In 1976 Francis Schaeffer, an American evangelical theologian, released his book How Should We Then Live. The book focused on what our lives as followers of Christ should look like given the intellectual and moral decline of Western culture throughout the preceding centuries.
That question is as relevant today as it was in 1976. One contemporary pastor and teacher, John MacArthur, addressed the question in a sermon called, “How to Live in a Crooked and Perverse Generation” offering some keen insight into today’s moral and cultural decline, as well as sound biblical advice for how we, as Christians, ought live in the midst of the turmoil.
The remainder of this article summarizes the highlights of Dr. MacArthur’s sermon, with portions of Philippians, Chapter 2 as the main source.
Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi presents three basic realities to navigate the times in which we live; 1) Where we are; 2) Who we are; and 3) How we are to live.
Where are we?
In verse 15, the Apostle Paul said to the small church in Philippi: “…we are in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Dr. MacArthur descried Philippi as “The only church in Europe in the midst of paganism – poor, persecuted, attacked by false teachers, marked by internal discord and disunity.”
Jesus himself used the phrase “crooked and perverse generation”. In Matthew 17, and again in Luke 9 Jesus said to the Jews of His day, “You are an unbelieving and perverted generation.” There are also other biblical references to consider.
Proverbs 2 tells us:
“Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.” (Prov 2:11)
The prophet Isaiah described rebellious and disobedient people pf his day:
“Their feet run to evil, they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, there’s no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.” (Isa 59:7-8)
We also have examples in Apostolic preaching. When he preached at Pentecost, Peter told his audience “Be saved from this crooked and perverse generation!” (Acts 2:4)
Fast forward to now. Our own country, our nation, and today’s world seems to be bent on systematically eliminating morality and religion while promoting and even celebrating that which God calls “abomination”. Evil is called good and good evil.
Where are we? We are right where God wants us to be; living in a world that’s exactly what it has always been.
Who are we?
Our Philippians text answers that, as well, in verse 15:
”. . .you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear lights in the world”,
First, we are children of God.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. “ (John 1:12-13)
We are not only His children, we are also “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17).
The world has no idea what that means, but we have an inner certainty that our status as God’s children is true, “The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Rom 8:16).
So here we are, children of God living in a corrupt and perverse generation, exactly where we are supposed to be!
Secondly, we are lights in the world. The Greek word for ‘lights’ in the text is used to describe the sun, moon and stars. Just as the sun, moon, and stars the luminaries that light the darkness in creation, we shine as luminaries in the darkness of Satan’s kingdom.
How are we to live?
Consider the fact that, as children of God and citizens of His kingdom, we live in a parallel universe. John 18 explains it. When before Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate asked him “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
The kingdom is God; the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual reality separate from every earthly kingdom. So how do we live in this parallel universe? Let’s turn back to our passage in Philippian’s, Chapter 2 and look at the imperatives we are given.
The first imperative for our lives is given in verses 5 and 8 . “”Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”. . . “Humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.” Our lives should be marked by an attitude of humility in every aspect.
A humble attitude enables us to fulfill our calling to:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil 2:3-4)
So, the first imperative is to have the same attitude of humility that Christ had. The second imperative is found in verses 12 & 13:
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence ,work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.”
We are to “work out” our salvation, not work “for” our salvation, but we are to get out of God’s way and let HIM work, with an attitude of worship, an attitude of “fear and trembling”. How do we do that – work out our salvation? We are called to live lives of obedience to God and pursue blameless, innocent, and virtuous lives.
God Bless Your Journey!