It Starts in the Heart

I have written a lot here about culture and society (here, here, here). I have written about the foibles of our popular culture (here) and spoken about some things that I think need to be changed. At other times I have written about how everything is connected (here). The way that God has created the world is such that you cannot talk about economics without also saying something about art; you cannot talk about ethics without also talking about education. Everything is connected. Which is ultimately just another way of saying: Everything is religious.

Because everything is connected, all the cultural change that I would love to see take place must ultimately be predicated by something extremely important: Heart change. We live in a society that loves cheap entertainment, fast money, loose morality, and a least common denominator brand of “equality”. These are all things that I would love to see amended in either my day of the days of my children (Lord willing). However, because everything is connected none of these things can ultimately be changed without a change at the root or, more religiously put, in the heart.

Another downfall of the culture we live in is that we truly believe that we can legislate these things. This is not a Democratic or a Republican thing, it is an everybody thing. The democrats believe they can legislate their least common denominator equality while the republicans believe they can legislate tighter money. While I would love to see tighter money at the government level and will surely cast my vote for those who say they are committed to that, I know that ultimately we will not see our elected officials tighten the wallet until you and I do the same thing first.

A nation full of crooks cannot produce virtuous politicians. Moreover, a nation filled with virtue loving people will not be fooled by crooks running for office.

If we really want to see change in our culture then we must pursue change in our hearts first (this goes for me most of all!). This is the root of the matter and this is why everything is truly connected.

You might know where I’m going with all this but if not I’m about to say it plainly. The only real assurance of heart change comes in the form of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament the people of God (Israel) were given everything external to create a virtuous society. They were given the law of God which was to instruct them how to live long and prosper in the land that the Lord their God was giving to them. The only issue (and the Old Testament readily affirms this) is that the people were lacking the indwelling of the Spirit of God. The promise of the New Covenant is not that God’s laws would go away (how could they?) but that they would be written on people’s hearts that they would love the law of God.When the Gospel is preached in its purity it is accompanied by the Spirit of God. The spirit changes the hearts of men to love righteousness and hate falsehood. This is what the Gospel does at an individual level (justification, sanctification, glorification) but everything is connected which means this has ramifications beyond the person. That person’s family will necessarily be affected as will that person’s greater sphere of influence. The Gospel will always have social and political implications because the world God made is a world where all things flow out from the center (Colossians 1). One of the two greatest traps for humanity is to try to fix the world without the Gospel or try to keep the Gospel from fixing the world.Food for thought.Michael

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2 comments

  1. Hi Michael-that’s certainly a key idea from Colossians. You mention the trap for humanity but I’m wondering too if the church has in some ways fallen into this trap as well as many are proclaiming a desire to do good works in order to redeem the earth for Christ where it seems that the Gospel has taken a second place. Even noted preachers like Keller are moving in this direction.

    1. Hey John, I actually think I might side more with Keller this position but I want to make sure I’m understood correctly. I’m very adamant that we do not fall into either error of believing the Gospel is merely social or merely individual. I believe that many “reformed” Christian leaders in our day have taken this individualistic view of the Gospel which essentially sees the doctrine of justification by faith as the Gospel. Now, I would agree that justification by faith alone is at the heart (possibly even the center) of the Biblical Gospel. However, Biblically speaking, the implications of the Gospel are implications for the entire cosmos, including every area of human life (work, family, education, politics, commerce, etc.). I believe that in an attempt to be more relevant to the culture many Christian leaders have ceased offering a Biblical view of every area of life which limits the Gospel solely to how an individual can be right with God (again the individual being right with God is central and that is actually the point of this post). In doing this we have essentially offered over all other areas of life (government, education, business, commerce) to the world (“world” in the negative sense here) and said that the Bible doesn’t really address those issues. What this does is create a world where “compartmentalization” is possible.

      What I am trying to address in this post will most likely sympathize with your position a little more. There are many movements (even Christian movements) that are trying to enact cultural change based solely on structural change and human effort (humanism). My post is a refutation of these attempts. It is not a refutation of them outright because I do believe that the good news is good news for all of life and will necessarily redeem the structures that submit to it. But it is a refutation of the attempts to change God’s world apart from the means he’s given to us to change it (the Gospel).

      Thanks for your comment! I hope my response has been helpful as to where I am coming from!

      Michael

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