Among the voices that speak into our world every day is the ever-changing voice of culture. This voice uses every method available – news and entertainment, music and art, politicians and celebrities, textbooks and social media, lectures, and private conversations. It attempts to shape our thinking on what is popular, what is best, what is right and what is relevant. In other words, this voice wants to define our values. And, these cultural values change more quickly than the months of a calendar, pushing certain “truths” to the forefront and demanding our loyalty to them.
As Christ-followers, we to align ourselves with Kingdom values just as He did. When this happens, the voice of culture declares our choices unpopular and our faith irrelevant. Jesus spelled it out clearly when He told His disciples: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:18-19 NLT).
Former Anthem Lights singer Alan Powell said: “Scripture is so counter-culture. Christ was counter-culture. As we grow closer to Christ, we won’t care about the things of the world as much. As a believer, you’re just going to be counter-cultural. That’s the way it’s always been, and it will always continue to be that way. That’s why it’s important for us as believers to encourage other believers that it’s okay to be that way.”
Romans 12:2 encourages us to “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes” (The Passion Translation).
A prime example of being counter-cultural is when we follow 1 John 2:15-17: “Don’t set the affections of your heart on this world or in loving the things of the world. The love of the Father and the love of the world are incompatible. For all that the world can offer us—the gratification of our flesh, the allurement of the things of the world, and the obsession with status and importance —none of these things come from the Father but from the world. This world and its desires are in the process of passing away, but those who love to do the will of God live forever.”(The Passion Translation)
When we follow Christ, we are called to be different. To think differently. To speak differently. To act differently. In his book, A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture, David Platt writes: “In a culture that places great emphasis on leisure, luxury, financial gain, self-improvement, and material possessions, it will be increasingly countercultural for Christians to work diligently, live simply, give sacrificially, help constructively, and invest eternally.”
Being countercultural is not new with our generation or in this century. Micah 6:8 outlines a powerful and timeless model: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
When we follow His design, we not only live counterculturally but we begin to transform culture itself. David Platt reminds us: “For the greatest way to achieve social and cultural transformation is not by focusing on social and cultural transformation, but by giving our lives to gospel proclamation—to telling others the good news of all God has done in Christ and calling them to follow Him.”
And, our MESSAGE will be as countercultural as we are. Who wouldn’t wonder about a message that tell us:
- The last will be first (Matthew 20:16)
- The foolish are most wise (1 Corinthians 1:23)
- Victory is found through surrender (1 John 5:4)
- Leaders must be servants (Matthew 20:26)
- When we are weak, we are strongest (2 Corinthians 12:10)
- Those who save their life will lose it; those who lose their life will save it (Luke 9:24)
These are just a few Kingdom principles that the voice of culture would dismiss. They just don’t line up with the prevailing views.
Our countercultural message must always include an awareness that
- God calls us outside of the cultural norms
- He always has a better design for our life and future,
- It always begins with a personal relationship with Christ, and
- Those who are transformed by Christ have a message that is more powerful, life-changing and relevant than the voice of culture.
“The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written: ‘I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.’
So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in His wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust Him into the way of salvation.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 The Message)
Many Christians present the gospel to non-believers using a strategy that emulates the secular world. They adopt trends, styles and behaviors to repackage biblical truths to fit cultural norms.
Even while sharing our witness or personal evangelism, that voice of culture tries to shape our thinking. The voice asks us to “live and let live” and not expect anyone to change their lives or values. It goes beyond that to insist that anyone who declares someone else’s words, actions or lifestyles to be wrong or sinful is judging and intolerant.
David Platt reminds us: “‘Are you really saying there’s only one way to God?’ people immediately ask. Yet even as we ask the question, we reveal the problem. If there were 1,000 ways to God, we would want 1,001. The issue is not how many ways lead to God; the issue is our autonomy before God. We want to make our own way. This is the essence of sin in the first place — trusting our way more than God’s way.” (A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture)
Culture will also try to convince us that any message worth listening to – a “relevant” message – must be shared by a dynamic speaker, a well-known influencer or at least reinforced by exciting and entertaining methods. But even the Apostle Paul admitted that “God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what He has done, collecting a following for Him. And He didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.” (1 Corinthians 1:17The Message)
We have the promise that “…we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts” (Hebrews 4:12 The Passion Translation).
When we spread the Good News through our personal evangelism, group worship services, Bible studies or special events – if our message is based on His Word and we trust His Spirit to use it, we are given the assurance that His Purpose will be achieved: “It is the same with My Word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11 NIV).
Be encouraged. We have an amazing countercultural message that is relevant to every need, can speak to every heart, will pierce every barrier, will overcome every argument and will triumphantly achieve His goal. Why not share it today?