Surviving and Thriving in a Hostile Culture:
Life without Jesus
Throughout Scripture there are illusions to Jesus being the I AM. The Lord describes Himself in the following ways. He says ''I am the bread of life." Furthermore, He declares ''I am the light of the world," "I am the gate of the sheep," "I am the good shepherd," ''I am the resurrection and the life," ''I am the way, the truth, and the life."
In John 15:1 Jesus identifies himself as the vine, "I am the true vine." He also identifies the Father as the gardener who takes care of the vineyard. He then describes true believers as fruitful branches and pseudo believers as unfruitful branches.
What did the Lord have in mind as He delivered this statement? It was the night before He was to die. He could have been teaching His disciples the simple truth that there are two kinds of people who will follow me. The first kind is embodied by Judas as a representative of all those who are fruitless in their attachment to the vine. The second group of people are those who are represented by the rest of the disciples; those who bear fruit, the fruitful branches.
The larger context (1-16) is divided into two different parts-vs 1-8 is a metaphor - a statement about agriculture and how to take care of vines. The second section, vs 9-16, generally is an explanation of the metaphor.
So Jesus speaks to His followers on the eve of His death. Read.
Any reader of this passage of Scripture shortly after the canon was completed and any hearer of our Lord's metaphor would have immediately made some very striking conclusions. He would have concluded first of all that the vine spoken of by Jesus referred to Israel. For the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and even the writers of Psalms all make it clear that the vine always refers to God's people, Israel. However, Jesus is trying to correct their thinking. He is saying “the vine that you know as Israel has grown cold. It has compromised. It has become diseased and it is no longer a healthy vine. Therefore, I want to talk to you about the true vine. I want to talk to you about a vine which is healthy. I want to talk to you about myself because I am the vine and I am placing myself in contrast with the Old Testament idea of the vine as Israel.” So, Jesus is introducing us the concept that everything in the past is now being replaced by the work of Christ on the cross and the new covenant that He has generated. The real people of God of Jesus' day would hear His story; the real people of God were not the people connected to the old vine Israel, but were the people who were vitally connected to the new vine. The hearers would have clearly understood the message.
Why is this connection to Jesus so significant? Well, Jesus is preparing his people for life following his death, resurrection, and ascension when he will no longer be physically present with them. How are they possibly going to survive? He says the key is an ongoing connection to Him even though they could no longer hug him or rejoice with him or pray with him or listen to him teach or watch him engage sinners or heal the sick or weep with them
I am suggesting that we too desperately need to come to grips with this incredible resource provided to us. It is essential if we are to have any hope of living a godly life in a society that increasingly exhibits no toleration for a Christian worldview. It can hardly be argued by anyone who takes the Bible seriously that we live in an era in which pernicious wickedness is casting a very large shadow. Consider just some of what is transpiring in our country:
One of our major political parties recently adopted a platform composed of commitments and beliefs that God plainly condemns. Although that may not be shocking per se it is frightening that the party apparently prides itself in supporting and encouraging practices that God condemns.
The term “family” is being redefined to include those in homosexual relationships.
Marriage is no longer defined as an institution between one man and one woman.
Employers are required to cover abortion in health care services and to provide health care services to same sex couples.
Taxpayers fund every imaginable form of perversion and wickedness.
The threat of squelching freedom to openly express views of moral and ethical practices that do not align with current secular views looms greater and greater in our civil society. Long ago those in academic institutions lost that freedom.
Making value judgments regarding sexual immorality is routinely ridiculed as unenlightened.
Nearly all institutions that wield influence over our society is slanted against a Christian worldview – the news media, the universities, the schools, social media, the judiciary, large corporations, government bureaucracy, and etc.
This situation as led one pastor to pen a blunt prayer for our nation:
A Prayer for a Nation
Alas, O LORD, the great and awesome God,
We confess, and do admit, that we have sinned against Thee,
not just in little things, but in great things,
and we deserve Thy judgment.
As a nation, we have turned aside from Thy holy ways.
We have taken Thy most precious blessings,
and ripped them from the sacred place,
and brutally murdered them in the name
of false gods named “choice” and “money”,
and our judges have called it “right”.
Our land is stained with bloodguiltiness, O God;
surely, the blood of the innocent must cry out to Thee.
And yet those who deserve punishment,
those who steal and rape and murder,
violent men who care not for others, but only love themselves,
they, O LORD, are set free, or punished lightly.
The guilty have more rights than the innocent,
and justice comes out perverted.
We have mismanaged Caesar’s coin, Lord God,
spending what we have not,
lusting after the things of the world,
ignoring Thy principles for financial wisdom.
In our foolishness, we have created an unpayable debt,
and burdened the backs of our children, and their children.
Shame belongs to our nation, O Most High,
for we have squandered Thy great blessings.
Our nation, O God, has also promoted wickedness,
that which is evil in Thy sight.
The sacredness of the marriage bed is thought laughable.
All types of immorality are not only tolerated,
but joked about,
and even encouraged.
That which is most utterly shameful and vile is promoted as normal,
and Thy people are berated and even threatened for calling it sin.
Surely we deserve fire from heaven like Sodom,
and destruction like Gomorrah.
We have called evil good, and good evil;
we have substituted darkness for light, and light for darkness.
We are a people who constantly profane Thy holy name,
and who have unclean lips,
speaking forth that which comes from unclean hearts.
In your wrath, O LORD, remember mercy.
It is not just our national sins that make us deserve Thy judgment, O God,
but our personal ones as well.
We have idolized the blessings of this world,
delighting in things, instead of delighting in the Son.
We have served the god of money in place of Thee,
being rich in things, but poor in soul.
We have gloried in digital electronics instead of divine election,
in technology instead of obedience,
and focused on outward appearance instead of the inward man.
We have entertained ourselves nearly to death,
and have neglected Thy Holy Bible.
Our phones have become idols,
our social interaction is on flat screens,
and true Christian fellowship is increasingly rare.
Even our sacred assemblies are no longer holy.
The gathering of the saints to worship has descended to new lows.
They are geared to coddle the lost, instead of to convict the lost,
to diminish the fear of God, instead of promote the fear of God.
The music is entertainment, sometimes sensual, often trite.
Worship no longer emphasizes prayer,
and Thy Word is barely even read.
The preaching is man-centered,
banal, insipid, full of self-help,
tame, weak, pathetic,
and does not point men to Christ and His glorious work.
Send us men, O LORD, courageous men, godly men,
men like the prophets of old, who thundered,
not words of their own vain imaginations,
but the Word of the living God,
not the foolish wisdom of the world,
but the perfect wisdom from above,
not pious platitudes,
but “thus saith the LORD”!
Give us, O Most High, intrepid men who proclaim
the timeless truths of Thy Word,
the whole counsel of God,
the offense of the cross,
the warnings of judgment and hell,
Thy Law and Thy Gospel,
both sin and salvation,
the beauty and majesty of Christ,
and the “Solas” of the Reformers.
Give us men who are willing to stand, even unto death,
for the Christ they love and boldly proclaim,
even as men of old have stood and died for Thee.
Give us true shepherds, O Christ,
who will feed Thy sheep with true food,
and lead them in the paths of righteousness.
Raise up evangelists, O Holy Spirit,
who will go where others will not:
to the faraway nations,
and to our own streets and highways and hedges,
that the lost may be compelled to come
to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Incline your ear and hear our prayer, O Great God.
We are wretched, weak, and needy.
Give us not what we deserve, O Sovereign King,
but according to your great mercy,
and the love with which you have loved us,
set our minds on heavenly things, where Christ is,
and our affections on the Saviour.
Grant repentance and faith unto salvation;
give life to those who are dead in their transgressions;
bring revival and reformation to this wayward and sinful people.
For the glory of Thy Son,
and for the eternal good of the elect,
we humbly pray.
David Dunbar November 6, 2012 (Election Day prior to voting)
I am reminded of Paul’s warning to young Timothy as he prepared him for ministry,
NAU 2 Timothy 3:1
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
So what are we to do? Where from here? Many Christians are distraught; others are writing their own obituaries; others are sinking into depression and disillusionment; some are even fleeing the country; and then there are those who are angry. I believe there is a much more profitable, appropriate, and Godly response. First, I’d like to remind us that God is still the sovereign of the universe; that includes our little corner. He has not lost control. Our headlong rush into shocking expressions of wickedness has not taken Him by surprise. I have spoken often of the truth that God has always and will always reign in the affairs of men here and everywhere. So I ask again, just how big is your God? We dare not abandon truth we see in the light just because darkness now seemingly prevails.
I do speak to our nation as a whole, but more importantly I speak on an individual and personal level. Individual believers are suffering and will suffer because of the societal and governmental embrace of grossly wicked anti-God and anti-Christian teachings, practices, and policies.
So, my second answer to the question of “what are we to do”, is that we need to rediscover God’s resources for these days! In fact these resources are guaranteed regardless of the form of government, the wickedness of society, the intensity of harassment or the loss of freedom. God has not abandoned us or left us helpless.
John 15:1-16:15 describes two divine provisions for surviving and thriving in resources. A high altitude view reveals the following:
Finding Jesus: the resource of a vital connection to Jesus 15:1-16:4
Again, the key teaching point is that even though Jesus is leaving his disciples, nonetheless they continue to be vitally connected to Him. If they understand and act of this connection they will be transformed and be able to survive and thrive even in a hostile environment and even without him to protect them. So, they must pursue Christ. So what does a vital connection to Jesus look like?
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus will ultimately produce fruit 2-4a
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus are totally dependent upon Him 5-
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus will reflect His relationship to the Father, albeit not fully so 9-11.
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus will love each other as an evidence of love for God 12-13
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus are designated as His friends 14-16.
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus should anticipate hostility from the world 17-25
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus will have a positive influence in the world in spite of its hostility 26-27
All persons who are vitally connected to Jesus are expected to respond properly to the world’s hostility even though they have no control over the world’s reaction to them or the Christian message 16:1-4
Finding the Spirit: the resource of reliance on the Holy Spirit 16:5-15
- The ministry of the Holy Spirit to the world 5-11
- The ministry of the Holy Spirit to Christians 12-16
I ask you to evaluate your professed connection to Jesus and your reliance on the Holy Spirit. This will prove to be a key in how you do in a raging firefight. I remind you that the operative word is a “vital” connection to Jesus; I mean thereby a life giving or genuine connection. I also remind you that the hostilities can always be worse!
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.