Being Christians in the 21st Century
(given as a graduation address to home school graduates*)
I want to welcome family and friends of these 1999 home school graduates to this very important occasion. I too am very pleased to be with you this evening celebrating your graduation. The challenge that lies before you men and women is being truly Christian in this post-Christian culture.
I recently saw a billboard that read: Christianity: Boring, Untrue, or Irrelevant? Unfortu- nately, many people in our culture would identify with one or more of these evaluations of Christ and Christianity. How is it possible that people of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition could come to such alternatives? As Christians how will you respond?
For us to express a sense of true Christian beauty and the strength of Christianity at the beginning of the 21 st century, Francis Schaeffer has written that Christians must maintain three principles:
1. The full doctrinal position of historic Christianity must be clearly maintained. 2. Every honest question must be given an honest answer. It is unbiblical for anyone to say, ‘Just believe.’ 3. There must be an individual and corporate exhibition that God exists in our century, in order to show that historic Christianity is more than just a superior dialectic or a better point of psychological integration.
It has become imperative that we as Christians know not only what we believe, but we must know why we believe what we believe. There are two watershed issues for Christianity as you enter into the 21st century: The Truth of the Word of God and True Spiritual Reality.
We are living in a time when we are told that experience determines truth. However, this is not the Christian position. You must maintain the Christian position that Truth determines your experiences. The Bible, in its entirety is true. This means that whenever the Bible speaks of science or history you are as sure and certain of its accuracy as when it speaks of religious topics. This is particularly true of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis. You can expect to be told that these chapters of the Bible represent an outdated picture of the beginning of the world - not actual history. You must not be lulled to sleep at this point.
Secondly, though the Bible gives a systematic answer to the issues of life, you must never turn Christianity into a philosophy, a code of ethics, or a rule of heart to live by. It must not become a performance — a cold, dead orthodoxy. You must enter into the true spiritual reality available to each of us in Christ.
HONEST ANSWERS TO HONEST QUESTIONS
Secondly, Dr. Schaeffer maintains that Christians must be willing and able to give honest answers to the honest questions asked by our culture. There are seven basic questions that deserve your greatest attention:
1 - Is there a God and if so what is He like? 2 - What is the nature of the universe — its origin and structure? 3 - What is the nature of man?
Is man good, bad, or a blank slate? 4 - What is the basis of ethics and morality?
Is there a line separating right from wrong? 5 - What is the cause of evil and suffering? 6 - What happens to man at death?
Does he simply cease to exist, does he return to earth in some new form,
or does he spend eternity in the presence or absence of God 7 - Does life and history have any real meaning or is it just a grasping for the wind?
One disturbing question for modern man is how man can do so many wonderful things and yet commit so many cruel acts. How can one person give generously to the betterment of society by building hospitals or orphanages while another person commits mass murders of innocent children? Because people of our society have drifted away from the Biblical explanation of the creation of man in the image of God and the historic Fall of Man, they are unable to explain this dichotomy.
Christianity and therefore we as Christians have a source of knowledge, not derived from man, that gives us truth about life....a framework of knowledge to guide our understanding of life.
As Christians you must be both willing and able to clearly articulate the truth of Christian- ity to the culture. You must study to show yourselves approved of God ... correctly dividing the word of God ... always ready, both in season and out of season, to give a reasoned defense for the hope that lies within you.
BEING AN IMAGE BEARER
Last of all, Dr. Schaeffer exhorts us that exhibiting the existence of God to a culture that denies His existence is imperative. Adam and Eve and their future children were created to bear the image of God to the world. Not because they thought ‘what would God do’ and then try to be like Him. Rather, God had clothed His deity in their humanity. As long as they continued to live their lives in dependence upon God, His Spirit would direct their thinking and empower their living. They were created to be the image bearers of the unseen God. This was normal supernatu- ral living.
However, the temptation of Satan was to be like God apart from God. When Adam and Eve made their historic choice to believe the lie to be like God apart from God, the Bible says that they died. What did that mean? They didn’t die physically until many years later. So what hap- pened? God, the Holy Spirit, departed from their lives. They died spiritually. Adam and Eve
through their decision thrust the world into an abnormal state....the world in which God is sending you. Man now living in his own strength apart from God can only present a distorted view of the image of God.
Throughout history various people have exhibited the existence of God through their lives to their century. For example, it is said of Moses that his face shown with the glory of God because he spent time with God on the holy mountain. Though the glory of God was reflected on the counte- nance of Moses, his glory was described as a fading glory.
Jesus was described as the exact likeness and radiance of the unseen God. John writes (1:14)
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”.
Although Jesus is God in His first coming to earth He set aside His deity and came as the second Adam to be the image bearer of the unseen God. Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus’ response was (John 14: 9, 10) Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.”
How did Jesus live his life as the image bearer of the unseen God? He tells us the answer: Apart from His Father He could do nothing. He lived not as the Second Person of the Trinity, but rather as the second Adam in complete dependence upon the Father in the power of the Spirit. The words He spoke and the works He performed were not from Himself, but rather from the Father as He was empowered by the Spirit.
Most people of the 21st century will never pick up a Bible on their own. Many people will consider Christianity as boring, untrue, or irrelevant. But God has made provision for such people. Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth said
“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (II Corinthians 3:2-3)
As Christians you are the letter of Christ to the culture. You are now the image bearer of the invisible God. To be the image bearer of the invisible God does not mean that you strive to be like Christ. Neither does it mean that you ask God for help to imitate Christ.
Paul writes that you are the letter of Christ ... and this letter is known and read by all men. It is an open letter to the culture. As this letter you, through your lives, contain the truth of Christianity and the life of Christ.
The mystery of being the image bearer of the invisible God was unknown to previous genera- tions. But now the mystery has been revealed explains the apostle Paul. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Just as Jesus said the He could do nothing apart from the Father, He said that you could do nothing apart from Him.
Paul contrasts the glory of Moses with the glory of Christ in us in these words ...
“who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory....Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:6- 11, 17, 18)
Therefore, I charge you in the presence our your family and friends, and before God to present your lives to Him - allowing God to live His life in and through your life that you might be the true image bearer of the unseen God, changed from glory to glory and therefore demonstrating the existence of God — the truth of God and His life — to the men and women of the 21st century in and through your daily living.
NOTE: This keynote address was given by David Quine for a home school graduation commence- ment in Dallas, Texas on May 27, 1999.