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Hearts and Minds — Changing Institutions of Thought

To change the results of elections, we must change the culture. To change the culture, we must change the church. To change the church, we must change ourselves. To change ourselves requires Christ.

That is a guiding formula. Change will not come to this country without change coming to the church. And change will not arrive in the church without hearts and minds being changed, transformed, renewed by the unvarnished truth.

Modern revisionism aside, the United States was built on a Christian foundation, from the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock to the Founding Fathers, the basis was formed by a people who were majority Christian, large majority. The non-Christians are well known precisely because they were the exceptions. But we began slipping down the slope, away from the truth. People kept going to church, but it became more a function of routine, tradition or essentially networking. Exalting Christ and dying to oneself became foreign. Hearts began hardening. By the 20th century, the outward edifices remained strong, but the inward church was dwindling, weakening, crumbling.

The rise of secularism, given boost by newly secular scientists and “discoveries” from the theory of evolution to the theory of the multiverse, did not pave the way for anything happening now. The church had paved the way before those — Christians and other church members had paved the way by not adhering to and living the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Secularism had already found fertile ground by the time it busted above the surface in the 1960s. It was long in the classroom and academia. It was en route to overtaking the media and Hollywood. This most recent election that shocked so many Christians was merely another step down this long march to a secular nation that will not live under the blessings of our Creator.

To sum it up in reverse, Christians diminished themselves spiritually by accommodating the world around them. That diminished the church and that in turn diminished the nation to where what was once thought absurdly immoral — abortion — is now required by law for church institutions to provide.

There is only one way to turn it around.

Look in the mirror. Whose looking back?

That’s who has to change first.

I’ve said this in church many times: Change always starts with me.

There are several drivers of public opinion: schools, popular entertainment, academia and the media. But they are all filled with people — an awful lot of people who do not know the truth found in Christ. But many of them have been able to live their whole lives without getting a clear presentation of the gospel by Christians clearly living it.

Those institutions will never change until most of the people in them know the truth.

And that’s the job of Christians.

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Discussion

8 thoughts on “Hearts and Minds — Changing Institutions of Thought

  1. So we invite more people to church… but not just any church. We choose churches that accept & love everyone with the love of Christ. The problem with many churches is they are ran by people… people who are ugly & flawed. Churches are entrusted to people, but must be RUN BY JESUS. Christians must find homes in churches that preach Jesus’ Love…. if we invite non-believers to Churches who focus UPWARD on JESUS and not on fixing humans- they will find a home. If people find a home in church, JESUS & the HOLY SPIRIT will change them. I am not saying any Christian faith is BAD, but there are many denominations that are not welcoming to broken people… we can not bring broken people to unwelcoming churches- they will only become more hardened against Jesus- and more emboldened as atheists… Atheists believe there is no GOD because they have never seen him in action- as Christians we need to be proof of God….sadly, we have failed. I go to a Vineyard Church, whose denomination is non-denominational. I cannot speak for a Vineyards, as I have only been to 1, but we are taught to love everyone, like Jesus did. Only by showing the love of Jesus will be open hearts & change minds.

    Posted by Angie Fritz Nichols | November 13, 2012, 8:23 PM
  2. Angie, you’re right that Christians can’t “fix” other Christians, or not-yet Christians, by focusing on solely on things they may have wrong in their lives. The best, purest fixer is always the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. Our first commandment is to love and embrace and welcome them. However, there are caveats. God does not want immoral behavior tolerated in the church. There are examples and teachings of this in the New Testament. Jesus said, Be ye holy as I am holy. That is what we are all told to strive after. In Gal. 6:1, it says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” We too often miss either the “restore him” or the “gently.”

    But what we are not allowed to do is let him continue in his sin — for his own sake. Also in Galations 6: “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” It is love that should drive us to help correct them, to show them the path away from “destruction.” But even that has its limits with the Lord.

    Throughout the New Testament is a pattern of teaching right from wrong, and exhorting each other to the most holy. Christ established authority and responsibility among elders and pastors for a reason. So if someone does not want to change — say the most extremes, adultery, stealing, drunkenness — what is the church to do? Well, it is laid out in Matthew 18 to go to the brethren who is in sin and if they don’t change, take another with you and if they don’t change take them before the elders, and if they don’t change, show them the door. Now that person might think the church is being all judgmental and unloving. But it is being Godly, according to the Bible.

    A key is to be “gentle” in doing so, to “speak the truth in love” as it says in Ephesians. But speak the truth, we must, or we are in danger of cherry-picking the scriptures, which never ends well. I know we often get it wrong, but the balance of doing it while being loving and gentle is commanded.

    Make sense?

    Posted by rodthomson | November 14, 2012, 8:33 AM
  3. Joyful Watchman,

    1. Should it be our goal to change the results of elections? As a foundational question, I think that it is worth asking, or at least: What priority should we assign to winning elections, and what hope should we take in such a matter? Perhaps winning elections is part of the problem, not the solution. Is it hoping in the flesh?

    For that matter, patriotism might be one of the great hang ups that keeps us from loving the poor believers in other parts of the world. Patriotism might be that which keeps the believers from being a blessings to all the people groups of the world (Gen. 12, Rev. 5:9). We are part of a different nation. I believe that it is worth our times to put these ideas before God and the Scriptures.

    2. Does it matter to those taking over that it WAS a Christian nation? What do we do now that apparently IS a secular country? One might suggest that, just as the Christian majority got to rule it then, the secular majority should be able to run our country now.

    What do most Christians mean when they lay claim to the foundation of the USA? “That is mine. Give it back”? “I’m the rightful owner”? Or, are we saying “If there was a great idea, it was a idea from God?” “God’s ideas work.”

    Also, we must remember that with the argument that this nation was a Christian nation comes the argument, which is justified, that those Christians has a few really bad ideas, too.

    3. Is it right to say that, from you article, the turn of events that that solidified the modern problem is evolution? Can you approach any meaningful solutions to problems without first dismantling the lie that evolution is fact?

    4. Unpacked, what does this mean: “without getting a clear presentation of the gospel by Christians clearly living it.” When Christians read that, how wide is the spectrum of its meaning?

    Blessings,

    Nate

    Posted by Nate Davis | November 14, 2012, 10:44 AM
    • Nate, you ask a book full of questions. I would be interested in some of your answers, which I suspect you have — at least on a few. But let me tackle some.

      1) Yes and no. (Like it so far?) Yes in that in a democracy we as citizens have an opportunity and responsibility to affect the government and the country that we live in and leave to our children. We Americans have had a pretty comfortable and blessed life, in large part on the shoulders of what others did before us. Do we not have a similar responsibility to those who come after us?

      No, in the sense that elections will take care of themselves when the hearts and minds of the people are Christ-ward. If the majority reject the truth, elections cannot be won with Christian principles. If a majority accept and walk in the truth, elections will be won on those principles. So for the vast majority of Christians who are not politicians or strategists, there is the responsibility to vote and the obligation to evangelize.

      2) I think most mean, I do anyway, Christian principles practiced by Christian men and women were at the foundation of the nation. I don’t have any more ownership than anyone else, but those people and their ideas were foundational. Taking it back therefore means returning to the founding principles and voiding the modern ways.

      3) I think Darwinian evolution has played a mammoth role in undermining the foundations — and continues to.

      4) Very wide. But there is a general core of the faith that has existed nearly from the beginning that might be essentially summed up in the Apostle’s Creed. And living it is one of those things that believers and non-believers alike might have a hard time describing, but know it when they see it. And most of us Christians know when we are and when we aren’t.

      Posted by rodthomson | November 14, 2012, 6:28 PM
  4. The yes and no part was easy. After that it got harder and now your asking me questions!

    I have written far more than I expected below, and I find myself thinking of things that I have not considered in depth before. That is why I am willing to persist with the long answers.

    1. Here is one example worth consideration on issue of changing elections. If I knew that there was no means for the government to stop abortion, I might focus my efforts on making abortion unthinkable, rather than illegal. That is what Justice for All did. If they had a bit of the the budget that some of the groups lobbying for babies had, I am convinced that they make more of a difference. When you take the hope away, people solve problems differently. It seems to me that God likes this “hopeless” thinking more than hoping in a government. I have more thoughts, but that is a start.

    “We Americans have had a pretty comfortable and blessed life, in large part on the shoulders of what others did before us.” I think that your cause-effect relationship may not be as concrete as I would like. A few observations: From a material standpoint, the people of Singapore or Japan are pretty blessed. You could say that they are blessed because we are blessed or because we beat back communism. I could say that communism arose because we never sent out missionaries. We won a bloody war to defeat tyrants, but maybe that was the long, painful road. Maybe we missed the chance to take the shorter road by being committed to take the great news about Jesus long before the war. I am just saying that it is hard to make conclusions without all things being constant.

    Do we have a responsibility to those who come after us? No. Being bought at a price we owe one thing (our entire life) to one person (God).

    Concerning patriotism, I think that I would have to fish for some opinions against the idea, which may be hard to find. The Amish are intentionally non-patriotic.

    I will say that love for the country seems to me to prohibit a concern for the glory of God in the world. Our fellowships would be more missional if we were not so beholden to the great American experiment. Here is my hypothesis: we haven’t reached the world for Christ or experienced what good he brings to the world, because we are too busy spending time and money on navel gazing. Oh, maybe it is more than navel gazing. It is passionate patriotism and politics. That passion draws us from what is on God’s heart, which is witnessing to the other 6.7 billion people in the world. I can’t explain all of my thoughts on this, but I feel from the Holy Spirit that there is something important here. Would you give up your citizenship and plant your family someplace else in the world?

    You mentioned “vote and evangelize.” Are you advocating that God is calling us (as a group) to do less than we normally do? What are we doing now? Are we voting and promoting? Or, are we as a group voting and promoting, but not evangelizing?

    2. America fought a bloody revolution, but India earned its freedom from British rule with a completely different method (albeit 171 years later). Is it safe to assume that the motive, method and timing of the revolutionary war was ordained of God? I would argue that the belief that it was fully ordained by God is a part of American Christian’s theology. I am not sure what to think about that.

    I am comfortable saying that God has some brilliant ideas in the Bible and we are fortunate to have some folks who discovered some of them and formed a government around them. That idea is completely brilliant. However, I do not hear people quoting scripture in order to support this claim. I find a bunch of pertinent scripture related to government, but I don’t read any verses that would lead me to set up a government exactly like ours, or even all that similar.

    I am also comfortable with saying that when some people follow Jesus and their morality affects society (it doesn’t work in a relativistic society) then suffering decreases and blessing increases. America has enjoyed that for centuries.

    I would also say that America apparently failed to effectively witness to the ‘savages,’ which would be a biblical principle. I could think of a lot of the Bible that the first Americans did not apply. That kind of ties into my thoughts about #4.

    3. I’m with you on Darwin, 145%.

    4. As we have spoken before, the ‘very wide’ does not hit many of those things that we have talked about that make a big difference, but are considered “non-essential.” I question whether repentance can be deep enough or long lasting enough without less general conviction. Without conviction on a broadly across all areas of our lives, I am wondering how much “clearly living it” we can see.

    Posted by Nate Davis | November 14, 2012, 11:25 PM
  5. #4. One more thought… Matthew 7:13 seems to suggest that evangelism is difficult strategy for winning an election in a representative democracy.

    Posted by Nate Davis | November 14, 2012, 11:45 PM
  6. Nate,

    I think the causal affect of those who came before us is about as literal and demonstrative as possible. Simply looking around, living life and recognizing. You raise hypotheticals about if we had been more mission-oriented, or other what-ifs. But I am dealing in what actually did happen. And what did happen was inventions, locomotion, railroads, electricity, lights, combustion engines, cars, roads, planes, air conditioning, central heat, medicine, greater food supplies and options, duct tape, zip ties, and so on — even trading markets and the internet 🙂 We all live more comfortable lives because of all those who went before us did. The facts, rather than the hypotheticals. Because God works through mankind, he does not drop cars from heaven. His will is normally carried out through His church here on earth. Hands and feet.

    God is concerned about all the world, and all that are to come. And he works through men. So perhaps it is semantics when you say, “Do we have a responsibility to those who come after us? No. Being bought at a price we owe one thing (our entire life) to one person (God).” You owe nothing to your wife, your children, your parents? Is it the use of the word “owe?” Because you certainly have a biblical responsibility for all three of those categories, which includes those who come after us. Does it change it for you to consider it as having a responsibility for those who come after us? The bottom line is, at some point, the time comes to stop pontificating and seeing where others get it wrong (I’m speaking of myself) and get out and start doing. That’s usually when we find out just how much we have right.

    I don’t think we have any disagreement on the clarity that Christians are to rely on God and not government — or anyone or anything else.

    On witnessing to the indians, and our treatment of them, that is one of our dark spots. A bright spot in there was David Brainerd, who died very young while taking the gospel to the indians on the east coast and seeing mass conversions break out among them. It’s important to remember those who were faithful and their example. It cost him everything and he willingly gave it.

    Just as all of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13 is concerned with the individual heart, not a government structure. Are you suggesting that the narrow gate implies God prefers kings and tyrants to democracy? If so, his hand of blessing has not been on those as much as on democracies, as far as measuring the fruit of the systems.

    Posted by rodthomson | November 21, 2012, 10:14 PM
    • Rod, thanks for the response. I think that the problem starts with us. We are very much on the same page. I think that a mass expression of people’s opinions on polling day is a good survey of people’s attitudes. Same page again. So why am I making the points that I made above?

      If we are going to really consider the state of the body of believers, I think suggest that maybe we need to strip away more for our analysis. I would better explain my thoughts over a cup of coffee, so next time we get a chance, let’s do that. I will make an attempt here, though.

      Doing more of the same may not help us the way we really need to be helped. Before we can repent, we need to know what we have done wrong. This is where, in my opinion, the deepest analysis needs to happen – direct revelation and the Scriptures.

      When we talk about how America was blessed, we can’t have that point of pride cover up our need for repentance. Biblically, we know that the person or country who is blessed may not be blessed because he obeyed or loved God. Likewise, when a person struggles, we can’t know from the Bible that a person is rejected by God. The evaluation process is complicated.

      It could be that the very thing that would make the most sense to do in order to move us forward in the blessing of God, actually distracts us from the thing that we should be doing. That is why I mentioned missions. If we want our homeland to be blessed, then perhaps the best thing to do would be to stop thinking about it so much. Christian people think far more about the wellbeing of their own country than they do about blessing the nations of the world (my assessment). If we want to be blessed, then I think that we need to being a blessings to every tribe, tongue and nation. That’s the theme of the Bible. It should be our priority, and should be the starting place of repentance. God likes it when we focus on what he wants rather than what we need or want. When we do, he tends to give us the rest. In these cases, conventional wisdom does not work.

      Whether blessed or not, we do not need a government in order to bring glory to him – his #1 desire from us. It seems to me that some of us should all be less committed to the USA, so that we can me more committed to him. (That is a statement that might have to be unwound over a couple cups of coffee.)

      Matthew 7:13 was simply saying that if you goal were to win elections, you would want to get as many people as you could (“many enter through it”), not only a few.

      Posted by Nate Davis | November 21, 2012, 11:41 PM

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