Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Cultural Countenance: Countering the Culture as a Christian

Fountain Outside the Railway Station
Photo courtesy of Emil Athanasiou and Flickr.

The common bond of Christians cemented through their relationship with Jesus Christ brings forth a union that is not found in any worldly institution. Through the illumination of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit believers share similar convictions and passions. It is not surprising then to see Christians come together with a common lament over the status of our society. We look upon the countenance of our culture and see not just a mere rejection of God, but a complete acceptance of anything that is contrary to God.
In a few short years the culture has undergone a significant transformation. As the gospel minimized God and maximized man, there was but one result that could take place: a minimization of sin. Unconfronted sin was not merely acceptable, but became the pedestal for the movement of tolerance. Now we find ourselves living in the midst of people who find many sins to be merely a choice of lifestyle and thus they are embraced far and wide. It is indeed a culture with the mindset of versus Deum (literally against God).
Christians find themselves unable to escape this mindset. As they depart for work, pick up their morning cup of coffee or a casual walk down the street can create conflicts between a personal desire to serve God and to serve the world. The conscience is tested at the most basic level with the most basic human activities. It leaves Christians bonding together over the question, “In light  who the culture is and who God is, how do I live?”
The New Testament is replete with answers and examples on how to answer this question. However, perhaps none are more clear than the testimony set by Paul. In his letters to the Corinthians, particularly 1 Corinthians, we see him dealing with a people who are spiritually immature at best. While they are clearly Christians, as evidenced by his using the word ‘us’ in 1 Corinthians 1:18) they have yet not made the connection on how to live out their salvation in the context of the church and the world. Instead they find divisions and conflict among them. Thus, Paul preaches to them about their faith, proclaiming doctrine and how it will impact they way they live. From the outset he draws clear distinctions between those who are truly believers and those who are truly not believers. Thus, we find our answer to the question, “How do I live?” in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians.
It is there that he explains that culture is full of people who claim to be scholars and wise men of their era. Specifically he calls out the Jews who seek signs of the Messiah, while the Greeks he says are seeking wisdom. Such parallels are found in our culture today. Most say they would never accept the existence of God or Christ without proof, nevermind the proof that already exists. Even more they find their trust in the epistemological realm of today claiming it to be more infallible than an infallible God. Although the form may have changed, the heart attitudes have not. The rejection of Christ today is not much different than the rejection of Christ during his earthly ministry.
Paul’s description of the world here then casts our eyes upon believers and forces us to consider what makes us different. Even more, in light of those differences, how do we respond to the culture? In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul says simply, “We preach Christ crucified . . . ” In other words, we respond to the culture by sharing the truth of the gospel message. While the world goes about its own ways, the most important thing is to direct them to Christ.
This same premise is found within Paul’s last words as well. His final remarks to Timothy before his physical death announce that the world will be busy seeking those to tell it what it wants to hear (to tickle the ears). They will reject the wisdom that comes from God. In spite of this he urges Timothy to remain firm in his commitment to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
It is deeply concerning to see a world that so willingly and openly rejects not just basic principles of morality, but the proven teachings of our Lord and Savior. However, if our confidence is more in the world than it is in God, we will find ourselves preoccupied with concern and worry to the point of being paralyzed with fear and lament. The Lord, through his written word, already explained that this would happen. Even more, he has assured us of our calling and explained that our best responses are to preach and live the message. May that be our encouragement as we move forward this week.
For further thoughts, read 1 Corinthians 1:17 – – 2:16. In those verses not only are we presented with a picture of the world, but also shown the direction we are to take, and most importantly for many, Paul’s words instill a deeper confidence in the work of the Lord.
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