I went to college. It’s a wild place. For three years, I was about the only person I knew that didn’t party, didn’t drink, didn’t have indiscriminate sex with people on campus. I played college football. A locker room full of testosterone and little parent supervision is about the most God-less place on the Earth. Now, don’t get me wrong– I love my teammates, and I miss them all dearly. But to say that a college football locker room is “kid-friendly” is an asinine statement. I work a full-time, secular job. I hear the cuss words fly. I get invited “out for drinks after work.” A fair percentage of my coworkers are divorced and essentially all of them, as far as I can tell, are unbelievers.
Now, I’m not sitting here trying to toot my own horn. Perhaps it appears that way. Don’t let it. The reason I bring up these experiences in my own life is because perhaps one of the more pervasive myths in Christianity falls right in line with these personal anecdotes. You see, the American Church has a generation gap. The majority of our church members are over the age of the 30. In many churches in the South, especially the rural south, all you need to do is walk in and look around— there are not many younger people in there. Many, many people are starting to lose interest in being involved in a church. Many, many of these people are younger, single, college-age-type kids. I have spent years around people with the same background as me, yet I am a believer, and they are not. To give you a small story, which in no way reflects a national trend necessarily, I began my church youth career with about 20 kids in my Sunday School class on a weekly basis. By my high school graduation, that number was at about 7. Now, when I occasionally go home, the number of kids my age ranges from 2-3. The drop off is severe. Why is that?
Now, there are many reasons for this, which we won’t necessarily get into in this blog because I’m not concerned with church attendance. Churches probably need to be smaller, anyway. What we are going to address is one of the most pressing issues in our churches today. We are going to debunk the myth that the rest of the world is to blame for “Christians” losing their marbles and living a sinful, worldly lifestyle once that have a little bit of freedom. Too often, we have too many members, ourselves included, pointing at the world outside, saying, “It was different back in the day.” We see many people becoming “brainwashed,” and we want to press blame somewhere other than the mirror. It’s not college’s fault. It’s not Twitter’s fault. It’s not Call of Duty‘s fault.
It’s largely, probably your fault.
The real world is not ruining our good, Christian kids because… well… maybe they aren’t good Christian kids. We’re going to examine one things that will help parse out this ridiculous blame game. And hopefully, if you’re a believer, this will call you to action. That is my prayer.
Stop telling lies
It’s a tough thing to face the truth. Perhaps this is one of the key reasons why so many people fall victim the world: they’ve spent their whole childhood being lied to. You’re told that being mean and talking down to people is bad. But when that coworker raises their voice at you, it feels good to put them in their place. As we grow older, often we have a paradigm shift as things get exposed. One of the primary and most potent examples of this paradigm shift is the Disney Gospel.
I’m not sure if I stole this term, and if I did, I apologize to that person who will never read this blog. Anyway, what is the Disney Gospel? Well, simply put, the Disney Gospel is the Gospel by which God saves good people, and deep down, everybody is inherently a good person. Let me take a shot at a crowd favorite– Aladdin. Aladdin is the beloved hero of the story, except, well, he’s a thief. And he also is a bit manipulative. We write him off as having a virtuous reason for all of this, out of love. But that doesn’t negate the fact that he steals and lies. “Cooper, you’re reading too far into this movie.” Maybe. But the point I’m making is the movie is, at the very least, giving off the subliminal message that lying and stealing are okay as long as your motives are good enough. Aladdin is good person deep down, right? Wrong. And you’re no different than Aladdin.
Romans 3:10: “…’For there is none righteous; no, not one.'” The Greek word translated as “none” means “literally zero” in the Greek. Yes, I partially made that up. But there is none righteous. There are zero people in history, save one, that was not a sinner. Does this mean that all human action and decision is nefarious and sinful? No. Even nonbelievers are very much capable of doing good. But no one is good. Many of us get to college, adulthood, the work force, and all of a sudden, this becomes apparent. We tell little Johnny growing up that he’s a good person because he’s not a serial killer. We make excuses, inaccurately throwing “thou shalt not judge” around like we’re Oprah, painting ourselves into a corner.
The real world is not ruining you or your friends or your kids. In a lot of ways, it’s telling them the truth because we have been lying to them. You’ve told them or yourself for years that your political party is infallible, going to church means being a Christian, they’re good people no matter what their ex-boyfriend says, and the coach just doesn’t like them– that’s why they aren’t playing. The work force, Twitter, YouTube, college… those things are not going to brainwash them because they were already lost. We spend half of our lives thinking we are good enough, by our very existence, to get into Heaven. It’s not happening. We have never explained to people the real meaning of the Gospel, the Church, who Jesus is, etc.
We explain to them that going to Sunday school is good enough. Owning a Bible, but not reading it, is good enough. Christmas is just Jesus’ birthday. You can watch that movie as long as you close your eyes during the sex scenes. Listening to that explicit album is fine, just don’t repeat it. If you’re going to get drunk, leave your keys on the counter. Breaking news: the real world doesn’t work that way. You built something out of ice, hoping they would think it’s glass. When it starts to melt, you’re surprised they abandon it. Why so surprised? The world can’t ruin your good kids— they’re not good. And when they choose the “wrong” thing, perhaps it’s simply just because you never showed them the right thing. Many, many people hit the real world and realize they lived in a facade their entire childhood. So, don’t put up the facade.
You must assent to three things:
1. You’re not good, and neither are the ones you love.
Romans 3:10 told us this, a reference to Psalm 14, which says the same thing. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 through 7 proves to us in more ways than one that even the thought of sin makes us guilty. With Adam we died. There are no foreign entities outside of your family that are capable of corrupting your children, your spouse, your parents– they’re already corrupt. They are, if not believers, “dead in their trespasses and sins.”
2. The only person that can make you good is Christ.
God is good, and good is God. You’re not good because you’re not God. But you can be adopted into his family. Christ will become your advocate (1 John 2) if you choose to respond to his Gospel by accepting the free gift of salvation (Romans 10:9-10). I had a coworker tell me just recently that she thinks her purpose in life is to help people. I asked her, “Help people what exactly?” And she didn’t have much of an answer. That’s because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. She just knows people struggle. Come all who are broken and weary, and he shall give you rest. God can make you good. He’s the only one who can, actually. When we lose sight of this, we lose sight of our purpose. More importantly, we lose sight of our value. So, we ask the world to fill that void. Too bad it’s a bottomless pit. You’re not good, so don’t chase it. God’s got it for free.
3. The perseverance of the saints is one of the tell-tale signs.
None of us can definitely say you are saved or not. We can guess based on nonsense. Or we could guess, respectively, by looking at your fruit. Better yet, we could take perhaps the simplest litmus test Jesus ever gave:
Jesus said to the Jews who believed, "If you abide in my word, you truly are my disciples. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." John 8:31-32 (ESV)
If you abide in the word of Christ, then you are his disciples. He didn’t say you then become his disciple. He said abiding in his word means you are his disciple. It’s the proof. So, the test is very simple. You abide in his word, and you prove your discipleship. Or you don’t, and you don’t. It’s your choice. It’s very simple.
The real world is not ruining your kids, your friends, your family. They are already ruined– by sin. The real world is exposing who they really are and what sin really does to us. That’s scary. It’s defeating. At times, it’s hopeless. But it doesn’t have to be. Christ died once for all who would believe in his saving work on the Cross. The world may try to steal your kids, but God wants to have a relationship with them. Don’t let them go by the wayside before you make his gospel known.
And stop blaming Twitter.
Own your faith, own the brand, and own the Cross.
Your family, friends, coworkers, and even the world desperately need it.
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