Points to Ponder: The Problem Is Us
Points to Ponder
The Problem Is Us
"So this is where the problem is," I thought to myself. In my early thirties I was entering seminary to follow the Lord's call, to become a pastor. I was still a relatively new Christian and had only been involved in a church for two years. As I studied the Bible and began to view the world through the lens of scriptural truth, I was becoming increasingly aware of and burdened by the moral and ethical decline of our culture. The standards of right and wrong when I was growing up came from the Bible. In the schools, the grocery store, the barbershop, the bakery, and among my newspaper route customers, there was a consensus that the Bible informed and undergirded our values. Even the "un-religious," even the characters on TV shows, referenced Bible stories and generally well-known verses.
But now there is a rejection of the Bible as God's inspired word; that it is authoritative today is blown off by many, even in the churches. When I got to seminary and observed the thinking of both the students and teachers, and the lifestyle practices of some of these would-be pastors, I realized: this is where the problem is. Many of my colleagues reflected the culture out of which they had come.
The undergrad students from nearby American University passed through a cloud on the seminary campus, a huddle of student pastors smoking. There was adultery and fornication in the dorms. No one would dare preach against the homosexual lifestyle; there was a homosexual advocacy group there. The Bible speaks to those matters, but despite being in a seminary, the practice was to skip those unpopular parts of scripture or have a sermon or study that discredits or discounts what scripture says. Using the name "Father," Jesus' preferred term for God, was frowned on. Even at my graduation, when one of my classmates read the scripture selection, he skipped portions because of the "F" word and male pronouns. This is where the problem is. The church is supposed to lead the culture, not follow it; to transform it, not conform to it. Isaiah's exhortation still stands today:
"To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light fordarkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)
How can the church or its leaders make a difference for the Lord, if they themselves are not different. "Be holy for I am holy," God says (Leviticus 19).
Ponder this article from The Pastors' Weekly Briefing (8/29/08):
"A nationwide survey by The Barna Group indicates that Americans have redefined what it means to do the right thing in their own lives. Researchers asked adults which, if any, of eight behaviors with moral overtones they had engaged in during the past week. The behaviors included exposure to pornography, using profanity in public, gambling, gossiping, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk and lying.
"The most common of the eight behaviors evaluated was using profanity in public (28%), followed by gambling in the past week (including the purchase of a lottery ticket) (20%), intentional exposure to pornographic images (19%), gossiping (12'%), drunkenness (12%) and lying (11%).
"The moral pattern among adults under 25 was 'one of the most stunning outcomes' from the Barna survey. The younger generation was more than twice as likely as all other adults to engage in behaviors considered morally inappropriate by traditional standards. For instance, two-thirds of the under-25 segment (64%) had used profanity in public, compared to just one out of five Boomers (19%). The younger group - known as Mosaics - was nine times more likely than were Boomers to have engaged in sex outside of marriage (38% vs. 4%), six times more likely to have lied (37% vs. 6%), almost three times more likely to have gotten drunk (25% vs. 9%) and to have gossiped (26% vs. 10%), and twice as likely as Boomers to have observed pornography (33% vs. 16%) and to have engaged in acts of retaliation (12% vs. 5%).
"Other notable results showed:
* "Liberals were five times more likely to participate in unmarried sex, more than three times as likely to view pornography, more than twice as likely to lie and to get drunk, and twice as likely to engage in retaliation and gossip than those who describe themselves as 'mostly conservative.'
* "Men were significantly more likely than women to engage in six of the seven behaviors evaluated.
* "Evangelicals were the group most likely to follow traditional morality, while atheists and agnostics were the faith segment found likely to reject those ways. Among evangelicals, profanity (16%) and pornography (12%) were the most common transgressions.
* "People associated with faiths other than Christianity were twice as likely as evangelicals to engage in the behaviors explored.
"According to George Barna, who directed the survey, the results reflect a significant shift in American life. 'We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America,' said Barna. 'The consistent deterioration of the Bible as the source of moral truth has led to a nation where people have become independent judges of right and wrong, basing their choices on feelings and circumstances. It is not likely that America will return to a more traditional moral code until the nation experiences significant pain from its moral choice.'
"For the full report, visit Barna.org."
Significant pain. That's what God allows us to have. He lifts His hand of protection so we can have it our way. Think about what you are seeing - or perhaps are experiencing. It's our call.
"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:6-10).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.