Starving for Truth (6)
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” Acts 17.6
A Christianity of self
David Wells summarizes the condition of our contemporary evangelical generation. Where we should expect, for all the opportunities we have for hearing God’s Word, a vibrantly repentant, gloriously sanctified, humbly serving, boldly outspoken, and energetically activist community, instead we find a religious people stretched out on the therapist’s couch, endlessly fixating on their personal needs and hurts, seeking the next big “fun” thing to do in the Name of the Lord.
Ours, Wells writes, is a “Christian faith that is conceived in the womb of the self” rather than in the forge of God’s truth. Compared to historic Christianity, ours
“is a smaller thing, shrunken in its ability to understand the world and to stand up in it…Where the self circumscribes the significance of Christian faith, good and evil are reduced to a sense of well-being or its absence, God’s place in the world is reduced to the domain of private consciousness, his external acts of redemption are trimmed to fit the experience of personal salvation, his providence in the world diminishes to whatever is necessary to ensure one’s having a good day, his Word becomes intuition, and conviction fades into evanescent opinion. Theology becomes therapy, and all the telltale symptoms of the therapeutic model of faith begin to surface. The biblical interest in righteousness is replaced by a search for happiness, holiness by wholeness, truth by feeling, ethics by feeling good about one’s self. The world shrinks to the range of personal circumstances; the community of faith shrinks to a circle of personal friends. The past recedes. The Church recedes. The world recedes. All that remains is the self.” (No Place for Truth)
We are starving for truth, and the world around us is dying because we have no truth to offer it, and little of grace or hope.
Turn the world upside-down
The final fruit of hearing the Word of God is a counter-cultural thrust and movement that strives irrepressibly to take every thought captive and make it obedient to the cause of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10.3-5), and to turn the world of unbelief and sin rightside-up for our Savior and King.
Repentant hearts lead to renewed lives and rejoicing lips. And these, in turn, nurture a rededicated mind, one devoted to the task of individual revival, renewed churches, and a culture and society gloriously awakened to the Gospel of the Kingdom.
The first Christians realized this, as we see in the book of Acts, and over the course of the next three centuries of Church history. In ages past Christians have been instrumental in overturning wickedness and introducing new and more beneficial institutions and inventions to bless the peoples of the world. Societal and cultural renewal and awakening have been hallmarks of Christian experience wherever, in the past, the Word of God has been truly preached and heard, and redeemed believers have set their minds to the task of joining with the Savior in making all things new.
The mind of Christ?
But where do we stand today? Mark Noll has written that today, “there is not much of an evangelical mind” available or interested in such Kingdom projects (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind). We have neither the will to engage our unbelieving age with the truth of the Gospel, nor the insight and vision to offer anything different in the way of a comprehensive worldview. The world is, if not devoid of truth, at least lacking in it sorely, and the reason for this is that we who have been entrusted with God’s truth, and commanded to feed and grow in it, are more interested in ourselves than the whole counsel of God. We pick at God’s truth rather than feast on it, and we are starving for truth as a result. We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16), but we refuse to stock it with the truth it needs to flourish within us.
Famished for truth, we have nothing of a uniquely Kingdom character to interject into the public square, the university classroom, the editorial pages, the culture of our workplace, or any of the local expressions of institutional life. While the Scripture views the church as a source of beauty and joy for the world, we have neither the mind nor inclination to exert ourselves in such ways on behalf of our communities (cf, Ps. 48). Thus, with but a few exceptions, the Word of God is left on the shelf amid the pressing issues and clamoring needs of the day, leaving debate and reform to proceed without the benefit of divine light.
World-weary, truth-deprived, idol-laden Christians wander the contemporary landscape like the people in Amos’ vision. We are desperately in need of spiritual nutrition, and are starving amid a famine of the hearing of God’s truth. Meanwhile, our sad world suffers in confusion, uncertainty, moral and spiritual poverty, and growing hopelessness.
1. What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? How would you neighbors or co-workers know that you have the mind of Christ?
2. Do you agree with David Well’s assessment of the narcissistic nature of contemporary Christianity? Explain.
3. Meditate on 2 Corinthians 10.3-5 and Acts 17.1-9. Should Christians and their churches expect to be agents of positive change in their communities? Why or why not?
Next steps – Preparation: What needs are evident in your own community that the churches of your community could begin to affect in positive ways? What suggestions can you offer to help your church break out of the famine of hearing that has settled on the churches of our land?
T. M. Moore
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