What Super Bowl Marketers Know that the Church Can't Miss

The super bowl this year was one for the record books. People watch the super bowl for a variety of reasons – some for the game, others for the commercials, and some for the half time show. The super bowl has become such a huge event in America it is practically a national holiday. As I was watching the game something stuck out to me about the commercials this year. It seemed like many of the commercials strongly featured Dads.  A few different companies this year decided to market their products by featuring prominently fathers. It was nice to appear to the sentimentality and bring father’s in the focus, but why? No matter how great the commercial is, the aim is not to pull on your heart strings but to sell you a product. These companies don’t spend millions of dollars to just give you warm fuzzies. We live in a marketing world. We are always being sold something, and often marketers know our culture and know what makes us tick better than anyone. And this year, for Super Bowl 49, Dads were the focus of the commercials. Watch some of these commercials in case you missed them.




Isn’t this strange? In a day and age where many are arguing to eliminate gender stereotypes and where Father’s living in the home is a relic of the past, these marketers decided they could best sell their products by bringing fathers to our attention. While the marriage between a man and a woman is being redefined in our culture into a genderless union and while the home has been shattered by divorce, these marketers feature loving, gentle, and present fathers.

There is a crisis of fatherhood in America. The traditional family of Dad, Mom, and children seems to be rapidly fading. Many men ignore, run away from, or deny any responsibility they have when it comes to their children. Rather than rising to be worthy of the title husband and father many men are content with the title “baby daddy”. Men refuse to fight for their marriages and for their families and cowardly run from difficulty indulging every selfish pleasure their hearts crave.

But that’s not the picture these advertisers presented to us at the super bowl. These advertisers know us better than we think. They know that there is something hard wired into humanity that longs to be loved by a father. We long to experience the warm protective, self-denying, embrace of dad. The picture of Dad they presented to us is the ideal we crave, but not this is not the reality for many of us.

Children need Fathers. Despite arguments trying to minimize the father in the family, marketers know what many deny – we long for a Father. These super bowl commercials point to the great challenge of Christian men to be father’s who sacrifice, love, protect, and provide for our children.  We need Christian men who can demonstrate in word and deed the love of God the Father to our children. Every human being longs for this. Though our earthly fathers may fail us, we must always point people to the Father who never does. We must point them to the Father who displays his lavish love for us by purchasing our redemption. America has a hole and a desperate longing for fatherly love. The marketers know this. Does the church?

Sneaky Syncretism

One of the greatest threats to Christianity is syncretism. Syncretism is a fancy word but it is an important one to know. Here is a definition for Syncretism:

The attempt to assimilate differing or opposite doctrines and practices, especially between philosophical and religious systems, resulting in a new system altogether in which the fundamental structure and tenets of each have been changed. Syncretism of the gospel occurs when its essential character is confused with elements from the culture. In syncretism the gospel is lost as the church simply confirms what is already present in the culture. (PDTT, 111)

We are all prone to syncretism. It comes naturally to us to add to the Gospel and completely distort Christianity. Our propensity to take biblical, authentic Christianity and distort it into a religion of our own making should frighten us into a continual state of self-evaluation. If the true Gospel is not viciously guarded and defended the drift into syncretism will happen faster than we thought possible.

Sneaky Syncretism

Syncretism is sneaky. It creeps in often unaware as we begin to import the idols of culture into our faith and churches. They often enter unnoticed but like any disease begins to fester and grow into deadly unhealthiness. Syncretism was not only a problem for the early church (Col 2) but also for the nation of Israel. Over the course of their history we see their tendency to reject their monotheism to polytheism. They deny the exclusivity of Yahweh and begin to worship Baal or any other pagan god. Israel's desire to be like other nations even included importing their false gods to worship. As a result of they syncretism which grew into just plain idolatry, The Lord brought judgement and exile upon the nation.

A blind eye to syncretism can be deadly. We would be fools to think that there are not some ways we are importing the idolatrous ideas of culture into Christianity. In the west this is a particular problem that goes unnoticed, yet we must attack syncretism and guard the precious Gospel with our lives. Here are a few common areas where syncretism is common in American Christianity.

1. The god of Comfort

The god of comfort and leisure has greatly consumed the minds of Christians. We tend to have an love for an easy and comfortable life. Ideas like persecution, hardship, or cross-cultural evangelism just seems to uncomfortable. God wants us to be at leisure right?

2. The god of Materialism

Materialism is a poison that has greatly influenced the church. We love things and we love stuff even though it will all end up in the dump one day. Even in our church we tend to have a love for huge buildings, fancy technology, and attractive decor. God wants us to be rich right?

3. The god of Free-Sex

Over the last few decades the sexual revolution has impacted the churches understanding of sin and sexuality. The biblical truth that sex is a good gift from God reserved between a man and his wife in the covenant of marriage is largely ignored. We tend to tolerate sexual sin among Christians making excuses for our additions to pornography, homosexuality, or sex outside of marriage. We import the cultures understanding of sexuality into Christianity. God is love right?

4. The god of Tolerance

Our cultures understanding of tolerance comes from a position of pluralism. A true understanding of tolerance is allowing other people to have differing view points. Christians should be tolerant in this sense. But to be tolerant in our cultures eyes is to not only allow differing view points but to celebrate them. In honor of the god of pluralism many Christians operate in a If-its-right-for-you mindset. The god of tolerance tells us it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe. God tells us to believe, right?

The Very Real Danger of Syncretism

As you can see it is so very easy for us to begin importing the idols of culture into biblical Christianity. I just mentioned a few, but the danger is real. We must defend what the Bible says is the true Gospel and we must constantly evaluate our own hearts and actions as individuals and as a church to make sure we are not importing idols into our Christianity. The threat of syncretism is real and we must be on guard from our wandering hearts who continually seek to great a religion of our own making.

Are there any idols that I missed? Be sure to share with us in the comments.

6 False Gospels in the Bible Belt

I've spent my whole life growing up in the Bible Belt. I grew up in the home of a pastor and listening to sermons from countless teachers and Christians. The Bible Belt gets its name because there tends to be a lot of conservative Christian people and you can find churches on every street corner. Although the Bible Belt seems to be disappearing slowly, there are remnants of a culture that assumes everyone is a Christian and that expects everyone should be going to church. Although I am thankful for a culture in which I had such ready access to the true Gospel, over the years I have been exposed to a number of pseudo-gospels trying to pretend to be the real deal. These false gospels are often unknowingly proclaimed by pastors and churches in the bible belt. Some of the most dangerous lies we believe are not elaborate teachings of heresy but a subtle twisting of the truth. The false gospels run deep in the Bible Belt and makes pastoring in this area of our country quite difficult.

1. "My Baptism Saves Me"

Many people are confused about their salvation. There are many who think of salvation as some sort of ritualistic tradition where you walk down an aisle, sign a card, and get baptized. Many in the Bible Belt have done this often at a very young age before they really understood what they were doing. As a result there are many people who call themselves Christians who could care less about Jesus. They find assurance in their baptism or their church membership. They feel security in their salvation because they are on the rolls of a church they haven't attended in decades.

Many of these people cling to "Once Saved, Always Saved" which is a twisted distortion of the perseverance of the saints. The perseverance of the saints is not "Once Saved, Always Saved", but "Once Saved, Always Persevering". If you became a Christian at 8 years old and then spend your entire life disconnected from God and the church and think you have salvation, chances are you are fooling yourself. Those who are truly in Christ will persevere in following Christ until he calls us home. All of this is by God's grace and an indicator of a truly converted heart.

2. "I go to church and I'm a good person"

Moralism is the rampant poison in Bible Belt culture. If you listen carefully you can hear it taught from many pulpits across the south. It is the great distorting of the Gospel in which all God wants from you is to be a good boy or girl.  God then becomes the great Santa Clause in the sky where heaven becomes beautifully wrapped presents and hell becomes a stocking of coal.  So many have twisted the Gospel into a moral check list to complete. You hear the lie of moralism at funerals, bible studies, and even in sermons. Moralism teaches "Be Good and Work Harder". The Gospel says "You're not Good and you need the atoning work of Christ".

The true Gospel is not one in which we work to earn God's favor, but a Gospel in which we receive God's favor through Jesus Christ. Salvation is all by grace. Yes, God wants us to live lives of holiness, but our morality does not save us. We are saved only through the blood of Christ.

3. "God wants me to be happy, healthy, and wealthy"

The prosperity gospel runs wild and free in the Bible Belt, and unfortunately remains unchallenged. The lie of the prosperity gospel can be found in our Christian Book stores, Facebook statuses, and again from pulpits throughout the Bible Belt. More often it is a Christianized package of American consumerism. Rather than loving the giver of all gifts we idolize the gifts God gives us. We expect God to give us our best life now filled with a great salary, great car, and perfect health.

Yes, God does give us great gifts, but the problem with the prosperity Gospel is that it imposes that God MUST give us those things. The path of true discipleship is often not one of roses and ease. It is often difficult to follow Jesus and it may mean we suffer in this life as our savior did. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him. God does not exist to give us all creature comforts, but he calls us to lay down our lives for his glory.

4. "God is my Therapist"

Pop Psychology has crept into the church. We often think that God just wants me to feel good about myself. He is there to affirm my feelings and my life style. Those who believe this false gospel often highly value emotional experiences that make them feel better about themselves. Often times there is an over emphasis on God's love and a de-emphasis on his justice and wrath towards our sin. The idea of the sinfulness of humanity is largely avoided in the Bible belt and instead we hear about a God of acceptance and affirmation.

Yes, God is our healer. Yes, he is our refuge and strength and help in trouble. Yes he is our great counselor. Yet, God is also serious about our sin. This is why he sent Jesus to die, to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus' death was a death of substitution. He died in our place. God is not interested in increasing our self-esteem but transforming us into new creations. God is making us new and conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. We are sinners in need of new hearts. We must be born again. We must change, and the power of change does not come through self-actualization but through spiritual regeneration. This means that we must turn from our sin and live lives transformed by God's radical grace empowered and initiated by the Spirit of God.

5. "God Doesn't Care About My Heart"

The Bible Belt is often cloaked in a veil of legalism. Many think that God simply cares about their external actions. Many think to be a Christian is to be but a moral, good person. If I put on the church mask and make everyone believe I've got it all together, that is all God cares about. So they put on their nice suits and their fake Christian smile and act out this role of a faithful Christian. Yes, God does care that we do the right thing, but he also cares about our motives. This is what Jesus was getting at in the Sermon on the Mount.  God does not want us to commit adultery, but Jesus says that even the lust of the heart is just as sinful as the act of adultery. God also cares about our motivations behind our actions. Yet, many in the bible belt are religious shells, externally doing the right thing without their hearts transformed and renewed by grace.

6. "God Doesn't Expect Me to Serve Him"

Many think that God has called them to a simple, cozy, easy life. Many do not believe that God has called them to serve or sacrifice at any cost to themselves or their life style. Giving of our money or giving up our time or moving to an uncomfortable location for the Gospel all seems ridiculous. We often think that God is here to serve us, not us to serve him. So we come into our churches as Christian consumers ready to take from others but never to serve our church, our community, or our world. Every Christian has been given the mandate of the Great Commission. Every Christian has been given the calling of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. God has not called us to a leisurely self-serving Christianity, but a costly self-denying faith that risks anything and everything for the greater joy of knowing and savoring Jesus.

A Recovery of the True Gospel

Have you identified any of these six false gospels that get thrown around the Bible Belt and across much of evangelical Christianity? More than anything in the Bible Belt and across the world we need a revival and a renewal of the true Gospel:

A Gospel that proclaims a great holy God.

A Gospel that proclaims the wretchedness of our estate in our sin.

A Gospel that proclaims the great love of God in sending a savior.

A Gospel that accentuates the cross as the ultimate display of God's love and wrath as Jesus dies in our place.

A Gospel that calls all people to turn from sin and have faith in jesus.

A Gospel that expects followers of Christ to actually follow him.

Be sure to check out the sequel to this post: How to Share the Gospel with Cultural Christians

Spurgeon on the Movie Theater

spurgeon11Ok, so there were no movie theaters in Charles Spurgeon's day, but there were regular theaters with actors and plays.  I'm currently reading through Tom Nettles new work on Charles Spurgeon called Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Spurgeon. It is a mammoth of a book, but I've enjoyed learning and studying the life of Spurgeon.  I came across this section where Nettles is describing Spurgeon's view of London and the sinful habits of the people. Nettles writes:

If Spurgeon could have added another curse, he probably would have selected the theatre. The moral tone of the theatre was too bad for mending and the character of drama is such that the tendency always is toward quick corruption. While some advocated Christian attendance in order to raise the moral level, Spurgeon thought that was like advocating pouring a bottle of lavender water into the great sewer to improve its aroma...Spurgeon claimed that he had never entered a theatre during the performance of a play, but when coming home from a distant engagement he had passed by and seen enough to 'pray that our sons and daughters never go within the doors.' Should that practice even become a habit among church members, Spurgeon believed it would prove the death of piety. 'Who can suppose,' he asked, 'amusement surrounded with the seductions of vice to be fit recreation for a pure mind? Who can draw near to God after sitting to admire the performances of a wanton woman, and I am told that some who have dazzled London society are such."

If Charles Spurgeon was concerned about the theatre of his day, I'm sure he would be astonished at the sort of TV shows and films that constantly play on our screens.  I'm not sure I agree with Spurgeon on the inability to redeem the artistic medium of theatre or film. I do not think Christians should abandon the arts but seek to transform them with the Gospel.  Yet, his point about the rubbish we intake as believers on our screens could very well 'prove the death of piety.' Maybe the reason we have such a hard time living for the Lord is that we have been filling our mind with these seductive vices? I'm not advocating we necessarily throw our TVs out the windows or never walk into a movie theatre again, but there is a greater need for discernment as we seek to grow in godliness.

Standing Firm in a Hostile Culture

The American church is heading into unknown waters and difficult circumstances that American Christians have never experienced.  In some ways the modern church is beginning to look much more like the early church.  We are faced with some tough sets of challenges such as false teachers and cultural and political persecution. We have been on the road back to Rome for quite some time now.  There is an increasing hostility to the Christian faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Changing Cultural Landscape

In the 1950s, it was culturally advantageous for you to be a Christian and belong to a church. It seemed like everyone went to church.  If you grew up in the Bible belt there was incredible social pressure to church.  However, over the past 50-60 years we have watched a rising secular and anti-Christian spirit begin to dominate the cultural landscape of the West.  The privileged position Christians have enjoyed in the West over the past 1,000 years is quickly being eliminated.  I believe that we are only seeing the beginning of a zealous secularism that seeks to permanently eliminate the church and its influence from the public square.

It is easy to be a Christian when you are the moral majority.  Can we stand firm in Christ as we increasingly become what Dr. Russell Moore has called "the prophetic minority"? In the coming decades we will have an incredible task of standing firm in Christ in an increasingly hostile culture.

Yet, it is easy to see the cultural reshaping of our country and be pessimistic about this.  It is a bad thing for our country, but I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for the church.   The dead weight chaff of an uncommitted cultural Christianity is being eliminated, and the opposition we will be facing will be used by God as a purifier for the church.

Standing Firm in Hostility

May we stand firm in Christ regardless of the blazing heat that may be rising around us.  May we stand firm on the unchanging truth of the Gospel and may we boldly call all people to repentance and faith.  May we urge every man and woman to trust in Jesus as their Lord and as their savior.  May we unapologetically proclaim Christ as the exclusive means of salvation for all people as we stand on the solders of Christians over the past millennia who laid down their life for the cause of Christ.  As the early church father Tertullian said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church".

Passing the Baton: Preserving the Gospel from Generation to Generation

There is nothing quite like a good old fashion relay race. The concept is simple. One person runs a certain length as well as they can, then they pass the baton to the next runner on their team who takes it a little bit further. Then that person will hand it off to the next person. You get the picture. In Paul's letter to his protégée Timothy he describes this passing of the baton as he writes awaiting his execution. Paul knew his time was coming up and his section of the relay race was coming to an end. He had run his race well. He had carefully guarded the deposit of the Gospel. Now it was time for him to pass the responsibility of guarding the Gospel to the next generation. It was now Timothy's turn to guard and protect the truth of the Gospel. He charges Timothy:

"By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you" (2 Timothy 1:14)

Over the past 2000 years, the Gospel taught by the apostles has been passed from one generation to the next. As a younger pastor I feel the weight, the excitement, and the responsibility of carrying the baton of the Gospel. As the millennial generation (of whom I belong) begin to take leadership in our culture and in churches there is a changing of the guard that is beginning to take place. So as the next generations of Christians begin to bear the weight of responsibility, there are a few things we must remember.

1. Protect the Gospel from Distortion

The Gospel message of salvation by faith alone through grace alone will be attacked in every generation. This will be especially true of the next few decades as Christianity continues to be marginalized. The Christians of tomorrow will face the same challenges of Christians of yesterday. We will be tempted to distort, twist, or water down the Gospel to make it more culturally palatable to 21st century people. As the baton is passed to this new generation, the truthfulness of the Gospel must be preserved. We must continue to unapologetically defend the exclusivity of the Gospel and point people to Jesus alone for salvation. In a culture hostile to Christianity we will be tempted to take the easy way out and change all that might be controversial. We must resist that temptation and remain faithful to Jesus and His word.

2. Proclaim the Word of God

This next generation of Christians must continue to stand firm on the truthfulness of God's word. However we must not only hold to key doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, we also must keep God's Word central in everything we do. We must stand firm on its truthfulness and proclaim it to others. As we evangelize and we disciple, we must do so with God's Word. We must proclaim truth to all, even though they may not want to listen. At the very end of 2 Timothy, Paul gives him one final charge in how to guard the deposit entrusted to him. He writes:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

Those words remain just as true to us today as they did to Timothy in his day. The next generation must proclaim God's word.

3. Pass the Gospel to the Next Generation

The Gospel can be lost within one generation. If one generation refuses to disciple the next generation the Gospel would be lost. This is why we each generation is given the baton of the Gospel and they are to pass it to the next generation. As a young man, it is hard for me to imagine a time where I am 50 or 60 years old. However as any 60-year-old would tell you, old age comes quicker than you realize. Our life is a vapor. We are here for one second and gone the next. As a result, we must continue to pass the generation on to the next generation. We must teach them, instruct them, and show them how to faithfully follow Jesus.

From Generation to Generation

Every generation of Christians must Protect the Gospel, Proclaim the Gospel, and Pass the Gospel on to the next generation. This cycle has continued for the past 2000 years and it will continue until Jesus returns at his second coming. Receiving the baton and then passing it on to others is a huge responsibility. However we have this hope as Paul did that "I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me" (2 Timothy 1:12). As we have the weight of responsibility we have this promise, that God will protect his truth. The Gospel will be preserved no matter what the obstacles or no matter how hostile the culture. The Church will survive across generations. Then on that day when Jesus returns, we will all stand in the assembly of saints spanning generation to generation and the relay race will be finished and we will celebrate with all of God's people that the race has been finished and Christ has won.

Multi-Ethnic Congregations: A Present Need and a Future Reality

Our world is changing. It is not any secret that ethnic diversity is accelerating in American culture. What has been a traditionally white dominated culture is simply changing before our very eyes. The unfortunate thing is that many times churches are the most segregated gatherings of people in the country. Established churches have a tendency to be mono-ethnic, meaning that they reach one sort of ethnicity. White people go to church with white people. Black people go to church with black people. Asian people go to church with asian people. You get the point. This is incredibly unfortunate and fails to reflect the reality of heaven in which there will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping King Jesus (Read Revelation 5). If established churches are going to survive and thrive the next few decades, we must begin to get a vision for mult-ethnic congregations.

The Church is Not Dying

Many Christians seem to be the prophetic voice of doom. "The Church is dying in America!", well,  so they exclaim. However, this is proving not to be the case. Soong-Chan Rah in his book The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity argues that christianity in America isn't dying it is just changing. He writes incitefully:

“As many lament the decline of Christianity in the United States in the early stages of the twenty-first century, very few have recognized that American Christianity may actually be growing, but in unexpected and surprising ways. The American church needs to prepare for the next stage of her history—we are looking at a nonwhite majority, multiethnic Christianity in the immediate future. Unfortunately, despite these drastic demographic changes, American evangelicalism remains enamored with an ecclesiology and a value system that reflect a dated and increasingly irrelevant cultural captivity and are disconnected from both a global and local reality” (p. 12)

We are looking at a next stage of evangelicalism and it isn't just a white or black movement. It is multi-racial. Rah argues that evangelicalism is actually growing rapidly in America, not among whites, but among first and second generation immigrants from Asia, Africa, and South America. The reason we have been missing this trend is because all of our studies and research are done through an Anglo-Centric lense. Rah continues to write:

“The public face of America is no longer a white male. Meanwhile, the trend of a nonwhite majority America will hit the churches faster than it will hit the general population. This tend is due in large part to the sustaining of American Christianity by newly arrived immigrants who bring their Christian faith with them…. Contrary to popular opinion, the church is not dying in America; it is alive and well, but it is alive and well among the immigrant and ethnic minority communities and not among the majority white churches in the United States” (p. 14).

Embracing Racial Diversity in our Churches

We must begin to reach out and engage people of other cultures and nationalities in our churches. This will by no means be an instintaneous transition. It will be slow and gradual, but we must be commited to reaching all people from every sort of ethnic background. The nations are no longer overseas. The world has gotten smaller and the nations are right outside our door.

In my own church, a southern baptist church, I've been so excited recently because our church is beginning to look more like the throne room of heaven. We still have a long way to go, but by God's grace we have seen multiple cultural backgrounds.

  • We have a thriving hispanic ministry meeting at our church and worshiping with us on Sunday morning.
  • We have many deaf members along with a deaf pastor on staff to reach this people group in Wilson.
  • Our church has become less "white" by having black Americans join and visit our church.
  • We have begun to see Asian people begin to join and visit, including this past Sunday where we had four japanese students visit our congregation.

These are very exciting things that are happening in our church, and for a SBC church which is known for being predominatly a white denominatio, this is amazing to see. It is my conviction that our churches should look like our local Walmart, which has become a population sample of the etnic melting pot of our cities. May we learn to see that the Gospel is for all people from all backgrounds and may we create strategies to reach all the people in our cities, even people with different skin color.

A Case for Early Marriage: Why It's a Good Idea to Get Married Young

People don't get married anymore. If they do, then it is much later in life. In fact the age of marriage is continually going up in our culture to where it is pushing thirty. Not only has this been the trend in the culture, but I have seen this trend begin to take place in the church as well. It is my personal belief and conviction that this can be harmful to human flourishing and a great hinderance for godly families within the church. Early marriage has become taboo in our culture. Getting married at a young age of 20 or 21 will get you some strange comments from others, including other Christians (Trust me, I've experienced them). However, I think we need a revival of early marriage among Christians. I think there are several reasons younger Christians need to begin adopting this counter cultural practice by marrying early.


1. Marriage is a Great Gift

The way many people talk about marriage, it seems like they were talking about a death sentence. As I was engaged to my beautiful wife Kaitlyn at twenty years old, here was some of the comments I received.

  • Enjoy life now because everything will be different (said in a depressive tone)
  • Already? But you're so young, you have so much life to live!
  • Get ready for that bail and chain

It is astonishing that Christians treat marriage as if it's the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you. Getting married is right underneath getting terminally diagnosed with cancer for some people. Young people are told to go "sow their wild oats" and live hedonistically before they settle down and get married. We must recapture the biblical definition of marriage as an incredible gift. Marriage is not a curse, but a wonderful privilege given by God. Marriage is not something to avoid, but something to be sought after by young people. Unfortunately the negative comments about marriage deter young people away from this precious gift. However these negative comments reveal nothing but the troubles of their own marriages.

2. Marriage Encourages People to Grow Up

It is not a strange sighting today to see 25 or 26-year-old men living at home with mom and dad, drinking red bull, and playing X-Box all day. The recently created teenager/adolescent culture seems to be a growing age group. Adolescence is no longer just during the teen years but continues into the 20s and early 30s. My own generation is a generation characterized by a lack of initiative failing to take responsibility for their own lives.

Marriage is God's gracious gift of forcing a man and a woman to grow up, particularly men. When a man gets married he becomes responsible for providing for his family, making sure the bills are paid, and protecting his wife. He must not only take responsibility for himself but for his wife and future children. Marriage pushes young men out of the nest to spread their wings and fly under the windy pressures of life. This is a good thing, but unfortunately rather than pushing these guys towards manhood we allow them to continue in a lengthy boyhood. This is a shame and Christian men need to grow up into their divine calling of marriage and family.

3. Marriage Protects From Sexual Immorality

We live in an overly sexualized culture. From nude scenes in Hollywood movies, risqué television shows, and erotic novels, young people are being bombarded with one message: Sex. There is an incredible amount of pressure on Christian young people to bend their knee to our cultures unbiblical view of loveless, carnal sex without consequences.

However, if Christians place the expectation on young believers to wait till their late twenties and early thirties for marriage, we are placing on them a weight that will cripple them. Young Christians seeking to be obedient to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage will collapse under the weight of their optimal sex drive and the influence of an obseessivly sexualized culture.

It is unreasonable, foolish, and harmful to place this weight on young people. Sex is a good gift given to us by God, meant for our enjoyment in the way God has designed. Rather than encouraging young people to delay marriage and a sexual relationship with their spouse, we should encourage them to marry. This way they can enjoy God's gift of sex in a way that protects them from sexual immorality and glorifies and honors God.

Don't Make Early Marriage Taboo

Christian parents, grandparents, and teachers should encourage younger Christians to consider marrying early. Marriage is an incredible gift given by God to our sanctification and our enjoyment. Yes, early marriage is not necessarily an easy road. You may be poor, have to work twice as hard to make it through college, and be thought of as weird by a anti-marriage culture. However, if two Christians love each other, and most importantly love the Lord Jesus Christ, early marriage should not be a thing that is tabooed, but encouraged and celebrated.

The Arts are the Pulse of Culture

Francis-SchaefferI'm currently reading The God Who is There by Francis Shaeffer. I have been amazed by the cultural analysis he has done in the first half of the book, especially his analysis of art. The philosophical teachings found in much of the artwork the past two centuries absolutely fascinates me.

It is amazing to me the power in such a medium. The arts have indeed shaped the culture around us. Paintings, literature, and architecture are not merely entertaining hobbies but philosophy on display. Artist comment on their society, creatively displaying their worldview, their quest for meaning, and their final conclusions.

The amazing thing Shaeffer pointed out was that many of these men lived in complete and utter despair, particularly the modern painters such as Van Gough. Their artwork shows they were seeking for a universals while building and focusing on the particulars. These men were searching for answers in a world devoid of God and a world devoid of truth. The lives of such men are tragic, and their final conclusions are epitomized in their epic demise by the taking of their own life. After searching for meaning and significance, they found themselves in a dark hole of meaninglessness.

Francis Shaeffer concludes with this observation

These paintings, these poems, and these demonstrations which we have been talking about are the expression of men who are struggling with their appalling lostness. Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art? Christians should stop laughing and take such men seriously. Then we shall have the right to speak again to our generation. These men are dying while they life; yet where is our compassion for them? There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.

What an accurate critique. The tortured work of these men reveal the desperateness of those around us. Just as these artist express their own lostness in their artwork, they are in good company. There are neighbors, co-workers, and friends who are lost in the nebulous of the denial of absolute truth, seeking a meaning in a world where —at least in their worldview— is not possible. Subjectivism and existentialism merely mask the reality of their worldview - hopelessness and despair.

How does this reality change the way we look at the expressions of art around us? I suggest the following ways.

We Must Take Art Seriously

Christians are not very artistically inclined. Although there seems to be a reclaiming of the arts among Christians, many Christians have failed to take the medium seriously.  We must understand that art shapes culture. It speaks into the souls of men in a deep and profound way. Art teaches. Always. This means that Christians must greatly understand the profoundness of the medium. As Christians, we know why men and women create art, it is because of the imago dei. There is something about our created nature in the image of God that compels us to create, explore, imagine, and speak. Christians must not dismiss the art of culture as immaturity, foolishness, or even irrelevance. Where philosophy teaches in the academy, art takes the philosophy of the academy and presents it initially to culture.

We Must Examine Art Critically

Christians must be cautious not to immediately accept all art forms and the message they communicate. Although we can enjoy the skill, precision, and creativity implored enjoying must not lead us to accepting. Let me give us a relevant example in the medium of film, the most powerful cultural shaper in western civilization.

The movie Avatar was a box office hit that made millions of dollars. It was a visually amazing epic adventure on an uncharted world. Although we can go see Avatar and enjoy the medium and creativity of the film, we must not accept its philosophical message, which is a retelling of the eastern worldview (which is become increasingly westernized), panenthism, which is a worldview in which a impersonal divine spirit indwells and connects all things together (think the force from Star Wars). This is completely contrary to the Christian worldview who says that God is not an impersonal spirit, but the personal God who exists in trinity.

The great danger is that so many christians embrace the art without critically thinking about its message. Art has a way of teaching us and shaping us in a way that we don't realize is happening. The message of the theater, of novels, and of artwork instructs often times subconsciously. Christians must examine art seriously, but also critically.

We Must Observe Art With Scrutiny

We can know a great deal about our culture and about our society if we carefully examine the art it produces. From the latest oscar winning film to the latest Justin Beiber album (which can hardly be considered art). The arts reveal the values, the morality, and the worldview of those who are creating.

Christians must learn to view art with evangelistic interest. As we observe the art of culture, we must look for Gospel incompatibilities (this is not compatible with a Christian worldview) and Gospel bridges (that points to the meta narrative of Scripture). Christians must get their head out of the sand and observe the people and the culture God has placed us in. Then with investigative critical thinking we can accurately and contextually communicate the Gospel, answering the questions that the culture is asking.  The Christian must take the pulse of culture by observing the arts.  In order to share the Gospel effectively, we must no the walls and barriers of the people we are trying to reach.

A Worldly Christian is an Oxymoron

4177519542 b623fc7974 o Have you heard that phrase before?  "Worldly Christian".  Christians use that phrase often to describe other people, even fellow church members.  However, as I've studied the Scriptures, a worldly Christian is really an oxymoron.  They are two opposites coming together.

In 1 John, the apostle John is writing to a church suffering from a church split.  This split wasn't over the color of the carpet or drums in the worship service like most church splits.  This church split was over some major theological issues.  John is writing to a church in the midst of a crisis.  They were filled with doubt, thinking, "Did we make the right decision?" and "How do we know who are the true Christians?" The whole letter is filled with the apostle John trying to provide answers and encouragement to a broken congregation.  Here is what he writes:

   “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, ESV)

John tells us their are two teams in his letter.  There is team light and there is team darkness.  There is team Christ and team anti-Christ.  There is team God and team world.  John tells the church that they must pick a side in this spiritual battle.  As a result John gives the strong command, "Do not love the world or the things in the world".  In fact, John tells us that someone who loves the world does not have the love of the Father in him.  This is incredibly startling!  John is telling us that "Worldly Christians" are impossible.  There is no such thing.  You either love God or you love the world.

John is trying to teach us that Christians are a distinct people who reject the pleasures of the world and are marked by radical love for Christ. 

We are Purchased to be Distinct

Christians are a purchased people.  They are not their own and have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20).  Through the blood of Jesus Christ God has purchased His people from the bondage of slavery.  Through the cross God has set Christians apart to be a distinct and unique people for his possession.  He wants to set them apart and make the holy.  Check out what the apostle Peter says:

   “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)

So we have been purchased to be a distinct people for God's own possession.

We are Distinct by Rejecting the Pleasures of the World

How do we show our distinctness as the people of God?  Well we demonstrate that by rejecting the pleasures of the World.  This is why John commands us not to love the world and the desires of the world.  This means we reject the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life.  This means we don't view porn, we don't cuss like sailors, we don't bow down to money, and we don't drown our sorrows in drunkness.  You see, Christians are called to be a distinct people, unique and set apart.  We do that by rejecting the pleasures of the world.

There is a pragmatic reason for rejecting the pleasures of the world; They do not last.  John tells us that the desires of the world are passing away.  Any honest person knows this.  Indulging our fleshly desires only leaves us longing for more.  We become pleasure seekers looking for the next "thing" to lift our spirits.  We buy that new outfit. We take that extra shot. We go just a little bit further with our girlfriend.  Why do we do this? We are looking for pleasure, but the pleasure of this world is not lasting.  It is pershiing.

Love for the world does not satisfy the human soul.  The reason Christians reject the pleasures of the world is because we know that lasting pleasures is found only in Christ.

We Reject the Pleasures of the World by Radical Love for God

What fuels our rejection of the pleasures of the world? What motivates us to do such a counter-cultural thing?  It is our radical love for God.  My great fear is that many Christians reject their fleshly desires for the sake of their own egos and moral superiority.  They become legalists and phrases not because the love God but because they love themselves.  Christian pursue distinctness not because they want to appear morally superior, but because we love God.

Our love of God fuels us to be distinct and reject the pleasures of the world.  We love God more than any other pleasure the world has to offer. You see, a worldly Christian is an oxymoron.  It is a logical impossibility.  It is an unbiblical combination.  Even though faithful Christians might be tempted to fall into the deceitful lies of the culture, Christians must reject the siren song of the culture and find lasting pleasure in the arms of Jesus.