Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pagan Redemption?

I went to the gym on Wednesday morning and put on my MP3 player to listen to a sermon, as is my custom. [Okay, I’ve got to tell you which one, this is a great series! I started to listen to the second sermon in a three-part series on evangelism entitled “Invest and Invite” from Covenant Life Church. The speakers are Joshua Harris, Kenneth Maresco and Eric Simmons]. Part way into this message, my MP3 player quit – the battery ran out of juice.

So, with evangelistic thoughts rattling through my brain and no one else in the gym, I turned to the TV (hey, you don’t expect me to work out on the treadmill in silence, do you?). This is a brand new gym and I hadn’t touched the TVs – I didn’t have a clue how to find a channel on the satellite system. There was a country music video channel on, so I just left it. The first song was something about muddy tires. Whatever. The second song was really, well, way beyond suggestive, but in a PG kind of way, if you know what I mean. You’d have to be rather out of it to not get the message (my kids read this, so I’ll quit there). I don’t know the artist or the title of the song, but what struck me was the juxtaposition of pagan desires and redemptive language. This is nothing new in popular music, of course.

One phrase in particular got my attention; something about washing away their troubles through their romantic encounter. Washing implies dirt. There were several references to problems and conflict in this song – this couple in the song had known each other for quite some time, apparently. Things were not going very well. What was the solution? Well, you know.

Is this a realistic way to find redemption? Is this a long-term solution to relationship difficulties? On the other hand, can we solve life’s problems by the other compulsions in our society, like attaining the perfect – or better – body through diet and exercise? What about a better job, a new truck (I’m in Alberta, remember), a bigger house? Drugs, alcohol? A new TV series? All of these things are part of the treadmill of finding satisfaction, meaning and joy in life. Most people are content in their lives and don’t reflect on the futility of their life pursuits. At least not until a crisis arises (see Ecclesiastes).

My last post was on postmodernism. Most people don’t know or care about these “isms.” They do care about popular music and the worldly pursuits I have listed in the previous paragraph. Once in a while, though, philosophy sneaks into pop culture, even on CMT.

People know that they are out of sync with one another. There is a universal wrongness in this that is much bigger than they can comprehend. That is why they appeal to words like “wash” and “save.” In pop music, we even come across appeals to Jesus (often with the icky adjective “sweet”). The appeals to religious language usually come in order to prop up human effort or confirm human goodness. They are rarely appeals for grace, nor are they intended to give glory to God (compare Romans 1:21).

Much of the evangelical church is having a love-in with postmodernism: “We must embrace postmodernism because this is where the world really is.” The truth is that the Big Things haven’t changed. We’re still battling the world, the flesh and the devil. The Big Things are the holiness of our Creator God and the sinfulness of man. When Paul had an opportunity to speak to Felix and Drusilla, He didn’t debate the influence of various philosophies upon the culture, he spoke about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25). Truth is still truth. God is always sovereign. It is in unregenerate man’s nature to run from God – but no one can hide.

Twenty years ago, I had my first summer intern experience in a church. The pastor told me about “beach ball theology.” The picture is of someone trying desperately to hold a beach ball under the surface of the water when they are chest deep in a lake. They might succeed for a moment if it’s a small ball, but it will wobble and pop up before long. Of course, when it pops up, you try to stuff it down again. Futility.

That might be an interesting mental picture, but what does this have to do with theology? Consider Romans 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (ESV). Truth is the beach ball, sinners are the person in the lake trying to hold down what cannot be contained – for long.

Back to evangelism. The Apostle Paul used the Greek culture as a point of contact when he was in Athens, even though he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16-34). He quickly took his listeners from where they were to where they needed to be – exposed to the reality of the One True God and their need to repent and believe in the One He sent to redeem (and judge) sinners.

I need to do a better job in connecting with unbelievers in Edson. I need to prayerfully look for points of contact in their world. People are hurting and there are signs that they know that something is wrong. However, I must not confuse points of contact with the more important matters of sin and redemption, repentance and faith, grace and judgment. God is holy. Man is sinful. They need reconciliation through the Saviour. These things are universal, timeless and urgent subjects for evangelism.

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