The men of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. 1 Chronicles 12:32
What are our times? And what should we be doing?
There is much in this generation that aligns with the description in Philippians 2:15 of “a crooked and perverse generation”. What we once deemed only a short time ago as a society as immoral, we now celebrate. But in this generation, as in all previous generations, God’s children are called to shine as lights. This involves remaining IN the world, but standing out against darkness – that’s the calling and the purpose of light.
James 3:13 tells us to do good works, live humbly, and learn wisdom. And if that was it, living in Australia as a Christian would be a pretty good gig. But God has not called us to be merely spiritual philanthropists.
I believe that God expects us to engage with our culture, whilst remaining uncompromising with the truth.
The Apostle Paul devoted time and attention to studying the culture of the place where God had placed him – he formed a good understanding of the underlying world views which informed and shaped the culture of the Athenians. He engaged with the culture of the day as he spoke to the members of the Areopagus and as he used their pagan poets to explain to them the deep things of God.
But Paul’s message was always focused on the Gospel message:
• The identity of Jesus
• The reality of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus
• The necessity of repentance and faith
…true Christianity starts from the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us that is objectively true…Neither did Paul compromise on truth. Because true Christianity starts from the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us that is objectively true, regardless of how anyone feels about it. And so Paul challenged sin and the rulers of the day. As a result, history tells us he was beheaded by Nero. Because his generation, like ours, was repelled by Paul’s claim of an absolute and exclusive Truth.
…tolerance is not about accepting everyone else’s beliefs, but rather being willing to listen to those beliefs…
Absolute truth is utterly distasteful to our postmodern world which wants to dictate their own truth, often arrived at through a ‘consensus’ with the voices they hear most often in the media. This translates to the followers of Christ who claim to know The Truth often being accused of being intolerant. But tolerance is not about accepting everyone else’s beliefs, but rather being willing to listen to those beliefs. And this is important, because Christ’s followers should be ready and willing to discuss their faith and accompanying beliefs, without compromising on the truth. And that truth is found in the person of Jesus who said, I am the way, the truth and the life.
So how did Jesus engage an oft time hostile culture with the truth? As with Paul, Jesus participated deeply in culture. He joined in feasts and wedding celebrations. He attended funerals. He involved himself in people’s lives – a woman mourning over the death of her son, a woman at a well, a woman lying in the dust after being caught in adultery. He fished. He engaged in culture to the extent that he was accused by his enemies of being a friend of sinners and a party-man! At the same time, Jesus who is truth personified, never compromised on truth for the sake of fitting into culture.
When a rich young ruler addressed Jesus as, “Good teacher”, Jesus clarified that only God was good, knowing that the full truth was vital for his eternal welfare. At that, the young man changed his greeting to “Teacher”, stopping short of acknowledging Jesus as God, making it possible for him to reject the instructions Jesus then shared with him. If you acknowledge someone as God, it’s not easy to ignore what they say!
Shortly after this meeting, Jesus headed to Jerusalem, welcomed by an adoring crowd as he arrived on a borrowed donkey. Once in Jerusalem, it was late in the afternoon and Jesus went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left, returning about 3 km to Bethany for the night with the twelve disciples.
…there is no kingdom without the cross…The next morning Jesus went back to Jerusalem, entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers, the chairs of the dove sellers and stopped the Temple being used as a marketplace. Jesus was angry but he was in control. He, the essence of Truth and integrity, stood in stark contrast to the priorities of the temple merchants who were more preoccupied by their commerce than in living out relationships in the way that God prescribed. This was not a rash reaction, but a considered deliberate action which would have dire consequences, not just for him but for all of his followers and for his adoring fans from the previous day. They had been ready and willing to follow him to his kingdom. But Jesus knew what they didn’t – there is no kingdom without the cross.
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. The following day, as Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders approached him and demanded to know by what authority he was doing all these things and who had given him the right to. Jesus answered with a question, “I will tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question – did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!” The religious leaders talked it over among themselves and ended up pragmatically saying they didn’t know. To which Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.””
Wisdom demands that we don’t have to work to the world’s agenda.
Paul and Jesus understood the times. They engaged enthusiastically in their culture. But they did not ever compromise on the truth.
Likewise, we must be faithful to guard the treasure of truth that has been entrusted to us. 2 Timothy 1:14
Taking care to “Speak the truth in love”. Ephesians 4:14-15
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honourable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13