January 13, 2015 Leave a comment
For evangelical Christians, it is tempting to become pessimistic or even cynical about the state of things these days. Relativism seems to reign when it comes to morality and spirituality. There is pessimism about whether there is such a thing as absolute truth. Ethical norms that once seemed unassailable are regularly questioned if not totally jettisoned. Confusion is common regarding gender and sexuality and the place of marriage in society. Christianity is tolerated as long one doesn’t suggest that Christianity is the only true religion and Christ is the only true Savior. We lament the loss of the Judeo-Christian consensus that once permeated our culture. We are living in a post-Christian society. It is easy to feel agitated, desperate, and even defeated.
Evangelicals find ourselves feeling much like Paul walking the streets of Athens and being deeply troubled by the plethora of idols (Acts 17:16). But, like Paul, in midst of this smorgasbord of deities, there is also reason to be encouraged. Even as our culture is looking more and more like Corinth or Athens in the first century, we have reason to be hopeful. Why? Because of the gospel. The gospel flourished in the first century culture of the Roman Empire which was anything but Christian. Though the church had no political clout and no real cultural standing, the message of the church penetrated and largely transformed the culture.
The gospel is powerful. Consider how the apostles thought about the gospel.
- They were not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation for every culture (Rom. 1:16).
- The gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18-25).
- The gospel is a message of truth which brings salvation (Eph. 1:13).
- The gospel transforms idolaters into Christians (1 Thess. 1:4-10).
- The gospel is about the eternal plan of God to save sinners (2 Tim. 1:8-10).
- The gospel is not bound even when its messengers are in chains (2 Tim. 2:9).
Much more could be said about this. But a small sampling of apostolic statements about the gospel demonstrates the reason why the church must not despair when darkness is encroaching. Darkness is penetrated by light through the clear and loving presentation of the gospel by those whose lives give evidence of gospel-driven change.
Because cultures change, the church must adapt in appropriate ways to communicate the gospel. But the gospel does not change. It is still the saving truth about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is still the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, even in our declining spiritual climate.