Bitter Wine from the Well-Kept Vineyard- Analyzing Isaiah 5.1-7 in the Western Church

February 26, 2009

This week, according to the wonderful plans provided by LifeWay, I am supposed to be teaching Isaiah 5 to my Sunday School class.  This is an interesting passage, and when I read it for the first time that was just what I thought, “This is interesting,” but that was about it.  I did notice that it had the best verse against frat boys in it (v.22, “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.”), but as far as something worthwhile for my class, initially I was at a loss.  However, as I kept reading, I decided to cut out all of the “Woes” directed at the men of Judah and focused in on vv.1-7.  Here’s what they say:

Let me sing for my beloved
     my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
     on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
     and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
     and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
     but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
     and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard,
     that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
     why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
     what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
     and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
     and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
     it shall not be pruned or hoed,
     and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
     that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
     is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
     are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
     but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
     but behold, an outcry!
(Isaiah 5.1-7)

As we read, this starts as a poem from Isaiah to his beloved, God, and then crosses over to be a poem from God to the “inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah.”  In it, both Isaiah and God lament a vineyard which had been prepared by the Lord, cleared of all debris and hindrances to growth, planted and cared for with full provision, and yet nonetheless the fruit of the vines is a bitter product, bringing judgment and destruction upon the vines.  In reading this, the one verse that really struck me was v.4,

What more was there to do for my vineyard,
     that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
     why did it yield wild grapes?

Here God is saying, what else could I have done?  What more could you have asked for?  What was lacking that the vines needed to produce good fruit? and yet they didn’t.  Has God been negligent?  Has God not provided what is necessary for his vines to grow up into healthy plants?  Surely not.  Then why do they fail?

I read this and the first thing that jumped out to me was how convictingly accurate this idea is when pressed against the situation of Western Christianity.  I particularly viewed it in light of myself and my own church, thinking how on Sunday morning we get up and head to padded chairs in a climate-controlled building with locks on the doors and coffee on the table, only to complain about how noisy it gets while we try and have Sunday School or how crowded our classes are or how cheesy the music is.  And then, when we go out from that place, we act as if we were never there to begin with and shed the “Jesus Freak” persona until the same time next week.  We pass the time between Sundays without living out our calling, without sharing our faith or living in a manner that is honorable around non-believers (1 Peter 2.11-12).  We chase after the desires of our hearts and claim “Christian liberty” for indulging in all the vices of the flesh which have controlled us since before we came under grace.  

And all the while, God is sitting back saying, “What more was there to do for my church, that I have not done in it?”  We have no need.  We are not under fear of persecution.  But somehow this makes no difference.  Though we lack not, we still seem to be producing wild grapes that make a bitter wine.  

I am just as guilty of this as all of us.  I could share my faith with anybody I want, anybody I see out in the day-to-day world I live in, without anything to fear but possibly rejection.  But I don’t.  I bide my time, saying, “That person seems busy, they don’t want a religious nut intruding on them,” “They’re probably already a Christian; look at that cross they’re wearing,” “I shouldn’t share with that person, I really don’t have time to get wrapped up in a big discussion.”  What is that?  Where does that come from?  There is no freer place in the world to share the gospel than in my context, the American South, and yet I balk at it all the time.  Why?

We are so unaware of what God has given us, or aware but unmoved by it, and in the end what it leads to is wasted fruit, grapes that are pleasing to no one, not worthy of being pressed into wine, only to be thrown out and trambled on the ground.  What will it take for this to convict us?  Will it fall short of the destruction brought upon Judah, or have we already gone too far?

The Laodicean Project- A God After Man’s Own Heart

May 12, 2008

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” -Romans 1:22-23

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’” -Exodus 20:1-4

“God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us. -Joel Osteen

In a prior post we discussed the first of our detrimental views on God which are causing traditionally Christian societies to become lukewarm (at best!) in their faith, namely the view that God does not exist, or that if he ever did, then now he is dead. In this post we will examine another popular view, and probably the one most prevalent in America, that God exists, but that I am free to determine what he is allowed to do. (Another post about this topic can be found here concerning a quote by Tim Keller).

It doesn’t take much consideration to think of an example of a man-made god that you have seen, either in your own peer group or on TV. It comes out in the form of broad statements about God’s character, such as “I don’t believe in a God that would remain silent when so many people are suffering” or “A loving God would not condemn people for being gay.” Surprisingly (or not) these often seem to arise out of some desire to make God look good, make ourselves look good, or both.

But why do we feel the need to do this? Can’t God do his own PR work? Why are we constantly trying to make him look good when put in the situation of interpreting his position on homosexuality or abortion or putting spinners on our Escalade? Are we really doing God a favor, that people won’t want to worship him anymore unless we tell them that God doesn’t mind them keeping a mistress on the side?

No. Think about it. No. Obviously this very noble motivation is not what’s driving us. Because, “if God is God” then he can do his own image upkeep. Instead, I believe that our own motivation is that we know we are supposed to believe in God but either we don’t or we just don’t believe enough to face the hard truths. Am I saying everything is clear in the Bible? Certainly not. But is the Bible pretty straight-forward about most of the things we try and sweep away? You bet your tush it is!

Speaking on the topic of God’s opinion on homosexuality, Presbyterian teacher Dr. R.C. Sproul said that the issue is not what the Bible teaches, since anyone who is being honest to the text knows that the Bible teaches homosexuality as a sin. No, the issue is whether or not we are going to choose to obey God’s Word! Wow! But you know, that’s really what it is. We know that the Bible teaches against drunkenness, sex outside of marriage, gambling, and assorted other things. That’s not the question. The question is if we “[love] the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God (John 12:43)” ?

So, what is the result of such a practice in our societies? Well, the first thing that we see is that it causes us to create a false god, a created god, which is in clear violation of the Second Commandment. God commands us not to create a carved image or anything in the likeness of the things of heaven. This doesn’t just mean a statue, but also that when we create a god in our minds and then worship it as if it were the God of the Bible, we are violating God’s Law.

Moreover, in creating a god of our own liking, we also create all kinds of distorted theology to defend our belief and try to ingrain our thoughts in popular religion. One such PR job is “Open Theism.” In Open Theism the belief is that God is somehow incapable of knowing the future actions of a human being with free will. In a sense this puts God at the mercy of man as to the control of what happens on the earth, stripping his sovereignty. But, what you lose in God’s sovereignty, you gain in removing his responsibility for acts of tremendous suffering such as 9-11 or the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.

Another popular (false) teaching is that propagated by the likes of Joel Osteen and TD Jakes, that God wants us to be rich and prosperous, and that those who are connected fully to God will be blessed financially. I guess that means Jesus was a sucky Christian since he had “nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20) and had to pay the temple tax with money from a fishes mouth (Matthew 17:24-27). If he were really in touch with God’s will then he would have a phat mud hut in the hills with the latest in turn-of-the-AD features.

As “Christians” being raised in a “Christian” society, it is important to get the right bearings about God. God is not open to negotiation. If we find ourselves worshiping a god of our own creation we must analyze why this is: either we have gotten off track with our theology and are trying to satisfy men and ourselves at the sake of the truth, or we have never known the truth and so feel free to create whatever we want just to have faith in something. Either reason is unacceptable. Instead, we must return to the God of the Bible, the God revealed in Scripture, the God who reveals himself through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We can no longer stand for the proliferation of a god after man’s own heart if we are to ever see our Christian nations flee from their lukewarm state.

The Laodicean Project- Do We Have More Faith than the Demons?

May 5, 2008

“And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.”… Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.” -Luke 4:33-34,40-41

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” -James 2:19

One of the great works we see in Jesus’ ministry is his authority to cast out demons. As the witnesses said in Luke 4:36, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Yet, when we look carefully at the actual accounts of his dealing with the demons we see something very interesting. At various times when Jesus is casting out the demons he also has to silence them (“he…would not allow them to speak”, Luke 4:41). But why? Because they would reveal that he was the Christ! (Mark 3:12, Luke 4:41) We see that the demons know Christ. They believe that he is the Son of God, the Christ. But, this knowledge and belief does them no good. They are still demons because they do not have a saving faith in Christ.

I believe that this can speak volumes to where we stand today in many of the Christian societies. We call ourselves Christian, invoke Christ’s name in our everyday lives, and maybe even have the power to tell other people about him. Yet for some reason people aren’t attending church, they aren’t staying married or waiting until they’re married to begin living with their girlfriend. They aren’t drinking and driving or gossiping any less. Why is this? To me it seems the question comes down to this: People will say and believe that Jesus is the Christ and yet one may wonder, is their faith like the apostles or like the demons?

The Laodicean Project- How Did it Get Like This?

May 2, 2008

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” -Galatians 5:7

In today’s post I want to call us to reflection on trying to figure out, now that we see there truly is a problem, where exactly this problem came from? As Paul was saying to the Galatians, “When I left you were doing everything correctly but now you’re not. What happened in between to lead you astray?” We must look long and hard to figure out, in the context of each individual society, what it was that took us away from the path we were supposed to run.

In a future post I will list some opinions that writers on the subject have offered as to the cause of this lukewarmness, but I believe that it is important for us to first evaluate the issue ourselves. We once were running so well, but now we’re not. What happened?

The Laodicean Project- Fighting Nominal Christianity

April 29, 2008

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” -Matthew 7:21-23

“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” -Malachi 3:17-18

Probably my biggest pet peeve in all of Christianity is the prevalence of those today who claim Christ in word and yet not in action. It sends chills down my spine every time I see a rapper or actor accept an award for producing a piece which glorifies all the finer points of depravity and the first thing they do is thank the God who gave them their ability or Jesus Christ their personal savior. Not to say that these people aren’t Christians, but by evaluating these people based upon their fruits (which, if they are believers is perfectly acceptable, see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13) I would not be too quick to call them brothers.

This is the root essence of nominal Christianity. The person who checks the Christian box every time and yet they can’t remember the last time they went to church when it wasn’t Easter or Christmas. The person who observes Lent or refuses to drink an alcoholic beverage, and yet they have no boundaries when it comes to sexual relationships or language. We all know these people, and present company included, we may have been or currently are these people. When, as I commented in the previous post, there are 95 million American young adults, 60 million of which would describe themselves as Christian, and yet only 3 million of them actually believe such things as “Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth” or “God [is] the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today,” it seems clear that a large percentage of Americans aren’t really all that concerned with what being a Christian means as long as it is something they can just say that they are.

So, is this such a big deal? Certainly. For one, it is a big deal for the people who would be termed “nominal Christians.” If they are just going through the motions then what a terrible thing it would be for them to stand before the Lord on the day of judgment saying “Lord, Lord” just to be turned away. Maybe they never really heard the Gospel. Maybe we took for granted that just because it was being preached in buildings throughout the country, on TV and on radio, that at some point this person had heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, not to be crass, but we all know what happens when we assume… This is why it is important to reach out and perform true Gospel preaching ministry in the midst of our “Christian” societies. For someone to live their life with a false hope of inheriting the faith of their parents or community is unacceptable with the various outlets available for Christian outreach, but unfortunately I feel it is a reality that is all too real in Western culture these days. This needs to change.

The second reason this is a big deal is because it dilutes the ability which the church has to be effective in the culture. When the world outside judges the church based on the overwhelming numbers of nominal Christians they encounter it does a great disservice to the true heart of Christian ministry. When the world is able to construct polling data which shows “Christians” as being no different than “non-Christians” on moral issues such as divorce, homosexuality or abortion, it turns into an indictment on the inadequacy of Christianity instead of being shown for what it truly is, that being an indictment on the terrifying number of nominal Christians around us. The Barna Group even admits in their research that when the same moral issues are analyzed against the smaller percentage of respondents who espouse a biblical worldview, then the gulf between the world and Christianity becomes very apparent. Therefore, if we could either ignite or alienate those nominal Christians in our congregations and throughout the “Christian” societies, moving them either into broken or hardened hearts, then we should have no problem illustrating the radical difference that a biblical conversion has on the heart of those who believe and confess Jesus as Lord.

Then the last question remains: just how do we fight the insurgence of nominal Christianity? The most effective way I believe is to simply preach the Gospel, focusing on “Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)” and not just assume that everybody already understands what happened and why it had to be that way. Also, to live our lives as an example of not only Gospel preaching but Gospel love, a sacrificial love which reaches out to others in kindness and not judgment, will make a difference in manifesting the true character of God and the revolutionary effect he has had on us. We need to remember that we are called to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13,14) and as such our lives of ministry should be nothing like those of the world, but instead should be found “to be conformed to the image of [Jesus]” (Romans 8:29) so that the world “may see [our] good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).”

Nominal Christianity is a major problem in America, England, and other traditionally Christian societies around the globe. It’s dark shadow has hampered the effectiveness of the Gospel light both to ourselves and our neighbors. Therefore, in order to change the lukewarm nature of these cultures and save them from becoming a biblical loogie we must act in a way as to polarize those just checking the box and remove the pervasiveness of nominal Christianity from our religious atmosphere.

The Laodicean Project- Is This Even Necessary?

April 28, 2008

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” -Revelation 3:16

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10:24-25

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” -Romans 1:21-23

“In spite of the fact that many of them are currently disconnected from a church, most Americans, including two-thirds of all adult Mosaics and Busters [ages 18-41], tell us that they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their life…. Of course, this raises the question of the depth of their faith…. [O]ut of 95 million Americans who are ages 18 to 41, about 60 million say they have already made a commitment to Jesus that is still important; however, only about 3 million of them have a biblical worldview.” -Dave Kinnaman, unChristian, p.74-75

“Recently gathered data on church membership and church attendance show that unless trends are reversed, major British denominations will cease to exist by 2030.” -Steve Bruce, Christianity in Britain, R. I. P.

The most important question to ask ourselves before spending our time trying to deal with lukewarm faith in Christian societies is to first figure out if there is even really a problem. Just because we see a highly secularized media or a pop culture which views religion for its commercial appeal and cool factor instead of its personal importance, does not mean that there is actual an issue with the common everyday Joe on the street. Thus, instead of depending on our own senses and intuition, let’s look at what the statistics have to say:

  • America
    • Among all Americans 78.4% claim Christianity of some sort, 51.3% being Protestant, and 26.3% Evangelical. Among 18-to-41 year olds, 66% claim Christianity of some sort, yet when given a survey of worldviews only 3% expressed a consistent biblical (Evangelical) worldview
  • United Kingdom
    • According to recent surveys only 45% of Britons claim to be Christians of some sort, with 8% actually attending church regularly (compared to 41% in America). Moreover, popular opinion is that major denominations, such as Methodism, will be extinct in Britain by 2030
  • Western Europe
    • In France and Sweden, 60% and 46%, respectively, of population never attend church. Moreover, between a quarter and a third of the populations of France, Sweden, Germany, Estonia, and the Netherlands believe there is no god or any other type of spiritual essence

So, according to the numbers it also appears that there is a problem. The biggest issues I think we see are on two, almost completely opposite fronts. The first front is the problem which seems most pronounced in America and England, that being the high percentage of what is now being termed in the research as “Nominal Christians”; people who claim Christianity but do not exhibit either a biblical worldview or attend church regularly. The other problem is the growth of atheism as a religious worldview, this being seen heavily throughout Western Europe but not yet as much in America. Both of these are substantial problems for the church as it tries to address lukewarmness in these traditionally Christian societies, and as such we will try and deal with each one specifically over the course of the next two posts.

The Laodicean Project- Observing Christ’s Letter to the Church at Laodicea Today

April 25, 2008

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ “ -Revelation 3:14-22

I would like to make a proposal. If you feel the same way after reading this then feel free to join me. I propose that starting today we begin an initiative which I would like to call “The Laodicean Project.” This project will be directed towards reaching the people, not of the remote villages where Christ has never been preached, and not of the impoverished nations where faith in Christ may be all a person owns as they prepare for a slow, undignified death, but towards those people who, in light of Revelation 3:16, are in danger of becoming cosmic backwash!

It is the people of our so-called Christian societies. America, England, France, Australia. Places where Christ appears on any number of TV shows and books and songs and t-shirts. Places where the “Christian” box is checked a majority of the times during surveys. And, oddly enough, places where sin and filth and defilement and evil are as rampant, if not more so, than anywhere else on Earth.

We have discussed this problem before and it continues to be a burden on my heart. I don’t think this is for everyone. I believe that the majority of people are still called to go out “to the end of the earth” and to “make disciples of all the nations” (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19). However, for those like myself, who feel burdened so deeply as they watch the name of Christ dragged through the mud around them, who see people dying with false assurance because others were too busy being PC to ever call them out on their lostness , who watch as “Christianity” assimilates into the culture to a point where all distinctions seem nominal, I want to challenge you to make a difference. As Christ declared to the original Laodiceans, we too must make known the blind, naked poverty of our society today.

Christ warned the Laodiceans. Their breed of half-hearted, self-agrandizing, tepidity made Jesus sick to his stomach, to the point where he wanted to vomit. I can only imagine were he to pen the letter again today about the churches in our Christian societies that his sentiments would be the same. In the following series of posts I want to look further at how we might approach the problem of our modern-day Laodiceas, the obstacles which stand in our way and the principles in God’s Word which can help us overcome. If you feel this same burden, please pray, continue reading the next posts, and feel free to contact me with any further ideas you may have.

But, more than anything, remember to act so that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11)

Mr. Christian Man, It’s Okay to Rock!- Doing What God Has Approved

April 20, 2008

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” -Ecclesiastes 11:9

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” -Ecclesiastes 9:7

There are many Christians of the old cloth who teach that the only way for a Christian to live is by denying themselves of any pleasure which comes through the things of the world. They make such vain declarations as “It is a sin to dance” or “Rock’ n’ Roll is Devil music.” I personally came across one of these anachronistic restrictions when my wife and me were preparing for our wedding. To be honest, we did not plan on having dancing at our reception, but even if we had it would have been forbidden by the contract which we had to sign in order for our church to perform the service. This came as a surprise to me that our church, which had so frequently taught against the evils of legalism, was itself guilty of such of propagating such a meaningless rule.

I came across an interesting view on this one time when listening to a pastor speak on similar verses. He talked about how there are parents who just make rules like don’t listen to rock music, don’t dance, don’t see R-rated movies, and don’t do drugs, without giving justification. So then, the kids in typical teenage rebellion, decided to start testing the barriers which their parents tried to construct. First they go to a rock concert and, surprisingly, nothing bad happens. Next, they attend a school dance, and again, nothing bad. Then they go out to see an R-rated movie on a Friday night. So far it is 3 for 3 on the parents rules being pointless. Finally, one day after school they go over to a friend’s house and decide to try some drugs, since before all the other rules had done was delay the enjoyment that they eventually had in those activities. However, this time the drug use winds up leading to addiction and their whole life falls apart as a result. In the same way, the people in the church, by creating laws against things which God doesn’t himself forbid, can wind up creating more sin than preventing it. Thus, it is important to just stick with the things which are actually scripture, such as the above verses.

But, there is also the temptation to swing to the other extreme. It is this fault which I believe many emerging leaders fall into when they promote people into unabashed pleasures and self-indulgence as an alternative to the legalism which they were brought up with themselves. In doing this they have a propensity to throw out things which God actually cares about (such as sexual purity or self-control) alongside with eschewing the false laws of their parents.

In the end, it is a balancing act. We don’t need to be self-flagellating monks who eat burnt toast and sing only in chants, but at the same time it is not advisable to live “however the hell” we want. Instead, for those which God has truly “born again to a living hope,” in whom God has “remov[ed] the heart of stone” and given “a heart of flesh,” they continually need to “be conformed to the image of [Christ]” and keep “press[ing] on to make [salvation]” their own, just as Christ has made them “his own” (1 Peter 1:3, Ezekiel 36:26, Romans 8:29, Philippians 3:12). Those who God has truly changed should strive to live an abundant life while staying within the righteous restrictions which God has laid out, so that, as John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” including in the wonderful things which he has provided for us!

Only Fools Look Back- Another Reason to Forget About the ’50′s

March 28, 2008

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”
-Ecclesiastes 7:10

A few days ago I made a post concerning the necessity to quit looking over our shoulders at the “good ol’ days” of American Christianity if we want to be effective for Christ in the future. It’s funny how God is always one step ahead though, and how there is so much in scripture which we can only know if we study deeper. I believe the above verse really makes the point I tried to make already, and seeing as how it is part of God’s inspired word it must be a good idea. Just thought I would pass this along.

It’s Not That We Don’t Know About Sin… – The Question of How to Evangelize Christian Societies

March 27, 2008

“It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.” – R.W. Dale, The Atonement

I was reading “The Cross of Christ” by John Stott recently (which, by the way, is an amazing book!) when I came across this quote by the theologian R.W. Dale. It seemed very poignant to me, especially as recently I have been considering a related larger question which is: how can Christians most effectively evangelize “Christian” societies?

To me, this is one of the most pivotal questions which American, and in general all Western Christians must face. As time goes by we see our traditionally Christian countries, such as the United States and Great Britain, becoming increasingly secular. It is up to the point where weekly church attendance in the United Kingdom has dropped below 10% of the total population, and in America it is not too much better. However, a majority of citizens in these societies would still like to bear the moniker of “Christian”, even though for all intents and purposes that ship has long since sailed. Therefore, as responsible evangelicals we must search for a way to address this issue.

One of the biggest chasams in the way of reaching these people is what I believe the quote is trying to address. In going into a western, Christian society it is not the same as going into the African plain or the South American rain forest, where location and language are the biggest barriers. Instead, what we have to deal with is a people who largely know they are sinners, largely know what the Bible teaches about morality, and yet, through their own depravity and jadedness towards the failings of the church, have made a conscious decision not to be bothered by this. It’s not that the people don’t know that they are sinful, but it is that they know and yet are unbroken by it! Therefore, the challenge becomes how to make people reject a lifestyle which they have actively chosen in spite of, and sometimes even in opposition to, the Christian teachings which have occurred around them their entire life.

This is so crucial because, like it or not, the course of the world is still being driven in large part by the western societies, and if Christianity were to vanish here, it would have a major impact everywhere else.

Expect more on this in the weeks to come, as I am currently preparing a Bible study on the topic for April 4th.