The Christian in Culture

2017 Messages

For many of us, the idea of speaking into culture and cultural issues can produce a variety of emotions. Some shrink back because of fear, others because of inadequacy. By walking through 1 Peter, Derek shares how Christ empowers you to overcome these fears and inadequacies in order to courageously engage the culture around you.

Derek MathewsApr 30, 2017Plano

Good morning, Watermark Plano. My name is Derek Mathews. I'm the men's Equipping and Frontlines director here, and I'm coming at you live this morning. I am excited to be here just to talk about some things that have been laid on our hearts specifically at the Plano Campus.

Back in the eighteenth century in England, two conversations occurred that radically transformed not just the culture of England but our culture today. Two conversations…one in a train, one in a home. These two conversations radically transformed not just the culture of the day but transformed the culture of all of England and transformed the culture of us here now today.

Eighteenth-century England was honestly not that different than our world right now. The people were kind of bent against the things of God, largely, as a culture. There was certain sexuality that was bent. There was certain promiscuity that was bent. There were certain ways they entertained themselves that were bent against the things of God. There were all of these different things that culturally are a lot like us today.

There were things that were legal in that culture that weren't just legal but were celebrated and not just celebrated but wildly against the things of Christ. Into that culture, two individuals, two old friends got together, and they took a two-week train ride, because that's how they traveled back then. Praise the Lord for not that.

So they get on a train. The first individual's name is Isaac Milner, a name probably most of us in here have never heard of, but he was a believer in Christ and an academic. The other individual was a guy by the name of William Wilberforce, a name many of you probably have heard of. William was a product of the culture of his day, so his culture around him really indoctrinated him to how he viewed the world and how he viewed himself.

He gets on the train with this believer in Christ, and for those two weeks they have numerous conversations about who Jesus is and what he has done. At first, William kind of pushes back, but after a while he begins to believe that Jesus is who he said he was and did what he said he did. So in that conversation, by the time they got off the train, William had given his life to Jesus. That one conversation on a train radically transformed him as an individual.

But it didn't stop there. You see, William Wilberforce was in parliament, and he wasn't sure… "Hey, I'm in parliament. The culture of parliament is really bent against the things of God, and now I'm a Christian. I don't know if these two things are going to meet up together." So after a couple of months, he linked up in the house of his mentor, John Newton. You might know that name as the guy who wrote "Amazing Grace."

They start talking, and William believed the only way to really serve God was to step away from the culture of parliament and jump into the culture of a monastery and be a monk or be a vocational minister. John Newton thought the other way. He said, "Hey, I think God has uniquely placed you in this platform to speak into the cultural issues of the day." So William began to believe that.

He started to pray, and for two years he prayed, "Hey, God, give me something within this culture that I can really speak into with your name." All of a sudden, God began to open his mind to the slave trade and the horrible practice it was in that time. He began to open his mind up to those things and how culture of that time had widely accepted this as normative and even good. He began to see how awful and atrocious it was.

He began to have his eyes opened to these things, but he knew it was so ingrained in the culture that in order to change the legislation he had to first change the culture, so he started living a life that really forced other people to take God seriously. He did things in that culture and in that day that a member of parliament would never have done, things like playing with your kids in public. Crazy. Taking Sundays off. Nutso.

He started doing things that forced other people to take God seriously, things that were counter the culture of the day. He proclaimed Jesus with his life, but then he proclaimed Jesus with his lips. He started opening his mouth and, in the name of Jesus started pushing back against slavery and calling it the evil that it was, and he started to share the goodness and grace of Jesus to everyone who would listen to him.

For 44 years he did this until in 1833, three days before William died, after 44 years of fighting against the culture and being called every name you can imagine… In 1833, parliament decided that slavery would be abolished. A man was transformed by two conversations, and that transformed him, and then that transformed the culture around him, and that transformed not just the culture around him, but we are direct recipients of those two conversations.

Those two conversations radically transformed not just William Wilberforce but the entire course of Western civilization, and it wasn't in parliament, it wasn't in a courtroom; it was on a train and it was in a home. We're here today in the twenty-first century, 2017, and God has placed us in an environment that's not unlike eighteenth-century England, and yet he hasn't placed a William Wilberforce or a John Newton or an Isaac Milner. He has placed you.

He has placed 1,400 of us each and every week who gather together, who are hearing the message and goodness of Jesus Christ and then going off into homes, into businesses and workplaces, not on a train but in various elements in which we're sitting next to people, and God is calling us to invest our lives into them and to transform an individual, because when you transform an individual you transform a culture. That's what he's calling us to do.

For so many of us, we hear stories like William Wilberforce or last week with Joni, and we go, "Hey, I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of something that's bigger than myself, and I want to have it said of me at the end of my life that I was a part of this great movement of God and this movement of Christ to push back some of the evil we see in the news and the evil we see in the culture."

If we're honest, when we think about doing that, when we think about opening up our mouths at work and various places God has given us and speaking against issues like the sanctity of marriage or abortion or certain political things, there's a certain level of emotions that stir up in us. The first emotion that stirs up in a lot of us is the emotion of fear. It produces in us this fear that holds us back. I don't know if it's like this for you, but I just know all the time…

You mention politics in public, and things go crazy. Just throw out the name "Donald Trump" at lunch and see what happens. It's like a battle that just occurs right there. It's like, "All right. Everyone take their sides, you in this corner, you in that corner. We're going to have a clean fight here. No low blows. Let's not make fun of the president's hair. Ready, go!" It just feels like a fight. It feels like a battle. It feels like you are dropped in the middle of warfare, and you go, "Okay, I don't know if I want to jump into that."

So there's fear, but there's not just fear. For some of you, you feel inadequate. You go, "Okay, if I'm given the opportunity to speak or as these things come up, I don't actually know what to say. I don't know how to engage with this conversation. I don't know how to speak into these things. I don't know where I land, and I don't know if where I land is where I should land. So whenever these things come up, I speak, but I don't really know what to speak, so I just kind of curl back in on myself." You feel inadequate.

Regardless of what feelings or emotions arise, most of us buy into this lie that basically says if we can get the right person in the White House, the right person on the Supreme Court, the right person behind the pulpit, and they can then use their platform, that will alleviate me from having to do the thing God has called me to do. So we keep our mouths shut as the culture around us crumbles because of fear and inadequacies.

Yet God has called us to speak into these moments, to take courage in Christ and speak into our culture today. So today, that's what we're going to be talking about: The Christian in Culture. Not Christianity in culture, not Christ in culture, but the Christian in culture…you in culture. How do you engage in the culture around you? How do you engage on the platform God has given you? In order to do that, we're going to be looking in 1 Peter.

As you move through 1 Peter, Peter is writing to a group of individuals who are in a culture that is bent against God. Their leader, the emperor of the day, was not trying to make Rome great again. He was trying to alleviate the parasite that he saw as Christianity, so everything in that culture was bent against these people, and Peter writes to them about how to stand as a Christian in the midst of a broken culture.

So this morning, we're going to be listening to Pastor Peter and just overview the lessons, the principles he pushes forward that mean everything not just to eighteenth-century England and not just the time of the Bible but means everything of how we, as Christians, ought to engage the culture around us for the purpose and person of Christ. That's where we're going this morning.

As we walk through 1 Peter, we're going to see these five gifts God has given us. The first gift is a perspective of the world, the worldview by which we live. Then he's going to give us a preparation. How do we prepare ourselves to engage in the culture around us? Next he's going to give us a proclamation. What do we say when we're given that opportunity? Then we're going to be given prayer, the ultimate weapon into our culture, and then finally, we're going to be given a platform. God has given all of us a distinct platform to speak into our culture.

So those five things are what we're going to be moving toward this morning. It's my hope that you would grab some of these, and as you walk into your office and your home tomorrow, you would see the fact that culture is what's around you and that the most expedient way to change a culture is to transform an individual. So that's where we're going this morning.

1._ Perspective_. Perspective is how you see the world. It's your worldview. It's the glasses by which you see the world, and every one of us has one. Every one of us has a worldview by which we see things, and when Jesus comes into your life, he radically transforms your worldview. He radically transforms how you perceive your identity.

It says in 1 Peter 1:1, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…" And Plano and Richardson and Allen and McKinney and Dallas. He's writing to this group of people, and he's writing to us. He calls them this unique name. He calls them the elect exiles or the NASB says the chosen aliens. This idea that you've been chosen and elected by God, but because you have been elected by God you are a stranger and an exile on earth. This place you live in is not your home.

That's why the New King James takes these two ideas of elect and exiles and combines them into one. They use one single word to define these two, and it's the word pilgrim, that you're a pilgrim. A pilgrim is a person who knows the place they live in is not their home, that they're moving toward another place. They have their gaze fixed on the land that's really there and they have another kingdom, another land, another ruler, and the place they live in right now is not their home.

That's the perspective Christ gives you. You have a perspective of your identity, and that perspective is that you are a pilgrim. This place is not your home. What that does is it actually transforms the way you see your security. How you see your identity in Christ, that you're a pilgrim for him… Now it transforms how you see your security.

In verse 3 it says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…" Kept on earth for you? No. "…kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

Your security, your hope… It says in this passage it's not in things of this world. It's not in this culture. It's not in your boss. It's not in politics. It says your hope is in the living hope of Jesus Christ, that he conquered the grave, that he rose from the grave, that he died on a Friday, but he didn't stay dead on a Sunday, and he is living, he is active, he is moving, he is controlling all things and is above all things, and you're linked up to him. That's your hope.

Whenever we find our hope in these things that aren't of the Lord… When we find them in culture, it makes us ineffective and inefficient to actually speak into culture. If you find your hope and security in your boss, in your job, in your paycheck, then you're not going to speak up when those things contradict the things of Christ. I know that firsthand. At one of my old jobs, I had a boss who acted as kind of boss/king. Some of you know what I'm talking about.

He's just kind of operating in this fashion that "Hey, what I say goes, and if you disagree with me, I'm going to come down hard. I'm going to make fun of you and am probably going to fire you." I lived in that world, and because I lived in that world, I was terrified to lose my job and what he thought of me, so I was finding my security in my boss and what he thought about me.

Don't get me wrong. I complained at home a lot (my wife can attest to it), but I was a coward at work, because I was finding my security and my hope in the culture of the day and namely by my boss. I was afraid of the kitten in the room when the Lion of Judah was on my side. So when he would say things I knew weren't linked up to the things of God and the Word of God, I stayed quiet, and I became a coward.

I forgot what Abraham Cooper said, that there is not one square inch of this entire world in which the risen Lord does not declare "Mine." It's his. To the extent that you link your life up to the things of this world, it's to the extent that you will not be effective in our culture, because you just kind of go with it. The truth is we all do this. We all find our security in a job, in a relationship, in a status, in a paycheck, whatever that might be.

We all find our security in these different things, and to the degree that you do that is the degree that you are ineffective to actually speak into those things when they contradict the things of God. So Christ gives us something. He gives us an identity as a pilgrim. He gives us a perspective of our security, that it's not in comfort or in a culture; it's in him. He gives us a new perspective. So what are you finding your security in? Is it a job? Is it a paycheck? Is it in culture or is it in Christ? He gives us a new perspective, and only when we have this new perspective can we follow to the next thing God gives us.

2.Preparation. First Peter 1:13 says, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Based on your perspective in Christ, that you have a living hope, a new hope, that he's in charge, he's in control. His is the kingdom. His is the power. His is the glory forever and ever, amen. Because of that, he is your living hope. It says now focus fully on him, because he is your hope.

How do you do that? It says, "Prepare your minds for action." Literally, it says, "Gird up the waistband of your mind." I love that. "Put a belt around your head," literally is what it just said. It's saying, "I want you to so consume your mind with the things of Christ. I don't want you 80 percent thinking about the hope in you. I don't want you just on Sundays thinking about it. I want you 100 percent dwelling on the hope you have in Jesus Christ. I want you to think about it, because what you think about is what you'll care about, and what you care about you will chase."

We've been given this charge to prepare our minds for action, but if we're honest, we constantly let the things of culture dictate what we think about. For me, nightly routine often in the Mathews household is to come home after a long day, do our chores, eat, do whatever, and then there's a recliner I have, so I sit and recline, and then I just let Netflix kind of wash over me like a warm blanket after a long day, because I deserve it. Right?

A couple of weeks back, there was a show on that I hadn't seen since high school, and I was like, "Hey, they have every season on it," so I binge-watched half of a season in one sitting, because that's what you do. I just let it kind of wash over me. I got to the end, and I just felt numb about it all. It wasn't as funny as I remember it being, and there was something about it that just wasn't clicking. The more I analyzed it, I realized that every single setup, punch line joke was about sex.

I told my wife the next morning… I was like, "Man, it was just like sex, sex, sex." Everything was about sex. I remember thinking that day how numb I felt, how insufficient and battle ineffective I was that day, because I wasn't preparing my mind for action. There are all of these little choices we make throughout the day that are either going to inform our thinking with the things of Christ or inform our thinking in the things of this culture.

Todd had a game he used to play with his kids called "Spot the lie." As these things came up, he would say, "Hey, spot the lie." If a commercial came up or a show came up, he would pause it and say, "Hey, spot the lie here." His kids would compare the things of culture with the things of Christ. They were preparing their minds for action. We so passively fill our minds with things.

We just let Netflix binge-watch over us, and we have songs that come into our minds that aren't evil… They're not the Devil's music, but what they do is reinforce what culture celebrates. We are called by God to have our minds linked up to the person of Christ. When we think like culture we're inefficient against it because we're indoctrinated by it. So what are you filling your minds with?

First Peter 2:2 says, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk…" He's talking about the Word of God. "…that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." Have you tasted that? Then fill your minds with the things of God, because what you think about you'll start to care about, and what you care about you will chase.

So devote daily. Listen to sermons in your car. Listen to music that wraps your mind up with the things of God. Don't have culture indoctrinate you, but have Christ transform your mind. Prepare your mind for action. That's the second thing he gives us.

3._ The proclamation, what to say. I love how Peter lays this out, because he doesn't just do bullet points of how to evangelize or give the gospel or anything like that. What he gives you is that you should proclaim Jesus not just with your lips (what you say) but with your life, that you proclaim Jesus with your life _and with your lips.

First, you proclaim him with your life, and it's a life of purity. It says in 1 Peter 1:14, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" That word holy means set apart. It means different. We should be thinking differently. We should be acting differently.

We should be consuming our lives with different things. We should be holy. Why? Because our Dad is holy. That's why he says "obedient children." He's trying to link you up to this beautiful picture that God is your Father and, as children, you should look like your dad. DC Talk, one of my favorite bands (which I think just dated me, which is fine. I'm bald; I know my age), had a wonderful quote at the beginning of their song "What If I Stumble." It says…

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today

Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips

Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.

That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

You are meant and designed to be holy like your Dad is holy, to walk in a manner worthy of your calling, to live in such a way that forces other people to take God seriously. When you do that, you will be by your very presence a cultural dividing rod. That's what Peter tells us. Some will villainize you. It says in 1 Peter 4:4, "With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you…" They call you names. "…but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."

When you walk in a manner worthy of your calling, you are going to be countercultural. When you walk with Christ, you're going to be walking in a different manner of life than the rest of the culture. When that happens, it says, they'll malign you. They'll call you names. A lot of us have felt that. Those names come up all the time: bigot, homophobe, or the dreaded intolerant. That comes up all the time. They're going to call you names.

One of the main things that keeps coming up over and over is this idea that's being pushed, like, "Hey, you who follow Christ, you who walk with Christian values and Christian beliefs…you're on the wrong side of history. Culture is moving this way, and you're on the wrong side of it." I read this passage, and I know I'm not on the wrong side of history; I'm on the right side of eternity. It says right there, "…but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."

There comes a moment in which God is returning, and we will all have to give an account, and the truth is there's not an us versus them. It's that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and the only means by which I can stand in front of God is by the grace of Jesus Christ. So I'm not on the wrong side of history; I'm on the right side of eternity, and I want everyone there with me.

I don't care what political agenda you have. I don't care what gender confusion is going through your head. I don't care. I want everyone on the right side of history because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the resurrection from the dead, that he is our living hope. Period. I hear that and I cringe, because I want them so badly to know who Jesus is, to cherish who Jesus is, because there is coming a day in which history will be no more and eternity will begin, and you want to be on the right side.

Some will villainize you, but others will celebrate you. First Peter 2:12 says, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers…" They're talking bad about you, but they begin to see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of his visitation. You are meant to live a life that is forcing other people to take God seriously.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a well-known Christian who lived in Nazi Germany, saw the church that was succumbing to the Nazi power in Germany. They were making compromises to the culture. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said something like, "Do you know the way you dispel a culture of evil? You teach people to pray, to worship, and to live like these things are true."

You live a life of purity and proclaim Jesus with your life, but once you do that, it's not enough for you to be a nice guy. Nobody is coming to Jesus because you're friendly, but that lays the foundation. As you live your life, proclaiming Jesus with your life, it lays the foundation to proclaim him with your lips, and that's where Peter goes next. In 1 Peter 3:13 he connects these two ideas of living a life of purity and living a life of preaching.

"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake…" Even if they do malign you and call you names. "…you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…"

You proclaim Jesus with your life of purity, but then you open your mouth and proclaim the goodness and the gospel of Jesus Christ. You live that life and proclaim Jesus with your mouth, and I don't just mean on a stage. I don't mean just right here. Do you see it? It says always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks of you.

You are all preachers, and you all have a stage. It just looks different for everyone. In fact, 1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you…" Talking about us. "…are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." For so many of us, we think the main preaching element happens each week right here. It doesn't. This is one of them.

The main preaching element and the best sermon anyone in your life will probably hear is when they see your life playing out in purity and then see you open your lips in proclaiming the goodness and greatness of Jesus. The best sermon somebody might hear this week will be when you invite them to lunch and ask them questions about their life and engage with them and share with them the hope that is in you. That's what he says.

What do you say in these moments? Do you have to know every answer to every theological and cultural issue? No. It's good for you to be equipped in that way. That's what we're doing this summer during our summer study that you're going to hear a lot about in the next couple of weeks. We're going to have several weeks devoted on a Wednesday night to talking about politics and gender confusion and the sanctity of marriage and all this stuff. We want to equip you with that, but that's not what he says to share.

Look at it. He says you give a reason for the hope that is in you. What is the hope that's in you? It's Christ. You give a reason for the hope that is in you, and you point your life to Jesus…who he is, what he has done, and what he has done in your life. How do you do it? Do you come out swinging, throw the Bible at them, just drop some truth bombs, and be like, "Hey, man; you're either going to repent or burn"?

Is that what you do? No. It says do it with gentleness and respect. Listen clearly. You are not trying to win an argument about politics or about anything culturally. You are trying to place people at the feet of Jesus Christ and let him transform them. You proclaim him with your life, but you open your mouth and proclaim him with your lips. That's the third gift he gives us.

4.Prayer. All this can seem overwhelming, and some of you are feeling that way right now. "I have to speak into every cultural issue that comes up and talk to everyone and lead this person to Christ so they will do all these things." It can feel overwhelming. Those fears and insecurities and anxieties and insufficiencies… It sounds great right now. You might feel like, "Hey, I'm going to go take the next hill for Jesus," but then you go and you're in your office and these things come up, and you go, "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say."

Prayer frees you from those fears. It says in 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." Prayer frees you from fear, but then it also focuses you on who your real enemy is. It's not your boss. It's not your coworker who doesn't believe the same thing you do. It's not the Donald. It's not anyone in the political sphere. It's not anyone on that side of the issue. It's not the dreaded them.

It says right here in 1 Peter 5, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil…" Not the Donald; the Devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion. He's seeking someone to devour. "Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." You're not alone in this. There are other people fighting the same battle, and when we all push the same direction, that's when culture changes.

Your enemy is not any person you can think of but, rather, the Devil, and he is behind every single point of this that is bent against God. Prayer reminds you who your real enemy is, but then it also reminds you that you're on a pilgrimage. It brings you back to your perspective so you're not freaked out about the kitten in the room when the lion is there with you.

It says in verse 10, "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." There's coming a point when Jesus will make all things right. Even if you feel like you're losing some cultural battle here…

Let me tell you, there are a lot of beautiful things happening in this world, and God is on the move. Aslan is on the move, and yet as we watch the news, it often feels like there are all of these different points that we feel like we're losing against something. But Jesus is winning, and I want to be next to him, and I want to do that by praying.

Every couple of days, I get a notification on my phone from Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, our new external focus partner in the area. Prestonwood Pregnancy Center (PPC for easy usage) is on the front end of the abortion fight. They bring young scared girls in and share with them the hope they have in Christ and what it means to choose life. They send these little notifications. You can download their app called "Friends of PPC." Write that down.

They'll send you these notifications, and on these notifications you get these moments in which these scared abortion-minded clients are coming in. I got one on Thursday that said, "Pray fervently for an abortion-determined client who will be on-site today for her second appointment." That's all it said. So I paused and prayed. I gathered people around me, and we just started praying. I prayed for the scared girl who thinks this is her only option for whatever reason. I don't know.

I prayed for the counselor who was going to be with her. I prayed for the organization. I prayed for legislation, that those we voted into office would fulfill some of their promises to have some laws that are going to protect the weakest among us. But then I prayed for someone else. I prayed for Planned Parenthood. I prayed for those individuals, that God would open up their minds and their hearts to what they're really doing.

I prayed for those who are on the forefront of fighting for our country to wholesale accept the slaughter of our children, because I know what 2 Corinthians 4:4 says. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." They're not my enemy. They're being held captive by my Enemy, and the only thing that can do anything is prayer.

So I start to think, hey, I've never killed a baby in the womb, but I've harbored anger in my heart against countless people, so according to Christ I have killed countless people, and if God can take me who is his enemy, according to Ephesians 2, and make me his friend… If he can open my eyes, then he can open theirs, because they're not our enemy. They're being held captive by our Enemy. So are you praying?

I got that notification at 11:46 on Thursday, and I got this one at 4:50: "Praise the Lord for two lives saved this morning in one visit. Our abortion-determined client accepted Christ and has chosen life for her unborn baby." That's how you change culture. The month PPC launched that app, they saw a 500 percent increase in women who chose life, and now it has averaged out about 200 percent a month from before to after.

So, question...Are you praying or are you just complaining? Are you praying for God to move mightily in this country or have you given up? Don't give up hope. We have the living hope that's in God. You can't transform culture. Only God can, and he does it when his people pray.

5.Platform. Peter spends an enormous amount of time on this. From the beginning of 1 Peter 2:9 all the way to the end of chapter 4, you see this platform that everyone has, and it's beautiful the way he lays it out, because he starts with the highest end of culture, which is government, but then he moves down to the most intimate, which is your family.

So many of us have this mindset that culture is what happens in DC or in the media, and he's trying to reform our minds to be thinking, "Hey, culture is what happens in the government, yes, but also in your office and your home." He goes through this list, and he gives dozens of illustrations and dozens of commands of how to make the most of your platform, but he summarizes it all by saying this in 1 Peter 2:17: "Honor everyone."

Not just people who think like you, but honor everyone. "Love the brotherhood." That's us. "Fear God. Honor the emperor." So what's your platform? It's interesting. At the very beginning of the letter, as he's talking about all of these different people scattered throughout the land, it says that all of this scattering… Everyone is away from their homes and in these distinct places. It says all of this is based on the foreknowledge of God, that God knew exactly where you were. You have been planted with a purpose.

So what's your platform? Because you have one. Speak into that, because you've been given an audience every single day. God knows the most effective way to change a culture is to change an individual. So how do you change a culture? You change the government. How do you change the government? You change the citizens. How do you change the citizens? You change the offices and the homes. How do you change the offices and the homes? You change yourself.

The truth is you can't do that. You can't transform you. You can't change you. You need someone else to enter in and transform your heart. That's why we don't just get all of these different principles about how to engage culture. We get the person and power of Jesus Christ who conquered the grave, and if he conquered the grave, then there's no cultural issue he cannot conquer. He says in 1 Peter 2:21-25… Look at how beautiful this is.

"For to this you have been called…" All this stuff we've been talking about. "…because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

Christianity does not change institutions. Christ transforms people, and then those people transform institutions. So do I want legislation to put a hedge and restrain the evil of abortion in our country? Yes. But all the more, I want transformation of those individuals who are piloting it and pushing forward that agenda in our country. I want legislation, yes, but transformation all the more.

Do I want legislation on a number of various issues, like racial issues or gender confusion or whatever you have in your mind as the issue of our day? Do I want legislation against that? Yes, but all the more, I want transformation of the human heart, because the most effective way to transform our culture is to transform an individual, and God sees that and knows that. That's why we don't just have some principles. We have the person and power of Jesus Christ living within us and moving through us.

A couple of months ago this all played out, and you see it within our congregation. You see these two individuals. One of them had a platform at their work, and they would bring their Bible and read their Bible throughout the day, and they would engage people with conversation. They engaged this one individual who identified himself as a Muslim. He started asking questions, a lot of questions, about God and Jesus and all of these different cultural things.

Every single time, these people used their life to proclaim Jesus, but then they opened their mouth and shared him with their lips. They did all of these different things. They invited him here, and he began to see the beauty in the person of Jesus. By the time I linked up with him, it was such a great conversation, because he wasn't a believer yet, but he was struggling through all of these different ideas about who Jesus is and what God is about, so he asked this question about, "Hey, what do I need to do to be saved?" and I was like, "Man."

God was like, "Here you go, buddy," and I was like, "Yes!" I was so excited about that, because you don't get that question a lot. I just shared with him the hope that was in my heart. It was so funny, because he kept on saying, "It feels like every question I'm asking keeps going back to the person of Jesus." I was like, "Yeah. That's the hope we have. That's all our hope. It's everything."

So we began to pray for him, a bunch of us up here and a bunch of them in their workplaces, and he sent this just the other day. He said, "Good afternoon. Thank you for all the help and info. I am pleased to inform you that I have decided to take the plunge and follow Christ today. I'm addicted to reading and learning more, and I can't explain to you how thankful I am for you all." That's how you change culture. The most expedient way to transform a world is to transform an individual.

The other night, my wife and I were about to hang out for the evening, and she looked over to me. We've been married for almost seven years now, and she said one of the sweetest things she has ever said to me. She said, "Babe, I want to watch The Lord of the Rings tonight." I said, "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. I am man; you are clearly my wife, so let's do this." So we jumped in and watched the movies.

Let me just nerd out on you for a moment. The running joke at my old church was that I couldn't make it through a sermon series without mentioning The Lord of the Rings. This is my one shot this year, so you're getting it now. Best movie ever made. I don't care what you think. I'm right; you're wrong. Best movie within that trilogy is The Two Towers, the second movie. Again, I don't care what you think. You're wrong; I'm right. That's just how it plays out here. The best scene in that movie is at the very end of The Two Towers.

You see these two individuals trapped by evil and darkness. The Orcs (I told you we'd nerd out), who are supposed to personify evil, were knocking in at the door, and they had no hope. King Théoden, the great king of the land, curls in upon himself and just says, "What can man do against such evil? What can man do against such vile hate?" Yet there's another individual there, Aragorn, the brave, courageous leader.

He looks over, and he remembers a promise that was given to him by Gandalf, the great and powerful wizard. He said, "On the fifth day, on the first watch, look to the east; look to my coming." Aragorn thinks of that promise and holds it tight, and where Théoden is weakly and insecurely saying, "What can man do against all this?" Aragorn says, "You ride out to meet it." So they do. They ride out against the evil around them, and in the moment, in the battle, they look up and see Gandalf.

He's fulfilling his promise to meet them in that battle and to drive out evil. When Jesus came, he rode out against the ultimate evil of sin and death, and he didn't come with swords swinging but with the cross, as all the evil of the world fell upon him, and though they yelled at him and called him names, he did not revile in return.

So we follow his example and lean into his empowerment, that he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf. If he suffered to procure our salvation, we now suffer to proclaim his salvation to a world that is hurt and broken and dying, and we ride out against evil, not with swords and spears or meeting evil with evil but by meeting evil with love.

You have been given a platform, every one of you, so hold on to that perspective you have in Christ and pray earnestly for those in your life, as you proclaim your life and your lips about the goodness and grace of Jesus Christ, as you prepare your mind for action, because when you walk through those doors, it's coming. Don't meet evil with evil but ride out and meet evil with courage. Meet evil with love. Let me pray for us.

Father, our insecurities and our fears and our insufficiencies can hold us back from speaking into the culture of our day. They can make us feel weak and helpless and feel like we're in a losing battle, but, God, you sent your Son, who lived the life we could not, who died the death we deserve, who has conquered our greatest enemy, which is sin and death.

If he is for us, what can be against us? Nothing can be. We have eternal security in our Christ. So, Father, help us to hold on to the platform you've given us, and whether it's in our homes or in our workplaces or we have some ability to speak into certain things in a unique way, God, give us the courage and strength to proclaim Jesus with our lives and to proclaim him with our lips. God, help us. We need you. We ask these things in your name, amen.