Category Archives: Cultural Mandate

Salt and Cultural Decay “My Name Is…I Struggle With…”

“You are the salt of the earth,” was something Jesus said to describe the affect of Christ-followers on the culture. This statement also came with an adomonition to retain the saltiness. What does this mean?

Sometimes, first century, Near Eastern salt was this mixture of salt and sand. They didn’t have processing plants. Some of their salt was very poor and had to be thrown out because it had been diluted. When salt is mixed with another substance, it changes in its impact. The other substance doesn’t become salty, but the potency of the salt is diminished to the point that it may not even be seen or tasted. The salt loses its effectiveness.

Before they had refrigeration or ice boxes, salt was their chief means of fighting decay. In the ancient world, salt was a vital staple, both as a preservative and as a seasoning. In a non-refrigerated society, salt was rubbed into the meat to keep it from decaying. If you catch a fish on the Sea of Galilee, for example, and have to transport it to Jerusalem many miles to the south, you’re in trouble without salt. The transportation was slow. Refrigeration was non-existent. And they didn’t have Morton Salt Company either. They got salt from evaporated sea water, and it was never completely pure. Occasionally what they gathered to use as seasoning or to preserve their meat was so impure that it wasn’t very salty at all. When that happened they would gather it up and cast it out in their fields to use as fertilizer. Sometimes they would throw it out the door to harden the pathway that led to their front porch.

What Jesus says in these verses is that if His followers are going to change the world, they have to be the real thing. Our lives can’t be a mixture of all kinds of impurity. We have to be uncompromised, authentic as we engage the culture. Not perfect, just authentic and real with how we live life. What the culture needs are people who own their mess, who allow the teachings of Jesus to confront their lifestyles, and who honestly live a confessional life without pretense as they struggle to live life the way Jesus asked them to live it.

How did Jesus ask them to live a “salty” life? Jesus wanted them to extend forgiveness rather than keep someone in their debt. He wanted them to honor their marriage vows rather than do adultery. He wanted them to stop objectifying women and to really see them and their hearts. He wanted them to surrender the impulse to retaliate and seek revenge. He wanted them to deny themselves, to trust Him and not to worry about tomorrow. He wanted them to resist jumping to conclusions and standing in judgment over others. He wanted them to have the right priorities so that when life is done, you’re not burdened with regret that you spent your life on the wrong things (this is a summary of Matthew 5-7). What the culture needs are people who are willing to allow Jesus’ teachings to confront their values; to engage the culture by living out this struggle in front of a society that is already suspicious about religion and spirituality.

Now, it is possible for salt to be over used, to be too salty. If we try to impose Kingdom values rather than live them for all to see, we are too salty. If we always demand conformity to our viewpoint, we’re too salty. If you’re too heavy with Jesus and his teachings, you’ll ruin your relationships. If you call your atheistic neighbor at 3 AM in the morning to invite them to church, you’re way too salty. If you’re always quoting scripture to someone and preaching to them, you’re messing up your witness. If you pull up in the car next to you at the stoplight, and yell across, “Do you know you are going to hell without Christ?”, you’re too salty. If everybody around you only knows the things in life that you are against, and they never hear the things that you are for, you’re too salty.

On the other hand, if we never pursue Jesus’ values, if we never talk of spiritual things, if we ignore God as a life focus, then our lives are bland. There’s no depth to them. We talk about shallow things all the time – the weather, the latest news, the current scandals. We are just like the rest of the culture. We can never talk about the great ideas, like how and why Christianity is true. We relegate God to a Sunday morning and then we live the way we want to the rest of the time. You have very little impact on your community, family, or culture when you refuse to pursue and even entertain thoughts of God and His way in the world. This life is bland and does very little to help a decadent culture engage their God and His Messenger.

One of the saltiest things a person can do is simply own their struggle. “Hi. My name is Joey and I am a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with nearly everything that Jesus asked me to do.” Here’s some stuff that Jesus said. It also is stuff that I struggle with.

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)
1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Instead of poor in spirit, I’m often looking forward to the next exciting thing in life rather than just facing that I can’t handle life in my own strength. I’ll just distract myself from my truest, deepest needs and the One who can meet them.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Instead of mourning and dealing with the aches of life, I sidestep the hard places and difficult emotions. Mourning is that process that allows us to bleed off the toxic poison of bitterness. When you mourn, you’re saying that things matter, that dreams should be held dear, that people are important, that you care enough about them to work through the pain of losing them. I want to numb the pain rather than process through it.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Instead of being meek and content and submitting to God’s authority and His plan for meeting my needs, I met my needs my way. I live for the next thing – the next weekend, the next job, the next adventure, the next thrill.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I hunger and thirst for all the wrong things and try to fill my life with them. Rather than take my soul cravings to God, I take them to other things and end up feeding on spiritual junk food.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

I can be harsh with those who live under my own roof and deny them grace. I can get really ticked at people who pretend and pose, especially when it comes to the spiritual life. They won’t admit anything and pretend to have it altogether. I don’t want to show them any mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

My heart is often divided among misdirected priorities. A pure heart is an undivided heart – a heart that is no longer struggling to decide where it will give its loyalty.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Rather than making peace, it’s often easier to settle just for what makes me happy.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When push comes to shove, it’s much easier to take the path of least resistance and blend in.

My name is Joey and I am a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with just about everything that Jesus asked me to do.

It’s about the saltiest thing I can say or do.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Confession, Cultural Commission, Cultural Mandate, Jesus Christ, Salt, Theism, Worldview

The Rule of “Isms” and the Call to Revolution

Oppression can be subtle and deceiving, but we are held captive today in America, not by militaries or governments, but by something I call “isms” or ideas or belief systems that have been packaged in such a way that they are now exerting great gravitational pull on a culture that has lost a sense of identity. There is a values vacuum, nested in a time of post-modernism (where truth cannot be known) and a new atheism (where religion and faith are mental illnesses) that seeks to destroy a basic belief in God and ultimate truth. Secularism (where all things can be explained naturalistically) has become the defining worldview of our age. This is fueled by a blind materialism (where money and wealth are the unquestioned biggies in life). The current generation lives out the philosophy of a radical individualism (where life is defined by what makes me happy) and life and relationships and families are falling apart at the seams because of hedonism (where the gratification of the senses has become our god). The oppression is subtle, but the isms rule in academia, government, law, politics, entertainment, music, and even in spirituality.

There must be a revolt. Not a “throw-rocks-at-the-bus” kind of a revolt, but a revolt of ideas and worldview. Revolution is about a spiritual struggle for a generation; about a pursuit of truth in an age of tolerance. It’s about a new perspective on life and living that breathes hope into those who are weary with the isms of man. It’s about core values that still work in a world that seeks to redefine everything. It’s also about serving a world with passionate love and radical acts of kindness. Revolution as Jesus defined it is about being Christ-like and spending time with and becoming friends with those who may be disoriented by the isms of society, or interacting in love and truth with those who embrace dead-end ideologies.

I believe there is a group of people that comprise a New Community who are dedicated to living life like Jesus asked us to live it. I believe there is a group of people who care so much about the coming kingdom that Jesus promised, that they simply cannot help but enacting it now, and that they are beginning to shape this world and ready this place for a new age. They are tired of being a spiritual by-stander in the spiritual struggle for a generation. They are ready for revolt, with pure passions that stand in stark contrast to the passions and pleasures of planet earth. The Revolution is not defined by age or demographics. It includes the spiritually hungry of every age and culture and gender who share a common longing to reach beyond a small life in our times.

Revolution ultimately is about a Jesus who will turn your world upside down. You are not just being asked to join a club or learn a secret handshake or to sign on to a set of beliefs. You are asked to bring all that you are and have under the authority of a new Kingdom, to be an ordinary radical in a world of war, sex scandals, corporate greed, desperate poverty, drug addiction, selfishness, and every ism known to man.

The Revolution began many years ago, but this Revolution is still going on despite what you read or hear about in the news. It is gobbling up more territory all the time. Just like Jesus did in the first century. He will wreck your life and turn it upside down. He will ask you to do some hard things like deny yourself, suffer for the Kingdom, serve your fellow man, love an atheist, befriend a prostitute, engage in dialog with skeptical neighbors, encourage another revolutionary, give money away, use your success in life to further the revolution, instill kingdom values in your family of “little revolutionaries”, and pray for spiritual breakthrough in your community. Jesus will ask you to live a morally pure life while serving and caring for those who live immoral lives. He will ask you to live an expectant life, where you watch the sky, but you work the earth into a Kingdom-Ready state. It will not be easy or convenient, but are revolutions ever easy or convenient? Welcome to the Revolution!

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Church, Cultural Commission, Cultural Mandate, Post-modernism, Revolution, Truth

Reclaiming Fallen Creation – Create God-Honoring Culture

Before God asked us to do anything else in Genesis 1-2, He gave us a job to do and basically said “Take care of my stuff.”

We are to exercise a responsible stewardship. We can never create what God created, but we are called to extend it, shape it and form it and organize it and research it and use it in such a God-glorifying way that we thus extend his creative work in our world.

We are to plant and manage fields and food supplies. We are to construct cities and communities and restore old ones. We are to make music and works of art. We are to breakdown diseases and sicknesses and endeavor to find a cure. We are to utilize all of science to find answers to as many questions as we can. We are to adventure into outer space. We are to dedicate ourselves to the laboratory. We are to study law and economics. We are to engage in education and politics. We are to build databases and information systems to give people greater control over the information in their lives.

Why? All of this is to massage the potential of the created order. By penetrating our society and letting God’s values come to bear in all of the areas, we speak a “Genesis”, a new creation, into the lives of people and our world.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Cultural Commission, Cultural Mandate, Genesis 1-3, Imago Dei, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Restoration

Cultural Mandate

John Eldredge states: “Adam and all his sons after him are given an incredible mission: rule and subdue, be fruitful and multiply. ‘Here is the entire earth Adam. Explore it, cultivate it, care for it – it is your kingdom…’ Talk about an invitation. This is a permission to do a heck of a lot more than cross the street. It’s a charter to find the equator; it’s a commission to build Camelot. Only Eden is a garden at that point; everything else is wild, so far as we know. No river has been charted, no ocean crossed, no mountain climbed. No one’s discovered the molecule, or fuel injection, or Beethoven’s Fifth. It’s a blank page, waiting to be written. A clean canvas, waiting to be painted.” Adam and Eve were called to take the raw and wonderful elements of God’s creation, develop their potential, and fill the entire earth with His glory and joy. They were to transform the untamed and untapped resources of nature into a social environment that would reveal the glory of God. They were to release the hidden potential of God’s creation. They were partners with God (Chapman, Restoring Broken Things). God put the planets in their orbits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeks grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship (Wolters). Colson calls this a “cultural mandate.” Human beings have been able to accomplish many wonderful things, we’ve also made a mess of this cultural mandate. Our rule is a tarnished rule. We’ve been deformed by sin and Satan. We don’t run the world right. What we call “civilization” is a smoldering heap of violence constantly on the verge of bursting into flame. This is the true picture of the fallen human will (Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ).” God wants to redeem the fractured history of culture-making, through you the New Community, the former broken ones who have been called out of the mess and into the adventure of restoration. Imagine a world filled with redeemed artists, God-honoring scientists, principled lawyers, God-fearing construction workers, politicians who really serve the public, educators that explore God’s creative work, parents who love. It all starts in the New Community. The Adamic human race perverted and twisted the cosmos; the Christian human race restores and renews it! The church is to be a kingdom invasion into the brokenness and suffering of fallen creation, calling people out to restoration.

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Filed under Cultural Commission, Cultural Mandate, Stewardship