Friday, April 1, 2016

shaped by the world, or the Word

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV) 

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Believers have always had to live in the presence of "the world".  The world, as used in the Bible in this sense, means the shape of thinking, life-style, culture, morality, opinions, trends, and judgments which characterize fallen humanity. The culture of men and women living in darkness and rebellion against the holy God takes a certain shape.  And this in turn exercises a shaping influence upon all within its sphere.  We cannot escape that pressure.  But in God's grace we experience a countering power, a transforming influence by his Word and Spirit.

Modern technology has only amplified the influence of the world. Daily we have access to, and are bombarded with, more information, imagery, news, opinions, entertainment, and marketing strategies than ever before in history.  And all of this data is not neutral, but proceeds from, and promotes in some way, a particular worldview.  That worldview, though it may have different variations, does not have God and truth at the center. 

The Psalmist says there is eternal blessing for the individual who does not follow the advice of the world (the counsel of the wicked), who does not live a worldly lifestyle (the way of sinners), and who does not hold worldly values and judgments (the seat of scoffers)(1:1).  And that this blessing comes about by delighting in the law (Torah = instruction) of the Lord and meditating on (musing, applying) it continually (night and day)(1:2). In this way, God's people will be like a tree beside the waters, and worldly thinkers will be like chaff the wind blows away (1:3ff).  

The Apostle Paul in the New Testament makes a similar statement in his letter to the Romans.  The believer gives the entirety of himself to God in holy service (12:1).  The conforming pressure of the world will be counteracted by the ongoing, transforming power of the knowledge of God (12:2). And that means, specifically in this passage, discerning and testing the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

It is ironic that evangelical Christians, who hold a high view of God's Word and its transforming power, can be self-contradictory when it comes to actual practice.  They feel they need only a token amount of Bible reading.  They don't want to seem self-righteous or legalistic or irrelevant.  They can downplay the role of teaching, thinking the church needs less sermons and teaching, and rather, more worship, more social action, more contact with the world. Some may think they need less Bible, less teaching, less preaching, less reading, less study of doctrine or history.  We must not end there, certainly, but neither should we short-change the sanctified molding of our minds. 

I fear we underestimate the power of a worldly culture. (And of the flesh, and the devil!)  We feel that we ourselves are immune to deception and seduction. I fear that we are unaware of the incessant propagandizing that surrounds us 24/7. I believe Christians in America at this hour need more reading -- and meditation, and memorization -- not less.  And, as important as our worship and relationships are, our churches need more teaching, not less. 

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