Putting on Gentile Clothing to Communicate to a Culture of Death

When we hear the news of terrorism at the Boston Marathon, or of a fatal explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, or of criminal infanticide at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia it makes Christians think –

“Our message is relevant, Christ is the answer to all our problems; why don’t people get it!?!”

We live in a culture of death; think about it, we are fascinated with crime scenes and are sucked into watching “CSI” or “Bones” or “Criminal Minds” or “NCIS” or even worse the new show “Hannibal” or “GRIMM” or “Vampire Diaries,” etc.  Each of these popular television shows has something to do with death, sadism, or the demonic.  I don’t watch any of these shows, but it’s hard to watch anything else on TV because during the commercials the “death culture” is promoted.  How did this happen? This is the result of our culture turning from God:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich was saying that science and modern philosophy has made God irrelevant and therefore we are now “gods” in charge of our own destiny.  Our culture will make decisions based on what our culture deems best for the largest number of people, and thus we have thrown off morality that comes from the God of the Bible as each person pursues what he/she thinks is best “…so long as I don’t get in trouble.”

The television shows and movies are the training grounds for such philosophy.  People with an agenda (and with money) use art and entertainment to try to influence culture in a new direction.  Just think of some of the titles of these shows: “The New Normal” or “The Good Wife” or “Wife Swap” or “Scandal” or “Revenge” or “Modern Family” or “Family Guy” or “how i met your MOTHER” or “Rules of Engagement” or “Two and a half MEN” or “The BIG BANG Theory” or “GLEE” or “Shark Tank” or “Hell’s Kitchen” – each of these shows teach moral values that devalue traditional values based on the Bible.

What is the result?

Do we have more STD’s or less?

Do we have more abortions or less?

Do we have more stable homes or less?

Do we have more infidelity or less?

Do we have more divorce or less?

Do we have more people on welfare or less?

Do we have more depression or less?

You get the point.  It seems to me (and most Christians) that the God of the Bible is totally relevant, so much so that you are still reading this blog.  But perhaps our method of communication is outdated.  So what is the solution to all the problems listed above and what should be our method of communication?

First, the solution:

“Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Be saved from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:38, 40)

The Apostle Peter preached these words 50 days after Jesus had resurrected from the grave.  Peter was saying you have two responsibilities when hearing the Gospel – repent, or admit that you fall short of God’s holy standard (Romans 3:23) and that you cannot save yourself (Acts 2:40).  Only God can save you through repentance.  And we are not talking about just any so-called “god”, we are talking about the God of the Bible who sent Jesus to this earth to live in line with all of God’s righteous values and to pay the price for all those who do not live in line with God’s righteous values.  By repenting you are saying, “I agree Jesus is God’s Son who was raised from the dead.  I agree that the resurrection proves He is the Christ and LORD of the universe.  I agree there is no other ‘god’ besides the God of the Bible.  And I agree I fall short of His holy standard and cannot save myself.”  The words of Acts 2:40 are really important – “Be saved from this perverse generation.”  The words “be saved” are one verb in Greek, which is grammatically broken down as an aorist, passive, imperative verb – this means there is a one-time moment of being saved (aorist), that it is something you need to allow to happen to you (passive), and that it is really important that you allow this to happen (imperative).  And notice, it doesn’t say be saved to heaven or be saved from hell, it says be saved from this perverse generation.  The idea of salvation is not just about our eternal destiny, but also about the solution for being saved from the sin culture that surrounds us.

God’s method of saving people from this evil culture is through repentance about who Jesus is (that He is King = Christ and Lord = God) and that I am not in charge.  Repentance is about surrender to the true King, and the outward expression of this surrender is to allow yourself to “be baptized.”  Again these words are broken down as an aorist, passive, imperative verb – this means there is a one time moment of being baptized (aorist), that it is something you need to allow to happen to you by those who are already following Jesus (passive), and that it is really important that you be baptized in association with your repentance (imperative).

Your repentance is evidence that something has changed inside of you, which is supernatural – from God.  Your baptism is the outward sign of the inward change.  And the promises Peter announces for responding to the Gospel message in repentance and baptism are forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Other Scriptures teach us these promises are permanent, they cannot be taken away.  You will be saved, by God and not of yourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9), which results in your life being transformed as you allow God to work through you to change your life and this world (Ephesians 2:10).

The Bible is relevant, but perhaps our method is not.

The method:

We need to put on gentile clothes without compromising the message.  What do I mean?

Most people in our culture have a vague understanding of the Bible and they get this from television or interactions with Christians who perhaps are so separate from culture that they don’t know how to communicate to this culture and thus come across as out of touch or ignorant.  This is true in the split between the generations, especially over things like dress, music, and what is truly essential to the message of the Gospel.  If we are to influence the culture we need to translate the truths of the message into language the culture can understand.  If I as a Christian insist on cultural ways of doing things from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, then I will be written off by most people today who live in the digital age, which is so rapidly changing it seems like shifting sand.  But this is the age in which we live and we need to be adaptable in our methods of communicating.  Church historian Michael Green said about first and second century Christians:

“Once Christianity took root in Hellenistic soil, it became necessary to do a tremendous work of translation.  Not only words but ideas had to be put into other dress.  Without such a task of translation the message would have been heard, perhaps, but not assimilated.” – Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, p. 165

What Michael Green was saying is the Gospel message was a Jewish message that was for the whole world, but which needed to be translated in a way understood by the world, which was predominately Gentile not Jewish.

Likewise for us, we live in a Postmodern / digital culture and our Christian message needs to be translated, without compromise, into a palatable message that the Post-moderns can understand.

How to do this is tricky – but let me just say in starts with humility and our living consistent with the core essentials of Jesus’ teachings.  In future posts I will explain more.



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