Gospel & Culture
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There is a lot taught in churches today about the importance of gospel transformation and cultural renewal. What isn’t talked about so much though, is the gospel itself. The word “gospel” is generously sprinkled into conversations but it is rarely defined or explained. Everyone seems to agree however, that whatever it is, we need a lot more of it!
Society’s Most Serious Problem
Many believe the purpose of the gospel is to effect cultural renewal, and while there are great injustices that the gospel, properly applied, can fix, there is actually a far more serious problem that threatens all people everywhere.
The greatest problem humanity faces is that God, our Creator, is holy and we are sinners living in active rebellion against Him. And that’s the problem the gospel was created to fix. None of the world’s other problems can be satisfactorily resolved until individuals are made right with God through a proper understanding and application of the gospel.
For the church and Christians, there is no mission more important than the proclamation of the gospel to sinners.
What is the Gospel Exactly?
The gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to earth as the perfect God-man, lived a sinless life, died as a substitute for sinners in an excruciatingly painful / humiliating / unjust way in order to absorb God’s wrath for the sins of God’s people, and rose from the dead on the third day. The amazing news of the gospel is that God graciously provides salvation for those He has chosen from before the beginning of the world.
To get a sense of the enormity of God’s gracious mercy, it helps to understand the consequences of our sin. The Bible tells us the wages of sin are death and eternal punishment in the never-ending flames of hell.1 It is only when we understand the horrific consequences of our sins that we can begin to grasp the fact that the gospel is indeed the most wonderful news ever delivered to humankind!
The gospel, at its core, is not primarily about transforming the culture. To be sure, God will eventually transform not only the culture but the entire universe as well.2 Yet that will not happen before Jesus returns and it will not be the result of our efforts. It’s not within our power to transform the culture in the way the Bible says God will one day transform it.3 In fact, Scripture teaches that as time marches on, things will get progressively worse.4
The primary mission of the church, therefore, is not to change the world, but to proclaim another world. However, before it can testify to God’s coming world, or make any difference in this one, the people who make up the church must be transformed and made new creatures by the gospel.5
Should the Church Seek to Renew the Culture?
According to many of today’s most prominent pastors, the church’s mission is to influence the culture for God’s Kingdom. It therefore must appeal to the unsaved world. It should do this by a variety of methods, including partnering with charitable organizations that fight for various social causes.6
However, in emphasizing social-justice issues, the church disobeys what Christ commanded it to do, and is reduced to nothing more than another social organization. Jesus taught that the primary mission of the church is to preach the Good News that salvation is in Christ alone. Involvement with charitable organizations that don’t actively share the gospel, or even forbid the sharing of it, is not what the church is biblically commanded to do.
Jesus said, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”7 Note that he didn’t say the end will come after Christians successfully transform the world. He said the end will come when the gospel has been proclaimed throughout the world. This is the mission of the church.
Christ was very clear that our first priority is to preach the gospel and to call all people to salvation in Him.
If the church is focused on its proper role and proclaiming the gospel of salvation, then individual regenerated believers will naturally live and work in ways that will cause society to honor and glorify God more. But this is a by-product of having first been regenerated and born again.
The Crucial Element
Before the church can do the work assigned to it by God, the people in it must be born-again.8 Jesus told Nicodemus that, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”9 There are people in churches, however, who deny these words of our Savior. Many people are embarrassed by them. Are you one of those people? If so, there’s a possibility you may not be a Christian.
One of the surest signs that someone is a genuine Christian is a willingness to submit to all the teachings of Scripture. Since Scripture is God-breathed, to reject any part of it is to reject Christ Himself. In fact, Jesus said one of the evidences of your love for him is your obedience to Scripture. He said, “Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”10
How willing are you to submit to God’s Word? Do you submit even to the parts of it that go against what feels right to you? Do you accept the parts of it our culture rejects? When Scripture clearly declares culturally embraced practices a sin, such as the sins of extramarital sex or homosexuality,11 do you accept Scripture on those points or do you reject it?
If you reject it, that’s an indication that you may not belong to Christ. Most churchgoers assume they are genuine believers, but the Bible indicates churches will be filled with deceived non-believers.12 Jesus even said that there will be people who think they follow him who he will spit out because they were, in fact, his enemies. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven … then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”13
How to Know Christ Won’t Reject You
The Bible says in order to be saved, we must repent and turn away from our sins. We must put our full faith and trust in the atoning death of Christ alone, for our salvation. And the test of our sincerity is whether or not we follow Christ as our Master and Lord.
“If He is not your Lord, then He is most certainly not your Savior. Those who have not received Christ as Lord and yet suppose Him to be their Savior are deluded. Being born again is evidenced by an attitude of ‘Lord what would you have me do?’14, It is an unreserved surrendering of ourselves to His holy will. Have you yielded your entire being to Him?”15 [A.W. Pink]
You may be a professing Christian, but if you have never truly yielded to Christ as Lord and if you are now realizing that you are ruling your own life, get down on your knees and cry out to God and confess your rebellion against Him. And continue to ask Him to do a work in you so powerful that you may be able to finally submit yourself completely to His will and become His loving slave.16 Only then can you finally influence the world for the gospel and glory of Christ.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”17
1 Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:12-15 2 2 Peter 3:10-13, Revelation 21:1 3 Matthew 26:11 4 Matthew 24:3-14, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 & 3:12-13, Mathew 13:24-30 5 John 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 24:45-47 6 Hope for New York, (hfny.org) 7 Matthew 24:14 8 1 Corinthians 1:2 9 John 3:3 10 John 8:47 (NLT) 11 Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 12 2 Timothy 4:3-4 13 Matthew 7:21,23 14 Acts 9:6 15 Romans 6:13 16 Romans 6:15-22 17 Romans 10:9