“According to the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, 76% of the American adult population identified themselves as Christians, with 51% professing attendance at a variety of churches that could be considered Protestant or unaffiliated, and 25% professing Catholic beliefs” (quote source here). With such a large percentage of the American adult population identifying themselves as Christians, given a cursory look at the state of our nation today gives one pause for thought as to why our society is in such turmoil with an apparent “anything goes” mentality running the show much of the time. Most of the time it has to do with the way we live our lives on a daily basis.
In an article titled, “A Critical Look at Situation Ethics,” the author, Wayne Jackson, opens with the following statement:
Basically, there are three schools of thought regarding human moral responsibility. First, there is nihilism. Nihilism argues that there is no God, hence anything one wishes to do is permitted. There are no rules—absolutely none—for human conduct; according to this ideology, every person is a law unto himself.
Second, there is relativism. Relativism contends that all conduct is relative to the circumstance. Thus, each individual must decide what is moral or immoral in a given situation. Ultimately, every man is his own judge of the matter. [Relativism is more commonly known as situation ethics.]
Third, there is absolutism. This concept affirms that there is an absolute, objective standard of right and wrong (grounded in the holy nature of God himself), and this code of moral conduct is set forth in the Bible—reaching its zenith in the New Testament. (Quote source here).
Situation ethics is squishy, dicey, and allows a way out of any moral dilemma we face that we don’t want to adhere to given the set of circumstances we find ourselves in, and, over time, it often replaces the moral dilemma altogether. For example, it’s like saying that we are adamantly against abortion until our unmarried teenage daughter becomes pregnant and our reputation within the community is now at stake, so in this particular situation we allow for it (without letting the neighbors know, of course). Affairs often fall under the same category . . . we say we believe in marital fidelity until someone catches our eye and we head on down that road towards adultery. Or, let’s bring it even closer to home with something that has become so pervasive in our society today that we do it without even blinking an eye–lying–as in being deliberately untruthful and deceitful, often for some type of personal gain at another’s expense or to ruin someone’s reputation (see blog post titled, “The Truth About Lying”). Gossip is a big one that falls under that category.
In the middle of this past century (20th), A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) made the following statement in “The Knowledge of the Holy” (see preface) which sums up our apparent apathy towards any moral dilemma we happen to face:
The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.
With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshipper in this middle period of the twentieth century.
This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.
The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (Quote source here.)
“It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate.” And how did our idea of God get this way?
Sometimes while I’m driving down the road I’ll be listening to a Christian radio station playing modern Christian music. While I appreciate many of the words the song writers have written, I’ve come to realize that much of the Christian music of our day focuses on us, and what God can give or do for us. Our concept of God is often wrapped around us except perhaps during Sunday morning worship at church. Rarely do we seek God at any real depth for who He is apart from what we want or need, and we have succumbed to a “light and easy” Christianity that pales in comparison to actual New Testament living. And a hundred lesser evils (e.g., “idols”) in our culture have taken up the space in our lives that should be reserved for God only–things like money and material possessions, and, of course, all the “situation ethics” we allow for in our own lives, like lying because it’s easier then living out the truth we know we should be living. And excuse-making has become all too common among us.
And it’s called idolatry . . . .
Many of us who call ourselves Christian rarely take the time on a daily basis to “be still” (see Psalm 46) before God and seek His face and His will for our lives for the day. We rarely meditate for longer than a five-minute devotion (if we even do that) but still expect God to carry us through the day. I wasn’t raised to believe that way many years ago but it has become so common in our day today and for the past several decades, too. We just expect God to be there for us whenever we need him without really giving him the time of day. And the power and wisdom that come from God is lost to us because we don’t seek him first.
Hebrews 4:12-16 states the following:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
It is the word of God, the Bible, that is alive and active. We must take the time to read and meditate on it so that it has a place in our lives and guides us in how we should respond to everything that comes our way in life. We cannot receive God’s wisdom and truth without it, and it penetrates our actions and attitudes. Without it we are like ships without an anchor. James 1:19-27 states:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
“A tight rein on their tongues” is not just a matter of not swearing, but it also includes gossip and slander, deceit and lying, and using prayer as a way to communicate gossip about others or make ourselves sound or look good (like the prayer of the Pharisee–see Luke 18:10-13). God sees and knows our heart attitude, no matter how nicely we may try to cover it up to others. And in the end, it is only God’s view that matters.
I have always maintained that my blog posts are written in the spirit of “considering our ways.” We have let go of so many of the essentials that make up the core of Christianity (and many of the young people among us today don’t even know what they are) in our daily walk with God in our society, and a myriad of “things” have taken his place, from smartphones to material possessions to lying just to get ahead. I write them as much to remind myself as to remind anyone else. None of us are outsiders to the human race.
I’ll end this post with the words of King Solomon (the son of King David and Bathsheba) who was the wisest man who ever lived. Those words are found in Ecclesiastes 12:11-14:
The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by One Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean: