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God's People Must Live in a Way That Is Distinctive from Our Fallen Culture


Auburn University is the second-largest university in Alabama. Known for its football team and fierce cross-state rivalry with the University of Alabama, the school is making news these days for a completely different reason.

Some time ago, five girls began meeting on campus in Neville Arena to pray. Their group grew to two hundred students. Local ministries became involved and sponsored a worship event last week which around five thousand people attended.

Following the service, a student wanted to be baptized. Crowds then began gathering at a nearby lake, where roughly two hundred people gave their lives to Christ and were baptized. Auburn Tigers head football coach Hugh Freeze, a very public Christian, helped with the baptisms. Now other universities are calling to bring similar programs to their campuses.

One student said she had never seen anything like the mass baptism: “Never in my life. I was even talking to adults who were there that were a part of it, and they said that they had never witnessed anything like that.”

"A new spirit I will put within them"

Yesterday, we focused on the urgency of sharing God’s word with a nation that is sliding ever further from biblical morality. Today, let’s discuss the necessity of living in ways that are so different from our fallen culture as to be both distinctive and attractive.

God said of ancient Israel, “You have not walked in my statutes, nor obeyed my rules” (Ezekiel 11:12a). Rather, they “have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you” (v. 12b). This is a grievous trajectory for God’s people since “what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Tragically, the vast majority of Americans do not believe that God is the Lord who sees and judges sin. If they think of him at all, they view him as benevolent and ambivalent, the object of their subject. But they are the object of his subject. God is not on trial—we are.

His transforming promise is our only hope: “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). Human words cannot change human hearts, but God’s Spirit, using God’s word as declared by God’s people, can change any heart today.

By contrast, “As for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord Gᴏᴅ” (v. 21).

Three practical steps

As you can see, it is vital that God’s people live in a way that is distinctive from our fallen culture and yet attractive to those deceived by its lies. How can we do this?

First, decide that you want to be different.

God said of the sinful Roman Empire, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4-5).

Choose right now to “come out” from your sinfully broken society, whatever the cost.

Second, ask the Spirit to make you more like Christ than you have ever been.

When you asked Jesus to be your Lord, his Spirit took up residency in your life (1 Corinthians 3:16) and you became his “body” in the world (1 Corinthians 12:27). Oswald Chambers thus observed, “In our physical life Jesus has the same setting that he had on earth.” Now we must choose every day to be controlled and empowered by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) as he conforms us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

We are exhorted: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Third, expose the dark to the light.

Paul told his fellow believers, “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8a). Consequently, we are to “walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (vv. 8b–11).

Light has always defeated darkness (John 1:5) and always will.

"These words just changed everything for me"

In 2014, Trieste Belmont was struggling with depression and decided to end her life. As she stood atop a high bridge, she says, “I was sobbing and crying and working up the courage to just go through with it.” Then a person in a car behind her shouted, “Don’t jump.”

“Those words just changed everything for me,” she remembered. “Having a stranger care about me in my darkest time made it so that I didn’t jump, and it saved my life.”

She sought support and, with the help of her therapist, family, and friends, her mental health has since greatly improved. But she reflects on that moment as the catalyst for her life moving in an entirely new direction: “Something that I realized is that even if something’s not a huge moment in your life, just the little, small gestures that you can make for other people really do make a difference.”

Now consider the impact of sharing God’s life-giving word in the power of God’s transforming Spirit. And reflect on the urgency of giving this word to a broken culture on the path to moral ruin and divine judgment.

When confronted with this opportunity, Isaiah said to God, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Will you say the same today?

Publication date: September 19, 2023

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/Tinnakorn Jorruang

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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