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How Now Shall We Live?

Greetings All,
      This week's 'thought' comes to you from the Chuck Colson's book, "How Now Shall We Live?"  It is (in my opinion) his best book, and well worth the read.  This quote comes from the introduction.  It's a good reminder to us of what it means to live out the Christian faith in a world where God is sovereign over all aspects of it. Enjoy.

         "We live in a culture that is at best morally indifferent. A culture in which Judeo-Christian values are mocked and where immorality in high places is not only ignored, but even rewarded in the voting booth. A culture in which violence, banality, meanness, and disintegrating personal behavior are destroying civility and endangering the very life of our communities. A culture in which the most profound moral dilemmas are addressed by the cold logic of utilitarianism. What's more, when Christians do make good-faith efforts to halt the slide into barbarism, we are maligned as intolerant or bigoted.
         Small wonder that many people have concluded that the 'culture war' is over -- and that we have lost.  Battle weary, we are tempted to withdraw into the safety of our sanctuaries, to keep busy by plugging into every program offered by our megachurches, hoping to keep ourselves and our children safe from the coming desolation...
         We do need prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, and witnessing.  But if we focus exclusively on these disciplines -- and if in the process we ignore our responsibility to redeem the surrounding culture -- our Christianity will remain privatized and marginalized.  Turning our backs on the culture is a betrayal of our biblical mandate and our own heritage, because it denies God's sovereignty over all of life. Nothing could be deadlier for the church -- or more ill-timed. To abandon the battlefield now is to desert the cause just when we are seeing the first signs that historic Christianity may be on the verge of a great breakthrough. The process of secularization begun in the Enlightenment is grinding to a halt, and many believe that [this] new millennium will mark 'the desecularization of world history"....
        For the first time in years, many people are actually willing to admit that private immorality has public consequences. Why are the cultural trends shifting? Because modernity has played out its destructive logical consequences. All the ideologies, all the utopian promises that have marked this century have proven utterly bankrupt. Americans have achieved what modernism presented as life's shinning purpose: individual autonomy, the right to do what one chooses. Yet this has not produced the promised freedom; instead it has led to the loss of community and civility, to kids shooting kids in schoolyards, to citizens huddling in gated
communities for protection. We have discovered that we cannot live with the chaos that inevitably results from choice divorced from morality. As a result Americans are groping for something that will restore the shattered bonds of family and community, something that will make sense of life.
       If the church turns inward now, if we focus only on our own needs, we will miss the opportunity to provide answers at a time when people are sensing a deep longing for meaning and order.  It is not enough to focus exclusively on the spiritual -- on Bible studies and evangelistic campaigns, while turning a blind eye to the distinctive tensions of contemporary life.  We must show the world that Christianity is more than a private belief, more than personal salvation.  We must show that it is a comprehensive life system that answers all of humanity's age-old questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have meaning an purpose?
       Christianity offers the only viable, rationally defensible answers to these questions. Only Christianity offers a way to understand both the physical and the moral order. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in line with the real world.  But if Christians are going to carry this life-giving message to the world, we must first understand it and live it ourselves. We must understand that God's revelation is the source of all truth, a comprehensive framework for all of reality. 
      Abraham Kuyper, the great eighteenth-century theologian who served as prime minister of Holland, said that the dominating principle of Christian truth is not soteriological (i.e., salvation or justification by faith), but rather cosmological (i.e., the sovereignty of the triune God over the whole cosmos in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible). The entire cosmos can be understood only in relation to God. The church's singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence."           

     I believe he is right. To privatize the Christian faith so that it becomes little more than 'my own personal spirituality' (lived out only at our homes, or at church); or to over-spiritualize our faith so that it's influences do not effect how we live, how we handle our money, how we do business, or interact in our communities (even to do the opposite and politicize it, or make it little more than 'a patriotic rallying cry,' or nothing more than a set of morals) is to abuse it, and do harm to the cause of Christ rather than helping it. 

      It is not time for Christian's to retreat with their faith into private seclusion, nor is it time to hit the streets in protest.  It's time for the faith of the church to be as yeast -- allowing the life it has within itself to bring about the needed redemptive change.  As the late Robert Weber noted:  "Our goal is to focus on the church as a community of light, an alternative to a relativistic society…. The social and political work of evangelicals is countercultural. However, the calling of the church is not to 'clean up America for God,' but to be the church, a radical countercultural communal presence in society. The ultimate question is not, 'How is America?' but, 'How is the church?'…. Those who believe in a
Christian responsibility to the world are sensitive to their calling to be 'salt' and 'light.'  They want to witness not only privately, but also publicly, through their lives and the values they express in every situation."

    Colson would agree, for as he elsewhere points out: "Most of all, our failure to see Christianity as a comprehensive framework of truth has crippled our efforts to have a redemptive effect on the surrounding culture. Evangelism and culture renewal are both divinely ordained duties. God exercises his sovereignty in two ways: through saving grace and common grace. If our culture is to be transformed, it will happen from the bottom up -- from ordinary believers practicing apologetics over the backyard fence or around the barbecue grill.  To be sure, it's important for Christian scholars to conduct research and hold academic symposia, but the real leverage for cultural change comes from transforming the habits and dispositions of ordinary people."

      To that end, may we use the opportunities we are given to be "salt and light" -- "practicing apologetics over the backyard fence or around the barbecue grill."

    In the Bonds of Christian Service, Pastor Jeff