In Part 1 of our three-part series to provide a framework of God’s prescription for returning America to her Christian roots, we discussed the necessity of:
• Approaching Bible study with the purpose of learning how to be a more faithful and consistent member of Christ’s Kingdom, instead of merely acquiring more knowledge about Him.
• Adapting the lifestyle of our non-Christian neighbors to God’s will, instead of adapting our lifestyle to their will.
• Recognizing that we are a creature, not the Creator, and that our commanded responsibility is to glorify God and please Him by conforming our lives to God’s Word, not man’s word.
• Incorporating practical applications throughout our messages so that learners will be able to understand the relevance of God’s counsel to all aspects of their lives.
In continuing our discussion of changing the typical paradigm whereby many of our brothers and sisters approach Christianity as though it were a “Library Science,” studying Scripture with the primary purpose of simply adding to their knowledge about God, we will focus on the importance of viewing Christianity as a “Life Science” whereby we study God’s Word in order to be more consistent servants in Christ’s Kingdom.
Trusting In and Relying On God’s Promises
Before we can expect to have a meaningful discussion about where to begin in solving the many challenges that face American culture, we must build a resolve among fellow Christians to engage our culture’s issues with Biblical ethics. Unless and until we do this, the most persuasive Biblical reasons to “work out our faith with fear and trembling”1 will fall on behaviorally deaf ears. Think about it: no one sets out to solve something that can’t be solved, and since the majority of twenty-first-century American Christians mistakenly believe that Satan is firmly in control of planet earth, our pleas to “live out your faith” will be met, at best, with polite silence while our audience considers us to be well-intentioned, but misguided. This is one more reason for churches to assist members in identifying their spiritual gifts so they will be able to provide a distinctive testimony to the ever-observing eyes of their non-Christian neighbors by incorporating Biblical ethics into all aspects of their lifestyle.
How willing are we to be recipients of God’s promises?
Rebuilding a Christian culture in America will involve a long-term view and the discipline of systematically following a well-executed series of Biblical steps. This process begins with a clear vision of who we are, what we are commanded to do, and how we are supposed to do it. People strive to make their life’s vision a reality, but for the most part, the twenty-first-century American church doesn’t even have a vision. This is why we must first explain that the only people over which Satan rules are non-Christians, and then we must clearly identify the Biblical ethics needed to carry out the commanded behaviors that God expects from us to “Christianize” our culture.
Resolve Must Come Before Solve
Before discussing what it means to be a member of God’s A-Team and how to turn our current losing attitude into a winning attitude, let’s turn our focus to six primary factors to continually weave through our messages to build a person’s resolve for solving current cultural issues.
• First—Build the case for “subduing and ruling over creation.”
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26–28)
• Second—Remind fellow Christians that Jesus’ purpose in coming to the earth (and the work to which He has called us into His Kingdom to perform) is to “destroy the works of the devil.”
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
• Third—Point out that God’s Word is His counsel on how to live as well as to comfort us in times when we are encountering difficulties.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16–17)
• Fourth—Discuss what it means to be “salt and light.”
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned: It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. ( Matt. 5:13–14)
• Fifth—Trust in and rely on the inerrant promises in the Word of God.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5–6)
• Sixth—Focus on the absolute sovereignty of “the Promiser,” not on the “improbability of the thing promised,” since we are “heirs and joint heirs with Christ”!
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:16–17)
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Heb. 12:1)
The LORD your God, who goes before you, he will fight for you, according to all he did for you in Egypt before your eyes. (Deut. 1:30)
He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strength. (Isa. 40:29)
When considering how consistent we are in conforming our behavior to Biblical ethics, it is easy to conclude: “I’m not even close to being ‘there.’” But that’s OK, because we need to recognize that the Holy Spirit is not going to stop convicting us until we do “get there.”
In most cases, our faithful obedience doesn’t translate into immediate positive results on our culture. But instead of thinking, “My obedience doesn’t seem to be making a positive impact,” we should be thinking, “By obeying God I’m preventing the world from changing me!” As members of God’s A-Team, we have a responsibility to do our best in order to present a distinctively different lifestyle for the ever-observing eyes of our non-Christian neighbors so that we will also be in position to provide discipleship to fellow Christians.
What Does It Mean to Be a Member of God’s A-Team?
Obviously, the first and foremost benefit is that we have been forgiven our sins and have received eternal life.2 This benefit also becomes a characteristic of our behavior as we realize that we have been “called, sanctified and preserved in Jesus Christ.”3 Next, we are different from our non-Christian neighbors in that we can correctly understand God’s Word,4 and are motivated to study and apply it.5 This enables us to understand that we have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through them we may be partakers of the divine nature”!6 In response to this outpouring of God’s grace upon us, we should guard against becoming sluggish, and should strive to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”7 Indeed, as members of God’s A-Team, it should be obvious that God could have no other team that is neither more blessed nor more prepared than we are to carry out His will for the earth. May we “lay hold of the hope that is set before us,” because our sure and certain hope “is an anchor of our soul.”8
When Jesus was confronted by Jews who proudly claimed to be Abraham’s descendants,9 He told them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham … do the deeds of your father!”10 In response to this, they “took up stones to throw at him,”11 but he disappeared in the crowds. Immediately after this he passed by a blind man, and healed him.12
Since this was done on the Sabbath, and He had just escaped being stoned by the disgruntled Jews, why would Jesus seemingly go out of His way to further irritate the Pharisees?
Irritating the Pharisees wasn’t on Jesus’ mind. His concern was the “necessity” to do His job. He explained to His disciples that He “must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”13 Jesus’ three reasons to His disciples and to us for not avoiding doing the right thing for fear of encountering negative consequences are:
• I have commanded duties that I must perform.
• I have a limited amount of time to perform them.
• I have been sent to be “the light of the world,” and therefore must demonstrate the correct way to live.
Part of the way in which we can image Jesus is to incorporate a sense of urgency in carrying out our role in His Kingdom. Even though Jesus’ inerrant counsel for all aspects of life was clearly revealed to the first-century Christians, He wanted to be sure to demonstrate how to live as a member of God’s family and Kingdom. Similarly, our time on earth is limited, and when our appointed days come to an end, we should want our legacy to be that we not only proclaimed the truths of His Word, but that we did our best to live them.
Until we were mercifully saved from our sins, we lived in the same ethical darkness as our non-Christian neighbors. We didn’t know who we were, why we were here, or what we should do with our lives. But now that we are “the light of the world,”14 we must allow nothing to distract us from shining that light to those who are still in ethical darkness. Just as Jesus was “reconciling the world to Himself,”15 so should we make it a top priority to demonstrate and explain to our neighbors how they can reconcile their way of life to Biblical ethics. It should be no secret that in our calling we are “sheep in the midst of wolves.”16 We have been promised that we will encounter “Infirmities, reproaches, and persecutions.”17 Yet we can also have full confidence that God “will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that we may be able to bear it.”18
Instead of shying away from demonstrating our faith in the promises of God, let us eagerly look for opportunities to demonstrate our love of Him to our non-Christian neighbors. After all, how else should we be expected to serve our gracious God who has given us eyes to see and ears to hear? Regardless of the situation, our duty to apply Biblical ethics to it remains the same. NFL Coach Bill Belichick explains it this way to his players, “You just try to take the situation at hand and do the best you can with it. When it is over, recalibrate, reload and go again.”
Sports coaches urge their players to “Play the game, not the score,” by which they mean to “keep focused on their assignments, because they have a good game plan, and as long as they stick to it, the outcome will take care of itself.”
Since our job is to Christianize cultural situations, we must remind ourselves that Jesus commands us to pray that we will help bring about God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. So, instead of feeling overwhelmed at the prospects of what lies in front of us, let’s begin to look for God’s prescriptions for how to take back the various elements of our culture because we are members of God’s victorious A-Team! As the teenager Anne Frank writes in her diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”19
The following guidelines for success are in no way a complete list, but it provides a good start in planning and implementing the what and how parts of the work to which we have been called into God’s family and Christ’s Kingdom.
Guidelines for Success
• Do we have a clear understanding of what we are supposed to do?
• Do we recognize that we will rise to the level of our expectations, and that it is critical that our expectations about life conform to Biblical truths?
• Are we systematically offering instruction in how to recognize opportunities to serve Jesus?
• Does our Bible teaching reinforce these principles?
• Are we preparing ourselves and fellow Christians to expect and handle adversities in a manner that brings honor to God?
• Do we agree that God places adversities in our path to either call our attention to repent and get back on track of living according to His will, instead of our will, or to use godly response to them as a testimony to our neighbors on how to live for God?
• Are we instilling the necessity of putting God’s will ahead of our will in our daily decision making?
• Are we presenting an easy-to-follow program of practicing how to live out our beliefs?
• Have we done all we can to develop an optimistic worldview?
• Are we controlling the two things in life that we can control: our attitude and our behavior, and not spending time worrying about things that may or may not happen?
• Do we define our success in carrying out our commanded duties as giving our best efforts, instead of defining it according to specific results?
• Since we are creatures of habit, are we being careful to put off our former ungodly behaviors and to put on our new godly behaviors?
• Does our lifestyle reflect that our purpose is to take ground for Christ’s Kingdom rather than merely to go with the flow of everyday circumstances?
Goal Setting and Bible Teaching
Albert Einstein once commented that “we live in a day of perfect means and confused goals.” Whether intended or not, his statement applies perfectly to the twenty-first century American church. With God’s revealed Word, we have the perfect counsel on how to live, yet it is most rare for the goals of a church to reflect God’s counsel about how to go about reconciling its community to God’s will. A survey of various churches reveals that many church mission statements focus either on self-centered goals about their facilities, staff personnel, or spiritual growth. Although I believe that there are churches that include specific goals to conform their communities to Biblical ethics, my research didn’t find any. Following is a brief listing of the types of goals I found:
• To make use of the church buildings and facilities as a place to worship and glorify God.
• To improve the physical condition of the two buildings: the church building and the education building.
• Fill vacant staff positions; evaluate new staff positions; begin to correct compensation for two staff positions.
• To conduct radio and/or television or other electronic media campaigns, including the Internet, on a continuing basis to further the message of the church.
Spiritual Growth Goals
• Spiritual growth and development in everyone’s life.
• To reach out and meet the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of the members of our church, and those in our area who are still in need. We strive to follow the principles of the Bible in meeting those needs.
• We long to see our church grow numerically by actively winning people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to offer a church home to those who are in the family of God.
• We wish to continue reaching the world with an ever-increasing mission program and to be of service to our surrounding communities as God gives us direction and opportunity.
• To go into all the world telling everyone the Good News of Jesus Christ.
• To create passionate followers of Jesus who will invite and attract people of all ages in our church and our community to Christ.
The point is not that these church goals are not good, but rather that they are not complete. We are losing our culture because the typical American church is doing little, if anything, to teach its members how to “subdue and rule over” its community.20 We all agree that we should trust in and rely upon God’s marvelous promises, but we never seem to get around to teaching what those promises are, or how to incorporate them into our daily lives. Ask a member to name a promise of God and he will without hesitation say, “Eternal salvation!” When you reply, “That’s right, now what’s another one?” His replay will probably be something like, “Uh, let me get back to you.”
Why do we live as though life is a puzzle?
This is the way non-Christians view the world. Not only do they not know which pieces to life’s puzzle are missing, they don’t even know what the completed puzzle looks like. God has revealed all of the pieces for us, and His Word tells us what a Christianized world will look like. We should know exactly who we are, what we are supposed to do, and how to do it! If your church is not systematically explaining these puzzle pieces, ask them how they expect to teach the whole counsel of God’s Word without doing so.
Look over the mission statement of your church and see if it includes any goals of discipling your community’s civil rulers (legislators, judges, etc.) and other influential persons. If not, ask your church officers why it doesn’t and what they can do to begin educating fellow members in how to live out their faith. If they ask you, “How would you improve our mission statement?” suggest that they write it according to what ought to be done, rather than according to what might or could be done. Add a caution against setting the goals so high that no one will attempt to achieve them, or so low that they won’t inspire any effort.
To help guard against someone becoming overwhelmed at the thought of turning his community around, borrow a truism from sports teams by emphasizing that the value of a congregation (or team) is that the whole can become greater than its parts. A useful acronym to use in this regard is TEAM: “Together Everyone Achieves More.”
In Part 3 we will conclude our series by discussing why we need to Re-suppose what we Pre-suppose by interpreting the Bible in terms of our Present Days instead of according to the Last Days.
1. Philippians 2:12.
2. 1 John 2:25.
3. Jude 1:1.
4. Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26–27; Hebrews 8:9–10.
5. Philippians 2:12–16.
6. 2 Peter 1:4.
7. Hebrews 6:12.
8. Hebrews 6:17–19.
9. John 8:31–39.
10. John 8:39–40.
11. John 8:59.
12. John 9:6–7.
13. John 9:4–5.
14. Matthew 5:14.
15. 2 Corinthians 5:19.
16. Matthew 10:16.
17. 2 Corinthians 12:10.
18. 1 Corinthians 10:13.
19. Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank (Longman Imprint Books, 1989). n.p.
20. Genesis 1:26–28.