Personal Holiness and Civic Responsibility

Last week, I wrote concerning the reluctant manner of the mass unconsciousness that our culture seems to be entering into 2018. With 2017 being one for the record books, and not in a good way, the onslaught of bad news and tragedy have given many a bit of weariness about another year. While I wish we could all see the sun rise tomorrow with many of the past year’s headlines having been nothing more than a tense nightmare that snapped us out of a deep sleep in a cold sweat…such is not the case. The hangover is real because the events really happened.

And this is why those of us who follow Jesus must ask the right questions, so that our lives can continually point to the only right answer: Christ the Redeemer. While this answer might seem cliché or the “Christian” thing to say, we must always remember that our hope in Jesus will never be lost or misplaced.

Even while we are affected by tragedy…

While our hearts break within our chests at the news of another senseless death…

While our eyes fill with tears upon learning about another unconscionable tragedy…

We do not weep without hope, and we do not mourn alone in the darkness of a depraved world.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT)

Last week, I identified five concepts and questions that must be answered so that we can be salt in a decaying culture and light in a darkening society. This week, I want to expand on two of those ideas by supplying some resources and direction in our pursuit of the right answers. I’ll highlight the other three concepts in next week’s post.

  1. Personal Holiness: What does it mean to live a life set apart for the gospel of God?

One of my favorite books on the subject of personal holiness is Holiness by J.C. Ryle. If you could read but one book this year, I would challenge each of you to read this book that was published in 1877, but never more relevant than in 2018! Ryle comments:

“And this I do boldly and confidently say, that true holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savor will be perceived. It is precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid (p. 47).”

Oh that our commitment to Christ would be overwhelmingly evident, something that cannot be mistaken, something that truly exists. Another book that has contributed to my thinking on the subject of holiness is Born After Midnight by A.W. Tozer. Clocking in at only 142 pages, it is a book that is to be digested slowly and carefully. While I am an avid fan of this book, reading it too fast can have the wrong impact on one’s thinking. Like medicine meant to be taken in doses over an extended period of time, so is Tozer’s work. If taken all at once, it could overwhelm one’s system.

2. Civic Responsibility: What does it mean to be a Christian who is a citizen?

In seeking to answer this question, I would like to suggest three resources:

  • Generous Justice by Tim Keller
  • Involvement (two volumes) by John Stott
  • How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt

All three books are essential additions to someone who is serious about cultural engagement as a Christian seeking to be a responsible citizen. Keller, best-selling author and one of the leading voices for the faith today, provides a short and compelling case that Scripture is the fundamental source for promoting justice in a society. Keller writes,

“The Bible gives believers two basic motivations—joyful awe before the goodness of God’s creation, and the experience of God’s grace in redemption (p. 82)."

Thus justice, in many ways, is a response to God’s creation (i.e. the doctrine of the image of God), and His generous grace. The right motivation should lead to the right way to do justice. Keller concludes,

“Doing justice in poor communities includes direct relief, individual development, community development, racial reconciliation, and social reform (p. 130)."

Stott being one of the most influential evangelical voices worldwide over the previous fifty years (in 2005 Time magazine named him among the 100 most influential people in the world), offers a practical approach with a scholarly edge to being a responsible Christian in a non-Christian society. One of the more fascinating aspects to Stott’s work is how he sees a correlation between evangelism and social justice:

“Social activity was said to be both a consequence of and a bridge to evangelism, and indeed the two were declared partners (p. 30)."

Schmidt, a retired professor of sociology, offers a historical overview in his work allowing the reader to parachute into different conflicts in history where Christians were having a catalytic impact. His approach is simply to trace how those who have met Jesus change the culture around them:

“The lives that Jesus transformed in turn changed and transformed much of the world: its morals, ethics, health care, education, economics, science, law, the fine arts, and government (p. 16)."

I encourage you to take some time this week and reflect on these questions and principles as you walk through the beginning of 2018. Next week, we’ll continue to dive into what it means to live daily with the mindset of a hope that never disappoints, by breaking down these remaining concepts:

Healthy Leadership: How does one steward, cultivate and maximize their influence for God’s glory?

Gospel advancement: How should disciples pursue the mission of Jesus?

Sacred Purpose: How do Christ followers live each day focusing on life’s ultimate purpose?

 

 

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