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Engaging the Culture, Part 2 by Rick Strange

Engaging the Culture, Part 2 by Rick Strange

As I said in my last column, we as Christians are
called by God to engage the culture we live in with
the truth claims of Jesus Christ.  We are called to
submit our lives fully to God and His purposes,
working out in humble and fruitful service with our
lives what He has worked into our hearts through the
regeneration of the Holy Spirit.  (See Philippians
2:12,13 and Titus 3:4-8)  As we do, we must always be
cognizant of the fact that we are wrestling against
demonic principalities and powers which continually
resist the work God is doing in us and through us. So
we must be careful and vigilant to make sure we engage
in this warfare God's way and not our own.  God's way
guarantees victory, but our way guarantees defeat, so
let's find out what God's Word has to say about how we
are to fight this battle we are in.  

Look at the first seven verses of II Timothy 2:

"1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that
is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have
heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to
faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
3You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier
of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles
himself with the affairs of this life, that he may
please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5And also if
anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless
he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking
farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
7Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you
understanding in all things."

In this passage, the Apostle Paul clearly defines what
I would call the "rules of engagement" for Christians.
 However, before he does, he is careful to first lay
the foundation in verse 1: be strong in the grace that
is in Christ Jesus.  God's grace is where we must draw
our strength from, and if we have a sound Biblical
understanding of grace, we will continually drink from
this wonderful fountain that God has provided for us.
God's grace is not a warm, gooey, mushy feeling that
He gives us, but rather it is His unmerited favor
which empowers us and equips us to live according to
His holy standards (See Titus 2:11-14).

Then in the next five verses, Paul uses four different
illustrations to bring understanding to his readers.
The first, in verse 2, is the role of teacher, and the
Biblical principle set forth is this: give out to
others what God has put into your life.  Don't keep to
yourself what God has given to you.  God has gifted
each of us with certain talents, skills, and
abilities, and one of the ways we can engage our
culture is by using them for His glory.  If you are
not spiritually employed in the kingdom of God, you
are missing God's best for you and depriving others of
blessings that He meant to give them through your
life.  Find out what you're really good at, and then
do it with excellence and with all your might!

In verses 3 and 4, we see Paul using the role of a
soldier to set forth another Biblical principle: focus
on the task at hand and persevere in it.  Don't
allowed yourself to be distracted by other pursuits
which will drain your energy, vision, and commitment
away from what he has called you to do. 

I must confess that this one is a tough one for me.
If I'm not careful, I have a tendency to be "all over
the map."  Do any of you know what I'm talking about?
Discipline is one of those things that none of us
like, but it is a basic requirement of being an
effective disciple of Jesus Christ.  And its Biblical
meaning is unlike the earthly meaning which many of us
conjure up in our minds - an image laden with legalism
and back-breaking work.  It simply means staying yoked
to Jesus as He directs your steps through life. And
His yoke is easy! (See Matthew 11:28-30)

Next in verse 5, Paul uses an athlete to give us a
third principle: we must follow the rules.  Have you
ever watched an Olympic athlete pour the best years of
his or her life into their chosen competition, only to
have it evaporate in a moment's time because they
didn't follow the rules?  Tragically, the same is true
of many Christians who don't follow the rules God had
laid out in His Holy Word.  He has clearly spelled out
how He expects us to live in this life, and He has not
left us on our own to do it!  Yet we so often see
God's will thwarted in spiritual lives that began with
such zeal and fervor.  I am reminded of Paul's chiding
of the Galatians: "O foolish Galatians! Who has
bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed
among you as crucified?  This only I want to learn
from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of
the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so
foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being
made perfect by the flesh?" (3:1-3) The obvious answer
to this question is - of course not!  We must stay in
His presence and keep our nose in His book if we are
to successfully engage our culture with His gospel.

Lastly, in verse 6, we find the fourth Biblical
principle in the role of a farmer: we must feed
ourselves first.  No one else can do this for you.  If
you don't get daily nourishment and encouragement from
God's Word, then you will be ill-equipped to withstand
the cultural and demonic forces arrayed against your
life, let alone make an inroads into the kingdom of
darkness.  The Bible says this about David in I Samuel
30:6 - "And David was greatly distressed; for the
people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all
the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for
his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the
LORD his God."  If anyone had reason to give up and be
discouraged it was David, and Joseph, and Job, and
Moses, and on and on the list goes.  But none of them
did so, because they knew their God and they knew His
purpose for their lives, and they were determined to
stay under the covering and safety of that purpose by
listening to and feasting on His word.  Job put it
like this:  "My foot has held fast to His steps; I
have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not
departed from the commandment of His lips; I have
treasured the words of His mouth more than my
necessary food." (23:11,12)

So, do you want to engage the culture with the gospel
of Jesus Christ?  Now is the time!  For far too long,
the Church of the living God has remained silent while
the culture has charted its own course.  Yet God has
called us to lead, not to follow.  We are the head,
not the tail!  God has ordained in His eternal
purposes that we who make up His church are promised
victory, if we will but storm the gates of hell!  We
are the salt of the earth and the light of the world,
so what are we waiting for?