Cultural beacons of light that shine into the darkness around them necessarily contrast society (Matt. 5:14–15). Indeed, the apostle Peter takes for granted that all Christians who faithfully live according to what they profess will stand out among their family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers:
Even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ (1 Pet. 3:14–16).
We cannot effectively call people to a different lifestyle and a different hope when we ourselves are seen as living for the same things as those who are spiritually lost. Indeed, how can we say that what we believe is better than what they believe if there is no practical difference in application? If we desire to become effective change agents in our nation, then we must be willing to stand firm against worldly cultural influences (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).
Unfortunately, far too many Christians have reassimilated into the very culture from which they were freed. They choose to live for the success of a sporting team; for their children’s education; for their career; for a comfortable retirement; for bigger and nicer cars, houses, and furniture; for pleasure; or for any number of distractions. Moreover, they place their hope and confidence in the stock market and their 401K plans, politicians, possessions, family and relationships, their job and income, or any number of unreliable securities.
Of course, contrasting the culture does not mean we must reject everything culture has to offer. It is perfectly acceptable to listen to music, enjoy sports, drive nice vehicles, engage on social media, and enjoy other elements of our culture. However, each of these activities risks re-conforming us into the image of the world. Therefore, we must remain alert and sober minded in all that we do (1 Pet. 5:8). If we discern that anything is making us more worldly in our thinking, less godly in our actions, and more distant from the power and presence of Jesus Christ, then we should be quick to re-evaluate how we choose to engage in that activity. Likewise, we should be quick to confess when we have departed from Jesus as our first love, to repent, and to do what God has called us to do.
However we choose to engage with the world around us, we should always keep in mind that our allegiance is no longer to the things of this world. Jesus says of us, “They do not belong to this world any more than I do” (John 17:16). Therefore, we have no reason to measure our success by the same standards the world uses. Our success is not dependent upon our salary, the clothes we wear, the size of our house, what school our children attend, how many social media followers we’ve accrued, the success of our sports team, our 401K plan, or any other standard the world employs. Instead, our success is measured by our faithfulness to God’s instructions and to our calling as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Any lifestyle that is faithful to this mentality will necessarily differ from society. Therefore, becoming God’s cultural change agents includes adopting a lifestyle whose faithfulness to God is so readily apparent that it necessarily contrasts the attitudes and behavior of our surrounding culture.
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