Friday, February 02, 2007

Preparing for Our Culture's Future

On the last Sunday in January, Dr. John Piper began a mini-series of sermons on the topic of marriage. (This first sermon can be accessed here, either in text, audio, or video format.) My purpose here isn't to enter into the topic of marriage, but to key off of two things he said in his introduction regarding what our culture is like and what its probable future is. They support and build upon my last post in this blog.

In the first quote (actually the second in the order of the sermon), Pastor Piper says, "The fact that we live in a society that can even conceive of—let alone defend—two men or two women entering a relationship and with wild inconceivability calling it marriage, shows that the collapse of our culture into debauchery and barbarism and anarchy is probably not far away."

If Pastor Piper is correct, he is describing a world for our children that is nothing like we have seen any time in our lifetimes... debauchery, barbarism, anarchy. Those are not terms used to describe a civilized society that values liberty and freedom. This is not a pleasant thought, both for ourselves if we should live that long, or for our progeny. The freedoms we enjoy now...particularly our freedom to worship God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength...may indeed be in grave danger in the not-too-distant future. Just witness the taking of children from their parents and the jailing of those same parents in Germany just because the parents had the audacity to homeschool and not wish state indoctrination for their children. Witness how people of faith cannot speak out against the sin of sodomy in most of Europe or in Canada without incurring the wrath of the state against them. How long will it be before those types of laws (and many that will be worse) come to our land? The battle is already on, and it doesn't appear to be going our way.... This is likely the world into which our children and grandchildren will be going. How are we preparing them?

That brings me to the second quote. Dr. Piper says, "...to the world we live in, where the main idol is self, and its main doctrine is autonomy, and its central act of worship is being entertained, and its two main shrines are the television and the cinema, and its most sacred genuflection is the uninhibited act of sexual intercourse." (Piper's never been known for pulling any punches!)

Before we sit and cluck-cluck about the state of our world, I would rather investigate these same descriptions as they relate to the church...that means us! We are living in our culture, and unless we are extremely observant and particularly intentional, we will absorb its values. So assuming this is an accurate description of our culture, we need to take a sobering, honest look at ourselves to see how much of a description it is of us...and then do something about it, especially as it relates to the raising of our children!

The Main Idol is Self

It's all about me! Right?! My wants. My desires. My loves. Recognition of me. Exultation of me. It's probably not quite that blatant, but how many of us spend our time bemoaning how things aren't going our way? How much time and money is spent on self-help? How much focus is on improving ourselves through exercise, education, etc? Is there any time left for others? Is there any hope of a life of service? Not when others and service are secondary to the building and improving of one's self!

And if we as parents have this focus, what are we teaching our children? Do they learn to put the needs of others before their own? Do they learn the joy of serving others and how that puts a real face on the Gospel? They will imitate us. We must let them see us placing the Lord Jesus on the throne and see us daily killing the idol of self.

"But wait!" you say. "I serve my children by seeing to their needs. I even devote my life to them by homeschooling them! So obviously I'm not guilty of this!" Maybe. It depends on how you go about it. If deep inside you are raising them so you can compare them to the other children in your circle of friends, your focus is most certainly on the idol of self. If you are doing everything for them, bending over backwards to give them everything they ever desire and never discipling them in the ways of loving and serving their fellow man...starting with their own family...then you are contributing the building of the idol of self in them.

Idols are insidious. We have to examine our own hearts carefully, and root them out through repentance and action when they are found. Our culture creates this idol, especially in children. If we don't make a distinct break from raising our children the way the world does, they will have a well-constructed, solid idol to self by the time they are young adults.

Main Doctrine is Autonomy

This one is a natural follow-on to the idol of self. When the self is an idol, it naturally wants to be autonomous, a law unto one's self, not wishing to submit to anything or anyone. This is the antithesis of the Christian life. All Christians are to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And then God has defined the lines of authority even farther by requiring wives to submit to husbands, children to submit to parents, and slaves to submit to masters. There is also an element of submission to the church that can be extrapolated from the concept of church discipline.

When we chafe at these God-ordained lines of authority/submission, we are following the doctrine of autonomy.

A subset of autonomy is independence. Someone who is autonomous is also independent, self-sufficient. Do we define ourselves by our membership in our family...or as individuals who just happen to be, for the moment, in a group called a family? Do we bring our families into accountable community with other Christian families...or do we stay comfortably distant?

As we raise our children, are we raising them to submit to their parents? Are we modeling happy submission in our own lives? Are we emphasizing the family? Are we training them to value their place of service and ministry within the family...or are we training them to leave for a life of autonomous independence at age 18?

The Central Act of Worship is Being Entertained

If we have made an idol of ourselves and are living by the principle doctrine of autonomy, then it would follow that our worship would be focused inwardly. Entertainment does that in a marvelous way, making us feel emotions, releasing endorphins in our brains, and generally making us feel good. Look at our culture: it's all about being entertained, from 150 channels of TV, to the latest Playstation, to the movie theaters with 16 screens, to the year-round emphasis on sporting events (both pro and college), to 150 channels of satellite radio. Pop culture is built around the entertainment industry.

So what about us? Where's our focus? Even most churches these days are focused on self-help, therapeutic "gospels" and worship that makes us feel good. There's one megachurch in my city that just built a new gargantuan sanctuary that even includes theater seating with cup holders for the worshipper's coffee! It's not about God; it's about ensuring the worshipper has his caffeine fix during the service!

But worship isn't about us; it's about God! The really neat thing about true worship is that when we are lost in exulting the grandeur of God, we get the byproduct of joy! (As Piper says, "God gets the glory, and we get the joy!") Do we approach our worship with those types of intentions and expectations? Have our children learned to look outside themselves to the wonder that is the Creator? Do you model that yourself? (Here's a wonderful way to start that mindset. Click on "enter", then on "Watch Louie's Talks Online" and then scroll to "Indescribable". You will discover a very big God there!)

Two Main Shrines are the Television and the Cinema

How much time do you spend in front of the TV or at the movies? When you do watch these media, what messages do you allow into your mind? The medium itself is conducive to dulling the ability to engage and consider the messages sent. Since you can guarantee that Hollywood isn't interested in building up your Christian faith, you can expect the messages that are sent, subtle or not, to be against everything God has in mind for you as a growing Christian. And since your ability to consider and counter those messages is dulled, those messages take up residence in your mind and tempt you away from the holy life to which God has called you.

Your media habits as well as your interest in them (compare how excited you are about the latest movie compared to how excited you are about church on Sunday) are a prime example for your children and they will pick up on what you do and what you watch very quickly. How much do you allow for your own children? Do you screen what they are watching? Do you help them watch for the anti-Christian messages that are so prevalent, but not always so obvious (dads are always stupid; mom is slightly better; children are the founts of wisdom; belief in God should be personal; there are no absolutes; tolerance is the ultimate virtue...and on and on and on)?

Most Sacred Genuflection is the Uninhibited Act of Sexual Intercourse

Let's face it. Sex is everywhere. We as parents, and especially as men, have to be so very careful about what we expose ourselves to and what we do with it when we encounter it unexpectedly. We must be disciplined about our thought life. We must reserve sexual thoughts for our wives only. As couples, we must work to have a regular, happy, vigorous sex life...for that is how God intended it. I can think of several positive things this does: it creates a tight bond between husband and wife, it gives a good example for the children, and it helps the men with the issues described earlier in this paragraph.

We must be open with our children in discussing sex with them at age-appropriate times. They must come to value purity. We must set before them a beautiful picture of the wedding altar and what they will experience there and in their marriage bed. It must be a far better picture than what the world is giving them every minute of every day. We do this through discussions and through examples. We have to talk with them. When we see young people getting married who have kept themselves pure, they need to be held up as positive examples. And we as parents need to be examples of a happy sex life. (Don't think for a moment that your older children don't know and can't tell when your sex life is good and when it's not.) Give them a reason to reject the world's standard for sex: the instant gratification of an animal-desire.

So without it even being his main point, Pastor Piper has given us both a description of the world to come and a method for us to stand against it.

If we are to bring the Kingdom and the Gospel to bear upon a world that has degenerated into debauchery, barbarism, and anarchy, then we absolutely must:

  • kill the idol of self and instead exult Jesus.
  • reject the doctrine of autonomy and instead submit ourselves to the God-ordained authorities in our lives, all the while rejecting the independent model that comes along with autonomy.
  • seek to discover the great God we serve, and worship Him alone with all our hearts, turning from the 24/7 entertainment culture.
  • limit our TV/Cinema time, and be very, very critical of that which we do watch.
  • enjoy sex within marriage, and give our children a good, God-honoring reason to wait.
If you will do these things as parents, and make a conscious decision to change the way in which you are raising your children so they too, will live these types of lives, your entire family will be as ready as you can be for whatever future God has for you in this country.

And on top of that, families like this will be lights for the Gospel that aren't hidden under the bushel of sordid American culture.....


3 comments:

Bill & Katie said...

Charley,

These last 2 posts are phenomenal. Cutting me to the quick. I will be checking back regularly for more posts.

Thanks for your efforts.

Beggar

Charley said...

Bill and Katie...

Thank you for the kind comments. I am pleased and humbled that you have found my musings challenging and appropriate to your life.

May God give you the wisdom to take what is good, discard the chaff, and use it to bring Him glory!

Charley

Tony said...

Charley:

That was a good word. We as a church need to look deep into our practices and beliefs if we truly want to be able to impact the culture. Again thanks for your thoughts.

Tony