In order for the church to realize its potential as the “city set on a hill,” we have to live our lives in a certain way. We must live in the fear of God, with everything done in awesome reverence for him. We must learn what he loves, and then love and do those things. We must learn what he hates, and then hate those things, too. And we must not allow a single square-inch of our lives to serve another master, whether that be our own goals and ambitions or the demands of a sinful society.
This kind of radical devotion and obedience to God, the kind that doesn’t carve out exemptions for man to be god, is also a radical defiance of modern-day America, and indeed, modern-day Western civilization. There’s no point in beating around the bush. The conflict is real and we must face it, if we are to follow Christ.
Christians should be at the forefront of re-imagining American life, imagining a world at rest in submission to God. My heart aches to think of how Christians have shied away from the conflict that this necessarily brings. This is why we need plain talk about the conflict, because too often soft preaching allows (or cause) us to expect that a life of Christian faithfulness can be had while being at peace with the present culture. Sometimes, when the moment comes to do the will of God, we flinch, no so much because we are unwilling, but because we are unprepared. We have brought our best, parlor room manners to the battlefield that is modern life.
To continue with the military analogy for a moment, our lines are in disarray. We’re not sure where the front line is, and consequently we’ve got a lot inaction and ineffectiveness, as well as a significant amount of friendly-fire. In order to fight the good fight, we must identify the points at which the gospel of Christ conflicts with the gospel of 21st century society. This we must do so that we may take up our cross.
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
I thank God for those ways in which each Christian naturally follows Christ. It often seems that each of us has a piece of his heart, by the grace of God, uncorrupted by the world. There are things where we look at the foolishness of the world and laugh at the insanity. These things are a gift od God. I’m very thankful for those ways in which fellow Christians see, feel and understand the will of God in areas where I struggle.
But, as a general rule, we don’t accidentally do the will of God. We must be students of Christ, deliberately learning and applying his teaching. And we do this in the face of orchestrated deception being perpetrated against us by Satan. Plainly presenting the teachings of Christ means something different depending on which deceptions and misconceptions the audience suffers from.
One of the primary delusions of American society is humanism, a man-centered view of life. It’s so deep in the assumptions of a modern American, even Christians, that we don’t recognize it, even when it is staring us in the face. For instance, when we consider the problem of evil, the exclusivity of Christ, or the judgment of God. It’s necessary to confront the man-centered view of life, along with the deceptions and distortions that support it.
This will necessarily sound wrong to modern ears. When the teachings of Christ are presented in their plain contrast to the man-centered view of life, the immediate, conditioned response of modern man is that these things are indecent, totalitarian, and extreme. There is no way around it, you must preach through it. These are the slanderous lies that are leveled against the gospel, in an effort to keep people away from Christ.
In contrast to that, then, let us have a God-centered society, in the church, if nowhere else. Let us re-imagine our lives and our communities, taking back the reins from a wayward, secular society and handing them over to Christ.