Vance Havner, the renowned Southern Baptist evangelist, once said, “I’ve quit saying ‘the world is going to the dogs’ out of respect for dogs.”
That was over a half-century ago—and it seems that we have slid down the slippery slope of debauchery much more since then. Swimming in a cesspool may be a more apt analogy for the second decade of the twenty-first century.
The moral decline of our western society over recent years has become like the precipitous first drop of a roller coaster, and it almost takes your breath away. Yet, the thrill of descent at a theme park has become a gasp of panic at the realization that the social roller coaster is broken and things are not going to turn out well.
The apostle Paul’s analysis of the indulgent Roman culture of his day has morphed into a prophetic fulfillment concerning the last days: “. . . evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13 – ESV).
I’m not always up-to-date on my reading, but sometimes older books retain an increasing relevance. David Kupelian, an award winning American journalist and editor of Whistleblower Magazine, wrote his book, The Marketing of Evil in 2005; yet I recently discovered it through the recommendation of a friend. It set my hair on fire (what I have left of it) and kindled a renewed awareness of what is truly happening in America. For those who want to understand our culture, this book is a must read. Yes, I am recommending it to you.
America is a long way down the road to internal combustion. We are about to incinerate ourselves into oblivion as the embers of lust, greed, and pride are flaming into a national crisis. A renewed trend in conservative politics has spawned a sense of hope in some, but evil has tasted victory in America and our culture seems hell-bent on fanning the flame.
FOR CHRIST AND HIS KINGDOM
Years ago, as a student at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, I made a daily trek up to Blanchard Hall to attend classes. Halfway up the hill I would pass an attractive sign welcoming students and visitors to the campus. Prominently engraved on that sign is the college motto: “For Christ and His Kingdom”. Those words are indelibly impressed upon my mind, and they have long been a guiding thought for my life.
“How shall we then live?” is a question Francis Schaeffer, Charles Colson, and others have asked when writing about the decline of America. That question has always been relevant for Christians in an ungodly world. The answer is as simple as it is elusive—we live for Christ and His kingdom. A biblical, Christ-centered worldview is God’s mandate for effective Christian living, even when the social context is messy. Unfortunately, though most would agree in theory, many Christians choke when it comes to practice. Idealism usually gives way to pragmatism.
So, what does it mean to live for Christ and His kingdom? Well, it means we live like Jesus lived. We act like Him, we think like Him, and we love like Him. Jesus Christ is obviously the role model for the kind of life that is consistent with His kingdom.
A spiritual song with a catchy tune reflects this thought concerning inverted leadership (Luke 22):
He’s the King of the Kingdom, upside-down,
If you want to go up, you have to go down.
To be the greatest, learn to be the least,
Living in the Kingdom, upside-down.
You see, leadership and influence in Christ’s kingdom is not about personality, magnetism, position of power, or manipulating a “you owe me” atmosphere. It’s not about being prominent or dominant. One word captures Christ’s philosophy of leadership—service.
After rebuking the disciples who were arguing about who would be the greatest in His kingdom (Luke 22:24-27), Jesus asked them a probing question—“who is the greater, one who reclines at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table?” Then came the shocker—“But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27 – ESV, emphasis mine).
So, here’s the deal. If we want to exert influence on our society for Christ and His kingdom, we will pursue a life of service whereby we bear the burdens of others and seek to provide encouraging help. Speaking the truth in love, we resist evil and corruption, not with a judgmental attitude and biting criticism, but with a servant’s heart.
The way Jesus hung out with hurting people was enigmatic to those who were worldly-wise. He loved the unlovely—and they loved Him back. Just remember, like Jesus, we are on a mission of mercy to rescue prisoners out of the clutches of the enemy. It is the passion of Christ-likeness.
Jesus was not a politician and He did not come to advance any earthly kingdom of men. He said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Improving the culture was not His agenda, and loyalty to Rome (or Jewish nationalism) never crossed His mind. Instead, He went like a laser for the human heart to elicit change from the inside-out.
He knew better than anyone that morality and civil behavior imposed by force is a pseudo-fix. When the government changes, so will the social and moral elements. We have witnessed this on a grand scale in our country over the last decade.
When the liberal elite took the reins of U.S. government in 2004, they deliberately made a radical left turn toward a post-Christian culture, where biblical morality is vilified as harmful to a free society. Apart from divine intervention, it seems unlikely that we will survive this increasing avalanche of evil masquerading as good.
Kingdoms come and go. And we cannot assume that America will always remain in a favored status with God. We can hold our finger in the dike for a time, but like other kingdoms throughout world history, eventually the dike will break. America seems to be on the brink of its own demise.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Jesus lived His life upside-down and inside-out. He changed the social paradigm and laid the foundation for a new and lasting kingdom. Those who desire to live for Christ and His kingdom understand that.
CHRIST AT WORK IN US
So, what is it really like to live for Christ and His kingdom when navigating the complications we all face as Christ-followers in America? Here is an illustration:
It seems that sexual freedom (same-sex marriage, gay rights, and gender choice) has become today’s hot-button issue. Abortion and terrorism are still front-page concerns (and if you don’t think abortion is terrorism . . . just ask the unborn), but somehow LGBT has stolen the stage. Everything from bathroom issues to labeling Christianity as homophobic and hate-mongering, has become the left’s incendiary devices with which to burn conservatives at the stake.
Yet, the Bible clearly demonstrates that a pro-choice society, where everyone does that which is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25), leads to national suicide. Pro-choice is nothing more than selfishness on steroids.
Recently I was having coffee with a young man who was trying to figure out how to live for Christ and His kingdom in his challenging workplace environment. He shared the responsibility of service in a small coffee shop with a self-proclaimed trans-sexual. His employment partner wanted to be accepted as a woman, even though he was physically a man. Jennifer was his preferred name, and he insisted on being referred to as “her” or “she” when communicating with customers.
Jennifer worked hard and had a pleasant demeanor, but was obviously a man trying to appear as a woman. Interactions with the public were often awkward. He tried to be friendly, but his defensive lifestyle made conversations difficult. He wanted so desperately to be treated as a woman, yet he always knew that most people were uncomfortable around him. His gender choice was honored by the management and the law protected him from discrimination. But he instinctively knew that all was not well, even though he wished it was.
What was my friend to do as he sought to live for Christ and His kingdom while working alongside this person in a close business environment? What would you do? What would Jesus do?
As believers in God’s Word, we cannot minimize the truth of God’s creative design (“male and female created he them” – Genesis 1:27 KJV), but I think that unlike many well-meaning religionists today, Jesus would not call him out in condemnation for his effeminate personality and gender reversal choice (remember the adulterous woman in John 8). This was not about bathroom issues or infringement on other people’s rights, so it was not a legal issue. This was a confused man trapped in the emotional entanglements of a topsy-turvy world. He was desperate for someone to show him genuine love and concern. Perhaps like Jesus, we should be gracious and non-condemning, too.
My friend treats his co-worker with kindness and seeks to be helpful as they work through the day. During the downtimes, he engages in friendly conversation and doesn’t hesitate to share his own personal faith in Christ. He demonstrates a caring spirit and shows genuine interest in the complications of this man’s life. He wants Jennifer to see Christ in him so he can win the opportunity to tactfully introduce him to Jesus.
Well, what’s your reaction to that?
My friend is committed to Christ and His kingdom, and is seeking to live upside-down and inside-out. This is what Jesus did, and this is the way of His kingdom.
Think about it. What will you do?
* For further study, see: When the World Needs an Answer – The Struggle for Truth in the Last Days