Thursday, March 25, 2010

Worldliness does not equal Pre-evangelism

Again, R.C. Jr. has waxed eloquent as he calls us away from the modern view that we must "immerse ourselves in the culture" if we ever think we can win them. This one hits home with some clarity and conviction. I myself have often times toyed with the latest sports score, or movie interest in hopes that I could sound more "hip" or "up-to-date" as I talked with those outside the church. I mean, who wants to sound "disconnected" from society and culture! I didn't want to sound like I was Amish or something! How dreadful (do you sense sarcasm? If so, you have passed the first part of the test. Next, read what Sproul says about this...)

We must stop confusing worldliness with pre-evangelism.

The devil has perfected any number of ways to profane the holy. Worse still, he has perfected any number of ways of encouraging us to do the same. Our worldliness is problem enough. The devil scores the most style points, however, when he persuades us to baptize our worldliness by thinking it somehow holy. So he has done with our wholesale immersion in the culture. He has led us from the observation that Paul quoted an unbelieving poet into believing that our mass consumption of mass quantities of mass culture is a sacrifice the pious ought to be ready to make for the sake of those outside the faith.

How, we wonder, will we ever get the chance to speak with our unbelieving neighbors unless we too get lost in the matrix of Hollywood's latest hits? How can we direct our unbelieving neighbors away from American idols, unless we too learn to sing their songs? And so we spend our time and treasure down at Vanity Fair, never realizing, to mix a metaphor, that we are growing donkey ears. Worse still, we are growing coarse tongues, and numb consciences.

First century Rome was a sports crazed culture. Sundry stadia still dot their ancient cities, all across their empire. As Christianity spread as well, but before Christians would be dragged to these sites to become sport themselves, the Christians did not attend the Roman games. No, they did not organize a boycott in order to protest the skimpy clothing of the combatants. Nor did they carry signs outside the gatherings prophetically denouncing the violence of the games. Their reason for not attending was far more spiritual—they just didn't care. Their lives were focused on better things. This doesn't mean, of course, that the first century Christians were too austere to go to the games. The point isn't that godliness is next to crankiness. Instead, their joys were too grand to be compared to having your favorite athlete win the laurel.

Christ has given us life, and life abundant. And we fill our lives with petty trifles. We think we're doing it for the lost, but are instead showing how lost we are. What the lost need from us is not that we would live lives like theirs, not that we would be consumed with the petty and insignificant. They do not need one more conversation around the water cooler about last night's episode. What they need is to see lives lived for something more important than "Must see TV." We do not need to learn the jargon of this subculture or that. Instead we need to live lives that speak plainly, and we need to speak plainly about our life in Christ. "Repent and believe the good news" is understandable in any language. Better still, when we are speaking our language, at least we will hear it. If the lost are not found through our faithful lives, we are still blessed with faithful lives. Worldliness is no virtue, no matter what end we say it serves. If we were honest, we would admit that it serves our flesh. But, not only are Cretans liars, but Christians are too.

R.C. Sproul Jr. , An excerpt from his book "Believing God"

Believing God

While reading some excerpts from an upcoming book, was impressed with the strength of a couple of articles dealt with. While I don't agree with everything the author espouses, there are certain points he hits "dead on." Just to be clear, this is not my work, though I agree with this thought and enjoy how it was written...

We must stop the psychological equivalent of selling indulgences.

Tetzel, the seller of indulgences that first got Dr. Luther's goat, was known for a rather crass sales pitch. "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs." This practice is what sparked the Reformation. Intent on raising funds for refurbishing the church at Rome, the Pontiff offered to use his powers to hasten the day that people could be set free from purgatory. All it took was a sufficiently sizable donation. Write a check, and grandma can skip the torment of having her sins purged, and skip right to heaven itself.

We, of course, because we are moderns, believe ourselves to be past all that. The Reformation happened, and now even Rome wouldn't practice such flim-flammery. And we, because we are moderns, are hopeless fools that just fell off the turnip truck. The devil doesn't give up easily on successful stratagems. On those rare occasions that we figure him out, he simply repackages the same old snake-oil, and we rush to buy it.

Here is how it works in our day. First, we buy into the world's therapeutic revolution. We believe, like our unbelieving neighbors, that the good life is one of psychological wholeness. We believe, like our unbelieving neighbors, that the purpose in life is self-actualization. We believe, unlike our unbelieving neighbors, that the right church, or church program, or church guru, will get us there. We believe that the church will give us our best life now.

The church offers to help us feel better about ourselves. It promises programs and premium coffee. It presents feel good talks delivered by some charming guy in a sweater, the Christian equivalent of Dr. Feel-Good. And all it asks in return is that we drop a check in the plate, that we purchase the program, that we donate to the guru. These will drive our guilt far from us, and we will be purged of all that makes us feel utterly unlovely. That is how the program is supposed to work, and now we, heirs of the Reformation, build cathedrals to our own glory.

Luther did not have as his goal psychological wholeness. His beef wasn't that indulgences didn't deliver the emotional goods. Neither was his goal the recovery of an abstract doctrine. He wanted instead to recover the very work of Christ. He wanted people to not jettison their feelings of guilt, but to have their guilt taken away.

The church is that place where we must be told the truth. We must be told the ugly truth that we are in ourselves nothing but ugly, a poisonous blending of dust and rebellion. We must be told the ugly truth that our sins drove Christ to the cross, that we crucified Him. We must be told the shocking truth that because God brought this to pass, we now, if we are His, have peace with God, that we have been adopted into His family.

Here we stand. We can do no other. God help us.

R.C. Sproul Jr., excerpt from his upcoming book "Believing God."