Responding to a Changing Culture
Summary: American society continues to change and a large part of the population no longer supports Judeo-Christian values. Our society is divided and conflict between opposing views is increasing, yet Christians should anticipate the good that will result.
For a very long time, we’ve believed America is a Christian nation; that many of the founding fathers were Christians, that Judeo-Christian principles were the basis of our founding documents, that Christianity was widely respected, that everyone celebrated Christian holidays, that church attendance was part of our culture, that God blessed us by making America one of the greatest nations ever.
Whether it was a matter of over-confidence, self-centeredness or simply not paying attention, we allowed our relationship with God to become a formality — a routine — and we lost sight of our purpose. We focused on saving sinners rather than making disciples. We expected the pastoral staff to study the Bible for us and tell us what it means. We relied on others to be salt and light in our communities, to spread the gospel and do our work.
Now many of us are startled by the radical changes occurring in our culture and it’s important for us to respond appropriately. Many of the changes are merely symptoms and we would be wise to focus on the root causes, which ultimately are spiritual in origin. For many of us, the natural tendency is to long for the past and try to recapture it, but America of the 20th century is no longer relevant, not just gone. Change is a fact of life; in fact, God embraces change and even identifies our transformation into his image as one of the highest priorities in the New Testament.
As American citizens, we must acknowledge the changes occurring in our culture and oppose those that are evil or destructive and embrace those that are good and constructive.
Many of us are distressed by changes we see happening in our nation. The majority of the electorate no longer seems interested in the traditional values of liberty, morality, personal initiative, hard work and free enterprise. Materialism and self-indulgence have replaced disciplined living and generosity, resulting in an entitlement mentality and envy. Many have embraced extreme perversions, such as sexual deviancy and slaughtering the unborn, and openly ridicule or malign those who believe differently. Nationally, we’ve made government our god and expect our leaders to provide us free services, rescue us when we have problems, give us jobs, supplement our income and protect us from harm.
The American church soon will no longer represent a majority of the populace and those who embrace Jesus’ teaching are becoming a smaller minority. Respect for Christian values is steadily declining and many people now celebrate their “liberation” from the Bible’s “antiquated” beliefs. Secular culture is beginning to oppose the favored treatment churches and ministries have received in the past. Because sinful human nature advances itself by tearing others down, look for increased scrutiny of religious leaders to find any justification to vilify them. Don’t be surprised by political and legal attacks against tax-exempt status for ministries and tax deductions for charitable contributions; those discussions are already happening. Satan’s strategy is to wipe out every vestige of the body of Christ and claim sole possession of the earth.
But we know better.
We must stand up for biblical values, regardless of the cost, and not be intimidated by bullying tactics or even legal pressure. We cannot and will not compromise our convictions.
I believe America’s apparent absence from biblical accounts of the last days is evidence our nation will not be a superpower much longer; for whatever reason. I also believe the trends we see today are leading to a decline in our worldwide influence, which will make room for the world governance that leads to Jesus’ second return. So how can we be optimistic in the midst of America’s decline? By viewing it among the worldwide changes leading to the Lord’s return. It’s time to shift from complacency to excited anticipation.
Anticipate God’s will being accomplished. It’s important for us to realize that people usually do what they want to do. God simply knows ahead of time what choices they’ll make and how they’ll respond to circumstances. Add to that God’s absolute authority and his ability to coordinate everything to fulfill his ultimate purpose, and we can see how his will would be accomplished in a sinful world.
Anticipate God’s limitation of Satan. It will appear that Satan is in full control, that his empire is running rampant and defeating the saints. But God always limits Satan and sets definite boundaries on his activities. That doesn’t mean we’ll always be physically safe, because some will lose their lives for the Word of God and their testimony. But their deaths will ultimately bring greater glory to God because they value his will more than their own lives, and their deaths will prove his judgment is right by showing that sin always leads to loss, death and destruction.
Anticipate God’s daily care. Throughout the Bible, God preserved the righteous in the middle of judgment on the rest of the world. He even preserved the Jews during their captivities and exiles, though these occurred because of Israel’s unrighteousness. We see many examples of the Lord’s grace and daily care during judgment or hardship. “If this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:26, 30-33)
Anticipate God’s strength. The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of receiving God’s strength in all circumstances. He wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Php 4:11–13) At one point, Paul pleaded with God to deliver him from torment and describes his response for us: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Co 12:9–10)
Anticipate God working through us. Jesus said his followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Generally, that means we’re to expose and oppose evil, and preserve righteousness. There’s nothing passive about Christianity. Jesus also assured us he would be with us always, even to the end of the age. God will speak through us and provide whatever we need for every good thing we do in every situation. He strengthens us with his power, fills us with knowledge of his will and wisdom and understanding, and equips us with everything good for doing his will. God will do his work through us.
Anticipate Jesus’ return. Jesus described end-time events and encouraged us to be alert to what is happening so we can anticipate his return: “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Mt 24:33) His parables about the end-times encourage us to be both faithful and ready. None of us has a guarantee that we’ll live another day, so in a sense we should live each day as if it were our last. As each day passes, we can see world events lining up with end-time prophecies, so some things should be increasing: (1) our anticipation of the Lord’s return, (2) our commitment to becoming more like him and (3) our dedication to finishing the work he prepared for us to do.
Let me speak to you directly: God placed you in this nation at this time for a reason. He has a specific purpose for you to fulfill right here, right now. You can’t do it by yourself, but he’s waiting for you to do what you can and trust him to produce the results.
Sure, the circumstances look overwhelming or impossible, but that’s because you’re accustomed to judging everything by your own abilities. It’s not up to you to change the world; only Jesus can do that and he will. However, he invites you to participate in what he’s doing and watch him accomplish God’s will. As you do your part, you enable him to do his.