Practical Ways to Keep the Church Distinct from Culture

Culture is infiltrating the people of God at an alarming pace. Congregations are abandoning the truth of God in order to gain a following. Instead of asking the question, “What does the Bible say?,” too many are more than willing to ask, “What’s popular?” I heard of a church recently that, instead of a worship service directed to the Almighty God, had a concert based on the NBC hit The Voice. Culture, not God, has become the standard by which many Christians live their lives.

As I wrote yesterday, the church cannot be a part of the culture. God is timeless (Rev 4:8), but “the world is passing away along with its desires” (1 Jn 2:15). How can Christians – and the congregations where they work – be different from the culture around them?

Ignoring culture, “We fix our eyes on Jesus.” Jesus “is before all things” (Col 1:17); therefore, we start with Him. As we start with Jesus, we make it our aim to please Him (2 Cor 5:9). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8); culture will change, but Jesus never will.

Why do we start with Jesus?

  1. First: God speaks through Jesus.

    In culture, we hear so many competing voices, but we tune them out to listen to Jesus. At the Transfiguration, God declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt 17:5). “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:2).

  2. Second: Jesus knew His purpose.

    He came to serve (Matt 20:28). He came to teach (Mk 1:38). He came to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17). He came to call sinners (Matt 9:13). He came so that the world might be saved (Jn 3:17).

  3. Third: Jesus is the eternal God.

    He has existed from eternity and He shall live throughout all eternity. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58; cf. Ex 3:14); the Jews who heard Jesus understood His divine claim, for they tried to stone Him (Jn 8:59). As we seek to navigate the waves of competing cultural expectations, we can look to the Son of God who never changes!

  4. Fourth: Jesus promised to be with His people. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). The eternal Son dwells with us as we seek to do right.

  5. Fifth: Jesus taught us to honor God above culture.

    Following custom can put us at odds with God (Matt 15:1-9). Following the majority will lead us straight “to destruction” (Matt 7:13). Jesus has c alled us to be different from this world and to be salt and light leading others to the Father through Him (Matt 5:13-16).

How do we practically start with Jesus?

  1. First: Look to Jesus’ example.

    Jesus left “you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). If we claim to follow Jesus, we must walk as He did (1 Jn 2:6).

    Read through the Gospels this week and pay particular to how Jesus rose above culture. See how He spoke with a Samaritan woman, how He reached out and touched a leper, and how He healed on the Sabbath. Jesus did not allow culture to dictate how He lived.

  2. Second: Know your purpose.

    Jesus knew why He was on this earth. Philosophers have pondered for millennia the simple question: “What are we doing here?” Jesus knew His purpose, and we can know our purpose: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13). We’re not here to make a name for ourselves, we’re not here to make the world a better place. We’re here to honor our God.

  3. Two: You know where you stand.

    “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). Search your heart. Understand your purpose in this world. Realize why you don’t fall down and worship at the altar of our culture.

  4. Three: Pray for the brotherhood.

    It hurts when we see brethren whom we dearly love move from the faith “that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Lord promised that His kingdom would last forever (Dan 2:44). I believe since Pentecost there has always been a faithful remnant, and there shall be a remnant until Jesus comes again.

    Yet, we must pray for our brethren. We pray because we “love the brotherhood” (1 Pet 2:17). We pray because Jesus Himself prayed for the church (Jn 17:20-26). Paul prayed for his Hebrew kinsmen that they might be saved (Rom 10:1); can we not also pray that our brethren remain faithful to the Lord?

  5. Four: Be Careful with Modernity.

    Our home is in a land outside time and space, let alone a land outside of culture. We have been separated from the world (Jn 17:16). We no longer walk as those in darkness walk (Eph 4:17-24). The things of this world are passing away (1 Jn 2:17). All that is in the world will be burned up (2 Pet 3:10).

    We must be careful that we do not allow modernity to influence our lives and hearts. Does what we watch on television influence our thinking for evil? Do we have so many conveniences that we want nothing but a life of ease? Do we find that we cannot worship the Lord as faithfully during NFL season?

  6. Five: Be encouraged by saints of old.

    Think about the great servants of old. Remember Abraham who left his cultural norms in Ur to go where God would lead him. Remember Moses who left life as a royal to lead God’s people from Egypt. Remember Daniel and his three companions who refused to eat the king’s food. Remember John the Baptizer who stood up to Herod’s adulterous marriage. Remember Paul who gave up all he had worked for to follow Jesus.

    No, their lives were not easy. Some even lost their physical lives, but God blessed those who followed Him. They looked “forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10).

Let us all look for that heavenly city and reject culture as our standard!

God bless!

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