Charles Stanley - Surviving Our Present Culture
Christians fall into two categories. There are those who are the committed followers of Jesus and then there are those who are carnally minded believers. And there is a very distinct difference. In fact, when the Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthian church, here’s what he said. He said in the very first verse of chapter three, "brethren, I could not speak to you as to spiritually minded men, but as to men of the flesh, as to infants in Christ". And what he was saying is there are two categories of ya. Some of ya are true followers, you’re spiritually-minded people, and others of you are carnally-minded, which means you are walking according to the flesh which means walking according to their natural tendencies and desires. There is a very distinct difference between the two.
And so, when you think about that, you think about what is the difference? That is, what about these committed, who are these committed followers of Jesus? Well first of all, they are guided by the Holy Spirit. Committed believers have a passion for God. Committed believers want to, and desire to share their faith. They desire to walk obediently before God. They trust the Lord Jesus Christ for all of their needs. Their whole life takes on a whole different perspective because they’ve trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They’re growing in their Christian life and so they’re committed followers. But then there’s the other group: carnally-minded Christians, for example. And as he says here, he says, You’re like babes. He said, I can only feed you milk. Because they have convictions, but they compromise. They’re inconsistent in their Christian walk. Doctrinally they are very, very weak and they are usually self-centered.
And what they’re interested in primarily for example, those things that give them pleasure and comfort and ease. They’re the attendees and the observers but they don’t get very much involved. They are people who’ve been highly influenced by the world culture, the culture we live in. And so, there’s a great difference between the two. And they have little interest in serving God, but rather serving themselves, and they have become entangled and oftentimes trapped by the very culture they live in. Now only you can decide which one of those two categories you fall into. And Paul is writing to young Titus who’s a young pastor whom he has left on the Isle of Crete, a very, very difficult place. And he’s instructing him as to how to choose elders and to how to establish the churches all over the island of Crete.
Now, when you think about this culture, you think about it in this light. A culture like you and I live in is certainly not a big friend to Christians. And so, what we have to ask is this: How do you and I live in a culture that is so opposed to what we believe and whose lifestyle is so totally different from ours? How do we live in a culture like this without being captivated by it? Overwhelmed by it, overcome by it. And most of all without becoming like it. How do we live in this culture but live above it? Well, that’s what I wanna talk about in this message and I wanna talk about the key to living in the culture as we live in and yet not becoming a part of it.
So I want you to turn to the little book of Titus. If you find Hebrews back toward the back of your Bible and turn back, right before that is the little book of Titus, only three chapters, very important letter the Apostle Paul wrote to this young pastor. And beginning in verse five he gives us a little reasoning here, he says, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you". Then he tells him what kind of people he should be looking for and so forth. Then he comes to verse nine and he talks about one of the key qualities that these people are to have and that’s this: "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able to both exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict".
Now, how do we live in this culture and at the same time live above it? How do we live in the midst of all of the influences and at the same time not be influenced by it? The primary key is this: what did he say? Hold fast the faithful word, which is in accordance with the teaching. Now, what does he mean when he talks about "holding fast"? Simply this: when you hold something, you hold it by your hand. When he says "holding fast the faithful word", the word means to cling to, to hold it tight, to hold it close. That is, to apply it to your life. So here’s what Paul is saying. He says, teaching them to hold tightly to the Word of God. Cling to the truth of the Word of God. Apply it to your life. Because he knew that the Christians that live in that culture of Crete, they would be so highly influenced, very subtly influenced that before long you couldn’t tell the Christian from the non-Christian.
What a message for our day and time, because we live in that kind of a culture. And we could use many other words to describe the things that go on around us, the laws that are being passed, the attitudes that people have, and the way Christians oftentimes find themselves oftentimes too late caught up in this culture with its vain philosophies, with its immoral attitudes and actions. And then we wonder why the Church has such little influence and impact on our society. It does have a relationship with the fact that we have ceased to cling to, we have see, listen, hold tightly to the principles and the teachings of the Word of God. Now, practically speaking, you say, practically speaking, then how do we cling to it. I want to give you seven things. How do you cling to the Word of God? Make it practical. How do you cling to the Word of God? How do you keep this in your heart, on your mind, before your eyes and on your lips.
Well, there are seven short things I’m gonna give you time to write ‘em down and the first one is this: Read it carefully. Don’t just read through it quickly, just, and don’t let me read two or three verses right quick. Read it carefully. What does it say? Meditate upon it daily. Read it carefully, meditate upon it daily. That is what is this really saying? And how am I to handle this? What is God saying about Himself and about me? Thirdly, study it seriously. This is not just another book. Listen, why do you suppose somebody had the idea of calling this Holy Bible? Because it’s from a holy God. That’s the reason this is holy. We read it carefully, we meditate upon it daily, and listen, not only that, but we study it seriously, we study it seriously and we believe it wholeheartedly. We believe it wholeheartedly. We obey it consistently. We apply it personally. And we share it confidently. Now, if you meant business by listening, you can give me those back.
So, I wantcha to give ‘em back to me, beginning with number one. Number one, read it carefully. Number two, we meditate upon it daily. Number three, we study it seriously. Number four, we believe it wholeheartedly. Number five, we obey it consistently. Number six, apply it personally. And number seven, share it confidently. You know what happens? You do that, and you know what, you’re clinging to the Word and here’s what’s gonna happen. Your life’s gonna change. You cannot do what you just said and at the same time live in sin, walk in sin. You cannot. So, you and I have just agreed that in order to hold to it tightly, cling to it, make it a part of our life, apply it in our life, those things are very necessary.
Now, here’s a big question. Suppose I don’t do that? Suppose I don’t treasure the Word of God? What happens, how does the culture ultimately destroy us? I want you to jot these down. I’m gonna give you a list. Number one, when you do not hold the Word of God closely, then the following things happens: The culture gets your attention, they get your attention. All kinds of ways they throw things at ya to get your attention. That’s number one.
Secondly, eventually they begin to influence you, because you keep listening and you keep watching. So they get your attention by that, Hmm, that’s appealing. Then they begin to influence your thinking.
The third thing that happens is this: They win your affections. And what you first were not interested in, got your attention, you became very interested, and the next thing you know, gotcha, won your affections.
Once it wins your affections, then next thing that happens is it redirects your focus. Before, you were focused on spiritual things, but now you find yourself more focused on the culture around you, what other people are thinking, what they’re saying. So they redirect your focus.
Next thing is, before long you realize they’re dominating your conversation. The culture’s dominating your conversation: who this movie star is, who this ballplayer is what he’s wearing, what she’s wearing. In other words, all of these things. What happens is your interest level has been redirected and therefore it dominates your conversation. What is your conversation primarily filled with today?
The next thing that happens, you know what? It influences your dress, the way you dress. Oh now that, now that wouldn't, you don’t think so? Let me give you an example. You know there was a time until recently that women wore blouses that came all the way down to their skirt, or whatever it may be. You know where I’m headed, don’tcha? Now we have the idea, somebody got the idea you cut it off about right here. And then you lower it down to about right here, so somebody can see your navel. Who said that’s worth looking at? I don’t understand that. Who said that’s worth looking at? Now the reason I give that illustration is because it’s all around ya. They’ve got diamonds in there and all kinda things.
Now, now while it’s funny, it’s tragic. Let me show you why. All the young girls who are wearing those are not unbelievers. Enough Christian young women have watched, it got their attention, influenced their thinking, changed their focus, and you know what happens? Now they’re cuttin’ their blouses off. They’re lowering whatever else they’re wearing. Why? I’ll tell ya why. They’re doing it because that’s what seems to be the thing to do. You know what they’ve done? They have allowed the culture to determine the way they dress. And I would say to any young lady, Would you dress like that and walk into the presence of the Son of God? No you wouldn’t. Why do you let the culture around you influence you to dress in a way that is certainly far from being the best? Or even oftentimes just plain decency.
Let me ask you a question. For a Christian, what do you want people to look at? What’s the light of the body? Right here. You know what? You live a godly life, they’re gonna look in your eyes and they’re gonna see love, joy, peace, contentment, you name it. Now I’m not talking about just women. This same thing is true of men. It is our eyes we want people to look at. Why? Because that’s who we are. Don’t let the culture so clog your mind with false ideas and patterns of belief and behavior that you become less than what God wants you to be. You know, if you have good self-esteem, you don’t have to show off anything. The fact that you wanna show off something says you have poor self-esteem and you’re trying to do something to get somebody’s attention. If you live a godly life, you won’t have to worry about getting anybody’s attention.
Listen to this. They’ll see it in your eyes. They will see it in your countenance, and they will feel it in your presence. You don’t have to undress to get their attention. But the culture is working at it. Listen, dominating your conversation, influencing your dress, and also influencing your choice of music. There’s no doubt about it, that music the way we have it today oftentimes has been one of the key, listen, the key weapons of Satan to drag millions of young people away from godly ideas, the Word of God, truth, decency, morality, godliness. And what do they do? You see, there’s all kinda music. Somebody says, Well does all, everybody has all kinda music. That’s right. There’s all kinds. What does it do to ya? Does it cause you to worship God?
Now there’s lots of songs out there that are just pleasant good songs and doesn’t have any, any physical effect. Can make you have an emotional feeling of feeling good because of it. But if it so works in your body that you begin to feel sensual, what you have to ask is this? Where did that come from? That’s why you have to be careful whatcha listen to, how you dress. You see, the listen, the world culture, the world culture has penetrated every facet of our society. One of the most powerful weapons is music. Dress. And ya see what happens, little by little somebody comes out and dresses a certain way, and somebody else says, Well, I’d like to be like her. And so you wanna do the same thing? Why don’t you ask the question, What does the Word of God say? What does the Word of God say about decency and in order? What does the Word of God say about being a godly woman or a godly man?
You know what else they’ll do? They’ll fill your mind with sensuality and immoral thoughts over and over and over and over and over again until finally you know what’s happening? You’re committing the very things you see on TV. Or, the lust pattern in your life has become so strong you feel the, you feel that you’re in bondage. Isn’t it interesting that Satan offers these awesome promises only to find yourself in bondage of something now you hate because you cannot stop? You know why? You severed yourself from the anchor, the living Word of God. Then what happens? They want to ruin your witness, the culture wants to drag you away from God.
Listen, the culture can’t get you away from God 'till he gets you away from the Book. Until they get you away from God’s Book, they can’t getcha away from God. And once they do, it ruins your witness. Then you’re so much like them it doesn’t make any difference any longer. Listen, they love your company now because you’re no longer a contradiction to the way they live. You’re so much like them, you don’t bother them anymore. Say, How ya doin’, glad to see ya. Before, because you were like salt and like light. Now you’re just so much like ‘em it doesn’t make any difference anymore. If you don’t cling to the Word of God, listen carefully, you will not cling to God. He gave us this book, He gave us this truth for our, listen, not only for our salvation but for our protection.
And you know what’ll happen? Eventually the culture will ruin, listen, will make you useless for the Kingdom of God. Because having altered your schedule, you have no time to serve Him, little or no time to read His Word at all. And now that you’re spending your money on things rather than giving God what ought to be given to Him. You’re not interested in people being saved any longer because ya see, now your life is so self-centered and so caught up in yourself. And you know what’s happened? You haven’t even realized that it’s happened. You’re so far from where you used to be when you read the scriptures every night and you believed that somehow the Word of God must be a vital part of your life. And then the culture got your attention. Began to affect your thinking, won your emotions and got your focus off God. And now what happens? It’ll lead you into idolatry.
You say, Well now wait a minute. I would never bow down before some wooden or stone or gold god. No, not talking about those gods. America has other gods. But you know what a god is? You know what idolatry is? Idolatry is, listen carefully, idolatry takes place in your life, when anything, any person, any practice, is more important to you than your relationship to Jesus Christ. When you’re more loyal, more devoted, more committed to that person, that thing, or that practice than you are the Son of God, you are committing idolatry. You have violated one of the commandments. And you know how it happens? You let the culture get your attention, penetrate your thinking, win your emotions, and get your focus off of God and off of His Word.
Now here is the tragedy of it all. Listen carefully. Here is the tragedy of it all right, now if you’re listening, say amen. Eventually if there’s no genuine change in your life, here’s what’s gonna happen. One of these days you’re going to die. And somebody’s gonna come and look at your body in the casket. And here’s what they’re gonna say, "Saved soul wasted life". Because you let the culture get your attention, influence your thinking, win your emotions. Turn your focus from God. And what I want ya to see is this: He says, Hold it tenaciously, cling to it he says.
You say, All right, okay, I admit that I haven’t so what do I do? Now listen very carefully so you won’t misunderstand. I’m gonna give you a word. Don’t jump to any conclusion until I define it. The way you deal with drifting, handling it loosely, laying it aside. It’s no longer in your heart. No longer really in your mind, no longer before your eyes, and therefore not on your lips. The word is repent. Now watch this carefully. Repentance, while the word means change and turn another direction, that will never work until the following thing is true: The motive must be right. If you repent, turn away from this action or this attitude because you’re afraid of God’s judgment, because you fear what may happen to you, it won’t work.
You know what? Before long you’ll be right back at it. The motive must be, I want to turn; I want to repent of this sin because I’m grieved that my relationship to my God is not right. I’m grieved that I’ve grieved Him. Grieved in my heart that I’ve been trying to live and convince and persuade and argue and defend and my relationship with Him has been awesomely damaged. When that is your motive, repentance will be a reality. I’ve just told you the truth. And if you have any truthfulness about you at all you’ll have to say, Well, that’s right.
Now, people say, Well, you know, these Bible-believers. That’s right. So, I wanna ask you to do something because I wanna go on record. I want you to take your Bible in your hand and I wanna be sure in case anybody out there has any doubt about the fact of who we are and what we believe, that we are Bible-believers, but we’re also Bible-carriers, and we’re also Bible-practicers. And ya see, it’s one thing for a few people in the church to have a Bible. But what I wanna say to you is this: We not only believe what we’ve said, we practice it.
I’m gonna ask everybody in here who has a Bible to hold it up. Every single person in here. This is who we are. This is the Book we live by. This is the anchor of our lives. This is the instruction book divinely given by Almighty God. And you can see as you look around, almost everybody in here has one. We always have lots of guests. They don’t always know to bring those. But if you’re a member, more than likely you have one. And we have one simple command: Cling to it. I want you to put it to your breast. Cling to it. Hold it tightly, apply it to your life, live by it, and you’ll experience God’s very best in your life.
If you’re one of those persons who’s never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, what are you gonna say when you stand before Him and He says, This is the standard by which I’m judging you. You’ve neglected it. You’ve denied His Son; you’ve turned away. You let the culture determine your eternal destiny. What in this world are you going to say? You won’t have anything to say. And I want to encourage you to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins and tell Him today that you acknowledge your sinfulness.
You’re not coming to Him because you deserve to be saved. You’re coming asking for mercy. You want Him to forgive you and to save you from your sins. You’re committing yourself to Him. You want to live a godly life. You want to walk in His ways. And you know what’ll happen? He’ll change your life. And what you used to look at and think was so important will lose its importance. And the things you’ve neglected will become the most precious things in your life.
And our Father, how grateful we are for this precious Book, this indestructible, eternal, faithful Word of Yours. I pray that You’ll sink this message into the heart of every single person. Let it cut deeply into the heart of one who has drifted, fallen away, living in sin, but knowing as they’ve listened. I’ve heard the truth. Let there be genuine repentance and a fresh new love and devotion and clinging to the Word, is my prayer in Jesus’s name, amen.