Engaging the Culture, Part 2 by Rick Strange

Engaging the Culture, Part 2 by Rick StrangeAs I said in my last column, we as Christians arecalled by God to engage the culture we live in withthe truth claims of Jesus Christ.  We are called tosubmit our lives fully to God and His purposes,working out in humble and fruitful service with ourlives what He has worked into our hearts through theregeneration of the Holy Spirit.  (See Philippians2:12,13 and Titus 3:4-8)  As we do, we must always becognizant of the fact that we are wrestling againstdemonic principalities and powers which continuallyresist the work God is doing in us and through us. Sowe must be careful and vigilant to make sure we engagein this warfare God's way and not our own.  God's wayguarantees victory, but our way guarantees defeat, solet's find out what God's Word has to say about how weare 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 thatis in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you haveheard from me among many witnesses, commit these tofaithful men who will be able to teach others also.3You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldierof Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangleshimself with the affairs of this life, that he mayplease him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5And also ifanyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unlesshe competes according to the rules. 6The hardworkingfarmer must be first to partake of the crops.7Consider what I say, and may the Lord give youunderstanding in all things."In this passage, the Apostle Paul clearly defines whatI would call the "rules of engagement" for Christians. However, before he does, he is careful to first laythe foundation in verse 1: be strong in the grace thatis in Christ Jesus.  God's grace is where we must drawour strength from, and if we have a sound Biblicalunderstanding of grace, we will continually drink fromthis wonderful fountain that God has provided for us. God's grace is not a warm, gooey, mushy feeling thatHe gives us, but rather it is His unmerited favorwhich empowers us and equips us to live according toHis holy standards (See Titus 2:11-14).Then in the next five verses, Paul uses four differentillustrations to bring understanding to his readers. The first, in verse 2, is the role of teacher, and theBiblical principle set forth is this: give out toothers what God has put into your life.  Don't keep toyourself what God has given to you.  God has giftedeach of us with certain talents, skills, andabilities, and one of the ways we can engage ourculture is by using them for His glory.  If you arenot spiritually employed in the kingdom of God, youare missing God's best for you and depriving others ofblessings that He meant to give them through yourlife.  Find out what you're really good at, and thendo it with excellence and with all your might!In verses 3 and 4, we see Paul using the role of asoldier to set forth another Biblical principle: focuson the task at hand and persevere in it.  Don'tallowed yourself to be distracted by other pursuitswhich will drain your energy, vision, and commitmentaway 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 overthe map."  Do any of you know what I'm talking about? Discipline is one of those things that none of uslike, but it is a basic requirement of being aneffective disciple of Jesus Christ.  And its Biblicalmeaning is unlike the earthly meaning which many of usconjure up in our minds - an image laden with legalismand back-breaking work.  It simply means staying yokedto Jesus as He directs your steps through life. AndHis yoke is easy! (See Matthew 11:28-30)Next in verse 5, Paul uses an athlete to give us athird principle: we must follow the rules.  Have youever watched an Olympic athlete pour the best years ofhis or her life into their chosen competition, only tohave it evaporate in a moment's time because theydidn't follow the rules?  Tragically, the same is trueof many Christians who don't follow the rules God hadlaid out in His Holy Word.  He has clearly spelled outhow He expects us to live in this life, and He has notleft us on our own to do it!  Yet we so often seeGod's will thwarted in spiritual lives that began withsuch zeal and fervor.  I am reminded of Paul's chidingof the Galatians: "O foolish Galatians! Who hasbewitched you that you should not obey the truth,before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayedamong you as crucified?  This only I want to learnfrom you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works ofthe law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you sofoolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now beingmade perfect by the flesh?" (3:1-3) The obvious answerto this question is - of course not!  We must stay inHis presence and keep our nose in His book if we areto successfully engage our culture with His gospel.Lastly, in verse 6, we find the fourth Biblicalprinciple in the role of a farmer: we must feedourselves first.  No one else can do this for you.  Ifyou don't get daily nourishment and encouragement fromGod's Word, then you will be ill-equipped to withstandthe cultural and demonic forces arrayed against yourlife, let alone make an inroads into the kingdom ofdarkness.  The Bible says this about David in I Samuel30:6 - "And David was greatly distressed; for thepeople spake of stoning him, because the soul of allthe people was grieved, every man for his sons and forhis daughters: but David encouraged himself in theLORD his God."  If anyone had reason to give up and bediscouraged it was David, and Joseph, and Job, andMoses, and on and on the list goes.  But none of themdid so, because they knew their God and they knew Hispurpose for their lives, and they were determined tostay under the covering and safety of that purpose bylistening to and feasting on His word.  Job put itlike this:  "My foot has held fast to His steps; Ihave kept His way and not turned aside. I have notdeparted from the commandment of His lips; I havetreasured the words of His mouth more than mynecessary food." (23:11,12)So, do you want to engage the culture with the gospelof Jesus Christ?  Now is the time!  For far too long,the Church of the living God has remained silent whilethe culture has charted its own course.  Yet God hascalled us to lead, not to follow.  We are the head,not the tail!  God has ordained in His eternalpurposes that we who make up His church are promisedvictory, if we will but storm the gates of hell!  Weare the salt of the earth and the light of the world,so what are we waiting for?

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