In simple terms, culture is how a Christian relates to and interacts with society. Evidences of culture are all around us. From the clothes we wear, to what we watch and listen, to what we eat, how we think, what we read, and who we admire are just a few of the manifestations of culture. The implication for Christians is clear and challenging. Christians cannot simply uncritically absorb the culture in an attempt to be seen as relevant and cool because that would mean forsaking their responsibility to be “the salt of the earth.” Jesus’ call for us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world means that we can’t simply condemn culture and withdraw from it. We must live in a culture and under God.
Something To Talk About:
Our culture is becoming less and less “Christian.” So what does that mean for us? This message addresses these questions and examines how we should live as Christians “under God.” The goal is to identify from the Bible how we ought to shape our lives and live faithfully under the authority of Christ as we relate to the culture surrounding us. To that end, consider the following suggestions:
- Line in the sand: To minimize the influence of culture in our lives requires us to periodically draw a line in the sand as Daniel did when asked to eat food offered to pagan gods. Drawing a line in the sand sets boundaries in our lives. Drawing lines in the sand says I will not go beyond this point. Knowing where our lines are helps us to know what we value and who we are when cultural influences work their way into our lives. And drawing a line in the sand says I will not go back or retreat. Joshua 24:15 : ”But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” And Luke 9:62 says, “But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” There are times when it seems impossible to overcome and we want to give up. It is at those times we must draw a line in the sand and refuse to retreat. We must realize God has called us and we fight the fight in the victory that Christ has already won. As Christians we always need to be on guard because culture wants to move or blur the lines in the sand. They want to distort or erase the lines all together. Our enemy wants you to forget you even had a line.
- Have predetermined resolutions: Limiting cultures influence on our lives requires some guardrails. As we have talked about in the past, guardrails are a system designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas. Nobody pays attention to guardrails unless you need one. There are all different kinds of guardrails. Now, the interesting thing is, in our culture and in our world there are hazards on the other side of the guardrail that are bad and should be avoided at all costs. The same thing can be said of culture. There are parts of culture that should be avoided whether through resolutions that were discussed on Sunday or by guardrails. Rather than revisit the subject matter that was covered on Sunday, let me give you a general guardrail to put in place when culture makes inroads into your life. In other words: What is it on the other side of this guardrail that everybody should avoid? Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” Be very careful, then, how you live. Be wise, not unwise. Unwise mean careless, or indifferent. The command to all of us today is to “evaluate” how we use our time and to “evaluate” what really matters in life. In our evaluation of our life and how we live, we must be very careful of the choices and decisions we make daily. They must be decisions based on being under God and not under culture.
- Influence culture without being influenced by culture: People often ask me the following question: “Should Christians try to influence culture or use the church as a kind of cultural bomb shelter?” My answer is yes and no. The Bible calls us to engage, redeem, and restore culture. The Bible does not tell us to hunker down and hide because culture may influence us. We want our faith to positively influence our communities, but how do we keep from getting sucked in by the gravitational lure of culture away from God? The easy answer is to develop Jesus’ immune system. Jesus didn’t hide from culture, nor was He seduced by it. What is Jesus’ “immune system,” and how did it free Him to interact with people on the margins and the center of culture? Jesus received His identity, integrity and mission from His Father. Jesus was strong enough to interact with the world, the flesh and the devil without inhaling their toxins. All of this kept Jesus distinct yet connected. As we work to become more like Jesus, He gives us the tools and the practices that will strengthen our “immune systems” and prepare us for whatever culture throws at us. That’s why it’s so essential that we grow spiritually. A relationship with Jesus is the strongest immune system you could ask for.
- As a Christian, should we expect or anticipate a cultural collision that is a conflict or misunderstanding because of our religious belief? Why or why not?
- Is it more likely that culture or people in your life influence you more? Where does entertainment, work, money, faith, and approval of others fit in?
- On Sunday’s scale of 1-10, with 1 being under culture, and 10 being under God, what do you think is a reasonable number to be at? Why?
- Read the story of Daniel, found in Daniel 1:1-21: What stands out to you? How does it apply to your life today?
- What cultural compromises do we make that can cause us to drift away from God?
- What is your best predetermined resolution that helps you better live under God? What are some other ones?
- Given those predetermined resolutions, what small steps will you have to take to follow through? Which is your first step?
Take One Thing Home with You:
Being humble is a powerful tool. Jesus was humble, even when he performed miracles. He was humble standing in His power. His humility drew people to Him because they trusted Him. His authenticity entered the room before He did. You can’t have God’s kind of love without humbleness because that love expresses itself from a servant’s heart. Humbleness has the ability to see others, truly see them, without filters. Humbleness surrenders, while culture says resist. Humbleness trusts, while culture likes to boast. Humbleness loves, while culture fights. Humbleness empowers, while culture limits.
If we want to be great in God’s eyes and have influence, we should seek to be humble and have a servant’s heart first.