Christians should stand out because of their values and actions, but they do not. Os Guinness has pointed out that the ‘progressive’ wings of the church often adopt the values of the majority culture. He says you can predict what actions and values the church will adopt in five years by watching what the surrounding culture values today.
So, what should we be pursuing? What should we be looking for?
- Sacrificing idols
What is an idol? Anything that sets itself up in opposition to God, or in dominance over God. Christians are firstly people whose lives are founded on and centered around their relationship with God through Christ.
- Loving community
Christians do not look only to their own growth and development, but also to the growth and development of others. They consider others more highly than themselves. This involves putting aside the many distractions of twenty-first century living and being focused on others for their good.
- Sexually pure
Sex was created by God for enjoyment within a faithful marriage. With contraception and sexual ‘freedom’ people have less frequent and less satisfying sex. Married couples have a foundation of mutual consent and constant access. It is no wonder married couples have more sex in the long run. There are times when couples get into a rut or become too busy or distant. However, healthy marriages have regular sex.
The downgrading of sex to a commodity for purchase has led to an explosion in the sex trade. The evils of sex-trafficking and pornography have mushroomed in recent years. Multiple meaningless partners seems attractive in our lusting culture, but the reality of meaningless hook-ups does not fit the billing. Christians have good news for the culture, sex is best within the security of a life-long commitment.
- Obeying authority
Good leaders are first of all good followers. They command respect because they are respectful. Obeying a chain of command promotes law and order. A promotion of law and order brings peace.
A misguided view of autonomy and freedom is bringing increased anarchy to the United States. It looks like Rome at the end of the empire. A fierce individualism and a pride which does not sacrifice self for the greater good will be America’s undoing.
- Working hard
Grit is shown to be the marker of successful adults. It is hard to train people in grit, but the Holy Spirit is meant to give Christians uncommon endurance through hard times. Modern Americans are less resilient and more coddled.
In education, teachers are learning to establish a growth mindset in the disposition of students. It is a mindset that sets goals and then makes plans to achieve them. Christians have goals set by God and supernatural empowerment to get the job done.
Joy should mark the Christian life, but Christians are often known as kill-joys. The result is that many successful youth groups manufacture a hyped, jacked up joy which resembles the emotional high students achieve at a rock concert. A deeper Christian joy has been sacrificed for a plastic imitation.
True joy comes from a true faith. True faith is often developed from quiet contemplation of God and a vulnerability in his presence. There is a joy that is fruit of the Holy Spirit – we need to rediscover it.
People who are aware of their dependence on God increase their communication with God. People without a thought for God cease to pray.
North Americans lack skill in prayer because they lack mentors. You can not do what you don’t know to do. We need more immersive development of prayer. Skilled prayers need to invite others to pray.
- Giving thanks
People who see their limitations and their dependence on others are thankful. People who are isolated and self-sufficient lack gratitude. Gratitude is less than it can be because people do not reach out, they do not accept help, and they do not operate outside their own capacities.
We are created to be in a team with others. We are created to depend on others’ giftedness and production. Our teams are created to be dependent on God. When he achieves his ends through our limited resources, we thank him.
- On fire
When God works his will through inadequate humans they get fired up. The Holy Spirit is a fire who burns in the heart of an active believer. Set the bar low and we quench the fire. Cut down others in an atmosphere of pessimism and we pour cold water on the community.
Like coals igniting each other in the hearth, church should be a place glowing with warmth and welcome.
- At peace
God is in control. He is on the throne. The world has been sustained for millennia without our help. A posture of surrender at the foot of God’s throne is a posture of peace. We were created to be free from anxiety – free from worry.
A church should be a place where the heavy laden come to rest.
The previous thoughts are reflections on 1 Thessalonians