in giving this message.
Because I fear that too many of you in this room are getting puffed up with pride listening to this.
Some of you have been thinking as you’re listening:
“Yeah, preach it, David! Take that society!
“You guys out there don’t even know why you believe what you believe like we do!”
“You don’t even have a real authority that you live by, like we do!”
And yet, I wonder what Jesus would say to us if he heard us thinking those things?
For one, when we think like that, we’re missing His heart for the lost, as we talked about last week when he wept over Jerusalem
And secondly, we must realize that Jesus might say the same thing to us that He was about to say to those Jewish leaders: “If John’s baptism was really from God, then why didn’t you believe Him?”
In other words, if you say, that you don’t follow the culture, but you follow the authority of Jesus, then why don’t you obey Him?
Our lives are chock-full of areas where we’ve completely determined that we know better than Jesus
Whether it be tithing, or the decision to be baptized, or serving the poor, or even the willingness to avoid lust at any cost
There are far too many examples where we say we live under the authority of Jesus, but in truth, too often we live under the authority of ourselves.
I urge you to hear this Word today with humility, not pride.
Our response to this passage should not be a smug smile because “we got things right,” but rather a sigh of relief that we can come under an authority, a good authority, who loves us and never changes.
Jesus has ultimate authority on all things, because He is God…our maker.
God’s ways are always higher than the ways of humanity and our ever-shifting cultures
And my friend, if you’ve just been chasing the waves of the culture, trying to live up to its evolving standards…I implore you to come under Jesus’ authority
Here’s what He says to you:
(Matthew 11:28-30) – NIV
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The culture cannot forgive your sins.
It will just keep telling you that you are a sinner, but in brand-new and different ways each year.
But Jesus says, “Come to me. Let me be your leader, and I will give you rest. My ways never change”
And He can put your weary soul at rest by forgiving you and coming into your life…to be a leader that never changes”
In fact, He loves you so much that He died on the cross for your sins…and if you would believe that He died in your place, and invite Him in to be the leader of your life, you can be saved, forgiven, and have a relationship with God.
But this isn’t a decision you make, and then go back to your normal life.
It’s a decision to put your life under new leadership, a new authority, but a good one, Jesus Christ.
And if you’re ready to turn your life over to Jesus today for the 1st time, what I want you to do is this:
At any time during this last song, I want you to just leave your seat, and come meet me out in the lobby.
And I’ll get you started in how to truly come under the loving leadership of Jesus.
Let me pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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