Knowing where to look for joy means that we run to our bibles when we realize we have taken our eyes off of Christ and have started to look for happiness elsewhere. Zephaniah 3:17 is a great one to run to; “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
It is sweet. It reminds us of how God sees us and so we can take heart. If God rejoices over us, why should we be sad?
Still, I wonder if this “progress narrative” might undergo an alteration of sorts. Is it possible we will see the development of new standards for sexual behavior that go beyond “consent”? Will we see the emergence of a modified secular version of prudishness? Is it possible that, in terms of behavior, the next generation may be more conservative than the last? How will people respond to the heightened sensitivities that show up in a culture that once prided itself on destroying boundaries?
Many tell compelling de-conversion stories of how they used to hold restrictive, evangelical views, but now they have “seen the light” and embraced a more loving version of Christianity.
In response to this, conservative evangelicals unleash what amounts to very thorough PowerPoint presentations.
Ryan P. Burge:
About 6 in 10 people from the “nothing in particular” group stayed that way over the years, while the rest made a switch. About half of the defectors moved away from traditional faith to atheism and agnosticism (20%), while almost as many moved in the other direction and returned to the church (17.3%). Of the 2010 nones, 13.3 percent became Protestant, and 4 percent became Catholic.
There was a time in my teens—a brief time, thankfully—when I dabbled in horror books and movies. In what is probably not an atypical experience for teenagers, I developed a strange interest in the macabre and found pleasure in getting frightened. This led me to explore a few terrifying novels and films before I decided I ought to heed my conscience and turn to more worthwhile endeavors. I don’t remember a whole lot about the stories anymore, but do remember a number of sleepless nights as I lay awake listening to the sounds of a quiet house, fretting about every creak and groan. I had fed my imagination with unhelpful material and was reaping the consequences.
It is the one who goes the distance that knows how hard the race is. The iron-man has far more help to offer than the piddler. The one who stood against the temptations of the world knows how strong they are. A sinless Christ knows more about sin than the sinner who gives in every time. He’s faced the full wind and stood until the end. He’s seen the end while so many have only seen the first few steps. Jesus tried very hard to be good, and his victory in goodness is our hope in sin.
Here’s how that changes your life.
A favorite from the archives:
“Why do you think God cares about being first in people’s hearts, and how we use his name, and stuff like that?”
My daughter had to think for a minute. Her lesson in kid’s ministry this weekend was on the first four of the Ten Commandments, and while she knew what they were, I was asking a harder question: why do they matter? I went a bit deeper with her as I explained:
“Think about it this way: God’s people are supposed to show the world something of what he is like, right? That means everything we do and say, says to the world, ‘God is like this.’ Does that make sense?”
She nodded her head, and thankfully not in an “approving so we can stop talking about this” kind of way.