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Instead of a stand-alone “state of the church” message this year, as has been our custom, I want to spend a number of weeks on the topic. Lord willing, I intend to drill down into the subject, and I trust that the reasons for doing so will become increasingly apparent as we work through the series. The point of these messages will be to help you, as members of Christ Church, to better understand the crisis of our times, along with the demeanor we as Christians are called to cultivate in the course of such a crisis.
We also must address an explication of the basic strategy that we have been using here in our community for a number of decades now. This is because we have been greatly blessed in our community, and so we need to equip ourselves in two areas. We must educate the immigrants, and we must educate the next generation. If we do not do this, then we will be faced with two disasters. The first is what might be called “Californians moving to Texas, but continuing to vote like Californians.” The second is the son of a billionaire growing up without ever breaking a sweat, or knowing what having calluses might be like.
As If There Were No Text
As you know, at this place on the outline, it is our practice to quote the text that the message is designed to unfold and apply. There is no text here today, not because we will not be bringing Scripture to bear shortly, but rather to illustrate the fundamental disease of our time. As a people, we have pretended to ourselves that a secular order is even possible. We have pretended that a people can exist without a transcendent Word. The deeper we descend into this folly the higher our impudence grows. To be without God is to be without hope in the world (Eph. 2:12).
In the spirit of having no text, here is a text: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, That I will send a famine in the land, Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11–12).
A Minister’s Task
The message a minister is appointed to proclaim is the basic gospel message—the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-4)—oriented, as it necessarily must be, to the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). But the wisdom of God is not placed in our trust so that we may speak it into a void. The preacher is not supposed to learn what he is supposed to say the same way a parrot does, or an answering machine, and then say that, regardless of the circumstances.
No. Preachers of the gospel must also be students of the culture they are sent to. A minister must be a student of the Word, but he must also be a student of men. He must study them—not just men generally, but the men of his own era, the men to whom he is charged to bring the gospel. When the Lord speaks to each of the angels of the seven churches of Asia, the message for each church is different. Same gospel, different sins, different message applying that gospel.
And men are not to be studied so that the minister might best know how to flatter them. “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness” (1 Thess. 2:5, ESV). Rather, they must be studied because their sins are different, their blind spots vary, and this is why their fortifications against the Spirit of God must be attacked differently.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).
A man who is charged with pulling down strongholds must be a student, therefore, of two things. He must be a student of the gear he is using, and he must be a student of the tower he is toppling. He must know the gospel, and the Scripture that houses it, and he must also know the state of the current imaginations. He needs to know where to attach the ropes.
Our Culture, What Remains of It
We are in the midst of a massive religious/political/cultural transformation. But we cannot assume that this is all downside. God shakes what can be shaken so that what cannot be shaken may remain. In the meantime, speaking of traditions, there are no pacifist traditions left. All traditions must be militant in order to survive this time of upheaval.
In such a time, Christians must be conservative when it comes to everything that the Spirit has accomplished in the history of our civilization. And we must be progressive with regard to all the things He has yet to do.
The Sinful Symptoms
It is difficult to make it through the evening news without encountering multiple examples of our contemporary follies—the blood guilt of abortion on demand, the insanity of transgenderism, the idea that more government can save us from the weather, the acceptance of socialist collectivism, the indulgence of snowflakes, the incompetence of modern educators, the epidemic of food guilt, and more. The disease lies within, but the splotches on the skin are pretty ugly.
The Disease Within
The root of every rebellion (in every culture) must always be identified as pride, and the lust for autonomy. But this central sin manifests itself in different ways in different times, using different methods, concepts, and techniques. These are the tools that are currently being used on us. Please be aware that there are areas of overlap between these.
• Secularism—the idea that a culture can be religiously neutral;
• Darwinism—the idea that we somehow arrived here by ourselves, and which makes secularism a scientifically respectable concept;
• Egalitarianism—the idea that blessings for others are tantamount to oppression for me;
• Value/Fact Distinction—the idea that “reality” is divisible;
• Admiration of the Cool Kids—the idea that what matters is copping a pose.
Some might worry that I am adding “intellectual” requirements to the simple gospel of Christ. Don’t worry—it is actually the reverse. You generally need a couple years of grad school before you can really buy into any of these mistakes.