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Reforming the Culture a Temporary Thing

“What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is receding cannot be ordered.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:15)

When my wife and I first got married, our first house was what people call a “fixer-upper.” It was a home originally built in 1905 and while being structurally sound, it needed a lot of repairs and renovations. And, in many ways, it was a great learning experience for me as a “handyman” and my wife and I made it our home. One of the projects was to address the sagging joists on the east side of the house between the main floor and the upper floor. These were old, heavy oak joists that had bowed under the weight of time and years of life in the upstairs of the home. Overall, they weren’t too bad, but it created a noticeable sag and bounce in the upstairs of the house. So, I proceeded to acquire “floor jacks” and jacked the joists straight while also “sistering” new joists beside the old joists to add additional support.

There were two problems with the picture. First, in my lack of patience, I jacked up the old joists a little faster than I ought to have done…that was my error. The other problem is that the old oak joists had gained their sag slowly over a period of nearly 100 years and had conformed to a given shape (which included the bow). Further, the material that I used to sister the joists together was new pine, which is not nearly as strong as the oak. So, after all was done and the jacks were removed, it wasn’t long before the oak beams started sagging again and they pulled the pine beams along with them. Now, do understand, it was not as pronounced as before, but I imagine that in time, they settled back into their characteristic bow. That is just the nature of things.

And here is the point…in this fallen world that we live it, there is a tendency for things to fall apart, decay, rust, mold, and otherwise deteriorate. Entropy surrounds us in the cosmos and we grow frail and die. We may be able to do some things to mitigate the effects of deterioration — we renovate old homes, we take medicines to strengthen our old bodies, and we add preservatives to our foods so that we can store them for longer periods…but in the end, decay and deterioration wins. That is just the way it is in this fallen world. And to some people, that is depressing.

Yet, to the believer, who understands that the righteous live by faith, not our works, not our creations, and not by the orderliness of the natural world, there is hope. For while the creation is fallen due to Adam and Eve’s sin, God is not. And God sent his Son into this world to redeem a people for himself through faith, a faith that is divinely worked within us. And there is also in this found the promise of a new creation where the crooked will be made straight and things will no longer recede from order to disorder — entropy will be a thing of the past.

So, does that mean that we shouldn’t bother with trying to straighten that which is bet or to try and order that which is in decline — let it fall apart and then Jesus will fix it when he remakes the cosmos? No, absolutely not, that would be a most depressing response to the wisdom espoused here by Solomon. No, the church is called to be about the work of straightening in this world. We are to do justice as God teaches through Micah (Micah 6:8) and thus make laws that honor God and care for the poor and “bent” around us. Yet, we are to recognize two things. First, the unbending is ultimately a work that God is doing through us. The wrongs happen naturally, the “righting” of the wrongs is divinely worked through His agents. And second, we are to recognize that any reformations we make will not be eternal ones…they will be temporal and one day they will fall away…just like improvements and renovations done to old buildings (eventually the renovations will need renovating!). Thus, if we recognize that, perhaps we won’t take so much pride in that which we perceive ourselves to have done (remember, it is God working through us anyway!). 

And so the bent cannot be unbent and the things falling away cannot be numbered. And, though we may, for a season, see some “unbending” of the society around us, it will only be for a season and that which we have buttressed will begin deteriorating again. Yet, that means we have our work cut out for us here on this earth (we wouldn’t want to grow complacent!) and we recognize that in time, to suit the glory of God, Jesus will return once again and make all things new (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:5).


 

Judgment and Salvation…one goes with the other

“And not intimidated in any way by the adversaries, which is for them an indication of destruction but for you of salvation, which is from God.”

(Philippians 1:28)

In our culture today, it seems, we talk at length about the troubles caused by bullying, particularly amongst children. And indeed, bullying is sin and condemnable. Yet bullying is also not constrained to the behavior of children nor is it something that is found only in our modern age. As it is a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we find people using manipulation, coercion, and bullying to get their way rather than pursuing what is True and beneficial to all. And next to Jesus, we could argue that the Apostle Paul is the poster-child for having had to face-down wicked men with ignoble schemes who were only interested in intimidating others to preserve their own power.

And Paul, who had to face down so much intimidation, says to us as well, “don’t let them intimidate you.” Why should we not be intimidated? In a similar context, Jesus’ answer was that we should not fear those who can only kill the body because that was all they could kill; God can kill body and soul in eternal judgment (Matthew 10:28). Paul speaks very similarly. Paul essentially is saying to us that when we stand in confidence of the Truth in the face of all adversaries, that very reality is a condemnation of those who would oppose us. Why is it a condemnation? One can stand in confidence upon that which is true; one cannot so stand when it is not truth that is stood upon.

When you know that which is right, what do you have to fear from those who would challenge it? On the other hand, if you are basing your ideas, your lifestyle, your preferences, your power and influence on things that are unproven, established by men, and are built on the power of men and not on the power of God…you have a shaky foundation at best. It is you who have the right to fear, and fear you should. For when you stand against God’s people, you stand not only against the people; you also stand against God himself.

And thus, the salvation of God’s own is also eternal condemnation for those who stand against him. God promises throughout the scriptures to preserve the elect; but in doing so the reprobate are judged. Both go hand in hand. There is no having one without the other. And yes, all of this is from God. He is sovereign over life and death, salvation and judgment. There is no other. And if we serve this God, what earthly thing have we to fear? What earthly power ought to intimidate us? No, not one.

So, how do we get out of being bullied? We stand up to the bully. We don’t back down from the one who would twist ideas to coerce us. We do not compromise truth. We stand  in the confidence of knowing that we serve a God who is sovereign over all of the affairs of men and who will crush those who stand in rebellion against him. That’s how we not get bullied…and folks, this kind of confidence applies not only to defending our faith against atheists or whatever “flavor” of unbelief that people are sporting in the culture; it applies to all things. It applies to business, to politics, to home life, to school, to sports, to whatever activity that God sets before you. If you do all you do to the glory of Him who gives you life; you will not fear what the wicked devise for you will know the end of the wicked. You want to take back the culture? Be bold in your faith and live it out everywhere and in everything you do…no compromise, the world should not intimidate you.