Summary: Three realities that help us face uncertainties in our future with spiritual confidence.
You and I live in an amazing period of human history. Most culture watchers and scholars believe that we are witnessing the decline of modernism that began in the 16th century and the emergence of a new phenomenon known as postmodernism.
One of the many marks of postmodernism is technological advancements. Consider just a few of the incredible changes we can expect to see in the next few years. According to Leonard Sweet, who teaches at Drew University, soon your computer will talk, your TV will listen and your telephone will show you pictures.1 So don’t be surprised when your spouse says, "Answer the television, honey, I’m watching the phone."
Within 5 to 7 years half of all the jobs listed in today’s classifieds won’t even exist anymore. Pollster George Barna tells us that by the year 2010, between 10 to 20% of Americans will use the Internet as their sole means of spiritual expression. Currently 27 human body parts can be replaced by mechanical parts. Fururist Geoffrey Meridith claims that by the end of the next century books as we know them will cease to exist and written language will disappear almost completely.
In their book Shopping For Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium, Richard Cimino and Don Lattin tell us we can expect to see a cease fire in the war between religion and science as more and more scientists talking about faith in God.2 Cimino and Lattin tell us that large corporations are going to become more and more concerned with the spiritual welfare of employees, even to the point of hiring corporate chaplains.3 Finally, a secular forecaster named Faith Popcorn has recently said: "We stand at the start of a Great [spiritual] Awakening. A time of spiritual upheaval and religious revival...What’s different about this awakening is that there’s very little agreement on who or what God is, what constitutes worship, and what this...outpouring means for the future direction of our civilization."
The word picture Leonard Sweet uses to describe our generation is a tidal wave of change as we enter fully into the post-modern era of human history. We live in remarkable times, times that are unprecedented in terms of social change and cultural upheaval in the history of human civilization.
Yet these seismic changes have caused many to become deeply fearful. Militia movements and separatist communities flourish. Christians have vacillated between the extremes of denial and hysteria in the midst of this chaos. Many Christians have advocated a "hunker in the bunker" mentality.
For instance, Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation and the guy who coined the phrase " moral majority," is calling Christians to systematically withdraw from all areas of public life.4 Weyrich says, "We are caught up in a cultural collapse of historic proportions... Therefore, what seems to me a legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have [become]...enemies of our traditional culture." Weyrich calls all Christians to completely withdraw from public education, all political involvement, for us to set up our own community court systems, and otherwise seek to live as cultural Amish in the midst of such chaotic social change. Weyrich may be extreme, but his view isn’t at all unique.
Others are giving into hysteria, especially as we approach the year 2,000. Although the y2k computer bug is certainly real, the most hysterical reactionaries have been people who name the name of Jesus. Some prominent Christian voices are advocating moving to unpopulated areas with lots of guns and food.
So as we’re 3 months before the start of the new year we’re going to start a new series to ring in the year 2000 called LIVING CONFIDENTLY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES. In this series we’re going to go through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The Thessalonians were also facing uncertain times, and these two letters were written to them to help them avoid both withdrawal and hysteria.The apostle Paul--who wrote 16 of the 27 books found in the New Testament—-started the church in the Greek city of Thessalonica back in the year 50 AD. Paul—along with his team members Silas and Timothy—planted this new church during his 2nd missionary journey, as they traveled through Greece along the Roman road called the via Egnatia visiting the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.
Greece back then was the cradle for ancient paganism, as myths and legends about the Greek gods on Mt. Olympus had become an ingrained part of Greek culture. Thessalonica was a populous, important and sexually immoral city.5 From the city square in Thessalonica you could see Mt. Olympus fifty miles to the South, which was supposed to be the home of all the Greek gods. 6 The dominant religions of Thessalonica were the worship of the Egyptian mystery cult of Seripis, the frenzied worship of the Greek wine and fertility god Dionysus, and finally the Imperial cult, where the Roman emperor was worshipped as a god.7 Some of the statues used to symbolize these groups are so graphic that I couldn’t show you pictures of them on the screen without making our service rated-R. Worship in these various groups was characterized by actually worshipping statues of the sexual organs, drunkenness, and all kinds of sexual perversion.