Blame anxiety, blame incorrect thinking, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like the only Christian left in a godless culture. Even when I encounter other “believers” throughout the week, I’m left to question their faith. They talk about “manifesting” things as though that’s how God operates. They act like premarital sex is no big deal, judging is wrong, and all forms of sexuality are holy. Only when I return to church on Sunday am I reaffirmed that there are other Christians in the world who share my values.
To be in the world, but not of it. I remember hearing that as a child. Today, I’m repeating those words to myself as encouragement.
That exact phrasing is not found in the Bible, but the concept is. Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2, CSB)
While we live in the world, we are not called to live like the world. In other words, we take up space in the environment without becoming like it. Yet, so many of us do. Blame a fear of ostracization, loneliness, a fear of missing out. Whatever the case, for many Christians, there is a deep desire to not be labeled as different.
What’s more demoralizing is the fact that in becoming more like the culture around us, many young people are abandoning church altogether. Those who remain opt for delicate studies of the faith, caring less about sin and focusing on more feel-good topics like God’s love. Prayer, attending church, and studying the Bible take a back seat, replaced by whatever makes us feel most comfortable.
Now, to be fair, I’m not perfect. I fail, I sin, I mess up much more than I want or would ever want to share. The difference, though, is that I recognize my shortcomings and want to grow. I want to be better day by day. That’s no secret. But when I talk to other believers about their faith, there seems to not be a desire to grow. No introspection. There is stagnation and conformity.
I’m no proponent of declaring who is an actual Christian and who is not. I don’t know their hearts. Only God does. However, the Bible says, “encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception” (Hebrews 3:13).
If I am to admonish my fellow believers, then I have to point out the error in their ways and my own, hoping and praying that we will all strive to be better. Jesus says that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Whatever excuses we make to not follow is likely evidence that we are instead being tempted by the world.
In today’s unchristian culture, here are some ways you can work to maintain your faith.
Want to Grow
Part of the issue plaguing today’s culture is that so many of us are okay with the status quo. Even if we do voice complaints about something, the majority of us won’t do anything beyond complaining. If we want change in the world, we have to first change ourselves. Determining how others can grow is easy. Fixing ourselves is quite a different challenge. That difficulty is why many conform to the culture. Going against the grain requires effort and sacrifice. Who wouldn’t feel scared and intimidated? Yet, God encourages us time and time again to overcome this natural human reaction and focus on His protection and providence instead. He blesses those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). And therefore, He will bless us when we choose to grow.
Go to Church
Spending time at church is one way to deepen your knowledge of Christ and find fellowship with other believers. If your closest relationships are with atheists or someone of another religion, they are going to have a greater influence on you than someone who shares your faith. Seek to build relations with those who share your values and will remind you of what’s most important – loving God and serving others. That’s especially crucial during seasons of life when our faith gets challenged.
Read Your Bible
The world tells us that certain sins are virtues and that certain virtues are sins. Yet, the world cannot deliver the truth as God’s Word can. Spend time studying Scripture daily and enlighten yourself so that when sin makes itself known, common, and encouraged in the culture, you know how to respond.
While we can claim that we want to grow and be the best representation of our faith without taking the time to discern our strengths and weaknesses, all we’re doing is talking. Introspection is how we turn a desire for change into action. This includes taking time to talk to God and sitting with our thoughts. Don’t be afraid to do either. Our culture is very much on the go all the time, but Christianity advocates for thoughtful rest.
Seek Constructive Feedback
There’s only so much we can realize through introspection because that’s something we do for ourselves. As we know, we need one another. External feedback can help mold us into better people, especially when that criticism comes from a fellow Christian who takes faith seriously. They can keep us on track when the world tempts us to go astray.
Maybe you’re at a good place in your walk with Christ, but if you still sin, then there’s room to grow. Even if your faith shines brighter than other Christians around you, you can still grow. That’ll be true today, tomorrow, and for as long as you live. A lot of Christians, especially older folks, are closed off to feedback. They find contentment in being who they are as they are, but we’re sinners. Now, God doesn’t demand perfection of His followers, but He does call us to be better. No matter who we are.
Maybe today, you find yourself torn between the Lord and the world. You know what you ought to do, but the choice is hard. You don’t want to feel alone, out of place, disconnected, especially in today’s world. So many people are still hurting from the pandemic response. Sexuality is confusing our kids. Loneliness is rampant. There’s so much happening, and if we’re being honest, there’s no telling when things will get better.
But rest assured that whatever happens next, God is with you. He has outlined promise upon promise in His Word. What He asks of you and me is that we pick up our crosses and follow Him. Oftentimes, that will mean going against cultural norms, but we can do so gladly and proudly, knowing that rather than following the world, we are following the creator of it. The world can’t give you salvation, but the Lord can. Find peace in that today.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/gremlin
Aaron D’Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He’s an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”
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