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About this series
A Biblical Response to Today's Most Divisive Issues
Where do you stand on issues like: Truth, Sex, Homosexuality, Abortion, the Environment, and the Church and Politics? More importantly, what does God say? If there ever was a time for Christians to understand and communicate God’s truth about controversial and polarizing issues, it is now. More than ever before, believers must develop convictions based on research, reason, and biblical truth. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s equally important that you’re able (and willing) to communicate these convictions with a love and respect that reflects God’s own heart. This series will help you learn how to respond with love, even in the face of controversy. In the process, you’ll discover the power of bringing light – not heat – to the core issues at the heart of society today.More from this series
We are going to do something a little different. I want you to picture, in your mind, just hypothetically, that you’re in a moment in history, and you’re in a moment in history where you have heard these amazing things about this man named Jesus. And He is the buzz.
And some of you were actually there when He fed the five thousand. You were up early in the front row seat and you saw the discussion and the couple of fish and the bread and then you have been curious, you have been following, What does it mean to follow Him? Could He be the Messiah? And what is He really calling us to? And so He stayed up all night and He prayed and He chose twelve and then as He did, then He wanted to lay out for them, “This is the journey; this is the life. The kingdom of heaven the way God wants life to work has come down to the kingdom of earth,” and He is going to talk about being a kingdom citizen.
When a rabbi sat down, he sat down as one with authority. And if you have your Bible, you can open it up and please follow along and this is the very important, the most famous sermon by Jesus, where He lays out, This is what it means in your heart and your life and your attitudes and what it’s going to look like to be a follower of this radical God who came to earth.
“Now, when they saw the crowds,” Matthew chapter 5 verse 1, “He went up on the mountainside and He sat down, and the disciples came to Him and He began to teach them, saying,” and He goes through what is known as “The Beatitudes,” about, This is what the kingdom looks like. This is who you are to be. This is where you find joy. This is fulfillment. This is alignment.
Then after He talks about those characteristics, where a heart that is changed, where supernaturally you are following Jesus, then He says something about you all that are now followers.
Verse 13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, you are to let your light so shine before men, that they could see your good deeds,” your kind acts, your amazing acts of love, and pause because of how you live, “and give glory and praise to your Father in heaven.”
If you know historically, salt was very valuable. It was used for a number of purposes but one thing, it preserved. They didn’t have a lot of refrigeration, so salt preserved things from corrupting. There is a metaphor there. Salt flavored things. It changed the taste of things. We change the taste, the direction, the sense of culture.
Light does two or three things. Number one, light exposes. Light reveals. But, also, when you’re in a jam and you don’t know what to do, just a tiny little bit of light you can see a candle from ten miles away. It gives direction. And you are the called-out ones by God to give direction, to reveal who God is, to live the kind of lives and the kind of love and the kind of holiness and the kind of winsomeness that actually begins to shape all the culture around us.
My concern is what has happened inside the Church. And when I say “Church,” I don’t mean just anyone who claims to be Christian, anyone who intellectually says they believe in Jesus. I’m talking about those of us in this room, people that unashamedly believe this is the Word of God. That the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, left the glory of heaven, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, revealed what the Father is like – full of truth and grace.
And after living that perfect life, went to the cross to die in your place as your substitute to pay for your sin and the sins of all men and all time. And after He died, He rose from the dead, physically and bodily, and He walked around on the earth for forty days, speaking about the kingdom to five hundred eyewitnesses. And then He gave them a commission that is still ours: to make disciples of every ethnos, every people group, all over the earth to tell them that your sins have been forgiven, it is good and wonderful news. There is a good God and He loves you and He wants relationship with you.
And we boldly, lovingly, winsomely go into all the world and preach the gospel by our words and by our lives. And that we believe He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, praying and making intercession for us, and He will come again in His glory and what He expects is a bride, unspotted, without wrinkle, pure and holy. That’s called “The Church.”
My concern is what has happened to that group. And that group is us. Do you understand that you are living in the fastest changing period in all of human history? Information, every three to four years, is doubling. I have been all around the world and I have been to Soweto, South Africa. I have been in the slums of the world. There are more mobile phones now in many countries than there are people, America being one of them.
The world is changing rapidly, and with technology, lots of things have happened in the Church and I want to ask: what has happened to the salt and the light? And all I want to do, please hear, the heart of this is not at all in terms of condemnation.
I have lived the major part of my ministry life in either Santa Cruz or the Silicone Valley. That’s the Bay Area. We are one of the richest areas in the world. Thirty-one percent of the people where I live were born outside of the United States. Fifty-one percent speak another language at home. We have one of the strongest and largest homosexual populations.
Less than four percent of the people where I live go to any church. So what really matters to me is when they meet a person who says, “I am a follower of Jesus,” are they salty? Are they light? Do they bring light?
Let me do a little history lesson. I’m going to show you two timelines just to give you a snapshot of how rapidly things have changed in the last fifty years. I made up this little chart and the far right, you’ll see, righteousness. I call that a “Plus Ten.” Wickedness, a “Minus Ten.”
And I’m just talking biblical morality. Right, wrong, stealing, lying, Ten Commandments, purity. And so let’s just make a “Plus ten righteousness.” In the 1950s, I’m saying belief and behavior. Not that everyone lived this way but the culture. The culture in general of the Church and then of the world. The whole world system. What would be on those three little channels that we had back then? There wasn’t an internet.
And what I can tell you is in the fifties, marriage was viewed as a covenant. Divorce was in the low single digits inside the Church, and actually, the low single digits outside the Church. Sexual purity was a standard. If you went to high school in the fifties and someone got pregnant, it was scandalous. Abortions were illegal and homosexuality was a sin.
And so those were the Church’s beliefs and behaviors. And so the world was - movie stars got divorces, abortions happened in back alleys, illegally. Of course some people dabbled in the homosexual lifestyle. But by and large, that was the world. So here is the question: Four thousand years of biblical morality, in fifty years, how has it changed?
And more importantly, how has it changed in the Church? And again, this isn’t just individuals but the general belief behaviors in the Church. And when the Church, this is Evangelical, Bible believing, “We love Jesus; we have had a supernatural birth,” Church.
After the sixties revolution, by the two thousands, the divorce rate in the Church and outside the Church is roughly the same at about fifty percent. Sixty-five percent of women who have abortions self-identify as either Catholic, Protestant, or Evangelical.
Sexual immorality, and by that I mean people living together or having casual sex in the Church of Jesus Christ in the eighteen to twenty-nine year old category is about thirty-four, thirty-five percent. The adoption of homosexuality in the mainline denominations happened fifteen to twenty years ago and the Revisionist movement, currently, among Bible believing churches is that homosexuality in monogamous relationships, especially in the younger generation, thirty percent of our teens believe that homosexuality in our Bible churches is okay.
And so there is a dramatic shift. I mean, that is, ask yourself how, I mean, just stop. And it’s hard to do this. One thousand, okay, Ten Commandments, Moses. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, Jesus, four thousand. Four thousand years of: these are absolute moral, core, biblical absolutes. And in fifty years, inside the Church, let alone in the culture…
And so what happens is, imagine if you will, the Church and our beliefs and behavior, imagine a string connected to the world system. And when the Church is moving toward righteousness, the world follows along to some degree.
In other words, let’s make this box the culture of America. And inside of it, in the fifties, the culture of the Church was pretty big. And so we influenced it. There were ethics and people, though they may agree or disagree, that what was right and wrong, those things, we influenced our culture.
Fifty years later, here we are in American culture and now this small little box is Evangelical Bible believers, and the arrows are the culture shaping us. How did it happen? How did it happen?
I think, in our honesty, we would say the beliefs and behaviors of the average Evangelical Bible teaching church, where I pastor, and around America are not very salty.
Well, let me give you the symptoms. The symptoms are sexual immorality, politics, and the environment. Now, I want you to know, when the Scripture talks about sexual immorality, it’s a very broad term. Porneia is the word in Greek. And all kinds of things fall underneath that. So this iceberg is, you know, ten percent of an iceberg is above. So here are the things that people, in terms of sexual immorality, abortion usually results from some level of either their sexual immorality, or We don’t want a child. Adultery, cohabitation, pornography, fornication, homosexuality – all of those the Bible would call sexual immorality.
And then you have politics and the environment. And here’s all I want you to see. Those are symptoms. They are nothing more than symptoms. But inside the Church and outside the Church, this is where people battle and yell and scream at one another.
And so here is what I want you to do. Are you ready? I want you, in your mind’s eye now, to go back to the beginning. God’s desired intent before there was sin. So He is creating. It’s good, it’s good, it’s good, it’s good, it’s very good. And He breathes life into man. And from God’s perspective all through Scripture, life is the most precious commodity in the universe.
We are made in the image of the living God. “Let Us make man in Our image.” And so God has always protected life. What does abortion do to life? It snuffs it out before it even starts. After there was life, what was the first thing that happened? God brought the woman to the man and He instituted the first institution called “marriage.”
And long before there was sin there was a man and a woman and they would come together and they would be naked and unashamed and well beyond physically. In other words, they would have emotional, spiritual, physical intimacy. There would be connection. No hiding, no shame, no past, no baggage. And they were to multiply and they would multiply and have children and as the family would multiply and children came, they developed what is called “community.”
And in community there is something, every community has to figure out priorities and who gets what and why. And when the communities grow larger they become a city. You know what the Greek word for city is? Polis. We get our word politics.
And so politics is nothing more, nothing less, than the arrangement of how communities should live with one another and where the power should be aligned for the highest good.
If you went to Webster’s and said, “Politics,” it would not say, “Corrupt people making lots of money who are hypocrites and make promises and lie and their agenda.” It doesn’t say that there. The word is not a dirty word.
But I want you to get God’s dream, God’s picture, because underneath all of this is a lie. The enemy is attacking. He is attacking the core things of the goodness of God: life, marriage, family, community. And then what did He do? He created this amazing, beautiful – I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and so do you.
And whether it’s the beauty of the Everglades, or whether it’s the ocean, or whether it’s the redwoods that go up three hundred feet, it’s majestic and it’s powerful. It’s the environment, it’s the earth that He made us stewards of.
And what you see is, when we believe lies, then pretty soon life doesn’t matter and violence is the answer. Marriage doesn’t matter and sexual immorality, of any kind, brings death.
In this room, hear my heart, this is not us and them. I’m guessing there are probably more than a handful of women that have found out, in your season of life, that your husband had an addiction to pornography. What did that do to your marriage? How did you feel? The betrayal. The hurt.
There are a lot of men, that they don’t want to do that and feel stuck and trapped. I’m sure there are many of you in a group this size that have had a mate walk out on you. I married a woman whose mate walked out on her. And she wasn’t a Christian. He secretly was having an affair. He was doing drugs and that was their lifestyle and he was selling and he had an affair on the side, and when she got pregnant with twin little boys, he left. And in her desperation, her boss led her to Christ.
And I met her a few years later as one of the most wonderful, godly people and I got to adopt those little boys. But I will tell you, I have been married thirty-five years. We are unpacking, have unpacked, been through counseling. The pain, when you have been rejected and hurt. What does it do to relationship?
There are people that have cohabitated and slept around and they don’t like sex in marriage anymore. Here’s all I want you to hear. It’s not about this or that or right or wrong or legalism. It’s about God longing to bring life, unity, intimacy, health, and community. And in this beautiful place He called earth.
And so those are the areas. And so those are each a chapter of the book [Culture Shock] to address: how do you bring light to those? But they are symptoms. They are not the problem. Look right below the waterline. The problem is much deeper. It’s about truth. Is truth relative or is truth absolute?
Absolute truth is that I believe this all the time, it’s factual, it’s not subjective. It’s like gravity. I believe gravity is true. I can be over here and say, “I really disagree with you. I don’t really feel that way about gravity. I went to college and I read some books and gravity isn’t really all that true.”
Okay, so we agree to disagree. And I say, “Well, why don’t we test this. Let’s stand on the edge of a three story building, and you don’t believe in gravity so why don’t you step off and we’ll see.” See, whether you believe in gravity or not, the consequences are about the same when you step off a three story building. Right?
See, relative truth never works in the concrete, physical realities of life. But philosophically, it does. It’s what we have been taught.
I came to Christ right after high school. I was discipled by a guy who loved me deeply. I had this radical transformation in my life. I was a slow learner. And so a lot of the things I’m talking about, the reason I know about them is I didn’t do well early, okay?
I really get what it’s like to [go through], “Man, that Bible study on Thursday night was awesome!” “And, Chip, you have the relational skills, so when we hit all the bars in Wheeling, West Virginia, you introduce us to all the girls.” And then thinking, Oh, God, I’m sorry. I’ll never do that again. I’m really sorry. I’m making church once a month and I’m trying really hard. And guilt, guilt, shame, shame, divided soul. Right? Have you been there? I have. It’s miserable.
And so my life radically changed and I ended up playing basketball around the world and sharing Christ. And then I went to graduate school because I thought the call on my life was to be a major college basketball coach so I needed to have a Masters degree so I wanted Bobby Knight’s job, if you remember that name. I would not throw chairs.
But when I got there, the intellectual blowback on my faith was so strong, I decided to write my thesis on the philosophical basis for teaching ethics in sport. In other words, is there an absolute? Is there a right? That’s what ethics is. Is there a right? Is there a wrong?
And so I won’t bore you all but the first couple chapters of this book, for those that like philosophy and that world, I decided, If I have to throw my brains in the trash to follow Jesus, it must not be true. And so I am going to go after this. And thanks to Francis Schaeffer and some other apologists, I did a very long study and wrote my thesis on this. And what I learned is that: revelation was always king - it’s what God said. But reason becomes: what we think, is more important than what God says.
And then by the mid to late eighteen hundreds, you had Nietzsche and German philosophers changing this idea of absolute truth. And then it made it over the big pond to America and you had Huxley over here and you had Spencer. Darwinism was not taken seriously early on, especially scientifically, but it was interesting in social sciences.
And Albert Einstein was talking a theory of relativity that was about factual matter. But the idea of relativity, the social sciences, evolution gained. So by the twenties and thirties, it made it into the major seminaries of the day: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, William and Mary. All of those places, do you believe it? They were theological institutions.
In the sciences, you studied all the sciences, the queen of sciences was theology! And then it made it into the everyday life. So you had a split of the churches that believed the Bible and then didn’t believe the Bible.
And unfortunately, those who believed the Bible got segmented out of the reality of life and were so pounding on the truth and did it in such a way they would be called “Fundamentals of the truth,” and they would be called “Fundamentalists,” and pretty soon, people are thinking, I don’t know what it’s like to be a Christian but if you’re that mad about that stuff, I don’t want that.