Jennifer Hua identifies herself as a Christian. A 35-year-old former attorney studying Christian counseling at the Wheaton College Graduate School, she has gone to church all her life and is a lay leader in her suburban Chicago congregation. She furthers her spiritual development by daily Bible reading, prayer, listening to and singing worship songs, and interacting with other Christians. And every few months, she carves out time for a silent retreat. She says, “I do all of these things because I know from past experience I need to recalibrate my mind and my heart to be in tune with God.”
James Smith also identifies himself as a Christian. He attended church as a child, but his attendance was minimal as a young adult. He believes in God, he occasionally attends church (Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan) when his time-consuming job in the finance district allows, but he doesn’t participate very often in other activities to further his spiritual life. He has a Bible but he rarely opens it and what leisure time he has he spends with friends, most of whom are of different faiths, and he doesn’t necessarily believe that his God is any different from the one his Muslim friend worships. He says, “I don’t think that God would be a God who would shut others out of heaven because they don’t use the word ‘Christian’ to describe themselves.”
The United States is described in the mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, identify themselves as “Christian”) and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case, but, not everyone within this vast group of Christians are alike.
To understand the range and differences among American Christians, Christianity Today International partnered with Zondervan Publishers to have Knowledge Networks conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of U.S. Christians. In September 2006, more than 1,000 self-identified Christians 18 years of age and older were surveyed on their religious beliefs and practices. The results reveal a number of significant differences, illustrated by the examples of Jennifer and James. In fact, portraits of five distinct segments emerged from the study. They are called . . .
- Active Christians,
- Professing Christians,
- Liturgical Christians,
- Private Christians, and
- Cultural Christians.
Each group represents about one-fifth of those identifying themselves as Christian, with Active Christians (such as Miss Hua) most likely to have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affects their beliefs and inspires an active church life. Cultural Christians (such as Mr. Smith) are least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings, or even attend church. And between the two is a range of beliefs, different commitment levels, and varying public practice of the faith.
Simply put, there are those who let the culture determine what Christian values are. Those people are in the world and they are of the world. Are they participating in sin? Maybe; maybe not! But, their values are guided by what is popular, or what is politically correct, or what is considered valid at the time, or by what makes them feel good.
1) The “Cultural Christian” is one who is conformed to the world.
There are four key words in this verse. Look at them.
- The World or the Age
Conform means “to make like.” When I pour Jell-o into a Jell-o mold and it forms to the shape of the mold, it is conforming. When I wear a hat, I get a hat hair. My hair conforms to the shape of the hat. In this world and the age I live in, I make myself just like it and I have conformed myself to it.
- My values will be guided by the thinking of the age I live in (which is constantly changing)
- My purpose and goals will be formed according to the way of thinking I follow
- My thoughts and actions will be determined by conforming to the modern age
I may get my way of thinking from CNN or MSN, or the NY Times, or from Oprah or Montel, and the movies, or friends, or books, or the Internet, or any number of sources that are worldly and conformed to the world themselves.
The World/the age in which you live, the popular or current values of the rest of the world press every person to conform to the values that the world holds.
- The past 40-50 years the world’s values have been about tolerance, self-reliance, humanism, evolutionary thinking, and political correctness.
- The world is trying to force its values on us through media, through legislations, and through education and at every level, especially higher education.
I used to be on the board of a Campus Christian Fellowship at Truman State University. The campus minister, Joe Belzer informed us one time that the prevailing philosophies and teachings in the universities, within ten years become the mainstream beliefs and practices in America
I have noticed a broader application to the principle Joe shared with us 15 years ago. It really begins in the universities on the east and west coasts where America is more liberal politically and religiously. That becomes mainstream in public life in about ten years time. The universities in middle America grasp the teachings and philosophies in the following years and that becomes mainstream in the middle America about ten years later, so we see what is happening in universities on the coasts and 15-25 years later, it is a part of the life patterns of America.
Conforming to the ways of the world is how that looks.
But the apostle Paul indicates we are to not to conform to the world, don’t conform to this age.
This is where being transformed comes in. Transformation is changing from one thing to another. The actor on the stage transforms as they change costumes for each part they play. Mixing cake ingredients like flour, eggs, milk, chocolate and whatever other ingredients are required together and then when it is baked it transforms and becomes a cake. The caterpillar balls up into a cocoon and eventually becomes a butterfly.
We are to change away from the ways of the world; the values that guide people away from God, the worldly philosophies and worldly religions and worldly values. We are to be renewed in our mind, transformed, changed from what we were which was worldly, sinful, and far away from God.
Jesus reminds us that we do not belong to the world. We belong to God and the things of the world, the ways of the world are not our ways; they are not to be a part of our lives.
And John warns us not to love the world or the things of the world. If we do God’s love doesn’t live in us.
@1 John 2:15
The Bible warns us, Christian leaders warn us. They even teach this to us.
Biblical Christianity versus Cultural Christianity
Biblical Christianity means being joined to Jesus Christ through faith in what he did for us at the cross then allowing him to live through us so that others might know him and see his love.
Cultural Christianity follows the changes from culture to culture. They imagine their god fits their new cultural wants and values.
Some of the differences between Biblical faith and today’s cultural deviations. Follow the link to this chart prepared by Dennis Monroe for a comparison of Biblical and Cultural Christianity: http://www.crossroad.to/charts/cultural-Christianity.html
Cultural Christianity is why the church has had little impact on our society.
2) We should think in terms of Biblical Christians and Cultural Christians should be Transformed
Biblical Christians are those who seek to live by believing, obeying, understanding and applying Biblical teachings and principles, with God’s Spirit in our lives.
Cultural Christians are defeated, they’ve given up and they’ve been drawn into the secular mold and live a form of counterfeit Christianity. Their Christianity is a matter of convenience rather than of conscience or obedience.
Which world-view is yours? Is it guided by the Bible? Many cultural Christians think they are guided by the Bible but if they accurately study and apply scripture, they’ll find they have a form of Christianity without the reality of Christianity.
Therefore transformation begins with a total and accurate Biblical viewpoint and obedience to the God’s word and this is much more than simply asking “What Would Jesus Do?”
- Do you have a point of view about something? Examine the scripture to see where it stands in relation to God’s point of view.
- If you are honest about it, humble toward God, and obedient to Christ, when your view differs with God’s, even if it is close but not quite right, then you will accept God’s view and change your heart, your mind, and your actions to match it.
A second means by which transformation takes place is that we become spiritual people, true spiritual people and that means that we have the mind of Christ. @1 Corinthians 2:15-16
- We all have the Word of God
- Christians have the Spirit of God
- But do we have the mind of Christ?
There was a book published about 20 years ago in tribute to Seth Wilson, long-time professor at Ozark Christian College (Joplin, MO) who died last year. It was called “The Mind of Christ.” His focus was having the mind of Christ. That is why he spent hours every day pouring over the Bible, studying, learning and investing years teaching the Bible to willing minds who were seeking to serve God as ministers and missionaries and servants in the church.
The mind of Christ comes from the Spirit of God who makes it possible for us to understand spiritual things. The worldly mind cannot understand spiritual things. The world can’t even accept the things of Christ.
The mind of Christ as Paul applies it here in Corinthians has to do with correcting the sin and division in the church. Because they were mixing the ways of the world with their faith in Christ! It sounds like a lot of the modern church. Living by means of the world, but belieiving and claiming to be Christian.
I want to use the term “the mind of Christ” to make us think about who Christ was on earth and what his focus was on.
- Pleasing God, obeying God, honoring God
- Drawing people to God for salvation
- He did this in a number of ways: Preaching, teaching, caring, helping, obeying God’s commands, staying true to God’s word.
The Cultural Christian varies from the mind of Christ. They have accepted Christ. They are professing to be Christian. But their values differ from the churches values, from what the Bible says. It could be:
- Church attendance is an optional thing
- Or that we should tolerate other religions as if they were true or equal to Christianity
- Or the homosexuality is ok with God
- Sex is ok in any situation
- Or any number of Biblical things that have been interpreted through the lens of worldliness or even rejected because it is different than the world.
We need to continue to be transformed by letting God’s Spirit renew our minds through our faith in God and our reliance upon the Bible, developing the mind of Christ and become Biblical Christians.