- Human beings are basically good. The problems are with society.
- Human sexuality must be set free to enjoy any and all kinds of pleasures.
- Christianity and Christ are only one of many paths to get to the Supreme Being.
- Governments must submit to the will of the masses.
- Reason trumps faith.
- Organized religion is corrupt and exists only to control people.
First, we are called to work out our salvation, even if it means with some trepidation. Paul writes in verse 12 (ESV), "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..." He is not saying, work for your salvation. We know that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) goes on to say, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." We will make the greatest impact on our Post-Christian world by living out the Christian life. It is as the world sees Jesus in the way we care for the poor, help our neighbors, defend the weak, and forgive our enemies, that we will cause them to take notice. In 1982 Mother Theresa was invited to speak at Harvard, a bastion of Post-Christian thinking. She spoke about chastity as the greatest gift that a man and a woman could give to each other at the marriage altar. She received a standing ovation. Why such a response from a secular audience? How can you argue with Mother Theresa. She lived out her faith.
Second, we are called to live in this post-Christian world without complaining. Paul writes in verse 14 (ESV), "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." We will not change the world, let alone win them to Christ, by arguing with them. I am good at getting together with my Christian friends and complaining about how bad the world is getting. Afterall, I grew up watching Lassie and Leave it To Beaver. Now it's hard to watch anything on TV. But complaining and arguing won't change anything. It is not that Paul doesn't acknowledge the bleakness of his surroundings. He is more candid that most modern Christians. He says in verse 15 (ESV), "that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world..." (emphasis mine). As Christians we are to be different. It is not about trying to fit in. It is about standing out. Sure we sin but as Christians we despise that sin. The difference between one who is born of the Spirit and one who is not is about our attitude towards sin. It is like a pig and a cat falling into a mud puddle. The pig thinks it is a great fun but the cat says, "Yuck!" and immediately starts cleaning himself off. It is as we live our lives without grumbling and arguing but blamelessly and innocently that we will make the greatest impact on the world around us.
Finally, we are called to hold fast to the Word of Life. We need to live according to Luther's confession, "My conscience is bound by the Word of God." Charles Templeton was an evangelist who was a contemporary and friend of Billy Graham. Some thought he would be the greater of the two evangelists. But Templeton began to doubt the Word of God and eventually became an atheist. Graham, on the other hand, wrestled with the questions that his friend was asking but eventually committed himself to the Word of God and found great power. In Templeton's book, Farewell to God, which he wrote shortly before his death he tells about a conversation he had with Billy Graham. In this conversation Graham told him, "I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results… so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.” In this post-Christian world such a view will run contrary to the thinking of the mainstream population. But it is the one thing that will enable us to make a difference. Through that Word we will be sustained to the end. Without it we will be swallowed up by the prevailing thinking in our culture. Paul puts it this way in verse 16, "holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain."