Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Counter Culture BOOK CLUB

A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography by David Platt

Counter Culture by David PlattReading Together ~ Week 1

David Platt, author of Radical, has written an important new book. So important, I believe, that rather than doing one book review, I’m going to review the content chapter by chapter. Here’s our first installment, covering the material through chapter 1 of the book. Note, all of Platt’s royalties from this book will go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.

Each chapter concludes by offering some initial suggestions for practical requests you can pray in light of these issues, potential ways you might engage culture with the gospel, and biblical truths we must proclaim regarding every one of these issues. These suggestions will also direct you to a website (CounterCultureBook.com) where you can explore more specific steps you might take.

Platt starts out by talking about the Gospel. If someone asked you to clearly describe the Gospel would you be able to do it? Platt writes: “The good news that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.

In the Introduction, Platt writes:

  • On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.
  • And what if Christ’s call in our lives is not to comfort in our culture? What if Christ in us actually compels us to counter our culture? Not to quietly sit and watch evolving cultural trends and not to subtly shift our views amid changing cultural tides, but to courageously share and show our convictions through what we say and how we live, even (or especially) when these convictions contradict the popular positions of our day.

Chapter 1: The Greatest Offense: The Gospel and Culture

Platt writes:

  • The gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity, and it provides the foundation for countering culture. For when we truly believe the gospel, we begin to realize that the gospel not only compels Christians to confront social issues in the culture around us. The gospel actually creates confrontation with the culture around—and within—us.
  • One of the core truths of the gospel is that God will judge every person, and he will be just. This puts us in a position where we desperately need his grace.
  • Tell any modern person that there is a God who sustains, owns, defines, rules, and one day will judge him or her, and that person will balk in offense.
  • Do you see the role reversal here? It all begins when the command of God is reduced to questions about God. Is God really holy? Does he really know what is right? Is God really good? Does he really want what is best for me? Amid such questions, man and woman subtly assert themselves not as the ones to be judged by God but as the ones who sit in judgment of him.
  • Godless worldviews thus leave us with a hopeless subjectivity concerning good and evil that is wholly dependent on social constructs. Whatever a culture deems right is right, and whatever a culture deems wrong is wrong. This is precisely the worldview that prevails in American culture today, where rapid shifts in the moral landscape clearly communicate that we no longer believe certain things are inherently right or wrong. Instead, rightness and wrongness is determined by social developments around us.
  • For even as the gospel grounds the definition of good and evil in the character of God, it also claims that evil is not limited to certain types of sin and select groups of sinners. Evil is unfortunately inherent in all of us and therefore unavoidably a part of any culture we create.
  • The essence of what the Bible calls sin is the exaltation of self. God has designed us to put him first in our lives, others next, and ourselves last. Yet sin reverses that order: we put ourselves first, others next (many times in an attempt to use them for ourselves), and God somewhere (if anywhere) in the distant background. We turn from worshiping God to worshiping self.
  • When you put all these truths in the gospel together, you realize that the most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty. Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in his love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from his lordship will suffer everlasting death.
  • I envision three categories of readers for this book. The first category includes readers who don’t believe the gospel. You don’t currently profess to be a Christian, yet for any number of reasons you’re reading this book.
  • The second category of reader is similar to the first in that you don’t believe the gospel. The difference, however, is that you currently profess to be a Christian.
  • The final category of reader includes those who do believe the gospel. I assume this comprises many of those reading this book, and this is certainly the main audience for whom I am writing.
  • In addressing each of these issues, I want to call Christians to conviction. Ultimately, may it be said of us that we not only held firm to the gospel, but that we spoke clearly with the gospel to the most pressing issues of our day. In addition to calling us to conviction, I want to call us to compassion. Based upon his love, I want to call us to action.
  • The goal of this book is not information about the gospel and social issues; it is application of the gospel to social issues.

Next week we’ll look at Chapter 2: Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty. I recommend that you purchase this book and read along with us.

Reading Together ~ Week 2

Chapter 2: Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty

  • If we have clean water, sufficient food and clothes, a roof over our heads at night, access to medicine, a mode of transportation (even if it’s public), and the ability to read a book, then relative to billions of people in the world, we are incredibly wealthy.
  • The more I listened to Jesus, James, and the rest of Scripture, the more it became clear: those who claim to be Christians but refuse to help poverty-stricken people are simply not children of God.
  • Now I know (and want to be careful to communicate) that neither Jesus, James, nor any other writer in Scripture was teaching that care for the poor is a means to salvation. The Bible is clear from cover to cover that humble faith in divine grace is the only means to eternal salvation. We don’t care for the poor because of some superficial sense that we have to but because of a supernatural compulsion that causes us to want to.
  • Instead, real, authentic, sustainable care for the poor will only happen when any low-grade sense of guilt is conquered by a high-grade sense of gospel.
  • From cover to cover in Scripture, we do not read of a God who is tentative toward the poor. Instead, God is extravagant in his eagerness to hear, help, defend, and demonstrate his compassion to them. Therefore, God’s people must be nothing less than these things.
  • I’d like to focus on five simple but significant implications of the gospel for our lives in a world of urgent spiritual and physical poverty.
  • The gospel compels us to work diligently. From the beginning, work has been a mark of human dignity, a fundamental part of God’s plan for people to steward the creation entrusted to them and to develop the culture around them for the common good. Work is one of the most obvious, but often overlooked, ways we provide for the poor. Work is how we make money.
  • God doesn’t command the rich to stop making money; instead, he commands the rich to use their money on earth to store up treasure in eternity. The gospel compels us to live simply.
  • In 1 Timothy, the Bible says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (6:6-8). In these words, Scripture prescribes the antidote: a simple life of contentment that prioritizes necessities and minimizes luxuries.
  • By voluntarily surrendering our riches for others’ good, we avoid the snare and enjoy the contentment that Paul describes.
  • The Bible teaches that God gives us more not so that we can have more but so that we can give more.
  • The gospel compels us to give sacrificially.
  • What would happen if we let the sacrificial love of Christ for us in the gospel create in our lives, families, and churches a sacrificial generosity toward Christian brothers and sisters who are in dire need around the world?
  • The worst thing we can do for the needy is neglect them. The second worst thing we can do is subsidize them, helping people get through a day while ignoring how we can help people get through their lives. Scripture does not call us to rescue lazy people from poverty. Instead, Scripture calls us to serve and supplement the responsible.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to poverty. Many factors lie behind poverty: sinful personal choices, unbiblical worldviews, natural disasters, moral disasters, lack of technological development, inequality of power, corrupt laws and leaders, and so on. What this means, then, is that we must take the time to figure out how to help those in need in ways that reflect their situations.
  • God’s grace in saving and caring for us compels us to invest eternally.
  • Where, then, are we going to invest our lives and specifically our money and our possessions?

Next week, we’ll look at Chapter 3: Modern Holocaust: The Gospel and Abortion. I recommend that you purchase this important new book and read along with us.

Reading Together ~ Week 3

Chapter 3: Modern Holocaust: The Gospel and Abortion

  • For of all the pressing social issues addressed in this book, abortion poses the most clear and present danger to the most people on a daily basis.
  • Across the world, over forty-two million abortions occur every year.
  • The worldwide practice of abortion is why I do not believe it is anywhere close to an overstatement to call abortion a modern holocaust.
  • Conservative estimates reveal that approximately one-third of American women have had (or will have) an abortion at some point in their lives.
  • God the Creator alone has the right to determine when someone lives and dies, and abortion flies directly in the face of his authority.
  • Many people say, “Abortion is such a complex issue, and there just aren’t any easy answers.” But if what is in the womb is a person, then even if someone is proabortion or pro-choice for any number of reasons, all of their reasoning falls apart.
  • Scripture is clear: that womb contains a person being formed in the image of God.
  • An estimated 92 percent of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies.
  • Would we murder a child outside the womb because he or she was conceived by rape? Of course we wouldn’t. Then why would we murder a child inside the womb?
  • Abortion is an affront to God’s authority as Creator, an assault on God’s work in creation, and an attack on God’s relationship with the unborn. Once we realize the severity of abortion before God, the implications of the gospel for abortion become clear.
  • This includes our current president, a man whom I respect deeply and pray for regularly but who is proactively and aggressively working to keep the murder of innocent children legal.
  • If you are a Christian, I plead for you to step out of a muddled middle road that says, “I may not choose abortion, but I don’t think we should take away others’ right to choose it,” and to realize how inconceivable it is for us to stay silent while millions of children—individuals made in the image of God—are dismembered and destroyed around us in the world. Such thinking is not enlightened tolerance; it is sinful indifference. Moral and political neutrality here is not an option for us.
  • If we believe the gospel, then we must speak out against the injustice of abortion.
  • To anyone and everyone who has ever aborted a child, supported abortion, encouraged abortion, performed abortion, permitted abortion, or done nothing about abortion, may the following realities lodge deep within your soul. He forgives entirely, he heals deeply, and he restores completely.

Next week we’ll look at Chapter 4: The Lonely in Families: The Gospel and Orphans and Widows. Won’t you read along with us?

Reading Together ~ Week 4

Chapter 4: The Lonely in Families: The Gospel and Orphans and Widows

  • God used infertility to open our eyes to the orphan crisis around the world. And it is a crisis. Approximately 153 million children live as orphans, meaning they have lost at least one parent. Not included in that number, though, are the millions of effectively orphaned children who live in institutions or on the streets, in addition to vast multitudes who live as “social orphans,” meaning that even if a parent is alive, the children rarely, if ever, see that parent or experience life as part of a family.
  • True religion counters culture and results in sacrificially caring for people who can benefit you the least, who have the least to offer you in return for your kindness.
  • So what does this mean for followers of Christ in a world of 153 million orphans? Moreover, what shall we do in a world filled with 245 million widows, 115 million of whom live in poverty and suffer from social isolation and economic deprivation as a result of losing their husbands?
  • In a culture that increasingly views the orphan and the widow as liabilities, countercultural opportunities for Boaz-like generosity abound all around us.
  • That night, more than 160 families signed up (at his church), to help with foster care and adoption in our county. As a family of faith in Christ we said, “We want to make sure, as best we are able, that every child in our county has loving arms around him or her at night. We want to point every one of these children to the Father of the fatherless and Defender of the weak who cares for them.”
  • We realized that the majority of homes in that community had both orphans and widows living under the same roof. Needless to say, in a culture like this, the opportunities for ministry are many.
  • Christ compels us to counter culture by stepping in to care for orphans and widows when significant people have stepped out of their lives.
  • We must be finished and done with talk in our homes of “not wanting to adopt until we have children of our own” or of “wondering whether we could love a foster child as much as we love our own child.”
  • God is calling every child of his to look after the orphan and the widow in some way.

Reading Together ~ Week 5

Chapter 5 ~ A War on Women: The Gospel and Sex Slavery

•I never could have imagined that there are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the transatlantic slave trade.[38] I never could have comprehended that twenty-seven million people live in slavery today—more than at any other time in history.[39] I never could have fathomed that many of these millions are being bought, sold, and exploited for sex in what has become one of the fastest-growing industries on earth.
•I landed in Atlanta and drove to my home in Birmingham. On Interstate 20. I have grown up going up and down this interstate that spans all the way to west Texas, and I had no idea that it is the “sex trafficking superhighway” of the United States. This same road that represents freedom for ten million travelers every year reflects the reality of slavery for countless girls every night.
•Surveys consistently show that over half of men and increasing numbers of women in churches are actively viewing pornography. Remarkably (but when you think about it, not necessarily surprisingly), statistics are similar for the pastors who lead these churches.
•Research continually demonstrates a clear link between sex trafficking and the production of pornography.
•Every time a man or woman views pornography online, we are contributing to a cycle of sex slavery from the privacy of our own computers. We are fueling an industry that enslaves people for sex in order to satisfy selfish pleasure in our living rooms, our offices, and on our mobile phones.
•Any and every time we indulge in pornography, we deny the precious gospel truth that every man and woman possesses inherent dignity, not to be solicited and sold for sex, but to be valued and treasured as excellent in the eyes of God.
•In Scripture, God takes slavery, a clear product of sin in the world, and turns it into a powerful image of his salvation for the world.
•Quite literally, the Bible says, Jesus became a slave of humanity in order to save humanity.
•The climax of the Christian message is that the Master over the world has become a servant for the world.

Reading Together ~ Week 6

Chapter 6: A Profound Mystery: The Gospel and Marriage

  • Census figures project that nearly half of all first marriages will end in divorce and that’s if men and women even decide to marry. The number of cohabiting couples in our culture has nearly quadrupled over the last thirty years as more and more singles postpone or put aside marriage altogether.
  • Behold the beauty of God’s design for man, woman, and marriage. Two dignified people, both molded in the image of their Maker.
  • Two diverse people, uniquely designed to complement each other. A male and a female fashioned by God to form one flesh, a physical bond between two bodies where the deepest point of union is found at the greatest point of difference. A matrimony marked by unity in diversity, equality with variety, and personal satisfaction through shared consummation.
  • God created the marriage relationship to point to a greater reality. From the moment marriage was instituted, God aimed to give the world an illustration of the gospel.
  • Marriage, according to Ephesians 5, pictures Christ and the church.
  • God designs husbands to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the church in the way they relate to their wives, and God designs wives to be a reflection of the church’s love for Christ in the way they relate to their husbands.
  • One of the effects of sin in Genesis 3 is the tendency for a man to rule his wife in a forceful and oppressive way that denigrates woman’s equal dignity with him.
  • One of the primary reasons why submission and headship are such unpopular and uncomfortable terms for us today—because we’ve seen the dangerous ways these ideas have been exploited.
  • Husbands, love your wives not because of who they are, but because of who Christ is. He loves them deeply, and our responsibility is to reflect his love.
  • Husbands, realize what is at stake here: you and I are representing Christ to a watching world in the way we love our wives.
  • What pictures are our marriages giving to our culture about Christ’s relationship with his church?
  • God’s Word is subtly yet clearly pointing out that God has created women with a unique need to be loved and men with a unique need to be respected.
  • Wives, see yourselves in a complementary, not competitive, relationship with your husband. Yield to leadership in love, knowing that you are representing the church’s relationship to Christ. If you disrespect your husband, you show the world that the church has no respect for Christ.
  • If you are single, for the sake of the gospel, don’t sleep around with any man or woman who is not your husband or wife.
  • All of this is good for us. It is good for husbands to lay down their lives for their wives, and in losing their lives, to find them, just as Jesus promised (see Matthew 10:38-39). Moreover, it is good for wives to receive this love and respect their husbands. I have yet to meet a wife who didn’t want to follow a husband who was sacrificially loving and serving her. Finally, it is good for a single man and a single woman to join together in a supernatural union that God designed to satisfy them both. Yet as long as they remain single (which may be their entire lives, as it was for Christ and has been for many Christians throughout history), it is good to maximize such singleness through purity before God and with a passion to spread the gospel.
  • For these reasons, it is altogether right to be grieved about the redefinition of marriage in our culture. So-called “same-sex marriage” is now recognized as a legitimate entity in the eyes of our government. Such a designation by a government, however, does not change the definition God has established. The only true marriage in God’s eyes remains the exclusive, permanent union of a man and a woman, even as our Supreme Court and state legislatures deliberately defy this reality. Without question, we are living in momentous days—momentous in devastating ways.
  • Ultimately, we do not look to any court or government to define marriage. God has already done that, and his definition cannot be eradicated by a vote of legislators or the opinions of Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Judge of creation has already defined this term once and for all.

Reading Together ~ Week 7

Chapter 7: Bought with a Price: The Gospel and Sexual Morality

  • Our bodies have been created not only by God but also for God. This is a very different starting point than most people have in our culture. We are driven today by whatever can bring our bodies the most pleasure.
  • God wants you to experience the maximum joy for which your body is built, and as the Creator of our bodies, he knows what will bring them the most pleasure.
  • All throughout the Bible he gives us boundaries for how our bodies are to be used. But when we ignore these boundaries, it’s as if we’re saying to God, “You don’t know how this body is to be used. I know better than you do.”
  • There is not one instance in all of God’s Word where God advocates or celebrates sex outside of a marriage relationship between a husband and a wife. Not one.
  • According to God, sex with anyone who is not your husband or your wife is sin, whether that happens before marriage, during marriage, or after marriage. This prohibition also includes sex between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. On this the Bible is explicit.
  • God is clear in his Word that homosexual activity is prohibited.
  • In order to protect us from lusts, greeds, desires, and temptations that give birth to sin, the Bible also prohibits all sexual looking and thinking outside of marriage between a husband and a wife.
  • It is also wrong to provoke sexual desires in others outside of marriage.
  • God prohibits any kind of crude speech, humor, or entertainment that remotely revolves around sexual immorality.
  • Even Christians who refuse to indulge personally in sinful sexual activity often watch movies and shows, read books and articles, and visit Internet sites that highlight, display, promote, or make light of sexual immorality.
  • Ultimately, God prohibits sexual worship—the idolization of sex and infatuation with sexual activity as a fundamental means to personal fulfillment.
  • None of us are innocent of sexual immorality, and none of us are immune to it.
  • We live in a day when saying that heterosexual or homosexual activity is immoral is equivalent to saying a white or black person is inferior. But this line of thought is fundamentally flawed, for it denies the obvious distinction between ethnic identity and sexual activity. Ethnic identity is a morally neutral attribute. However, sexual activity is a morally chosen behavior.
  • We do not always choose our temptations. But we do choose our reactions to those temptations.
  • The Bible is clear and consistent, affirming with one voice from cover to cover that homosexual activity is sexual immorality before God.
  • The reality is that as soon as we advocate homosexual activity, we undercut biblical authority. And in the process of undercutting the authority of the Bible, we are undermining the integrity of the entire gospel. For if the Bible is wrong about certain issues, then who is to say what else the Bible is wrong about?
  • In our thinking, we actually begin to believe that our ways are better than God’s. We take this created gift called sex and use it to question the Creator God, who gave us the gift in the first place. We replace God’s pattern with our preferences, exchanging what God’s Word says about sexuality for what our observation and experience say about it. Yet we’re blind to our own foolishness. It’s as if we’re living out Proverbs 14:12—“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” The real danger here is our claim to know better than God what is best for our bodies and to justify sexual sin as a result.
  • Whether we are men or women, and whether we have heterosexual or homosexual attractions, we all possess sinful sexual desires. We all have darkened hearts that tempt us toward fulfilling those desires outside of marriage between a man and a woman. We all have disordered thoughts that are prone to explain and excuse acting upon those desires, even twisting God’s Word to make it say what we want it to say. We are all personally, biologically, culturally, and spiritually predisposed toward sexual sin—some of us are simply predisposed in ways that are more culturally acceptable. In the end, every single one of us is a sexual sinner. And that means every single one of us is desperate for a Savior.
  • Oh, to think of it! That Jesus, God in the flesh, took the penalty upon himself for all our adultery and all our pornography and every single lust we have ever had or will ever have. Indeed, Jesus has paid a steep price for our bodies.
  • According to the gospel of God’s grace, humbly repentant sexual sinners will enter into heaven. But unrepentant sexual sin will ultimately lead to hell.
  • Rosaria Champagne Butterfield was once a feminist scholar who delighted in disparaging the Bible and all who believe it. Through the compassionate engagement of a pastor who gently responded to a critical editorial she had written in a local newspaper, she saw and heard the gospel. This pastor and his wife showed God’s love to her. She started reading the Bible and wrestling with the question, “Did I really want to understand homosexuality from God’s point of view, or did I just want to argue with him?” This crisis of faith led her to what she describes as “one ordinary day” when she came to Christ. For her to come to Christ was to leave behind not only her lover but her entire lifestyle. The call to follow Christ in Rosaria Butterfield’s life was not an invitation to receive anything she wanted in this world. It was a summons to leave behind everything she had.
  • As the church in our culture, we must make sure not to preach a gospel that merely imagines Christ as the means to a casual, conservative, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. Such a gospel won’t work in the gay and lesbian community—or anywhere else, for that matter. The gospel is a call for every one of us to die—to die to sin and to die to self—and to live with unshakable trust in Christ, choosing to follow his Word even when it brings us into clear confrontation with our culture. Such death to self requires an examination of sexuality in all of us. In what ways are you specifically prone to sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman?
  • Examine what you watch and what you wear.
  • God has not left you in the dark regarding what you should do. “Flee!” he says. “Stop reasoning with sexual immorality, stop rationalizing it, and run from it. Flee every form of sexual immorality as fast as you can!”
  • Whether we’re male or female, married or divorced, single or cohabiting, heterosexual or homosexual, each of us has turned to our own way. But the good news of the gospel is that God has laid the punishment for our sin upon his Son. And for all who daily turn from themselves and trust in him, he promises the peace and calm of Christ himself amid a cultural sea of sexual confusion.
  • Moreover, in that culture, God beckons us to proclaim this gospel. To care enough for one another to call each other to flee from every form of sexual immorality. Not to sit back and stay quiet because that’s more convenient in the culture (or even in the church).

Reading Together ~ Week 8

CHAPTER 8: UNITY IN DIVERSITY: THE GOSPEL AND ETHNICITY

  • I feel inadequate to write this book on so many levels, but that inadequacy may be felt most in this chapter, for even as I have sought to develop friendships, foster partnerships, and forge initiatives that promote unity across ethnic lines, I know there is so much more that needs to be done in my own life and in the church of which I am a part.
  • Instead of being strictly tied to biology, ethnicity is much more fluid, factoring in social, cultural, lingual, historical, and even religious characteristics.
  • it makes no sense, then, to categorize our own country as a nation of black, white, brown, or other “races.” Instead, we are a nation of increasingly diverse people groups. We are Anglo Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, and more. These categories can be subdivided further based upon other ethnolinguistic factors, leading us to realize that we are a nation of unique people groups with diverse histories from different lands with distinct customs and even languages.
  • For in the beginning, sin separated man and woman from God and also from one another. This sin stood (and stands) at the root of ethnic pride and prejudice. When Christ went to the cross, he conquered sin, making the way for people to be free from its hold and restored to God. In so doing, he paved the way for all people to be reconciled to one another. Followers of Christ thus have one “Father” as one “family” in one “household,” with no “dividing wall of hostility” based upon ethnic diversity.
  • if the God of the Bible possesses particular compassion for the immigrant, even equating him or her with the orphan and the widow, and if the cross of Christ is designed to compel outreach across ethnic divisions, then how much more should we as the people of God care for immigrants from other countries in our midst?
  • First and foremost the gospel reminds us that when we are talking about immigrants (legal or illegal), we are talking about men and women made in God’s image and pursued by his grace. Consequently, followers of Christ must see immigrants not as problems to be solved but as people to be loved. The gospel compels us in our culture to decry any and all forms of oppression, exploitation, bigotry, or harassment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status. These are men and women for whom Christ died, and their dignity is no greater or lesser than our own.
  • We have a responsibility before God as citizens under a government to work together to establish and enforce just laws that address immigration. Among other things, such laws should involve securing our borders, holding business owners accountable for hiring practices, and taking essential steps that ensure fairness to taxpaying citizens of our country. Likewise, we have a responsibility before God as citizens under a government to work together to refute and remove unjust laws that oppress immigrants.[95] Failing to act in either of these ways would be to settle for injustice, which would put us out of sync with the gospel.
  • Christians are migrants on this earth, and the more we get involved in the lives of immigrants, the better we will understand the gospel.

Reading Together ~ Week 9

Chapter 9: Christ in the Public Square: The Gospel and Religious Liberty

  • Followers of Christ are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world. According to the US Department of State, Christians face persecution of some kind in more than sixty different countries today.
  • Religious liberty is a rare commodity in the world, and one which is increasingly uncommon in our own culture.
  • The cardinal sin of our culture is to be found intolerant, yet what we mean by intolerant is ironically, well, intolerant.
  • Tolerance implies disagreement. I have to disagree with you in order to tolerate you.
  • It would be wise and helpful for us to patiently consider where each of us is coming from and why we have arrived at our respective conclusions. Based upon these considerations, we can then be free to contemplate how to treat one another with the greatest dignity in view of our differences.
  • Toleration of people requires that we treat one another with equal value, honoring each other’s fundamental human freedom to express private faith in public forums. On the other hand, toleration of beliefs does not require that we accept every idea as equally valid, as if a belief is true, right, or good simply because someone expresses it. In this way, tolerance of a person’s value does not mean I must accept that person’s views.
  • I lament the many ways that Christians express differences in belief devoid of respect for the people with whom we speak. Likewise, I lament the many ways that Christians are labeled intolerant, narrow-minded, and outdated whenever they express biblical beliefs that have persisted throughout centuries. Nowhere are these twin realities more clear than in the current debate over marriage.
  • On the whole, an average of one hundred Christians around the world are killed every month for their faith in Christ (and some estimates have this number much higher. Literally countless others are persecuted through abuse, beatings, imprisonment, torture, and deprivation of food, water, and shelter.
  • (Matthew 5:10-12, Matthew 10:16-18, 22). Even a cursory reading of Gospel passages like these reveals that the more we become like Jesus in this world, the more we will experience what he experienced. Just as it was costly for him to counter culture, it will be costly for us to do the same.
  • It is only when a Christian is public about his or her faith, applying faith in the public square and even proclaiming Christ that persecution will inevitably occur. In other words, as long as our brothers and sisters around the world sit back and accommodate the culture around them, they can avoid suffering. It’s only when they stand up and counter the culture around them with the gospel of Jesus Christ that they will experience suffering.
  • Moreover, in a country where even our own religious liberty is increasingly limited, our suffering brothers and sisters beckon us not to let the cost of following Christ in our culture silence our faith. May we not sit back and accommodate our culture in relative comfort while they stand up and counter their culture at great cost.

Reading Together ~ Week 10

Chapter 10: The Most Urgent Need: The Gospel and the Unreached

  • I’m compelled to ask you and myself three questions as this book closes. These questions are based upon a short biblical account of three men who one day found themselves face-to-face with Jesus on a road in their community.
  • Are we going to follow Jesus with all our lives, no matter where he leads us to go, how countercultural the task is, or what the cost may be for us, our families, and our churches?
  • I’m compelled to ask these three corresponding questions: Are we going to choose comfort or the cross? Are we going to settle for maintenance or sacrifice for mission? And finally, will our lives be marked by indecisive minds or undivided hearts?
  • Here are the days when holding fast to the gospel, actually believing the Bible, and putting it into practice will mean risking your reputation, sacrificing your social status, disagreeing with your closest family and friends, jeopardizing your economic security and earthly stability, giving away your possessions, leaving behind the accolades of the world, and (depending on where and how God leads you) potentially losing your life.
  • It is not possible to love the poor and live in unabated luxury. It is not possible to care for the orphan and the widow without major implications for the makeup of your family. It is not possible to confess gospel convictions about marriage and sexuality without being criticized. It is not possible to profess gospel truth at all and remain popular among all.
  • We constantly see and hear prominent “Christian” leaders leaving behind timeless biblical truth in the name of love for their neighbor and tolerance in the culture. Yet how is it loving to lie to our neighbors, twisting truth to fit their (and our) liking, and ultimately leading them (and us) further from God? And don’t we see that authentic tolerance doesn’t mask truth but magnifies it, showing us how to love and serve one another in view of our differences?
  • Christ is not callous toward earthly needs. But he is even more passionate about eternal needs. The reason he came was to reconcile people to God.
  • We cannot—we must not—stay silent with this gospel. Gospel possession requires gospel proclamation.
  • We care much about earthly suffering, but we care most about eternal suffering.
  • So how many people groups are still unreached? More than six thousand—a population of at least two billion people.
  • Jesus Christ has given us marching orders, and they are clear. Proclaim the gospel—the good news of God’s great love for us in Christ—to every people group on the planet. So how is it possible that two thousand years later six thousand people groups are still classified as unreached?
  • We have settled into a status quo where we’re content to sit idly by while literally billions of people die without ever hearing the gospel. Surely this is the greatest social injustice in the entire world, over and above all the other issues we have considered.
  • When will the concept of unreached peoples become intolerable to the church?
  • Jesus has not given us a commission to consider; he has given us a command to obey.
  • The gospel compels us to counter culture regardless of cost—to risk our lives, our families, our future, our plans, and our possessions—for the sake of one reward: the proclamation of the greatest news in order to meet people’s greatest need.
  • Surely he means for us to act in at least the ways we have explored at the end of each chapter in this book: praying to him, participating with him, and proclaiming his Word in the world around us.
  • Our website points you to specific prayer points for each of the issues addressed in this book—CounterCultureBook.com.
  • May our prayers then lead to participation with God in the world around us. One of the primary ways this may play out is in our giving.
  • CounterCultureBook.com also contains links to ministries with which you or your local church might partner in giving.
  • As we pray and give, I trust that God will lead us to go. I use “go” generally here to refer to the many other actions God may lead us to take.
  • CounterCultureBook.com also includes initial ideas for you to consider as you contemplate specific ways God may call you to act upon his Word.

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