What’s hurting Christianity the most? I know I can be pretty quick to blame progressive politicians, liberal teachers, and a postmodern youth culture for all the world’s ills. But after all, I don’t personally fall into any of these categories. I view them as the enemy, yet Scripture says, “all have sinned.” One of my all time favourite preachers is Pastor Paul Washer. A common theme in many of his sermons is the idea that most conservative Christians have misidentified the enemy. We lament “liberalism” but forget about something much more basic – “sin.” There is no doubt that progressive thinking has taken America and the Western world in a direction which opposes Christian doctrine, but its root problem is simply sin. Progressivism is based on secular humanism and the view that man as Rousseau believed was “perfectible.” Humans are somehow smart enough on their own to come up with natural laws which guide human nature, and in so doing, discover ways to make man better – physically, intellectually, and morally. Man is innately good, and therefore society is the problem. Of course, any Christian with just a passing knowledge of Scripture knows that man is the problem, but are we not accepting the same premise the progressives accept when we start viewing their influence on society as the problem? The Apostle Paul said:
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
It is a well established fact that Satan uses our own sin nature against us in the “battle.” His strategy from creation has been to siphon off God’s glory by causing humans to pursue joy in venues apart from Him. The “cosmic powers over this present darkness,” according to John MacArhur, “possibly refers to the most depraved abominations, including such things as extreme sexual perversions, occultism, and Satan worship.” All that to say, our battle as believers is against sin. And the first front we should be focusing on is our own lives. Jesus said, “take the speck out of your eye” first. If the most important message to further Christianity (The Gospel) is go to out to public campuses unhindered we must start by “examining ourselves.” We, not liberal teachers or progressive politicians, are the only ones capable of stopping this message from being proclaimed in our own lives – and sin is the break pad on our motivation. I can attest to this firsthand. When I was leading a college campus ministry, I found that it was extremely difficult to evangelize after having partaken in sin. This didn’t mean that I forsook it, it just meant that the Spirit wasn’t working through me. Leading Bible studies and worship music was also hard, but not nearly as convicting as trying to tell someone about the goodness of a God I had personally affronted earlier in the day. I have grown to view sin not only as spit in the eyes of my Saviour, but also as a direct enemy of the Gospel message. We are being counter-evangelists when we thumb our nose to God’s law, and no different in practice than the bemoaned “liberals” inhabiting our society.
In Psalm 19, David conveys an excellent representation of what I like to call, “The Bottom Line.” He starts off in verses 1-6 by speaking of natural revelation – “The heavens declare the glory of God.” In verses 7-11 he exalts God’s Special revelation and its accompanying attributes and value. Finally, in verses 12-14, David personalizes his own reaction to both revelations by admitting his weaknesses and glorying God for restraining his sin.
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 12-13
David knew that only God had the power to “keep” him from “presumptuous” (i.e. prideful, with knowledge) sins. According to verse 11, the “rules” of the Lord warned him of God’s justice. Yet, at the same time there was an intense joy accompanying God’s precepts. His rules were “sweeter also than honey.” Why this paradox? Why this joy and fear together? David understood that God’s law revealed something about Himself. That he was both just and merciful. Recognizing that David had sinned, and would continue to sin, He also kept David from sinning, and from his Divine justice. This could only be possible when the “dominion” belonged to God and not sin, which is why David concluded the Psalm with these words, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” David prayed that God would permeate his life (heart and mouth). God was able to accomplish this because of His relationship to David as “rock and redeemer.” This doesn’t mean David became perfect. Certainly there were times David disallowed God access into his heart, but that’s where God’s redemptive work kicked in. David did however become more and more “sinless” in his walk, and therefore effectual in his witness. We need to be like David. To understand that God is both the creator and the moral lawgiver. That he demands justice, but gives mercy. And that we “shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression” only when we humbly submit to the Lord by asking for His control and welcoming His law into our lives. This is the only solution not just for our own walk, but for our effectiveness in our culture. It is the key part of our participation in the afterlife and this life.
Though the afterlife is more important than this life, the only cause which can truly change this present world for the better is still the Gospel message – It’s implications are important politically and sociologically. Indeed there are many out there who accept some of its logical conclusions without accepting the Gospel itself which leads to those conclusions. A good example would be Glenn Beck perhaps who although a Mormon rejects progressive policies and champions free markets (which have their root in puritanism). However, Glenn doesn’t understand that it is because of man’s sin nature that such a system works. It stands to reason that the more people receive the Gospel, even without receiving its implications, the more will come to such “conservative” conclusions. It may be important at times for us to argue the merits of the Gospel’s implications, but much more important is for us to proclaim the central message itself. Let’s be ready for such opportunities by preparing in the footsteps of David.