There are churches on every corner—why are we having so little impact in our culture? Over the past fifty years America has experienced a rapid, moral and spiritual decline. It has affected all of us. Consider the Clinton-Lewinski fiasco. The number of Americans who thought adultery was no big deal, as long as it was consensual was shocking. Lying, and obstruction of justice before a grand jury were excused as understandable, if not justifiable. Why? I suspect that many of us felt that our personal morality was on trial. If we condemned the President, we were in some sense condemning ourselves as well. When asked to describe their goals in life, less than 1% of Christians surveyed mentioned anything related to their growth in holiness, righteousness or purity. American Christians spend seven times as much time on entertainment as they do on spiritual activities. Four out of ten born again Christians do not attend church or read the Bible in a typical week. We have so little transforming influence on our culture, because we are so much like our culture! By observing the fall of the nation of Israel and as we diagnose the reasons for her failure to fulfill her God- given mandate, we may avoid her mistakes, and live out our calling as God’s people in a broken world.
God did not bring Israel into existence to be the sole recipient of His blessings. Rather, as the peoples of the earth observed God’s blessings upon Israel (which came in response to Israel’s obedience to God), they would turn away from their idols, from their immorality, and turn to the one true God (Isaiah 42:6-7). Israel was to be a missionary nation! In Deuteronomy 7:1-5 Israel was told to (1) destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan (Judges 1:27-28ff), (2) avoid intermarriage with pagan neighboring countries (Judges 3:5-6), and (3) shun false gods (Judges 2:11-13). How could a loving and just God command the destruction of all Canaanites? First we must understand that the Canaanites were not innocent (Deuteronomy 9:4-6). Israel wasn’t perfect, but the Canaanites took wickedness to a whole different level (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Leviticus 8:6-30)! The Bible doesn’t claim that the eradication of the Canaanites was a palatable act, but it does insist that it was just act.
But Israel failed to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, they intermarried with her pagan neighbors, and embraced Canaan’s gods. Israel failed to fulfill her missionary mandate because she became contaminated by the culture in which she lived. Rather than positively impacting the nations around her, she became infected by them. It is the difference between a being thermostat and being a thermometer. A thermostat determines the temperature of an environment, whereas a thermometer merely reflects it (Matthew 5:16).
Compromise, and incomplete obedience were the causes of Israel’s missionary failure, and they remain the greatest threats to connecting the world to the one true God who loves them, and sent his Son to die for them. Are you living in compromise? If so, what changes are you going to make? There is no more powerful argument for the Christian faith than that of a life, fully surrendered to God. The power of a pure life is incredible. Our culture can’t produce it; it is a clear mark of the work of the Spirit of God (Romans 12:1-2).
Application / Challenge
Today’s Application/Challenge is to prayerfully apply the following scripture as you review how you are living your life and how you might change it to live one that is more fully surrendered to God: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom. 12:1-2