Summary: Exploring some issues in our world and culture from a Christian perspective, to equip us to live as Christians in our world. This first sermon sketches history and makes a case for engaging our culture
Engaging Our Culture: A Baptist Case For Involvement
I believe that part of my job as a preacher is to speak words of hope, of encouragement, of help for the difficulties that each of us face as we journey through life. To remind us over and over of the depth of God’s love, and to call us to respond to that love by loving God in return. That was my major focus through the fall as we talked about how God forms characteristics like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in us, as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and as we seek to walk through life in the Spirit.
But it is also my job to try to equip us to live as Christians in our world – to be aware of what is going on in our world and help us to understand and respond to those things in a way that obeys Scripture and enables us to work for the values of the Kingdom of God. The voice of our culture is loud and persuasive, and I believe that part of my job is to articulate a Christian response so that each of us are equipped to live as Christians in our world.
I get that conviction from Romans 12:1-2. In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul outlines all the things he believes – it is kind of like Paul is writing his major theological treatise. Then in chapter 12 he switches from what we believe to how we should live as a result of all the things we believe. Reading from the New Living Translation: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.”
So for the next little while I am planning to explore some issues in our world and culture from a Christian perspective, with the goal of allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into new people by changing the way we think – by “renewing our minds” as the more familiar translation puts it. I will strive as always to make these very relevant to our lives, to help us connect to the heart, and above all (as always) to lead us to God and discover deeper life as we live for God.
I want to make two requests before using the remainder of this sermon to establish a case for us being called by God to engage our culture. The first is this: would you let me know of issues/topics that you think we need to talk about together? There are a few obvious ones – the nature of marriage, how we live as people of truth in a culture that rejects the very existence of objective truth, whether all “religions” really lead to the same place, money and wealth and global responsibilities in the face of poverty and disaster, what our role is in caring for our environment. I really want to spend time on the issues that you feel a need to know more about so that you can be “transformed by the renewing of your mind”. So would you let me know what those issues/topics are? I created a poll on our website that you can use to let me know which topics would be helpful.
The second request is this: if any of you are interested and gifted in doing research on some of these topics, I would find that very valuable as I prepare. Some of you are already far more knowledgeable about these issues than I, some of you would really enjoy digging in and reading and synthesizing the perspectives and arguments and have the time, and I’ve always dreamed of having a team of “sermon research associates”. If that interests you, let me know!
So, with that rather lengthy introduction, let us pray.
Christians In Culture:
When you and I become Christians, we don’t get transported immediately into a new dimension where none of the stuff of this world impacts us any longer. As much as we might sometimes wish that were the case, we have to wait for heaven for that experience. Until then, we are stuck here.
And, in a very wonderful way, that is a part of God’s perfect plan for all people. God changes us, fills us with power and gifts, and then sends us as ambassadors of His Kingdom into our present world. Unfortunately, we do not get diplomatic immunity to the pain and difficulties, but it is still a pretty incredible privilege. We get to represent God to our world! We get to show then the same love, the same grace, the same forgiveness, the same patience, etc, that God has shown us. A high calling, a costly calling, yet (in Paul’s words), “When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?”