Robert Jeffress - Determine To Influence Your Culture
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". As Christians, it's natural to want to protect yourself and your family from the negative influences of our culture. But history shows that those who want to experience a significant life, strive to influence the world rather than isolate themselves from the world. That was certainly true for the prophet Elijah and we should have that same passion for the people and nations around us. My message is titled "Secret Number Two: Determine to Influence Your Culture," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Billy Graham was on the cutting edge of the culture for more than 50 years. Yes, he was known for preaching the Gospel in crusades all across the world where millions came to know Christ as Savior. But even though preaching the Gospel was his primary function, it wasn't his only function. Billy Graham never shrinked away from addressing the spiritual and moral decay of our culture. Way back in 1965, in his book "World aflame," Billy Graham hit upon a persistent problem confronting our culture. He wrote, "In a declining culture, one of its characteristics is that ordinary people are unaware of what is happening. Modern man has become a spectator of world events, observing on his television screen without becoming involved. He watches the ominous events while he sips his beer in a comfortable chair. He does not understand that his world is on fire and that he is about to be burned with it".
That ordinary man was me early in my ministry. No, I wasn't at home sipping beer, I can assure you of that. But I would come home from working at the church, sit in my chair, turn on the television news and just cluck my tongue over the sad situation we were living in. I actually believed that as long as I preached the Gospel every Sunday and did that faithfully, that neither me nor my church had to worry about being engulfed in the flames of the culture. I soon discovered how wrong I was about that. My awakening occurred in 1998. I was pastoring the First Baptist Church in Wichita falls and one day one of our members came into my office. She happened to work at the local library and she had two books with her, two children's books that had been in the library. They were children's books written to extol the virtues of homosexuality to children.
The books, which are infamous now, were titled "Daddy's Roommate" and "Heather Has Two Mommies". The books were written from a child's point of view trying to normalize homosexual behavior. One book, "Daddy's Roommate," was told by a little boy who explains in the book that his father left his mother in order to be with his friend named Frank. And in this children's book were children's illustrations where the little boy is telling what his daddy and his new friend Frank did together. And on one page, it says, "Daddy and Frank eat together". Then the next page, "Daddy and Frank play together". And then the next page, "And daddy and Frank sleep together". And there was a children's illustration of two men in bed with one another while the boy is talking about what his dad and his new friend do.
Well, the librarian, the person who worked at the library, brought those books to me, dropped them on my desk and said, "Now pastor, what are you going to do about these books"? I thought to myself, "What do you mean what am I going to do with these books? I'm busy preparing my sermon for Sunday. I don't have time to get involved with that". But it just happened that I was preaching through the book of Genesis in a year-long series and that upcoming Sunday, that next Sunday, my text was Genesis 19 about God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just happened, that happened to be the sermon that week. And I'd already prepared most of my message and one of the application points was as Christians, we cannot condone what God has condemned. And I said to myself, "Self, how am I going to stand up and preach that a straight face and not do something about this"?
Now I didn't want to cause any kind of ruckus at all. I thought I could just have an amicable discussion with the local librarian about it. So I was driving home on Thursday afternoon and I called her on my mobile phone and I explained to her the situation. I said, "Now, I know you're probably not aware that these books are in the children's section of your library. But this one book, especially, two men in bed together, I mean, given the fact that homosexual behavior is illegal in the state of Texas," and it was at that time, "given the fact that homosexual behavior is responsible, largely, for one of the greatest epidemics in mankind, aids, and given the fact that homosexuality is condemned by all three major world religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, I'm sure you'd like to remove these books now that you know they're there". And she basically said, "Not on your life. I'm not removing those books" and accused me of everything under the sun.
Well, I knew we had a problem at that point. So I thought about what I was going to do. So the next Sunday morning, I took those books with me in the pulpit and I gave that point, "We cannot condone what God has condemned," and I explained my dilemma. And I hadn't planned to do this, but the more I thought about it, the more worked up I got. And I held those library books up, and we were on live TV at the time, and I said, "Therefore, I'm not returning these books to the library. You're going to have to come and get 'em if you want 'em". Well, that set off a fire storm you cannot imagine. Not just in our local community, but in the nation as well. "The pastor who stole the library books," that's what I became known as. And so the local newspaper, which hated me already, they said, in their next editorial, because of what I had done, I ought to be thrown into jail immediately and incarcerated.
There was a lawsuit, a federal lawsuit, filed against our city. For the next two years, nothing but scathing letters denouncing me and our church in our local newspaper. In fact, the debate got so serious that PBS actually came from New York and filmed a one hour documentary about this controversy that a pastor had caused in a small west Texas town. You know, that was my baptism with fire. I was aware of what Romans 12:18 says, "As far as is possible with you, live at peace with all men". But I discovered through that experience that it is difficult to live at peace with a culture that is at odds with God. And Christians who want to make a significant difference in this world are going to learn that lesson. And that brings us to what we're talking about in this series on Elijah, "Choosing an extraordinary life". We're discovering from the life of Elijah, his seven secrets for living a spiritually significant life even though he was just an ordinary person.
Last time we looked at the secret, the foundational secret, discovering your life purpose. But today we're going to begin looking, this time and next time, at the second secret of spiritual significance and that is determining to impact your culture, determining to influence your culture for God. Let's first of all, look at God's mandate to actually even care for our culture. You know, some people actually believe that God has no interest in what is happening in the world. And yet from the very beginning, God gave man the mandate to take care of the world in which he placed him. In Genesis 2:15, the Bible says, "The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it". God's interest, listen to this, God's interests extend beyond the four walls of the church. God is not only interested in religious institutions, he's interested in the whole world. And that's why God said to Adam, "I want you to cultivate the earth and to keep it".
And that leads me to a definition of culture, write this down. Culture is what human beings make of the world. When we talk about culture, we're talking about what human beings make of the world. Now, to be honest, human beings have done some good things for this world. They have made some improvements in this world. For example, walking is good, but if you're in an emergency and you need to get to the hospital, driving is better, isn't it? It's good that we have an automobile rather than being confined to walking all of the time. Writing a letter, that's a good thing, but if you have a pressing problem at your business that you need input from others on, email is even better, isn't it? Who today would want to trade laser surgery for surgery 150 years ago that basically consisted of a sharp knife and no anesthetic.
I mean we have improved things. We have cultivated the earth that God has planted us in. That is a good thing. But if we are honest, we would also say that there has been a deterioration of our world as well. In the last hundred years, the last 150 years, look at the changes you've seen in our own country. 150 years ago, there was no doubt that this was a nation that was built on the Judeo-Christian ethic. Today, our country's being guided by moral relativism and by postmodernism. What is our place in that culture that seems to be unraveling more day after day? Well, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul gives us an interesting word picture of what we're to be in this deteriorating culture. He said, "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".
Last time we talked about the story that God is writing in your life right now. Your story is like a poem God is writing through your life, not to be put on the shelf somewhere, but to be read by those around you. God wants others you come in contact with to see your life story, to see your stand for God. Of course, the key word is "Come in contact with". To influence our culture, we have to come in contact with our culture. More about that in just a moment. But let's expand this idea of culture and talk about what it means for ordinary people to cultivate their culture. Perhaps you're like this, perhaps you're thinking to yourself, I can't have any influence on the culture.
When you think about the culture, you think about what's happening in Washington, D.C. or in Hollywood, California, and you think, "That's the culture, I'm powerless to have any influence over it". But remember, culture is what you make of the world, specifically, the world God has placed you in. You are in a particular culture in your home, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, and your job is to influence that culture. Perhaps you're a stay-at-home mom and you think, "I couldn't have any influence on the culture of our nation". But look, God has given you a great influence over those children in your home. Think about Hannah in the Old Testament. For years she prayed that God would give her a child, and finally he answered her prayer and gave her Samuel. She faithfully taught Samuel the fear of the Lord, the Word of God, and then she delivered him to Eli who trained him further and Samuel became a mighty prophet of God who greatly influenced the nation for good. Did Hannah influence her culture? Of course she did.
Maybe you're a student right now in junior high, high school, or college. For you, your culture is that school where God has placed you. Teenagers listening, don't underestimate the impact you can make right where you are, your culture, your school. When I was in the ninth grade, I attended this church, had been here all of my life, I wasn't a particularly spiritual person at all. I just kinda came to church like everybody else did. But one day when I was at the west junior high school in Richardson, Texas, one of my teachers asked me if I would stay behind school and visit with her. I didn't feel like I had any choice, so I said, "Yes, I'd be happy to meet with you". And she was a Christian, even though we were in a secular high school, and I'll never forget where we were seated in that classroom and she said, "Robert, have you ever thought about the fact that God has placed you in this school with 3.000 people for a reason and that reason is to lead other students to Christ"?
Honestly, that thought had never crossed my mind. And she said, "I want to give you a challenge and that is to make a list of five of your classmates who aren't Christians and to commit to pray for their salvation and commit that sometime during this year, you're going to share your faith with them". And honestly, I don't know why I agreed to do that, but there is something about that that kind of captivated my interest, the idea that maybe God had a bigger purpose for my life than simply going to school every day. And so I went home that night and I made a list of five people I knew who weren't Christians and I made a commitment to the Lord that I would pray for them and witness to them.
The first guy on my list was a student named Nick. Nick is what we used to call back then a hood. He wore the black leather jacket. He would hang out during the breaks in the smoking area of the school. Can you believe we had smoking areas where students actually went to smoke? But we did and that's where Nick hung out. I mean, he looked like he was straight out of the cast of "West side story". Everybody was afraid of Nick because of his reputation. One day I screwed up the courage and I said, "Nick, could I meet with you after school today"? "What for? What do you want to meet with me for"? I said, "Well, I just want to talk to you about something". And he agreed.
So we sat in our history class, vacant classroom, and I shared with him the four spiritual laws. And I remember closing by saying, "Nick, is there any reason you wouldn't want to become a Christian today"? He said, "No, there's no reason. In fact, I think that's something I would like to do". And he prayed with me to trust in Christ as his Savior. Little did I know, little did he know, that he had a brain tumor growing in his brain and within nine months, he was dead. That was the first person. That year, I saw every one of those students I had committed to pray for and share with come to faith in Christ.
Now, I'll be the first to admit, my five converts did not match Billy Graham's hundreds of thousands of converts. He preached in football stadiums. He influenced Hollywood luminaries and presidents. He had a worldwide impact, but that was the culture God had placed him. My culture was that little corner of the world, west junior high school in Richardson, Texas. What I'm saying to you is, don't ever underestimate your ability to change your culture, wherever God has placed you. Your home, your workplace, your neighborhood, your family, God has placed you there for a reason. And you know what? When you're faithful to be that representative for Christ wherever you are, don't be surprised if God doesn't expand your territory and your influence beyond that.
That's exactly what happened with Elijah. You know, God left us here not to isolate ourselves from the culture, not to identify with the culture, but to influence the culture. And yet I think you'd have to agree with me on the whole, Christians aren't doing that great of a job of influencing the culture, are we? I mean look at what's happening. And that's amazing when you see our culture unraveling with as many Christians as there are in this country supposedly. You know, one survey says that one fourth of the U.S. population claims to be evangelical Christian. One fourth of 300 million would be 75 million people claim to be Christians. Somebody put that in perspective pretty well. You know, a pound of meat would probably be influenced by a quarter pound of salt, don't you think? Doesn't take much salt to impact meat. If you had a quarter pound of salt, you could really flavor a pound of meat.
If a quarter of our population are Christians, why are we having zero influence on this culture? I think there are two reasons that I want to mention to you today. One reason is some Christians have become what I call silo saints. Instead of being salt that penetrates the meat, flavors the meat, preserves the meat, these Christians remain in the salt shaker, totally isolated from the meat. They become silo saints and they actually pride themselves on that and say, "Oh, I don't want to get involved in the culture. I could pollute myself or I could pollute my family if I do that". In fact, some Christians have even come up with a theological justification for what they're doing. A popular book right now is called "The Benedict Option". I hate even giving the book a plug 'cause it is so insidious. But it's written by a Christian and he claims that Christians ought to follow the example of that monastic church leader, St. Benedict, who basically said to his followers, "Let's just get in our holy huddle and try to encourage one another in these dark days and pray that bad people don't do anything evil to us". Is that what God has called us to do? No, but there are many Christians who fall for that and even justify that.
Not long ago, I was on a panel discussion at a seminary and during the Q&A time, one of the students asked me this question. "Robert Jeffress Sermons]Dr. Jeffress[/url], why do you feel that conservative Christians have the right to impose their values on a secular pluralistic society? Why do conservative Christians have the right to impose their values on a secular society"? And my answer to him was, "Look, society is always going to be influenced by somebody's set of values. The only question is whose values are going to impact a society"? Some set of values impact any culture.
"For the first," and I gave him an illustration. I said, "For example, for the first 160 years of our nation's history, we said that marriage should be between one man and one woman. That was the biblical principle, one man and one woman". In 1885, the supreme court, Murphy versus Ramsey, said, "Marriage is a holy state of God consisting of the union of one man and one woman". That was our value that was imposed, if you will, by our adherence to the Judeo-Christian belief. But then suddenly in 2015, the supreme court decided to change that in Obergefell versus Hodges. They said, "We're going to have a new set of values that influence our policy". "The new value is marriage is whatever you want it to be". And the supreme court imposed that value on our nation, and believe me, it is imposed on us.