T4G: The Gospel & Culture

This morning’s first session was taught by Thabiti Anyabwile. He introduced himself by saying: My name Thabiti means “Who’d I tick off to get the 8am time slot?”

Christianity transforming culture is an important & huge idea, but one fraught with complexities and ambiguities and pitfalls.

How do we define culture? What type of culture are trying to influence or engage? Pop, ethnic, political, high, or all of the above?

What is the objective? How do we define when we’ve been successful?

Are these even the right questions? Is engaging the culture even something we’ve been called to do?

While we’re busy engaging the culture, we may miss the more fundamental mission of embodying the Gospel.

Paul’s Purpose

His purpose– Colossians 1:24-29 Make the Word of God fully known in order to present the entire church whole, mature in Christ

Paul repeatedly refers to his purpose throughout his epistles

But Paul warns that there can be types of teaching, ministry that sound right but are wrong, making us think that the Gospel is about something other than Paul’s purpose.

How do we prevent such “mission drift?” by ruthlessly rooting our purpose in the Gospel message, in the Scriptures themselves.

Paul writes primarily to the church, not the culture, the redeemed, not the unredeemed.

Paul always pushes the Gospel to its radical implications to the redeemed (like to Philemon), not to a Roman official.

He engages the culture by engaging the church.

Paul’s Philosophy

How do we get people rooted & grounded in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7)? The simple answer is the Gospel (2:9-15). We need no other philosophy or ideas.

The basic question: are we captured by Christ or captured by the world’s ideas? (Colossians 2:8). Paul sets the Gospel over & against the ideas of the world, it is a Biblical antithesis. There is a dangerous tendency to underestimate the influence of the world on us as we attempt to engage it. Satan is always trying to make the world look innocuous, that there is a spiritually safe, neutral ground between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. James 4. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. 1 John 2 Do not love the world Romans 12 do not be conformed to the world

A Christian who is unaware of the dangers of the culture is being de-Christianized by the forces of the culture.

Paul’s Practices

Colossians 2:16-23 do not let any religious or cultural practices become your standard, but only Christ.

Every human culture is fundamentally apostate. We are all saved from the apostate culture we were in, and we should be like snakes shedding our old skin of culture.

What does it mean to be God’s people? Does it not mean that God gives us a new culture, a way of acting, relating, being? That is what God did with Abraham and his people. Did that process stop with the people of Israel? Look at what God did in the book of Acts with the church.

Paul is saying, “We were culturally Jews, that was our culture, our practice, but now our practice is Christ.”

Accommodating the Gospel to any culture by necessity must diminish the Gospel.

The true church is multiethnic but not multicultural.

Paul’s Perspective

Colossians 3:1-3 set your minds on Christ, not on things of the earth

Earthly gaze results in earthly living, Christward gaze results in Christlike living.

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