The Big Picture 73: Don’t Lose Heart and Don’t “Knock It Off”

The Big Picture 73: Don’t Lose Heart and Don’t “Knock It Off” May 3, 2016

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Pastor Andy Stanley says we’re scaring the children. But should they be scared? And just who are these frightened children he’s so concerned about?

I’m Joel Fieri and this is The Big Picture podcast, where we try our best to separate the forest from the trees amidst the uncertainty of today’s Church and greater society.

This is part two of my reaction to the viral video released from Pastor Andy Stanley’s ministry in which he called on those “over 45” in his church (and, by online extension, the rest of us geezers) to “knock it off!” in vocalizing our concerns about today’s political and cultural landscape.

In part one I explained that while I understand and appreciate his concern, I personally won’t be “knocking it off’ anytime soon. I also asked for direction to the rest of Pastor Stanley’s sermon, to hear what he had to say to those “under 45”. A listener named Rich was on top of it and shared a link to the rest of the sermon, and here’s what Pastor Stanley said the “under 45s”:

There are a lot of things I like about this. I like the positive, encouraging tone he took in addressing the younger folks. It makes me wonder why he wouldn’t take the same tone with the older folks, but so be it.

I also like his call for them to not lose heart. I can’t really imagine what it’s like today to be a Christian young person looking forward to a life in today’s rapidly decaying, postmodern world. I wish he had expanded on his call to take their focus off of social media, which in many ways is the biggest obstacle to faith that I can see in their world. And I found it interesting that he told young people not to “fix your eyes on my generation”, meaning the scary old “45’ers” he talked to earlier, the ones who are scaring them.

I’d like to combine and dissect those thoughts a little.

Obviously the most commonly expressed concern that my generation holds about millennials is a sense that they are lost in a virtual world that is robbing them of their humanity. Seemingly oblivious to a very real three dimensional world, we see them constantly focused on two-dimensional screens, never looking up or out beyond their own appetite for entertainment. Young men and boys continually trapped in video games and young women and girls swallowed up by social media, neither able to pull away and interact with the physical world around them. Which isn’t a problem in the fantasy world in which our generation has raised them: the world of participation trophies, play dates and helicopter rescues.

We’ve all heard these complaints a thousand times, so I won’t go over that ground again.

The big picture point about this is that neither the pampered world of helicopter parenting nor the virtual online world they now inhabit has equipped them to “fix their eyes on Jesus” amidst the very harsh realities that are forming on the horizon.

Media and pop culture will relentlessly demand more and more control of their lives, from their money to their values and even their very identities, and those demands will soon reach beyond the screen in their hand and into their bodies and even their minds. Only a strong faith, grounded in a real life connection to Christ’s body and to some very specific real world Biblical values, can provide the strength needed for our children to resist these intrusions and enable them to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. Because the last place the media, advertisers and entertainers want their eyes focused is on Jesus. Jesus takes our eyes off of our materialistic desires in the here and now.

Jesus is just plain bad for business. He’s bad for politics as well.

As I said last week, the political ideologies that are prevailing today have no room for God, or faith in any higher being. Despite it’s claims to the contrary, there’s no real diversity in collectivism and socialism. Conformity to a secular atheist ideal is at the core of the progressive wave spreading throughout our society.

The more it spreads, the less popular and tolerable any ideology will be that even nominally attempts to fix it’s ‘eyes’ on Jesus, let alone adhere to the Judeo-Christian world view that built our safe, cushy world.

At some point, possibly sooner than later, today’s young people will need to choose between God and Caesar, and if there’s one thing my generation knows (or should know), it’s that bad political ideology can corrupt good faith. We’ve seen it in secular Europe, with it’s empty cathedrals and dying civilization. Within our own lifetimes we’ve watched the mainline denominations of our youth slide into politically correct apostasy and irrelevance.

And now we’re watching evangelical leaders who once stood firm in God’s Word take their eyes off Jesus and falter against the relentless tide of public opinion, with the silly notion that our “reputation” is somehow redeemable in the eyes of a scoffing world – a world Jesus said would hate us simply because we are His.

And lastly, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that on the horizon looms the darkest threat of all, a radical ideology of conquest that will have no room for even the notion of faith in any god but the god of Islam. Europe is now succumbing, and the rest of the Western world will follow at some point. This is a fear our parents knew by a different name, but one my generation never really faced. For us, Communism was always very far off. There was fear of nuclear war, to be sure. But deep down we knew that even communist dictators were not suicidal, and that they had an existential stake in a civilized world.

Radical Islam has no such stake.

If and when they begin to push against this country and society, keeping our eyes on Jesus will require a courage and eternal focus that we do not possess, and one we’ve utterly failed to instill in our children.

So, all this would seem to suggest that Pastor Stanley is right. I am indeed trying to “scare the children”. And in a way I am.

Image: Belinda Letchford
Image: Belinda Letchford

Fear can be a good thing.

The Bible tells us to fear God. Many times in the Bible God, Jesus and the angels tell men to “fear not”. If you have to tell someone not to be afraid it’s usually because there’s something pretty frightening in front of them. That’s where we are now.

Behind all of these forces challenging the faith of ‘the children’ is a well known enemy, the god of this world. As a church and as parents and grandparents, the challenges facing our children are frightening.

And yes we’re vocal about it.

Not because we don’t believe God is in control, but because we know that He is, and that He asks us to remain faithful to Him in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Our fear is that our children will not. We’re not even sure about ourselves.

The lure of postmodernism, the world of virtual reality and the fear of radicalism can weaken anyone’s faith. That enemy I talked about, Satan, the god of this world, disguises himself as an angel of light. He will tempt us and lure our eyes off of Jesus in ways we don’t recognize as evil until it’s too late. And that’s scary.

So what’s the solution? Armor up. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God, to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy. A belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the Gospel, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and finally, the sword of the Word of God.

Pastor Stanley said it right. Don’t lose heart, in any generation. Because God is in control, and our prayer here at the Big Picture is that when our Lord returns in victory and judgment, he will find His people faithful and armored up against His enemies, and without fear.

Next week in part three of this series I’ll be giving a different take on Pastor Stanley’s since-retracted labeling of parents as “selfish” for attending small churches instead of large ones. Until then, thanks for listening to the Big Picture.

Be blessed!

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