“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
The Good News of the Gospel is God loves us the way we are. The even Better News of the Gospel is God loves us too much to leave us that way. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior over our lives, he begins to change us; or in the words of the passage above, he transforms us.
The Christian faith is about release, recreation and renewal. Jesus releases us from sin, shame and the things that bind us. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He recreates us to move with his courage, live in his joy, experience his power and love as he loves. One thing that made Christianity so attractive in the first few Centuries were followers of Jesus who genuinely became recreated. Those early Christians caused an epidemic of holy jealousy. People wanted what they had.
Finally, Jesus brings renewal through us. God could renew our world without us but he chooses to do that through us. God brings deep change in us so that he can create deep change through us. And God does all that within the context of a particular culture.
Many of us have grown up, living, working, and becoming older in a culture described, as “Christian.” Christian values and beliefs shaped television, education, the arts, politics, family life and the work place. The U.S. was a Christian nation with a special relationship with God.
But all of that has changed. Christian values have been replaced by other principle factors, which shape our current culture: tolerance, pluralism, and, here in the Pacific Northwest, innovation. Christianity has been pushed to the margins of our culture. That’s why current culture is often referred to as post-Christian.
The shift has caused mixed reactions for many of us who grew up in a “Christian culture.” Some of us don’t have much hope for what the future will bring. But I have come to see this shift as perhaps the greatest opportunity since a handful of transformed Jesus followers brought deep change to the dominant Roman culture nearly 2000 years ago. I think this is a defining moment for the Church.
H. Richard Niebuhr wrote a classic book on culture in the twentieth century called Christ and Culture. The world, at that time, was trying to heal from the horrors of Nazi Germany and WWII. Niebuhr was one of those theologians trying to provide an explanation for how a Hitler could rise to power in a largely Christian culture. Christ and Culture framed a conversation for how Christians think about, talk about, and participate in culture. At one end of Niebuhr’s spectrum were Christians who see ‘Christ against culture’ and believe the Christian duty is to completely withdraw from culture. At the other end of Niebuhr’s spectrum were Christians who see Jesus so fully participating and agreeing with the culture that he was “Christ of culture.” Christians who think about Jesus like this are usually so enmeshed in culture that they can’t see or are unwilling to see where it contradicts the Bible. That is part of what happened in Nazi Germany. A third way on Niebuhr’s spectrum, between these opposite ends, were Christians who think of “Christ Transforming Culture.” Christians who think about Jesus in this way participate in the culture but also see what is broken, so they devote themselves to transforming it.
That brings us back to Romans 12:2. God releases, recreates and renews us so that we can bring renewal to the culture around us. A simpler way to say that is God brings deep change in us for deep change through us. It starts with each of us living changed lives where we already are. That’s how we create change and bring renewal.
We create renewed relationships, not just with new people but with the relationships we already have; reconciling, confessing, repenting, loving. We create renewed children, not just by correcting their behavior but also by shaping their heart. We help them love what God loves and hate the stuff God hates.
We create a new way of being neighbors by initiating conversations, listening and caring about the things they care about. We create renewed workplaces by standing on values and behaviors which are aligned with Jesus, even if it costs us, praying for, loving and serving others wherever God opens the door to do so.
We demonstrate a new way of being human.…..flooding education, music, art, government, and business. We populate earth with the life of heaven. And when each of us, like a single point of light, bring release, recreation, and renewal to the places and relationships we already are in, God will use it all to shine the light of his great glory. Jesus, bring your transformation on us all. Bring your revival.