Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Read Romans 8:5-7. What is the contrast between a mind that is set on/governed by the Spirit and one set on/governed by the flesh? How do we gain a mind that is governed by the Spirit?
- What are some of the stories and narratives that culture attempts to feed us? Which one(s) do you sometimes embrace? How can you exercise greater discernment about these things?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
Figuring out what culture actually means when we use that statement, we talk about our culture or the culture that we're in, or culture this or that, like it's very difficult to define. Sometimes it's hard when we have a conversation around culture to understand what exactly we're talking about when we use that term. In fact, you have to kind of pull in some variety of meanings to try to figure out what this definition actually is. To prove it, let me just ask Siri. Hey, Siri.
Siri: Go ahead.
What is the definition of culture?
Siri: As a noun it means the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. Do you want to hear the next one?
Siri: As a noun it means the customs, arts, social institutions and achievements of a particular nation, people or other social group. Want to hear the next one?
Siri: As a noun it means the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, et cetera, in an artificial medium containing nutrients. Want to hear one more?
Siri: As a noun it means the cultivation of plants. Do you want to hear the last one?
Siri: As a verb it means maintain tissue cells, bacteria, et cetera in conditions suitable for growth.
Cool. Everybody got it? Culture is notoriously hard to define, and so when we talk about the idea of culture, maybe it would help us if I gave you a little bit of an etymology. That means where the word actually comes. Without giving you a long Latin lesson, because that's where the word comes from, there are three words in Latin that actually help to make up the word in English that we use when we talk about the idea of culture, and I think it matters to what we're talking about today. There's this word cultura in Latin which means to till the ground or to cultivate, right? Then there's this word colo, where we get our word colony, which means to inhabit. Then there's this word cultus in Latin, which means to worship or honor. Now if you take all of those and understand that that's where we get our word culture, the idea of culture is this. It means the things that we allow to till the ground of our lives and inhabit them such that we actually begin to give them honor and maybe even worship. That's what we're talking about when we talk about the idea of culture.
Now what actually informs how we get those ideas? Cultures are actually defined by the stories that we tell. You see, cultures are made up of a bunch of different stories, the stories that we tell, and these stories can come through art, they can come through images, they can come through media and technology, they can come from education or government, whatever, right? These stories can be coming at us from a bazillion different places, but does that help us define what culture is? Well let me give you a definition that Professor Dan Strange, that's right, Dr. Strange, from Oak Hill College in London. He's a believer, and he actually has this definition which I liked. He said this. "The culture is the stories we tell that express meaning about the world." What makes up culture is this, the stories we tell that express meaning about the world. I think that's a fair way to kind of explain the definition.
Now it's a good definition, but it's also a definition that can feel overwhelming. Here's why. Because we live in the wide open technological age, right, and everywhere we look and everything that we see, everything and everyone has a story to tell and has a story to bring to bear on what life is really supposed to be about. I mean think about it. How many stories are going on in trying to express the meaning of the world? How are we supposed to keep up with all of those stories? How do we respond to those stories when we hear them?
There's really predominantly three different ways, predominantly, that believers, people of faith, actually respond when it comes to culture. There's kind of three different ways that believers choose to respond. The first way I would just note that they fight it, right? It's we fight culture. Sometimes you can see this caricature as, you know, the red-faced angry people who are always belly aching about the culture wars, and I'm sick of this and I'm tired of this, and these young people don't know anything and it's kind of that stuff, right? It may be they're really scared of culture and so what they do in their being frightened of it, they lash out in anger and those kinds of things.
Now, at its best, when believers are fighting with culture, it can actually give us, believers who are standing on the front line of some cultural issues that we're glad that they're doing that, they're kind of standing in the gap for us, and that's at its best, but at its worst what you see is you see a caricature of Christians. You see some people sometimes that are mean and judgmental, and I don't mean judgmental in the sense that they're making a decision between two things. I mean judgmental as in they're sitting in the chair playing God and telling people how stupid they are. That's what I'm talking about, right? Or they're dehumanizing or demonizing to other people, right? Sometimes what people who are in fight mode when it comes to culture, sometimes what they've done is they've forgotten that their war is not against people, it's against ideologies, because our struggle is not with flesh and blood, right? They've forgotten that, and listen carefully. I say this lovingly to you if you've chosen kind of the fight path when it comes to culture. You can't be at war with someone and reach them at the same time. You can't be at war with someone and reach them at the same time. Some people have chosen the fight path in dealing with culture.
Some have chosen flight. Some have chosen flight, right? In other words, they holed up and made a Christian subculture of everything and there's this bubble that nobody can penetrate. The only people allowed in are people exactly like them, that dress like them, talk like them, look like them, and they've kind of cordoned themselves off from anything cultural so they don't get tainted or stained. Now, at its best when people are doing that that are people of faith, they're doing what all of us should do at times, and that is staying away from things that really kind of cause us not to be holy and stay away from things that don't bring glory to God. At its best, that's what that is. At its worst, what happens is this, is that salt stays in the salt shaker. The light stays under a cover. That's what happens at its worst.
Some other people have chosen this path. Follow. Some people fight culture. Some people run away from culture, and some people follow it. These are the people who have taken in a big gulp of culture, and they continue to just swallow it whole, and they begin to look, think, act and talk like the culture that is around them. Now, at its best, what probably motivated them, maybe if they're believers in Jesus, maybe what motivated them is wanting to be able to connect to the culture, wanting to be able to identify with the culture, wanting to be relevant to the culture. At its worst, what happens is that it really devolves into people who literally look, act, think and talk like the rest of the world, and anyone looking from the outside could never tell the difference between someone who walks with Jesus and someone who doesn't, because there is no qualitative distinctiveness or uniqueness about their lives.
All of those things, there are a few redemptive things in each of those responses, and then there's many things that aren't very redemptive in those responses. If I were kind of summing those up, maybe taking the best of those things and telling you what should be our response to culture, these are my terms, I would say I very simply. Here's what believers should do. Think and engage. Think and engage.
Now the reason I'm telling you that is because I think that is a summary of what Paul is actually saying to us when he's writing his letter to the church at Corinth. Now he wrote a few letters to the church at Corinth. We have two that the Holy Spirit has preserved for us, and in his second one, he is actually writing along these lines, talking about the war that we find ourselves in. I want you to look at what he says in II Corinthians chapter 10, beginning in verse one. Paul says, "By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you," I, Paul, "who am timid when face to face with you." I like how he notes timid when I'm face to face with you, "but bold towards you when away. I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be towards some people who think that we live by the standards of this world, for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does." The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. "On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
You see, what Paul is writing into is he's writing into a group of people in the church at Corinth who have struggled with some issues. You see, if you've read the Corinthian letters, you realize these people didn't have it all together. They did not have it all together. They had made a mess of a lot of things, new believers who still are influenced by some of the paganism that's around them, and so as a result, Paul's having to write to them and say, hey, it's a really bad idea for you believers to be suing the pants off of one another, and now all of a sudden you're standing in front of judges and people who don't know the Lord, and it just looks ridiculous and it's a terrible witness.
Oh, by the way, you need to quite all the sexual immorality. It's not just free sex for anybody. That's not what we're all about. You've got to knock that off. By the way, no sleeping with your mom. Incest, no good. Paul actually has to deal with this in the book of I Corinthians, right? You're going, "That's in the Bible? I'm new. Is that in the Bible?" It is. Not proud of it, it's just there. It's having to deal with that. He's also having to deal with people who are kind of ego driven and self glorifying in the use of their giftedness, and Paul's going, "This is not what these are for. This is not what we're trying to do here."
He's got all of these issues of sin, but listen ladies and gentlemen, there's something lying underneath all of those sin behaviors, idolatry. That's what laying underneath all of it. Now when I say idolatry, what I'm saying is this, it's when people take some other thing that's not God and put it in the place of God where only God belongs. They let that be the filter through which they make all of their decisions. Sometimes when we hear the word idolatry, we just think, you know, bowing down to statues and those kinds of things, which generally, in the United States, doesn't happen a lot, but in our pluralistic society, does happen on occasion. I've seen it around the world, but that's not really what we're talking about. We're talking about something in our hearts that we have put in place of God, and as a result it leads us down a wrong path.
You see, when Paul is talking in I Corinthians 8 and I Corinthians 10 and II Corinthians 6, he's talking all about the idea of idolatry, and that's what lays underneath all of this stuff. What Paul is doing is he's saying to the Corinthians, you're not seeing this, and you're not thinking about it, and of all people, you need to be thinking about it. What Paul is doing here in II Corinthians chapter 10 is he's actually giving a defense of his ministry. Now it's not just, hey, I'm an apostle, you've got to listen to me, even though he does say a few things along that line. He's not only defending that he is a vessel used by God to be able to preach the gospel, but he's also defending the story he is communicating to them.
You see the story that Paul has is in competition with some false teachers in Corinth who are teaching false stories. They are teaching what is not the gospel, and Paul is actually trying to say, no, no, no, I'm not only defending myself but I'm defending the story that I'm proclaiming about God and what God has done in Jesus Christ. You know the God that I'm talking about, the God who made everything from nothing and created people as image bearers, people who would be representative of God and be in relationship with God, but these people chose, listen to this, these people believed a wrong story, that they could be gods themselves, that they could live independently from God, that somehow it would be more satisfying to be able to do that, that somehow freedom from God was real freedom instead of freedom in God, and they bought a wrong story, and as a result, it interrupted this relationship with God.
Now, through the course of time, every human being is facing that same issue of sin where we have not only sinned because we are by nature sinful, but we have chosen to do it as well. We cooperate with our sinful nature. But God, in his great grace, this one God, this only true God, said I am going to create a people for myself through a man named Abraham. I'm making a covenant with the world and I'm making a covenant with Abraham, and it doesn't have anything to do with Abraham, but I'm going to give you a son, and through that child, I'm going to bring forth a people that's going to testify to my name. Abraham's like, "But I'm really old, and my wife, she's super old too. How's this going to happen? We've never had any kids." God said don't worry. Through God-given, yet natural means, they have a child at really old ages, and this is the birth of the nation of Israel, and now a people comes from Israel, and God says I'm going to rescue the world through this people.
As Israel develops, it has a really up and down relationship with God. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes push, sometimes go, right? That's kind of how their relationship is with God, but God in his faithfulness has a perfect boy Israelite born to a beautiful young mother named Mary in a backwater town named Bethlehem, and his name was Jesus. He was very God with skin on who had come to demonstrate the glory of God. He lived sinlessly. He brought a message of the kingdom of God, that the king of the kingdom was coming to change everything, and that now those who were far from God and alienated from God, they could be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, and he went to a cross for the sake of sinful people, and he died in the place of sinful people because a holy God is always going to deal with and judge sin.
He didn't just brush it off, he didn't just wink at it, but instead Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, stood in our place where we could never satisfy the wrath of God. Jesus does in his perfection. God pours it out. Jesus satisfies it. Jesus dies. God gets him up from the grave because he is shown to be more than a perfect sacrifice for the sinfulness of humanity, and Jesus ascends back to the Father, and now at the right hand of God, he intercedes for people and he will one day return to make everything new. All of the bad things will be made right. All of the broken things will be made better. He is going to restore everything and this is the true story of the world.
This is what Paul brings. Paul is saying to them, I'm not just defending myself, I'm defending the story that I'm proclaiming against all of the false stories, because you see, just like in Corinth, it's just like it is today for us. There are competing stories vying for our allegiance. There are competing stories vying for our attention, and Paul says I'm going to write and speak into that.
I want you to just look quickly at a couple of these verses, because I want to point out some things. In verse number two, Paul says, "I beg you that when I come, I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be towards some people who think that we live by the standards of this world." In some of your translations, that says, "who think that we live by the flesh." What Paul is saying is this, is that new people ought to have new lives. We don't just keep doing the same things that the rest of the world does. Then in verse three he says this. "For though we live in the world," listen to this, for all those people who want to flee the culture and think that they can evade it, Paul says you can't. We live in it. But, we don't wage war as the world does, so he acknowledges there are people who want to run away, but you can't. We live in the world. He also acknowledges there's people who want to fight the culture, and he says, do you know what, there is a war going on but we don't wage war as the world does. The culture is at war, but we're not waging war the same way. You see, their tools are manipulation, their tools are trying to, through brute force, convince you to do things. He said those aren't our weapons, right?
Then he goes on in verse four and five to say what our weapons are. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." Stop right there for a second. You realize what he's saying right here. The weapons that we have, they're not physical, they're not material, they're spiritual. We don't use the weapons of the world. We are using weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds. Then he says this. "We demolish arguments." That word arguments means imaginations, thoughts, speculations. Listen to this, it's what's going on here. We demolish what's going on in our thinking, and we demolish every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, the true story, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.
You see, when he's talking about taking captive every thought, some of us personalize that, like I've got to take captive every thought. Well Paul wasn't actually just talking about, even though it has an effect in that way, but he wasn't just talking about us taking every captive thought in our minds. He's actually talking about taking captive the thoughts that have set themselves up against God. In other words, the false stories that are pouring down on these Corinthian believers, Paul says I'm going to wrangle those up and I'm going to show you how they need to show obedience to Christ. I'm going to show you that this is the true story that I'm bringing, and these false stories will have to bow the knee to Jesus. They are not the true story.
What Paul is saying here, interestingly enough, is Paul is saying that this weapon that he's talking about here is both spiritual, and it involves the way we think. It's a spiritual weapon and it involves the way we think, our minds. You see, what I think Paul's doing here is he's continuing a theme that he began when he wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth. In that first letter to the church at Corinth, in the second chapter, or what we know as the second chapter, there weren't chapter divisions when he was writing it, but in the second chapter, as we read that, listen to what he says.
I Corinthians chapter two, he says, "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God, for who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
You see, ladies and gentlemen, what I think that we are seeing here is this, is that Paul is helping us to understand something here, and if you want to just summarize it, write it down in sentence form, it would be this. A Spirit-governed mind is one of the best weapons for cultural discernment. A Spirit-governed mind is one of the best weapons for cultural discernment. Now here's what I mean. When we talk about having a Spirit-governed mind, it means this. It means that our minds should be saturated in the Word of God. Why is that the case? Because the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. That's the weapon. Our minds should be saturated in the Word of God. Why do you think we're always telling you and encouraging you and praying for you to spend time in the Word on your own? Spend time in the Word on your own. Why? Because we want to see the Word of God saturating your mind. Do you know why? Because it then becomes the filter through which we look at all of the stories that are bombarding us, and if we want to have a Spirit-governed mind, if we want to tap into the mind of Christ and think God's thoughts after him, then we've got to be saturated with the Word of God.
Do you know why we're not? I'll tell you. The same way some of you aren't right now. Distraction. That's why. Distraction. We get so caught up in everything else that's going on in the world that we don't pay attention to the things that matter the most. As a result, here's what happens. Do you know what distraction does? It causes us not to think deeply or critically about all of the stories we get bombarded with. That's what distraction does, and it is absolutely lethal to us if we're not careful. You can't turn your mind, your Spirit-governed mind off because we've been given a responsibility to love God with all of our minds as well, so we can't just turn that off.
I used to illustrate this a little bit with my sons when they were younger, and I did it in kind of a backwards way that was kind of funny. What I would do is when we were watching television, we might be watching baseball or whatever we were watching, probably baseball, as everyone should. We were watching baseball probably, and then on comes a beer commercial. Now they're younger and they're sitting there. I don't know how old they are, but I've done this a lot of times, and we're all just watching because we were watching the baseball game and now we're watching the beer commercial. Everybody on that commercial is good looking. I mean everybody is like good looking, fit, just unbelievable, tanned, everybody's good looking, and everywhere they are, whether they're at a party, whether they're at some really cool beach, whether they're at like a backyard barbecue behind the house, they are absolutely good looking and they're having the best time anyone could ever have, and the commercial's just like, "Woo, woo hoo."
As the commercial keeps playing, the commercial ends, and then this is what I say. I'm just still looking at the TV. "Fellas, do you know what gives meaning to life? Beer." They kind of pause for a minute, and then they just start laughing, because what I'm saying to them is this. What story were they just trying to tell me? Were they trying to tell me that everybody that drinks beer is good looking? Because I've seen some people. I've seen people who are alone in their backyard that needs a mow, pounding beer and they're not as fit as this commercial is telling me. Nor, by the way, are they having the best time in the world.
You see, here's the thing ladies and gentlemen. What you're doing when you do that, you're not drinking a beer, you're drinking a story. You're drinking a story, and when you start looking at all of the places in social media, with all of the people that you follow, so many times they're just trying to re-enact the story that they drank. Look at my picture. We're having fun too. Things are so great. Of course, those people, if they're believers, they're not even thinking about the fact that many of their friends that are on their social media profiles may be alcoholics. Not even thinking about them. It's all about me. Look at me. Sorry. I got from teaching to meddling in a really fast moment, right? Not sorry. This is the truth and we need to hear it, right?
Unfortunately, you know, life is easier on auto pilot, isn't it, where we can just cruise and just let everything fall on us and we'll absorb everything. Life's easier on auto pilot, but if we walk filled with the Spirit ... do you know the fruit of Spirit, right, love, joy, peace, patience. Do you know what the last one is? Self-control. Do you know what that's in opposition to? Auto pilot. We are Spirit-governed minds who have the mind of Christ so that we can discern what stories are being told to us and what people are trying to foist upon us.
Distraction, what it does is it causes us to uncritically drink all of these stories. We just don't think about it. We shut down and we just choo choo choo choo choo, just like this. Here's the problem. When we start drinking false stories, do you know what false stories lead you to? Listen carefully. False gods. Things that want to stand in the place of God. That's what false stories do. False stories lead you to false gods. That's the heart of what we call idolatry. It's putting something in the place of God that doesn't belong there, where only God belongs. That's what I don't want to see happen in any of our lives.
In fact, it's interesting because 300 years before Socrates ... do you remember Socrates? Socrates, when Paul was writing, Socrates lived like 400 years before Paul. I find it interesting, because Paul is writing to Corinthian believers. Do you know where Corinth is? Greece. Do you know where Socrates is from? Greece. Do you know what Socrates was maybe most famous for saying? The unexamined life is not worth living. Here are the Corinthian believers in Greece, 400 years after Socrates, who are not examining their lives and seeing if their lives match up to the great story. 300 years before Socrates lived, there was a prophet in Israel named Isaiah. What God was doing was speaking through Isaiah to the people of Israel, and it's interesting what he was saying. He was basically saying through Isaiah, we've got to get rid of all of this idolatry. This idolatry is crazy, right? Like you're taking wood and you're building idols out of it because you want some God that you can look at or that you can carry around or that you can show off. What? This is what God is saying. What are you doing?
In fact, listen to his words through Isaiah in Isaiah 44. He says, "They know nothing. They understand nothing. Their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand." No one stops to think. "No one has the knowledge or understanding to say, half of this wood I used for fuel, and I even baked bread over its coals and I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I them make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood? Such a person feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him. He cannot save himself or say, is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" He's got a block of wood, and he's unable to say, this is a lie. Do you know why? Because he will not stop to think. We have to have a Spirit-governed mind so that we can discern the fake stories that are always being foisted upon us.
Do you know the danger of believing a false story is, listen to this, is following a false god. Do you know what the danger of following a false God is? Listen carefully to this. You become what you worship. That's what Psalm 115 says. Listen carefully to it. The psalmist writes, "But their idols are silver and gold made by human hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see. They've got ears but they cannot hear, noses but they cannot smell. They've got hands but cannot feel, feet but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them."
Do you know what basically the psalmist is saying? If you want to create idols in your world, you'll just be a dead person walking. Nothing. There'll be nothingness for you, because false stories lead to false gods, and guess what that means? That means we become like what we worship. This is not the place that God's people are supposed to be.
In fact, let me illustrate culturally for us for a moment. I think that there are some good features to social media in general. I think there's some wonderful things that it can help with. Our church has a social media account so that people can see the message of the Word, that we can get out communication. I get it, so I'm not piling on here, but you shouldn't disengage your mind, because when you do, here's what happens. You get on and you see everyone's perfect bodies on their Instagram. For those of you who are older, it's like Facebook but cooler. The older people, I refer to Facebook, and then the younger people I refer to other things, right. Then there's me, who I don't even know what I'm talking about.
You get on there, right? Everybody's got these celebrities you follow, everybody's got perfect bodies and they're perfectly tanned and they've got muscles or whatever, and we start believing the lie of perfection. We start believing the story that we're supposed to look a certain way, that we're supposed to, and so do you know what we do? We nip and we tuck and we clip and we whatever else you do, fill, right? We do all that. Why? Because we've bought a lie. We've believed the lie of perfectionism, and do you know what we start doing? We start living into that lie, and it's crushing. It's brutal.
Maybe we see the pictures of all the vacations and the destinations that some of our friends have gone, and you know, you just see them on there and their comment on the bottom is like, "Wow. Best day I've ever done." You know, and there's pictures always of them, never of the places. This place was so awesome, and like, I'd like to see the place. All I've got is you going, this place is so awesome. I already know what you look like, but I've never seen Venice. You know, I'd like to see that.
The problem is that we see all that, and here's what we start to believe. We can then, if we disengage our mind and don't have a Spirit-governed mind, and we don't have the mind of Christ, we can start to believe the fake story that experiences and destinations will ultimately satisfy our soul. That's a lie. They cannot. You see the great story means that our satisfaction can only be found in Jesus, when he makes all things new, when he fills us, and he fills all in all in the new creation. That's the only way we'll ever find perfect, complete, total satisfaction. It's going to be in him.
Maybe we think virtual friendships are just as good as real ones with humans, and so what we do is we believe that lie and here's what we start doing. We start chasing likes and follows because we want to make sure that we've got all the friends that we need. Maybe we think maybe because everyone can comment on everything, we think and believe the lie that everyone's opinion is of the same weight. That's a lie. Wait a minute, what are you talking about? I've got a voice and I'm going to use it. You can use it. This is America. I'm just saying to you that in some of the places that you use it, it's useless.
For instance, somebody breaks down on the side of the road. Me and a mechanic are there. They say, "Jerry, what should we do about this?" and I say, "I don't know. Gauze pads?" The mechanic who does this for a living, he knows exactly what to do. His opinion of this situation means far more than mine. Not only is my opinion useless, it probably is harmful. Gauze pads in your engine, it's probably a bad idea, right? I'd throw ball bearings in there because that's what [Fletch,] said, but nonetheless, it's an old people reference, like me.
Everybody's opinions aren't of the same weight, and the problem is is that we start banking on how everybody views us and what everybody says, and we're torn. One day's a good day because people said, "Man, I love your picture. I think you're great looking," and then somebody says, "Man, you've got some wrinkles around your eyes," and it's like now it's a bad day. We forget that God is the one who has the last say in terms of our identity. We've just forgotten the true story because we've believed all the false stories, right? We believe the lie of insignificance because we don't have as many, you know, follows or likes to our birthday party picture as our friends did. Man, they got 100 likes on their birthday party picture. I got two, and they were my mom and dad. This is ridiculous. I'm insignificant, right, nobody likes me, and so we start believing those lies because we're filling our heads with false stories.
Maybe we start believing the lie that distraction is actually life giving, so we zombie stare into the abyss of media for three hours and finally come out of our coma realizing how empty that was, and then we think to ourselves, man, that was nothing. I'm going to try again tomorrow. We think distraction is somehow life giving.
Do you see what I'm saying? I'm illustrating about something cultural that we cannot disengage our minds. We need Spirit-governed minds. We need to think and engage, because a Spirit-governed mind is the best weapon we have. Now I know this isn't easy, by the way. Listen please. I know it's not easy. I deal with this still. Do you know that there are times in my life, this happens to me all the time too, where I'm like, did I just let all of that go in and I didn't even critically evaluate what story I'm letting into my head. I do that. I was doing it last night trying to go to sleep. Last night, trying to go to sleep, I was thinking about a particular situation, and I was dwelling on it and turning it over and doing all this stuff, and then I just paused and I'm like, "Gillis, preach to yourself, son. Pull it together, brother. What story are you buying right here?"
I get it. Listen. This is for all of us, not just me to you. This is for all of us. We need Spirit-governed minds that give us a filter to be able to determine the fake stories that are always being poured out on us, right? I know it's challenging, I know it can be hard, and I know it's actually maybe new for some of us, because we're like, man, I've not really thought about this.
Here's what I want you to know. There's a battle that's going on for your head. It's going on for your mind, because the enemy of our soul knows that if we can believe certain ideologies, it leads us to certain false gods, and that ultimately when we're led to those false gods, we start living false lives. That's what the enemy of our soul really wants for those of us that claim to follow Jesus. He wants us buying false things and drinking false stories so that we follow false gods and live false lives so that the world around can't see squat about Jesus in us. That's what he wants, and that's what I'm standing up here saying. We can't let that happen.
Here's what I want to do. I want to give you a practical exercise to try and live out what II Corinthians chapter 10 teaches us about this war and about how we have Spirit-governed minds. I want you to do this. Now you can do this exercise by yourself if you want. I would love it if you would do it with friends or family, or maybe your community group, and I'm just going to use one piece of culture to give you an idea of how to do this, because this is just a discipline. Once you start learning to do what I'm going to suggest to you, it will be natural for you. This is just going to be a disciplined exercise, okay?
Are you ready for this? The next time you watch a movie, because I know everybody watches a movie. The next time you watch a movie, I want you to ask four questions when you finish. Now it would be better if you didn't do this by yourself, if you did it like in a community group or whatever, or if you did it friends, family, whatever. It would be cool to do this among others, but it works for just you too. Four questions, because what we're going to do is we're going to train ourselves to have a Spirit-governed mind, to press ourselves back into what this should look like.
Here's the first question. What story are they trying to tell me? You watch a movie, whatever your movie is, right? Some of you saw "Avengers" or you've seen, you know, "The Green Book" or you've seen "Aladdin" recently or you've seen whatever. I don't care. It doesn't matter what the movie is. You ask this question. What story are they trying to tell me? Then unpack that. Here's the story they're trying to tell me. You need to understand what it is.
Second question. What part of parts of the story are consistent with the true story, the gospel? See, here's the good news. I'm giving you tools to be able to think and engage, not think and run. I'm giving you tools to think and engage. In other words, did you know that there are some stories that don't come from Christians that are maybe in media or that are told or whatever that you can actually find beautiful truth in those stories? There's some movies where you go, man, this is really kind of a redemptive theme that happened in this story, and you just go, wow, that's really cool. Jesus isn't involved in this in any way, but we go that redemptive theme is something that I can pick up on if I'm in a discussion with somebody about this movie, and it gives me an entry point into the true story, right? We have to ask what part or parts of this story are consistent with the true story of the gospel?
Here's the third question. How does the true story, or the gospel, confront this story? In other words, there may be things about this story that are being told to us that the gospel patently says that's not true. That's not true. We have to figure that out. What does the true story, the gospel, how does it confront this story that just was fed to us?
Here's the last thing. How does the true story or the gospel fulfill this story? In other words, what you realize is this. Something's missing. Something in this story is missing, and what we see in the true story of what God has done for the world in Christ, we see it filling this story in the places where it's empty. You see, what I've just given to you right now are tools, tools for you to be able to start engaging a Spirit-governed mind so that you can discern the kind of culture that you're in, and instead of having to barricade or run from it, what you can do is you saturate your mind in the Word such that you know and understand the true story of God and how he's revealed that from beginning to end in the person of Jesus Christ.
When you engage with the culture that we have, you are thinking thoughts about this. What story are they trying to tell me? What is it about this story that's consistent with the true story? What is it about this story that the gospel actually confronts head on and says that's not true? What is it that the gospel would actually fulfill and fill up in all the empty places of this story? That gives us entry into having conversation in the culture that we live in, and you can do this with movies, you can do this with other things as well, but it's a discipline. Eventually we start becoming intuitive about it, but it's a discipline to get us started.
My hope is that it helps you begin to move in that direction. Do you know why? Because we have a discernment problem in the body of Jesus. The people of God, at large, have discernment problems. That's why I'm spending a number of weeks talking to us about sound doctrine, about how to make decisions consistent with the will of God, and about how to discern the culture that we live in, because we need to be a people of discernment. Why? Because people need to see Jesus. They don't need to see everything else in the world. They need to see Jesus, and when we are distinctive in the lives that we lead and the decisions that we make and the way that we talk and the way that we think and the choices that we embrace, people start to see the true story unfolding before their eyes into which their story can be caught up. That's the beautiful message of the gospel.
Let's bow our heads together. We're dismissed in just a moment, but if you're here and you've never before entrusted your life to Jesus, I hope that you heard today that God loves you and that God desires you to be in relationship with him, but that that can only happen through what Jesus has done through the cross and the resurrection, that by faith in what Jesus has done, we can be reconciled to the Father, and if you want to know what it means to have your sins forgiven and your life made new, your world changed, to be welcomed into the family of God, then I encourage when we're leaving in just a moment, if you would just come out into the atrium, there's a room called the Fireside room, and I would love it if you would just come out there and speak to somebody in there. There'll be pastors and other friends, prayer partners that will be in there that would love to talk to you. I hope you'll do that.
Father, you've said much to us today, and I pray that it is helpful, that God, that today in what we discussed was able to serve your people well, and I pray that you would give us ears to hear what your Word says to us, because the weapons that we wage war with are not like the world's. We're not trying to overpower people with our coercion and our force or our manipulation, but we want to be people who are Spirit-empowered and who have minds that are Spirit-governed so that we can speak into a culture that is longing for redemption, that is longing for a true story that they can hold onto. May we be so familiar by the saturation of your Word with how you've revealed the story of God through the ages and what that looks like specifically in the person of Jesus that we are able to navigate this culture well because we have Spirit-governed minds that give us the mind of Christ as we think your thoughts after you.
God, help us to be that because we want to see other people like the people we saw baptized today. We want to see people's lives transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of life, that they can meet the true Savior of all the world, the one in whom the true story is all held together, Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord of all the earth. Would you help us to be those kinds of people? Give us discernment, we pray in Jesus' name, amen.