Category Archives: Christ & the Culture

CHRIST & THE CULTURE, Part 6 (The Exclusivity of Christ)

 

Continuing to bring clarity to the cultural issues our world has clouded, we now turn to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

This is distinctive Christian claim—that only Jesus is able to save people from their sins; that Jesus is unique in His person (being the sinless, eternal God in human flesh) and matchless in His work (living the perfect life God demands from all people, dying a substitutionary death because of sin, and enduring the wrath of God against sin for all who will come to Him in faith and repentance).

This is the claim that all other religions (except for true Christianity) are false religions, possessing powerless gospels, hopeless in their message, bankrupt in their promises, and satanic in their nature.

We live in an inclusive world, a world that exalts religious variety and diversity and acceptance.

Our Inclusive World

The co-exist bumper sticker summarizes our pluralistic society best – a culture that champions the idea that there are multiple paths to God and many ways to heaven.

The thought of the day is that God possesses of a variety of names. To the Muslim – he is Allah. To the Buddhist – he is a whole pantheon of gods. Add to that the gods of the Hindu faith and the New Age religions. And on and on the list can go.

The idea is that the name of God doesn’t matter because in the end they are all the same anyway. The thought that God is too complex and mysterious for any one religion to contain and define Him.

This cultural inclusivism was perhaps seen most visibly on January 18, 2009 when Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and opened his inaugural prayer with these words, “O god of our many understandings.”

In the words of a millennial blogger, “God, Allah, Yahweh, the Creator, the One, the Energies, goes by as many names in this country as ever….I do believe that God is in everyone, though by what name he resides that seems to me to be up to the person in question.”

The Inclusive Church

Yet shockingly, this God-of-many-names gospel has seeped into the American church.

In a 2008 survey – 52% of professing American Christians said they believed that at least some non-Christian faiths lead to eternal life.

To the statement, “Many religions can lead to eternal life,” 80% of the participants named at least one non-Christian religion that could save the sinner from his sins.

Just this past year, a professor at Wheaton College made the jaw-dropping statement that the Muslim god is the same as the Christian God.

She wrote, “I think that Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God. The referent is the same.”

One very well-known Christian evangelist has even been quoted as saying, “I used to be believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that.

One theologian, looking at the religious culture here in America summarized it this way, “Are the moral adherents of the African traditional religions, virtuous Hindus, and Buddhists really outside a salvific relationship to God? Do Muslims and Jews—who know the God of Abraham and follow His commands—need to hear the Gospel? No other issue is so defining of the contemporary religious landscape.

This is the issue of our day. Is Christ the exclusive Savior from sin? Is Jesus unique? Is His cross necessary?

The Exclusive Savior

Contrary to popular opinion, an exclusive Savior is exactly what the Bible teaches. And an exclusive Gospel is exactly what the Bible calls us to believe and proclaim.

John 8:24 – “24 Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

John 14:6 – “6 Jesus said…‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”

Acts 4:12 – “12 There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven, there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Romans 3:23 – “23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

1 Timothy 1:15 – “15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

1 Timothy 2:5 – “5 For there is one God, and one mediatorbetween God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Mark 8:38 – “38 Whoever is ashamed of Me and My Words…the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38),

Add to these verses, Acts 17:30-31 and Romans 5:17-19 9and many other. The biblical testimony is clear. Jesus alone saves from sin.

The Bible is not shy about the uniqueness, and supremacy, and exclusive nature of Jesus Christ. It makes no apology for its narrowness. And neither should we.

CHRIST & THE CULTURE, Part 5 (Biblical Self-Evaluation)

Well, this morning we are continuing our study of the intersection of Christ and our culture, and, today, our topic involves self-evaluation. Specifically, we need to think biblically about ourselves and the way we live our lives, but there is no way we can talk about this subject without dealing with the popular notion of “self-esteem.”

Our culture constantly proclaims the necessity of a healthy self-esteem. It’s a dominate theme in our educational system, from top to bottom. It permeates all state and federal governmental agencies. It has been incorporated into corporate business philosophies. And, it has been embraced by a large section of the Christian community. For example, consider these words from a woman who attends a Bible-believing church…and who recently went through the agony of a divorce:

“My self-esteem has been at an all-time low ever since the divorce. I’ll never be the same again because of all the hurt Fred has caused me. My feelings of inferiority have turned me into an emotional basket case. I’ve got to learn how to improve my poor self-image and feel good about myself again so I can get over this mess and get on with my life. I know I’ll never be able to grow as a Christian until I overcome my self-esteem issues.”

There are many Christians who would nod in agreement with this woman’s assessment of her situation. Many Christians would not see a red flag as big as Dallas waving in connection with this poor woman’s thinking. Yet, these are tragically misguided sentiments.

She has become entangled in the self-esteem game, which moves her from the solid ground of living for Christ onto the quicksand of culture’s emphasis on living for self.

Now, I know that just raising questions about the value of personal self-esteem can be controversial today. The reason being, as Jay Adams points out, “The self-esteem influence has so pervaded our society that it is no longer perceived as anything but the most familiar and acceptable way of thinking.”

However, in order to move toward an accurate (i.e., biblical) self-evaluation, believers will have to move away from being concerned about their self-esteem! This topic is worthy of an adult equipping class, but I only have a few minutes this morning to offer brief answers to some very important questions.

Here are the questions placed before us this morning:

What is “self-esteem?’

Where did the “self-esteem” movement originate?

Why does so much of the church embrace it as theologically correct?

What does the Bible say about evaluating ourselves?

What is self-esteem?

The American College Dictionary defines “self-esteem” as, “a favorable opinion of oneself; conceit.”

Our culture says that a “healthy” self-esteem is all about coming to “a high view of yourself,”…gaining “a sense of personal value and worth.” It’s “feeling good about yourself.”

Now, admittedly, this is a very appealing notion, because it allows us to focus on our favorite subject: US!   It’s a place that is very easy for us to go, because it involves our favorite activity as fallen men and women: LOVING OURSELVES.

Yet, simply based on the definition and overall notion of self-esteem, Christians should immediately exercise a bit of discernment and realize that we are talking about pride here, about stoking/building up our self-worth.

You really don’t have to know much of the Bible to know that pride is not a good thing. It is the opposite of personal humility and pride is one of the most loathed sins in God’s sight.

Prov. 16:5… “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”

Prov. 26:12… “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

James 4:6…”God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Throughout Scripture, we see warnings about man’s pride in the areas of position (Matt. 23:6), ability (2 Chron. 26:15-16), achievement (Dan. 4:22), wealth (1 Tim. 6:17), possessions (Matt. 6:19), knowledge (Isa. 47:10), learning (1 Cor. 8:1), spiritual attainment (Luke 22:24), self-righteousness (Rom. 10:3), being esteemed or liked (Gal. 1:10), and even pride of spiritual experiences (2 Cor. 12:7).

Our flesh has a bent toward manifesting pride, and Scripture makes it clear that pride is THE epidemic vice among mankind!

It is seen everywhere in many forms, and the question for each of us is not, “Do I have it?

The only question is “Where is it? How much pride do I have?”

So, while the call to love yourself more is an appealing one, it should give us cause to pause.

Actually, the Bible does speak directly to the modern notion of “self-esteem,” but it does so ONLY ONCE, and the mention of it is found in a list that you don’t want to be on!!

See 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Notice: “Lovers of self” is the big umbrella under which all of the other characteristics mentioned here dwell. It is from the love of self that all the other inappropriate/sinful loves flow! And at the end of v. 4,…”lovers of self” is contrasted against “lovers of God.”

Andrew Murray: Pride is “the root of every sin and evil.”

Thomas Watson: “It is a spiritual drunkenness; it flies up like wine into the brain and intoxicates it. It is idolatry; a proud man is a self-worshipper.”

Yet, culture tells us to love ourselves more and has convinced many believers that:

~ Self-esteem is a vital element of human personality.

~ Self-esteem is a feeling (not a thought process of judgment/self-evaluation).

~ Being mistreated by others can cause a person’s self-esteem to deteriorate and/or not develop properly.

~ Self-love is a prerequisite to being loved by others and loving others, including God.

~ A person must fix his poor self-image or terrible things will happen to you…or your kids.

~ A healthy self-esteem is a prerequisite to success and happiness.

Now, bear in mind,…not one of these statements is supported in Scripture!

(I know what some of you are thinking: “But, pastor Herb, Dr. so and so says….”…..I know that,…but stay with me.)

If 2 Timothy 3 is the only verse that directly mentions the notion of the modern self-esteem movement, and Scripture roundly condemns prideful living,…Where did the self-esteem movement originate?

It’s the product of fallen man, of unregenerate minds, people who put forth theories and speculations about the nature of man without the aid of Scripture. The entire movement is rooted in an atheistic worldview, a view that tries to make sense out of life apart from God. We are not going to take time to look at its history this morning, but the foundation of the self-esteem movement can be traced back to the turn of the 20th century and prominent psychologists, such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, and B. F. Skinner.

More specifically, current models of man’s “need” for self-esteem arise directly from what is known as “Third Force Psychology,” which rests on the premise that all people are inherently good; that through a conscious evolution of attitudes, values, and beliefs, one becomes a self actualized individual with the inner wisdom and confidence to guide their own life in a manner that is personally satisfying and socially constructive.

Direct architects the modern self-esteem movement include Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, William Glasser, and William Coulson.

I suspect that most of you at some point have seen a version Maslow’s “Hierarch of Needs.” In essence, Maslow thought that your underlying needs must be met before you could then become a self-actualized person. (E. g., basic physiological needs for air, water, and food;…basic safety and security needs such as not having to worry for your life;…basic needs to be loved and feel that you belong and the need to be esteemed.)

Now, Abraham Maslow lived from 1908 to 1970, and he is called the “Father of Modern Psychology.” As a hard-core atheist, he did not believe in God or that man is accountable to God. Instead, the ultimate goal in Maslow’s way of thinking is for a person to become “self-actualized.” A self-actualized person is confident in himself, feels good about himself, and, in turn, he is thus able to reach out to help others/contribute to society.

But, again, in order to develop this kind of “mature personality,” all of the person’s underlying “needs” must first be met.

If a person’s needs are not met, that person is likely to experience debilitating emotional damage/pain…and have severe problems for an entire lifetime. Of course, this whole notion is refuted in Scripture. Just think of the lives of the Apostle Paul, or Jesus.

How many times were their “underlying needs” obviously not met? Their lives were often in danger, men certainly did not love or esteem them, and they were both murdered. Even on the cross, Jesus, while undergoing the pain of crucifixion, made provisions for his mother’s care, forgave His tormentors, forgave and encouraged one of the criminals being crucified next to Him. It’s safe to assume that His physical needs were not being met at the time!

The sad thing for Christ’s church is that many Christians look outside of Scripture to find answers/solutions to life’s problems, even though God’s Word promises sufficiency to accomplish that.

See 2 Peter 1:2-3: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

For the last 50 years, Christians has been looking more and more to the man-centered philosophy of psychology as THE place to go for instruction and help. And psychology tells them to love themselves.

(“But, pastor Herb, Dr. so and so says the Bible tells us to love ourselves.” Hey, I know that. Just stay with me.)

And it’s an understandable concern. If the whole self-esteem dogma is unbiblical, why has it infiltrated the church so thoroughly?

Why does so much of the church embrace it as theologically correct?

The answer to that question in a nutshell is that the bulk of self-help publications in Christian bookstores are written by psychologists, some of whom happen to be Christians. They are trained in psychology (not theology/hermeneutics), and so most buy into the prevailing psychological theories. Believing these theories to be true, they then turn around and try to squeeze them into Scripture.

That’s why you will frequently hear versions Maslow’s hierarch of needs “Christianized” through books and even sermons that will say something along the lines of: “God loves you, you’re special, you’re worthy—your significance is in Christ. If you were the only one, Christ loved you so much He would have died for you. Once you understand that your identity is in Him, you will feel better about yourself.”

See, in this model, a self-actualized person would be described as a mature Christian, one who is confident of his/her worth in Christ or who loves himself/herself so that they can, in turn, love others. According to these proponents, the worse thing in your life is to have “low self-esteem.” Nice, well-meaning psychologists like James Dobson in his popular book, Hide and Seek, blame low self-esteem for nearly all of a person’s problems in life, including all kinds of sinful behavior.

Let me give you an example of how Scripture is twisted/perverted to accommodate a totally non-biblical notion.

Look at Matthew 22:36-40.   In 22:39b, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” A well-known Christian self-esteemer (Walter Trobisch) claims that this a “a command to love yourself.” “Self-love,” he continues, “is the prerequisite and the criterion for our conduct towards our neighbor.” In other words, Jesus not only commands us to love ourselves, but to the degree which we love ourselves becomes the standard by which we determine how to love our neighbor!

What!?

It only gets worse!

He goes on to say the discovery by modern psychology that man must acquire a love for himself, ”sheds new light on the command which Jesus emphasized as ranking in importance next to loving God.” He thinks that until modern psychologists “unearthed” this remarkable insight, this important biblical command lay hidden and was never adequately understood. In short, for 2000 years, Christians were forced to stumble around in the dark!

You know, this is a great example of why we need to memorize and apply Colossians 2:8.

Col. 2:8…”See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Of course, there is no command in Matthew 22 (or anywhere else in the Bible) that commands us to love ourselves, even though to hear some self-esteem people talk, you might think the Bible contained little else!

In Matt. 22, Christ made it perfectly clear that He was talking about two—and only two—commandments. Those two commandments: love God, love your neighbor.

The claims of the self-esteem movement are similarly squeezed into other texts as well,…trying to force the text into a presupposed system. But, sadly, the result of this kind of thing is that Christians have been inundated with humanistic presuppositions, and many of them have come to believe these man-centered theories are theologically sound,…merely because a couple of Bible verses have been hung on them.

  1. I. Packer (Keep in Step with the Spirit, 1975): “Modern Christians…spread a thin layer of Bible teaching over the mixture of popular psychology and common sense they offer, but their overall approach clearly reflects the narcissism—the “selfism” or “meism” as it is sometimes called—that is the way of the world in the modern West.”

My point here is to illustrate how secular theories have been pawned off on the church as biblical truth. There are plenty of other examples like this one (see Adams’ book), but we need to move on the most important question.

What does the Bible say about evaluating ourselves?

Let’s begin by realizing that the construct of “self-image” does not exist in the Bible. Instead, Scripture addresses a person’s heart, mind, conscience, emotions, thoughts, and motives. From the Bible’s standpoint, we don’t have to learn to love ourselves—we already do!

You see, from Scripture, the problem in our lives is not that we think too little of ourselves, but that we think too highly of ourselves and too much about ourselves.

John Calvin: “We shall never love our neighbors with sincerity, according to our Lord’s intention, until we have corrected the love of ourselves. The two affections are opposite and contradictory; for the love of ourselves leads us to neglect and despise others—produces cruelty, covetousness, violence, deceit, and all kindred vices—drives us to impatience, and arms us with the desire of revenge.”

How true!   Just look around at the condition of our culture! Self-love is an easy excuse for all kinds of sin! Our desires become “needs,” and the more a desire/need is fed, the more it wants! Even secular studies continue to expose the folly of the self-esteem game.

Tim Keller (The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness) cites an article by psychologist Lauren Slater in the New York Times magazine in which she says, “People with high esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with a low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself is not the source of our country’s biggest, most expensive social problems.”

Jay Adams cites a study of over 200 criminals in prison who had a high opinion of themselves. There was not a single criminal “who believed he was evil. Each criminal thought of himself as a basically good person…even when planning a crime.”

You see, Scripture reflects reality and assumes that you love yourself! Jesus actually presupposes a love of self in that Mat. 22 passage. His command is to love your neighbor as you already love yourself. A literal translation is “You must love your neighbor as you are loving yourself.”

The same self-love is likewise presupposed in Paul’s argument in Eph. 5:28-29, where he urges husbands to love their wives “as you love (are loving) your own body.” He goes on to say “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…” Paul’s entire argument is based on the fact that we already exhibit love for ourselves.

So, you will never find the Scriptures saying, “Come on now, you’re thinking too poorly of yourself”….or “What you need…is to consider yourself more.”

Quite the opposite.   The Bible tells us to stop focusing so much on ourselves and what we selfishly want for ourselves.

Remember, it was Satan’s sin of pride that led to his fall, and it was the mindset of pride when he questioned and denied God (Gen. 3:1-5). King Uzziah served God for many years, growing prosperous, famous, and strong, but “when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly and was unfaithful to the Lord his God” (2 Chron. 26:16). Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance ruined his life until he humbled himself before God (Dan. 4:37). And there are plenty of other examples as well.

The point is that we have many warnings associated with the desire to lift up self and serve self. Pride and self-love causes us to forget about God, or to want to be above God, and leads us to our downfall!

Prov. 16:18…”Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

Thomas Watson: “Pride seeks to ungod God.”

But “wait,” you say….What about people who exhibit what our culture calls “low self-esteem?”

What about the despondent person caught up in self-pity,…and self-absorbed with a sense of failure?

Ironically, this too is pride. It’s just on the flip/other side of the “self-love” coin!

People who are consumed with self-pity are also focusing on themselves too much. They are not concerned with the glory of God, or with being thankful for what good gifts and talents the Lord has given them. Instead, they are focused on how they think they have gotten a raw deal/short-changed, or are not “as good as” someone else.

Self-pitying people desperately want to be good, not for the glory of God, but for themselves. They want to do things for and by their own power and might for their personal recognition. They want others to serve them, to like them, and to approve of them.

And when their desires are not fulfilled, a prideful person will become even more inwardly focused and will continue in a vicious cycle.

NOTE: The self-focused person who bemoans the fact that he/she is not what they desperately want to be (elevated and esteemed) should not be deceived by thinking they are not proud. They are great lovers of themselves.

Even to the point of suicide, the prideful person is seeking what they think is best for themselves. To them, suicide offers “relief” from the indignity or suffering in life, which they deem to be intolerable or totally undeserved.

Stuart Scott: Pride = the mindset of self (a master’s mindset rather than that of a servant); a focus on self and the service of self, a pursuit of self-recognition and self-exaltation, and a desire to control and use all things for self.

That is not what the believer is to be all about.

Phil. 2:3-4: “ Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Indeed, Jesus is our ultimate role model for living a life committed to the glory of God.

Stuart Scott: Humility = the mindset of Christ (a servant’s mindset); a focus on God and others, a pursuit of the recognition and the exaltation of God, and a desire to glorify and please God in all things and by all things He has given you.

In our culture, the one who is lifted up/the one with “high self esteem”/ proud is the greatest. According to Jesus, however, it is the humble person who is the greatest in God’s eyes. Jesus’ life is just the opposite of what is valued today. God’s Word tells us that we must have the perspective of Christ, rather than that of the world.

Rom. 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And the most amazing demonstration of humility and service was the suffering and death that Jesus endured on behalf of sinners like you and me.

So, what is an appropriate view of self?

  1. We are so very far beneath God and totally unworthy before Him (Ps. 8:1-4).
  1. We are no better and no worse than others, because we all are desperately wicked and totally incapable of anything worthwhile in God’s sight on our own (John 15:5; Rom. 3:10-18).
  1. There is nothing that anyone has accomplished or possesses that they should take credit for themselves (1 Cor. 4:7).
  1. We basically have no worth in and of ourselves, but God has given us (believers) a place we do not deserve and has set His love on us anyway (Eph. 2:4-7).
  1. God has rightly, graciously, and wisely given every one of His children to be used for His glory and for the purposes He has planned (Eph. 2:10; 1 Peter 4:10).

As a Christian, you should have as your objective not a “good” or “positive” self-image, but rather an accurate self-image based on biblically correct perceptions and evaluations of ourselves.

As we move toward Christ-likeness/spiritual maturity in our journey with Christ, the way to escape the maze of prideful assessments in our lives is to move toward humility and to have a biblical standard for the self-evaluations you and I continually make.

To help us stay on track, as we continue to grow spiritually, Lou Priolo (noted biblical counselor/author, including Pleasing People—How Not to Be an “Approval Junkie”) suggests that we make it a habit to place our self-evaluations in one of three categories:

  1. The first category has to do with the accuracy of our perceptions.

The effects of sin on our minds hinder us from interpreting life from God’s point of view. That’s one reason we are so dependent on the Bible for perspective. What’s more, our sinful hearts are capable of seriously distorting our judgments.   Self-evaluations are often wrong.

Ex: “ NO ONE cares for me!”

But a believer can learn how to change those perceptions, primarily with the assistance of Scripture and perhaps wise/objective friends.

  1. The second category has to do with a conscience or value system that has not been biblically programmed.

For example, sometimes people judge themselves to be inadequate in a particular area in which the Bible does not require adequacy.

Ex. If I wanted to be a pilot, ball player, and couldn’t do it. I don’t judge myself to be deficient, even though in those areas I am significantly inferior to others.   If I do judge myself to be an inadequate person or deficient in character as a result of these inferiorities, my value system is askew. Either I am overvaluing something that God doesn’t value, or I am not valuing as much as I should remember that He values very highly.

  1. The third category involves accurate perceptions of sinful behavior patterns that have not yet been corrected.

Spot sinful patterns in your life. If you don’t in some way begin correcting those sinful thoughts, motives, patterns or speech, habits, and attitudes—if you don’t actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying presence in your life—you will continue to be plagued by guilt/shame/consequences of those sinful actions.

You must learn how to change your behavior through the renewing of your mind, and the “putting off” the sinful patterns and the “putting on” Christ-honoring patterns/habits of behavior.

So, escape the quicksand of the self-esteem trap and think instead of BIBLICAL SELF-EVALUATION in terms of your life.

Get your focus off of yourself and onto God and others. In thanksgiving and joy, you and I have the freedom to serve Him, to be pleasing to Him and only Him.

You have His love, His forgiveness, His guidance and concern. You don’t need to “pad your resume” in order to feel good about yourself, nor do you have yearn for what you don’t have…or what others have.

As a man/woman in Christ, you are free to love God and love others. Stay faithful to that calling, and always guard your heart from pride….

Yes, Scripture tells us that God has “fearfully and wonderfully made us” (Ps. 139:14), that we have been created in God’s image, that we are “new creations” in Christ, but all of these things are points of praise to Him and His wonderful (amazing) grace, not occasions for pride/self-love for ourselves.

This game of low/high self-esteem is an ugly trap, a cheap and tawdry substitute for what you and I have been given in Christ.

Let’s live our lives accordingly!

 

CHRIST & THE CULTURE, Part 4 (Money & Possessions)

Perhaps you have been in one of these scenarios before. As you drive down the freeway you see the car dealership and you think about that particular car you have been wanting. You are shopping in Costco and all those nifty little kitchen appliances catch your eye. When you receive a Christmas card you open it, eager to see if money is in it.

There is no getting away from the fact that our culture pushes the drive to have more money and stuff. And often times, our heart is captured by it.  So, how as Christian are we do approach money and stuff?

 

1) Treasure Christ more than money. 

 

In a world that constantly battles for our affections and desires, we must evaluate what we treasure most. Do we treasure, love, enjoy, find satisfaction in the stuff of this world, or God himself? Money and material stuff is not bad in itself, and we there is a place to enjoy things in this world. The question is a question of worship.

Romans 1 tells us that humans have a fundamental problem, and that is we worship created things rather than the creator (Romans 1:18-32). It’s not money and stuff that is evil, it is the love of money that is the root of evil ( 1 Tim 6:10). It is what are hearts long for, and too often our hearts long for stuff more than the one who created it.

Matthew 6:24 creates a choice for people. It is a question of worship, it is a question of what we will chose to be mastered by.

Matt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The call of the gospel is to trust and put our lives into submission to Christ and be mastered by him alone. It is to treasure him alone.  Far to often however, we are mastered, ruled, and controlled by our stuff.  Another helpful passage is the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

This parable is a picture of a person who finds treasure in a field and sells everything to own the field in which the treasure is found. The treasure is Jesus Christ. This person sees and understands the worth of the treasure. As such, we should see the unparalleled worth of Jesus Christ to anything else in this world. Christ is eternal material stuff is fleeting. Christ is all glorious, material stuff breaks.  Christ brings joy; money and material stuff leaves us empty and wanting more.

So, the question for you is this: What do you treasure? What rules your heart? The gospel calls us to treasure and enjoy Jesus Christ above all else.

 

2) Be content with what you have. 

 

There really is no end to the amount of stuff and money a person can have. You can spend your entire life buying, hoarding, investing, receiving paychecks, shopping deals, and still never be satisfied. Which is why God wants us to be content with what we have.  The words of Ecclesiastes are ever so true in light of our desire to have more.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.”

So, if the possession of stuff is going to leave us wanting and unsatisfied, what will give us ultimate satisfaction?

Look at 1 Tim 6:6-8. “But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

We may spend our life trying to gain everything this world has to offer. However, Paul affirms that it is godliness with contentment that is great gain. The word “content” has the idea of having what is sufficient. As Christians, we posses what is sufficient, or in other words, we posses all we need by being In Christ.

2 Cor 9:8 declares this wonderful promise. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

It is God and his grace which gives us all that we need. Ultimately, as Christians, when we think about the promises of the gospel we should be ever satisfied with what God has given us; namely himself!

Dwell on these promises of the gospel revealed in Ephesians 1 for a moment: You as a believer have been Blessed with every Spiritual blessing, chosen by God,  adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and we have obtained an inheritance in him! That should be enough to give us satisfaction and be content in God and his grace towards us!

 

3) Give generously. 

 

I am truly convinced that if we understand that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven and not this earth, our mindset will be that of generosity. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Randy Alcorn uses this helpful little illustration when it comes to giving.

“Suppose your home is in France and you’re visiting America for three months, living in a hotel. You’re told that you can’t bring anything back to France on your flight home. But you can earn money and make mail deposits to your bank in France. Would you fill your hotel room with expensive furniture and wall hangings?
Of course not. send your money where your home is spending only what you needed on the temporary residence, sending your treasures so they be waiting for you back home.”

2 Corinthians 8:2 tells of churches that were extremely generous.  “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—”

From this passage, Paul characterizes their giving in three ways.

1) These churches gave out of their poverty. Vs. 2 says they gave when they were in a “severe test of affliction…and in their extreme poverty.” And yet, they were genourous. How many times have we said, “When we have a little more, we will give” Or “When we just get back on our feet we will give again.” This church is a model church of people who gave when they had little.

2) They gave freely.  Vs. 2 says they gave out of an “abundance of joy.” Vs 3, states they gave of “their own accord.” No one was forcing these churches to give, they did it out of joy for what Christ had done for them.

3) They gave beyond their means. Vs. 3 declares that they gave “according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means.” Some might object at this point and say that it is unwise to do anything beyond your means. And it is true, that we should not be unwise with our money. But the point here, is to give in a way that is sacrificial, in a way that makes us uncomfortable. And I would ask this: How many times have we spent money beyond our means? How many times have we spent money when we did not actually have it? If anything, we should default to giving and generosity.

CHRIST & THE CULTURE, Part 3 (The Authority of God’s Word in a World of Opinion)

Concluding our look at the authority of God’s Word in a world filled with fallen man’s opinions, here are the final 3 reasons why God’s Word trumps all “so-called” authorities this world offers.

 

Reason #4: Scripture is the Sole Authority Because – It Alone Defines Reality

The Scripture is clear, only God’s Word defines what truth is. Truth, for it to be truly true, must conform to the standard of God’s Word.

Psalm 119:160 – “160 The sum of Your word is truth.”

Psalm 119:142 “142 Your law is truth.”

Psalm 119:151 – “151 Your commandments are truth.”

In the words of Jesus, “17 Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

And the word choice is absolutely essential to grasp.

Notice, in each of the above passages, we do not read that God’s word is true. Though that would be an accurate statement—to say that God’s word is true. But, that is not what the above Scriptures state. Rather, the Bible says that it is truth.

What’s the difference?

Well, if God’s Word was simply true (using an adjective) that would mean that God’s Word had to conform to some other standard of truth. It would be true because it agreed with a standard of truth outside of itself.

But, to say that God’s Word is truth (using a noun) is to say that God’s Word is the standard of truth and anything that is deemed “true” must conform to it.

Only God’s Word defines what truly is.

It is the ultimate Truth in the milieu of small “t” truths.

Perception is not reality. Common consensus does not establish reality. Man’s opinion does not determine reality. The latest polls are worthless. Personal viewpoints are inconsequential. Individual preferences mean nothing. Human philosophies are irrelevant.

Only God’s Word defines what truly is. It is the objective standard, the universal absolute with which anything that wishes to be considered true must conform.

The 4th reason God’s Word is the sole authority that transcends all other authorities—It Alone Defines Reality.

 

 Reason #5: Scripture is the Sole Authority Because – It Alone Promises to Keep Us From Sin

God’s Word promises to never lead us astray. It promises that through obedience to it, you will produce fruit for His glory.

Man’s opinion not only shifts, but also leads to futility. Not so with God’s Word.

Psalm 1:1-3 – “1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 119:9 – “9 How can a young man keep his way pure?” How can we remain pure in the midst of a morally perverse world? How can we rise above the fray of a culture that is spiraling downward into depravity at break-neck speed? Here’s the answer – “9 By living according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).

Psalm 119:11 – “11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:33 – “104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.”

Psalm 119:105 – “105 Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

God’s Word trumps all cultural opinions – because it alone promises to keep us from sin.

 

Reason #6: Scripture is the Sole Authority Because – It Alone Will Be the Standard of All Future Judgment

At the end of your life, please understand: you will not be judged by your neighbor. You will not answer to the US Supreme Court. You will not give an account of your life to the 21st sociologists. No, there will be only one before whom you will stand and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. And His final judgment will be based upon His authoritative Word.

For the unbeliever, Jesus’ warnings must be heeded, “26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26-27):

In John 12, Jesus issued a similar warning, “48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48):

To reject the Scriptures is to reject the Savior—and thus be rejected by the Savior.

And for the believer, this same principle applies. Future judgment, not a judgment of punishment but a judgment of rewards, will be based upon his submission to God’s Word.

Isaiah 66:2 – “2 But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

2 Timothy 3:16-4:2 – “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”

For the preacher, his future reward will be based upon his faithfulness to proclaim God’s breathed out word in all of its fullness. And for the hearer, his reward is based upon his faithfulness to conform his life to God’s breathed out Word in all of its fullness.

The 6th Reason Scripture is the sole authority that transcends all other authorities—Because it alone will be the standard of all guture judgment.

In a world and culture where opinions reign, and sin dominates, and pressure to conform is strong, where truth has become individualistic—How are we to live as believers?

We are to come under the authority of God’s truth, and cherish His Lordship, and in faith believe Him, and obey Him.

This is where the Christian’s life within this world begins. This is the 1st step in navigating through the cultural issues of the day—accepting the authority of God’s Word over every area of our life.

CHRIST & THE CULTURE, Part 2 (The Authority of God’s Word in a World of Opinion)

Picking up where we left off – what follows are the first 3 reasons why God’s truth trumps all “so-called” truths this world offers.

Reason #1: Scripture is the Sole Authority Because – It Alone Was Written by God

When we come to the Scriptures, we come to a book unlike any other book (ever). The Bible is no normal set of writings—it’s author is no ordinary author.

419x’s the OT states, “Thus says the Lord(cf. Exodus 4:22; Joshua 24:2; 1 Samuel 15:2). And in each case, the writer uses the name “Yahweh,” the very name that sets god apart from all of His creation. The very one who answers to no one. The one who is completely self-sufficient.

Exodus 24:4 – “4 Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord(Exodus 24:4).

Matthew 4:4 – “4 Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The Scriptures trump every other thought, person, opinion, judicial decision, newspaper column, scientific journal, populist vote, and panel of experts because the Scriptures finds their source in the only uncreated, all-wise, all-knowing, all-supreme, sovereign, transcendent, self-sufficient God of the universe.

2 Timothy 3:16 explains that “16 All Scripture is inspired by God,” referring to the Scriptures being “God-breathed”—something that refers to “all Scripture.”

No Scripture can be dismissed as out-of-date. No Scripture can to be disregarded because it does not conform to our modern, so-called “enlightened” and “progressive” thoughts of the day.

Of course, each Scripture must be understood in its proper context, rightly interpreted, and correctly applied. But no Scripture is irrelevant. Why? Because all Scripture is the product of God’s creative breath. Scripture carries with it the same authority as the Creator Himself.

This is the great doctrine of inspiration. A doctrine that not only sets the Bible apart from all other writings, but also establishes the Scripture’s authority over all of life.

John Calvin put it this way, “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone.”

The Scriptures transcend all other thoughts and ideas, just as much as the Creator transcends all creation.

The 1st reason why God’s Word is the sole authority over all of life—it alone was written by God.

 

Reason #2: Scripture is the Sole Authority Because – It Alone Never Errs

If there is anything that we learn from history, it is the fallibility of fallen man. As the old saying goes, “To err is human.”

Yet, all error dissipates when you come to the Scriptures.

Unlike anything else in this world, the Scriptures are totally inerrant in all they say and completely infallible in all they assert.

Unlike fallen man, the Scriptures can be trusted in their entirety.

This is the testimony of Scripture itself.

Psalm 12:6 – 6 The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.”

Psalm 19:7-9 – 7 The law of the Lord is perfectthe testimony of the Lord is sure…8 The precepts of the Lord are right…the commandment of the Lord is pure…9 the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.”

Psalm 111:7 – “7 All His precepts are sure. 8 They are upheld forever and ever.” 

Psalm 119:140 – 140 Your word is very pure.

Psalm 119:172 – “172 Let my tongue sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.

Proverbs 30:5 – 5 Every word of God is tested.”

Romans 7:12 –12 The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

James 1:25 – 25 The perfect law.”

Never does Scripture criticize or correct itself. Never is Scripture influenced by the populace when it comes to truth. Never is Scripture influenced by the hidden agendas of men. Never does Scripture waver. Never will you find competing opinions in the Bible. And never will you find any error, falsehood, or lie in them (Hebrews 6:18).

The Scriptures speak with one voice, full authority, and absolute inerrancy.

This has been the testimony throughout the ages.

Augustine – “The Scriptures have never erred…The Scriptures cannot err…It is certain that the Scripture cannot disagree with itself.”

Martin Luther – “We must remain content with them, and cling to them as the perfectly clear, certain, sure words of God which can never deceive us or allow us to err” (Luther).

Calvin – “[Scripture is] free from every stain or defect.”

 

Reason #3: Scripture is the Sole Authority Because – It Alone Never Changes

Cultural opinions change. People’s minds change. Moral norms change. Standards change according to the latest poll.

What used to be taboo or thinkable a decade ago, is now commonplace and accepted. What once caused shame is now promoted.

Why is this so? Because without a fixed, objective standard of truth relativism will always win the day. Truth, if it is not found outside of you must then be found inside of you. And the result is always the same—lusts determine truth and desires determine fact. Everyone’s truth becomes valid and people take their stands on the ever shifting sands of opinion.

Yet, Scripture is altogether different. Because it was written by a transcendent God, its truth is transcendent and never changes with the times.

Psalm 119:89 – “89 Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.”

Psalm 119:160 – “160 The sum of Your word is truth [more on that in a moment], and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.”

Isaiah 40:8 – “8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the our God stands forever.”

Matthew 24:35 – “35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

John 10:35 – “35 The Scripture cannot be broken.”

The pundits will die off. Man’s opinions will ebb and flow. The polls will shift with the wind. But God’s Word will never change. It is, and forever will be, the authority that transcends all cultures.

CHRIST & THE CULTURE, Part 1 (The Authority of God’s Word in a World of Opinion)

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.

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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.