Monday, April 20, 2015

Making Him Known: Applying the Faith

We are here to know Christ and to make him known. To effectively make him known, we need to be godly men and women who are ready, willing, and able to share the faith, defend the faith, and apply the faith to our world.

Sharing the faith is pretty easy clear. Defending the faith isn't hard to figure out. What on earth is "applying the faith?"

I've struggled with how, exactly, to explain that one myself.

The word of God, the Bible, tells us how to live our lives. It is the basis for our moral behavior. It should also inform our other behavior.

There is a tendency among Christians to divide our lives into the secular and the sacred. We have our jobs, hobbies, and political beliefs; the sacred covers church, quiet times, morals. We carefully keep the two separate – we go to the Bible for advice on family life on occasion, but generally we say Jesus has something to say about the sacred, but what does he have to say about the mundane things of life? We go to college, and they teach us how to think about our fields. We get political ideas from our parents and friends, political commentators, and politicians.

The problem with this is two-fold. One, Jesus wants to influence every part of our lives. Two, Jesus made the world and everything in it, so he has something to say about everything in it – government, education, science, law, and anything else you can think of.

There is no “secular” to the Christian. Our beliefs need to be expressed in every aspect of our lives. I’m not talking about taking Christian morals into our lives, though we need to do that too. Everything we do, every decision we make, every opinion we hold should be influenced by the Christian faith.

How do we do that? First, we have to develop a Christian worldview.

What exactly is a worldview? Basically, it's your ideas about how the world works. Everybody has a worldview, though they probably don’t know it, and they probably couldn’t describe it if they had to. But you can learn to recognize other people’s worldviews and react appropriately.

So what is a Christian worldview? It is when your ideas about how the world works are taken from the Bible. It’s really more than that, though.

I like the way George Barna describes it: “A biblical worldview is thinking like Jesus. It is a way of making our faith practical to every situation we face each day. A biblical worldview is a way of dealing with the world such that we act like Jesus twenty-four hours a day because we think like Jesus.” A common way to describe a worldview is in terms of its answer to certain questions. The list of questions vary depending on who you ask, but we’ll use these:

What is the nature of God? Some worldviews say that there is no God to have a nature. Others describe God in terms of infusing all of creation – they say everything has a little of the divine in it. The Judeo-Christian worldview describes a single, all-powerful, loving but just God who is eternal, invisible, and morally perfect, among other things. This first question is foundational – the answers to all the other questions are going to be related to your ideas about God.

Next, what is the nature of reality? You make not think you have any thoughts about the nature of reality, but you do make some assumptions. Some people think that reality is exclusively the physical world. Others think reality is exclusively a spiritual world. Whether you think about the natural order as created or independent, as orderly or chaotic, and as objective or subjective will determine how you interact with the world.

The other questions, quickly, are: What is the nature of human kind? What happens to a person after death? Why is it possible to know anything at all? How do we know what is right and wrong? And what is the meaning of human history?

Again, there are other questions people will use to describe a worldview, but these seem to work pretty well. Here’s the kicker, though: To have a biblical worldview, you have to answer these questions in line with the scriptures. That is why we talked about studying theology. We have to live what we believe, but to do that we have to actually believe the right things.

Some of you are probably thinking that, having grown up in church, you’ve surely got a properly Christian worldview – and you might indeed have a biblical worldview. But Barna’s research suggests that only 9% of professing born-again Christians have a biblical worldview. It’s not their fault. The last hundred fifty years or so have seen a marked decrease in teaching Christians what they’re supposed to believe. If we don’t know what the Bible says about different issues, we can’t very well act on that, can we?

And that’s part of the problem. We all have a worldview, and by our age it is very much ingrained in us. If we examine ourselves and find that we don’t have a properly biblical worldview, it is going to be difficult to change it – but we have to do it!

A worldview is just how we look at the world; applying the faith to our world does not stop there. Once we’ve taken information in and processed it, we have to decide how we’re going to act on that information. We’re going to make decisions, form opinions, take chances, choose options – and we have to learn to let our faith guide us in that.

The reason this is so important is that we act based on our worldview. If you want to be more godly, you have to make sure you are making decisions based on a biblical worldview. Eventually, your reactions will also be based on that Christian worldview, but the conscious, voluntary actions will come first. Again, if we want to act like Jesus, we have to learn to think like Jesus.

We represent our Savior here, and we will never do that properly until we are making decisions like he would make them if he were here in our place.

Our society is terribly messed up, and it is in no small part due to the failure of modern Christians to act like Jesus in our world. Folks, since the Fall we have been locked into a war between good and evil. We know what the outcome of the war will be, but the individual battles are often up to us. In that war between good and evil, in the last 60 years or so the Christian Church has hardly even showed up. We have retreated at every turn, and our society shows it.

Now more than ever, the next generation is at stake. The saying is that character is caught more than taught. Well, a worldview requires a lot of both. We have to model for them what we want them to believe and how we want it to affect their lives. We also have to make sure that we make clear to them what the Christian faith has to say about our world and what difference it should make in their lives. This one has to be caught and taught.

You may be thinking that you’ll raise your kids in a good Christian home and take them to church and send them to church camp and all that good stuff. Statistics put out by the Southern Baptist Association itself show that kids that grow up in Baptist churches – doing all those things good church kids do – and then go to Baptist colleges (not secular, not Christian – Baptist) abandon the Christian faith 85% of the time.

Children start getting trained to have a non-Christian worldview in Kindergarten if not sooner. Depending on what you let them watch on tv, what books they read, and what happens in school, your kids will probably be trained in every conceivable way to reject Christian beliefs. It’s obvious from that little statistic from the SBC that just raising them in church isn’t enough. We have to be intentional about preparing our kids to come out of college as a Christian, and we have to start about age 5 or, if they're older than that, ASAP.

How does the world poison our kids? It tells them that there is no such thing as absolute truth. It tells them that they are biological accidents rather than special creations of God. It tells them that, if God exists, He is neither holy nor just – in fact, He’s probably just a senile old grandfatherly sort who just wants them to have fun. It tells them that religion has no place in any aspect of life except church on Sunday and that if they want to have a normal life, they have to keep all that stuff in a box that they only open on Sunday.

This is what we have to learn to combat.