C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” I can’t think of a better way to convey the importance of a Christian Worldview, but to be fair, few of us have a better control of language than Lewis did. But what even is a worldview, and how do we know that the one we carry is a Christian one? To put it simply, a worldview is a lens through which we view the world! It is the filter we use to decide what we do, how we react, and what we align ourselves with. It would seem, at least on a surface level, that a Christian Worldview would simply come with the territory of being a Christian, but unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as we would like.
How do you feel about murder? Theft? Adultery? Do you agree that we should love our neighbor regardless of how we differ? That we should strive to be a force for good in the world? Do you go to church regularly? My guess is that your answers would be something along the lines of “Horrible, bad, despicable, of course, certainly, and yes.” Congratulations, you are in the majority. You are, for all intents and purposes, a good person. But are you exhibiting a Christian Worldview? Maybe. Only maybe. But don’t be offended, because not only are you not alone, you are not a monster. The cruel trick of the world is that all of those ideologies and beliefs, even in many cases the church attendance, are universally considered standards of being a “good person” no matter how tied to Christianity they may be.
Much of the “good” in the secular world comes directly from Christianity. After being co opted, they are then twisted and perverted until, horrifyingly, they look exactly the same, but are hollow. Imagine an orange that has no fruit under its rind yet retains its outward appearance. That’s what secular goodness is. It is impossibly easy to believe that one is following Christ as long as they never attempt to dive deeper.
I have a dear old friend who has never been religious. Recently she has decided that full atheism is the route she wants to take. Certainly, one would make the assertion that there are fewer people less suited to be friends than a Millennial Youth Minister and a Millennial Atheist, at least in terms of ideology. However, we both agree, whole-heartedly, that I should never attempt to kill her. That she should never steal. That we should not lie to one another. Our philosophical paths seem to be, if not the same, parallel. And yes, they certainly run neck and neck for miles and miles, but eventually, inevitably, her path begins to drift, veer, and ultimately turn around completely. Should neither of us commit adultery? Of course not. Should we honor our father and mother? I would say, “Yes.” She would veer. She would say, “Yes...as long as they fully accept you, always encourage your every decision, and never question you.” And you know what? My mind agrees. But my heart trusts the Word. That belief is so tempting. So logical. Yet it is completely devoid of Christ.
Unfortunately, it just gets easier to drift and veer from there. We begin to find exceptions and loopholes everywhere we can. We craft an elegant paper mache home to dwell in. Lovely, but frail. We say, “Yes of course I am a Christian. I love Jesus and I follow him!” While at the same time saying, “I can put these Earthly beliefs and practices before Christ because they sound good and kind and important.” We say, “I love God, but I can do X instead of going to Church because it is important to me too.” And X can be anything! School, sports, work, even spending time “having fun” with family instead of coming to Church Sunday morning. We say we believe and trust God, but we realize that there are things in Scripture that contradict the zeitgeist! We know Church is important, but why take my family to Church when I could take them to Brunch! We are afraid of seeming like a bigot or a simpleton, and we are afraid that making time for God will take away time from life. We react, much like children, to God’s laws and rules with disdain and disagreement, and we cover ourselves with shame when we read a passage we find hard to agree with because it challenges us. And yet, despite all of this clear opposition, we insist that we are living with a solid Christian Worldview.
I would assume, at this point, I may have upset you, dear reader. If it helps, I have also upset myself. Yes, even professional Christians fall victim to these straying contradictions. I love my job. I cherish the blessing I have been given. Spending my working hours teaching, learning, and endeavoring to point our youth towards the loving arms of God the Father Almighty. But I would be nothing more than a liar if I stood in front of your children each week and pretended that I was 100% with all of this Christianity business. I’m not. Not always. Neither is my father, Fr. David Dubay, rector of Holy Trinity. Neither is Fr. Ted. Not even Bishop Lawrence is 100% on board 100% of the time. We are humans, broken and searching, and we feel the same temptations all humans feel. The Bible challenges us, and on weaker days, we may find ourselves furious at God. Why? Because the thing we CAN’T deny is the trust we have in Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
Let’s take a look at Psalm 19. Written by David while running for his life from King Saul, Psalm 19 is a beautiful microcosm for not only how easy it should be to believe in the splendor of our Heavenly Father, but also perhaps the most compelling case for living deeply in God’s law that one could come across. The first four verses paint a compelling picture of the power of God’s creation, showcasing how the majesty of Creation speaks endlessly and clearly about the divine power and existence of our God without ever saying a word out loud. However, it is back half of the chapter that really makes the case for a Christian Worldview. Verses 7 through 11 make up a love letter to rules like nothing else you have seen.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
It is in this passage that we see, in plain english, just how rewarding obeying God’s word can be. While it is easy to say that rules are in place to keep us docile and obedient, I find it beyond comforting that here we see how God’s laws are designed to help us prosper and move towards pure joy. Life isn’t 1984 but we are so quick to jump to the notion that rules are things we need to break in order to reach a higher level in life. We think to ourselves, no matter how loudly, that we are in a system designed to hold us back, and any ruleset is just another system standing in my way. “The Man” is always looming over our shoulder, desperate to keep us from seeing the truth. That’s what makes this passage so amazing, and why it makes it clear just how rewarding a true Christian Worldview is.
Things don’t get much clearer than how David lays out the benefits of living a life in accordance with God’s law. Look at how carefully he describes them. Perfect, Radiant, Trustworthy, right, pure. These words resonate with us as humans as they are all ideals we seek desperately in our own lives. We long for something to guide us through life. We ache for a chance to truly trust in something. We are constantly searching for something that will endure within our lives, especially when so many things simply exist without showing us that they can survive our trials. Not only does David appeal to our more existential desires, but he smartly plays into our greed for something pleasing and valuable. We see here just how necessary God’s Laws are, as they address and appeal to us in deep, nearly primal ways. And of course they do! They were formed by the same Creator who formed us! God, in his infinite wisdom, lovingly crafted guidelines to compliment and fulfill his precious creations. They are everything we need and more, and they are the most powerful tools we could ever ask for as we strive to live lives for Him.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The hard part of a Christian Worldview, the part that keeps so many of us from wanting to truly embrace keeping one going, is that the thing it sheds the most light on is us. No one likes to be introspective. It is easy to fake. We can say “I’m working on myself. I need to drink less soda,” but when do we say. “I’m struggling with an addiction,” or “I have built an identity in lies,” or, “I have placed so many idols in front of my Lord Jesus, and I need to make HIm the center of my life again.” This last bit of the Psalm calls us out. It reminds us that we can hide things deep within that we will willfully keep hidden, and only through the lens of God can we truly be honest and address those things.
It can be scary to admit that you aren’t on the “right path”. That maybe you have fallen prey to the attractive and easy ways of a secular worldview. That maybe you have built up long standing walls of excuses and deflection to avoid addressing the areas you know you are falling short in. That’s ok. That’s normal human behavior. However, we are not called to be normal humans. We are not called to settle for what the Earth offers us. We are strangers in a strange land, called to be truly fulfilled by a land we have yet to venture into. It is important that you feel uncomfortable. That you feel challenged. That you feel as if there is something you are avoiding or afraid to look at within you. That feeling is God’s Love making its presence known in you, and knocking loudly at the door of your heart. Desperate to be fully embraced.
In the beginning, when God formed us, he imbued us with freewill. He gave us the choice to love and serve him with gladness and singleness of heart. In doing so, he made our decision to follow him infinitely valuable. We live in a world that is so easy to love. It is so easy to decide that extracurriculars and perfect grades are what we need to center our life on. It is so easy to turn one's family into an idol and in doing so keep them farther from God. It is so easy to pick what we like from scripture and ignore what the world dislikes. And yet, no matter where you are on your path, God has beautiful things in place to guide you on your way. His gift comes at price, yes, but he paid it. Now it is ours to use.
For the next few weeks in Youth Group, we will be looking at the life of David and the trials he faced with King Saul and as a King himself. David’s life was certainly a storied one, and so many of his struggles are ones that we can heavily relate to in modern life. For our first lesson, I wanted to start somewhere familiar: The story of David and Goliath. However, when I was preparing for the lesson, I wasn’t moved by the classic story of impossible triumph, but rather, I was drawn to David’s interaction with Saul.
In 1 Samuel 17: 38-40 we see a scene play out that is well know. In an attempt to help David, Saul adorns him with the best armor at his disposal. David attempts to move in the armor and finds it too cumbersome and instead opts to take only his trust in the Lord, a sword, and the classic sling/smooth stone combo. Of course, this proves to be the right move. David launched a stone that “sinks into [Goliath’s] head” (ouch) and then seals the deal with a beheading. David chose to trust in the Lord and victory was given to him.
That scene is so classic that even non-believers can tell you about it! But there is a moment in that story that I want to pay particular attention too. The part where Saul tries to give David armor. It is so easy to brush past this as Saul simply asserting his resources and tactical understanding, and while that is accurate, there is one point that needs to be realized. Saul is legitimately trying to help. He truly believes that his aid is the best option, and he earnestly wants to help his trusted employee. I couldn’t shake that. It seemed so simple and clear but I had never looked at it critically.
So why does that matter? What does Saul’s failed attempt to help David mean for us in 2018? In the context of the passage, David has a very literal Goliath to confront and conquer. In our modern world, we also are given a Goliath to face. Life itself. Society would have us believe that Life is an opponent that we must strive to defeat in pursuit of the ultimate prize: Happiness. To the secular mind, the best thing any person can achieve is a sense of personal happiness. This being the case, there are many well meaning people who have advice, “armor”, for us to use. People who truly care about us. Love us. Want what they think is best for us. Their words are kind and heartfelt and come from a good place, but is their advice good? Will being happy by our own personal human measures bring us closer to God? That is exactly the question I want you to ask yourself.
When I was younger, 13 to be exact, I was horribly unhappy. Years of being bullied by my classmates at my private Christian school had finally pushed me to rejecting the faith entirely. During this time, I had a group of older friends outside of school who were truly kind and loved me. They watched out for me, they supported me, and they genuinely wanted me to be happy. Their attempts to bring me happiness were, in hindsight, questionable at best. They encouraged me to develop several habits that might have been fun in moment, but only created fleeting feelings of “happiness”. I became self-possessed, dangerous, and often cruel to others if it meant coming out on top. These habits were in no way bringing me closer to God, and in fact, pushed me father away over the next few years.
There I was, seeking happiness. Trying to conquer life in my own personal way. Saul, with a heart full of care and love, had given me armor that I was not comfortable with and I charged forth towards my perceived enemy. I was destroyed. Utterly defeated. I was nowhere close to David.
See, when David moved in his gifted armor, he knew it would only bring him down. As a shepherd in the desert, David faced many dangers. Lions, wolves, bears, bandits, all things what would come between him and the safety of his sheep. David had trained with his sling and his staff. He could do more than hold his own; he was a deadly force. It was necessary for survival. Above all, David was devote in his faith in God. He knew that if God had wanted him to dawn the armor, than it would have fit and felt right. It didn’t.
In 1 John chapter 4 verse 1 we are told, “Dear friends, do not believe all spirits, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” When we come back to that question of being happy and how it will bring us closer to God, we would be smart to remember David. Not all nice advice is good advice. Not everyone who cares about you is actually helpful. Not all good people have God in the center of their worldview. Their words may sound sweet and sound, but they may be miles away from the path God would have us take. God loves it when we are happy, and so He offered us the immaculate unending Joy of his love and eternal life with him.
When we are given “armor” in this life, we need to be careful not to call it good on face value alone. In all things, we must strive to look at our lives through the lens of scripture. We must seek to be discerning and careful. Will we fail? Of course! But there is no failure God does not forgive, so never let fear keep you from turning to the Lord when you have a misstep. My goal for this series is not only to show the Youth of Christ Church how David’s life is full of problems we can all relate to today, but to also teach them how to use scripture as a guide when we face those problems. Just as God anointed David, He anointed each of us who believe to be his representatives in this world. And when the going gets tough, remember, His word and love is all of the armor we need.
Follow Up Questions
Please consider asking these questions to your children, family, and loved ones.
We’re Teaching This:
Have you ever been overcome with awkwardness or embarrassment? Sometimes the whole idea of God can make us feel that way. We’re afraid of what God really thinks of us or how He will feel when we mess up. So we avoid going to church, praying, or getting closer to God to keep ourselves from feeling uncomfortable. And it kind of makes you wonder, Is this how following God is supposed to be? This week we’ll look back at some of the things Jesus shared in the book of John about who He is. As we do, we’ll realize that our relationship with Jesus doesn’t have to be shaped by embarrassment, judgment, or insecurity. In fact, because He is leading, guiding, and shepherding us, we can rest knowing that our lives are in good hands.
Just like your teenager is still developing physically and mentally, their belief system is still under construction as well. As a result, from time to time, they may say something surprising or something that conflicts with what you believe. Don’t freak out. While it’s appropriate to guide and direct your student to what’s best for them, sometimes there’s something better. Become a professional question asker— not nagger, lawyer, or annoyer—but someone who asks questions in order to better connect. Then patiently listen as they process through their own faith and beliefs.
Responding with curiosity toward your teenager will always go further than responding with defensiveness. Ask a question or two from the list below and see where the conversation goes. Remember, do more listening than teaching, and don’t take it personally if your child doesn’t exactly reflect your beliefs. Their belief system is growing and changing, and the ultimate goal is for them to develop a faith of their own.
We’re Teaching This:
How do you normally introduce yourself? Maybe you start with, “Hi. I’m (insert your name here).” But what comes after that? Sure, you can talk about where you go to school, or what hobbies you’re into, but that doesn’t really introduce anyone to you, just facts about you. When Jesus talked about Himself, He would make statements like, “I am the Good Shepherd” and, “I am the bread of life.” As strange as they sound, these statements give us a better picture of who Jesus is. Because if He is a shepherd, then we are His sheep. And if He is the bread of life, then we can be satisfied in Him. In this series, we’ll discover that the way Jesus described Himself, give us a clue into who we are as well.
Think About This:
Every family has a belief system. Even if your family isn’t particularly religious, chances are there are certain things that you believe about the world and certain values that you want to pass on to your children. It’s natural. And, as our students develop into adults, it’s normal for them to think about, question, and maybe even try on other beliefs they may have been exposed to outside our home. If it hasn’t happened already, there will probably come a day when your student makes a statement or asks a question that feels like it flies in the face of all you’ve taught them. And while it’s unsettling and uncomfortable for us, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, questioning can be good. It means they’re growing.
At moments like these, it’s important to remember that, just as our students’ bodies and minds are developing, their faith and beliefs are developing too. They may go through stages or seasons of faith that look different, but that doesn’t mean it is where they will ultimately land.
One way we can help our students navigate this tricky time is to be authentic about our own faith journey. Religious or not, we all have questions and doubts we wrestle with from time to time. We all have moments that leave us feeling a little confused or unsettled about our beliefs. And the same things that have helped us through those times may be helpful for our students as well.
Maybe it’s been a while since you really wrestled with a tough question about life or maybe you weren’t sure what to do with it. That’s okay. Here are four strategies you may find helpful when you don’t have all the answers.
The Great Commission and the Legacy of Jesus
This past Sunday night, we looked at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20.
We spoke about Jesus' last instructions to His disciples to carry on His legacy here on earth, to "go and make disciples." We asked the questions "What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to be remembered for?"
Here are two resources from Sunday night's lesson: