Here at Emmanuel Baptist Church, the pastoral staff has begun a summer sermon series entitled, “Christ and the Culture.”
The plan is to take on a whole plethora of cultural issues that we encounter daily—issues that believers have been called to think about rightly and respond to in faith. These issues span the spectrum of life: work and retirement, money and materialism, the self-esteem movement that has gained such a foothold in our society, the institution of marriage that has been greatly assaulted like never before, sexual morality, entertainment, how the Christian is to respond to the government, and the religious pluralistic world in which we live.
And the goal is to bring clarity to what our society has clouded; to bring gospel truth to a world filled with man’s opinions; and to give a biblical grid through which you can discern the current issues of the day.
This post is Part 1 of this series.
As we begin to think through the cultural issues of the day, the topic that we must begin with is the topic authority. We must answer the question, “By what authority will we live?”
Or to put the question differently, “What is the standard of truth?” Or even this question, “Is there even a standard of truth?” Is truth relative, or is truth fixed? Is truth limited to an individual, or is there truth that universally applies to all men and women throughout the world?
There are only 2 possible answers to these questions. Authority and truth are either (1) established by God and communicated through His Word, or (2) established by man, based upon his own personal thoughts and desires.
This what we see in Genesis 2 and 3.
Genesis 2:16 – “16 The Lord commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may freely eat, 17 but from the tree of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:16-17).
Here God issues a clear command. God exercises His authority and establishes a standard of right and wrong. And then communicates that truth through His Word.
Yet, what we read in Genesis 3:1 is completely different, “1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).
In other words, Satan asks, “Who does God think He is? Who is He to exercise authority over you? Who is He to set the standard of truth for you? Question Him, and in so doing reject His authority. Spurn His commands. Establish truth for yourself. You have that right to give in to your lusts and doubt God’s Word. Be your own god.” Eve listened to Satan’s lie, a decision that lead to Adam’s soon to follow rejection of God’s authority which then plunged the world into total depravity.
The original sin was a rejection of God’s sovereignty and authority—a rejection of His right to set the standard of truth. And more than any other sin, this is the sin that continues to plague our fallen world. Rejection of authority is at the very core of our sinful humanity.
We see this throughout the Scriptures:
Psalm 2:2 – “2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetter apart and cast away their cords!’”
Here is the cry of every unregenerate sinner, “We do not want God to rule over us. We do not want to be bound by God’s law. We do not want to be governed by anyone outside of ourselves.”
Romans 1:21 puts it this way – “21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God.”
Fallen humanity loves its own autonomy. Fallen humanity prides itself on its own self-determination. Fallen humanity always wants to have the final word. It exalts independence, freedom, and individualism.
This anti-authority (set your own standard of truth) mindset is so common in our day that it often goes unnoticed. It has become a part of the fabric of life.
How many times have you heard that popular Disney song, A Whole New World? How many times have you played that song for your children, not even thinking twice that the whole new world being described for your kids is the world where, “No one can tell us ‘no,’ or where to go.” It’s the world where you are the final authority of all that you do, where you reign supreme.
Think of these well-known restaurant slogans: Outback, “No rules, just right” or Burger King, “Your way right away.”
This autonomous desire (set-truth-for-yourself- mindset) has found its place more than ever before in our American culture. Man has grasped the authority to establish truth for himself—and nothing is off limits. From gender, to marriage, to sexual orientation, to every part of one’s everyday life.
Personal intuition now reigns. Individualistic feelings rule. Contemporary social science directs. Pragmatic thoughts govern. Popularism decides.
We are living out Genesis 3:1 daily, “1 Indeed, has God said?” (Genesis 3:1).
Our world has bought Satan’s lie – that God’s Word can be questioned, His authority can be spurned, His rules can be rejected – without any fear of any consequence.
We have gone the way of the kings of Psalm 2. We have cast God’s fetters from us.
To quote one modern historian, “The challenge is simply this: Is the Word of God, the Bible, authoritative and over us? Or is it passé, an ancient book that simply does not pass the test of credulity in the modern world? Is it a clanging symbol? Or is it the truth?” (Nichols).
Underlying every cultural issue that we face as believers is the question, “By what authority do we live? By what standard of truth will we adhere?”
And so, as an introduction into this series on Christ and the Culture, I want to answer those questions by giving 6 reasons why God’s Word is the final authority over all of life. 6 reasons why God’s Word must be the grid through which you navigate every cultural issue that comes your way; why God’s truth trumps all the pundits out there and is superior to every cultural expert; why God’s Word is the sole authority that transcends all other authorities and cultural opinions. These 6 points will be outlined in the next 2 blog posts.