“The moon is nearly 240,000 miles from Earth and is only 1/400th the size of the sun. With no light or heat of its own, it reflects the radiance of that greater heavenly body. It appears to be relatively insignificant. Yet, the moon quietly and almost imperceptibly moves the oceans of the world by its gravitational pull. Most of us may not seem all that influential or well-known. We don’t have the giftedness, the wealth, or the position to make much of an impact on our society. Our names don’t appear in the newspaper, nor are they mentioned on television. We may think that all we can do is practice our faith in the humdrum routines of everyday life. But perhaps, unnoticed by us, we are having an influence on the people around us by our Christlike attitudes and actions. Let’s not be concerned, then, about our seeming lack of influence. Instead, do what Jesus commanded: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). –Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
“Even the smallest light, can make a difference in the darkest night.”
Philippians 2:14-16, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…”
- A Crooked and Perverse Generation
Crooked. Comes for a Greek term that was used of winding rivers or crooked roads. Here it is used of the kind of behavior which is contrary to Gods’ standard of righteousness. Paul, speaking of that society and all societies, says that they miss the mark when it comes to God’s standard.
Now, of course things are this way because of sin.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden they unleashed a contagion of sin in this world that has infected every person who has been born ever since.
Romans 5:12, Therefore, just as through one-man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
And the evidence of this contagion is everywhere apparent.
Before the flood. Genesis 6:5, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And God judged the world with that great flood.
In Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18:20, “And the Lord said, ‘The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.” And God brought judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the time of the Judges. Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
In Israel, as the prophet Habakkuk cried out (Habakkuk 1:2-4): “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and Thou wilt not hear? I cry out to Thee, ‘Violence!’ Yet Thou dost not save. Why dost Thou make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore, the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore, justice comes out perverted.”
In the time of Jesus. Matthew 17:17, “And Jesus answered and said, ‘O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
In the last days. 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness.” The passage fleshes out the meaning of the term “crooked.” In every way there is a departure from God and His ways.
Now this is the case because of sin. It is sin that it is the cause of all our problems. There is something very wrong with man, in sin. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.”
The other term used here is the term “perverse.” The term comes from a term which means to twist or distort. Here it speaks to the condition in which wrong becomes right. Now this term and this practice is readily apparent in our day. But it has always been that way.
Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.”
In a perverse generation, things are turned around. Romans 1:18-32 speaks to this. In the downward spiral of sin what is good is rejected and what is evil is celebrated.
Romans 1:23, 25, 26, 27.
A crooked and perverse generation celebrates the practice of a perverted way of thinking and living.
In a crooked and perverse generation all kinds of perverted ways of thinking and living become the norm.
Now there are a couple of points that need to be made here:
- The children of God whom Paul addressed lived in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, but they weren’t alone. What was true for them is true for us. What was true for them is true for believers in Christ around the world. What is true for believers around the world will remain true until Christ returns. So, if we are expecting anything different than that, we are going to be disappointed. It seems to me that many of us want “heaven on earth,” but Jesus hasn’t promised that to us. Instead he said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And Paul said—in the context of the passage which speaks of the difficult times that would come in the last days—“And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
- Any response to the problems that beset us that fails to acknowledge the true source of our problems is faulty. Why are things the way they are? Because man has a sin problem. We are so prone misdiagnose the problem and look to other solutions than the solution that has been provided by God. And I’m speaking here not just about the unbelieving world. We tend to look to man and humanistic solutions to our problems, but our problem is a spiritual problem and the only One who can cure us of that problem is God Himself. So, we look to education, supposing that if people were better educated they wouldn’t make poor choices. Or we look to humanistic psychology or certain drugs, supposing that they can somehow cure the problem. Or we look to humanistic philosophies or false religions supposing that they can somehow work to improve us. Or we look to politicians and human powers and suppose that they can set things right in our world.
- The reality is that man has a sin problem and the only solution for man’s sin problem is Jesus. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When the Divine Son of God came into the world on His Divine Rescue Mission He came to rescue lost sinners. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That was the purpose for which He came. He came purposed to die on the cross for sins and rise from the dead so that we might be saved by grace through faith in Him. Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.”
2. The Child of God in the Midst
What happens when a person trusts in Jesus?
John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” The most precious of all gifts and privileges is given to those who receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. They are given the right to become children of God. They are born again to a new identity.
1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us; that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason, the world does not know us; because it did not know Him.” We are incredibly blessed to be called the children of God! We take great joy in the birth of a child. All heaven rejoices in the new birth of the child of God! There is no greater blessing. Jesus said this regarding John the Baptist—“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). You’ve been born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine. Justified fully through Calvary’s love. Oh, what a blessing is mine (and yours).
When a person trusts in Jesus they gain a new identity and a new calling. Notice what doesn’t happen when a person trusts in Jesus—they are not instantly taken physically to heaven. We are still here. So, God has a purpose for us here, until He returns for us.
John 16:15, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
This is the text from which we get the phrase “in the world but not of the world.”
So that’s our reality. We are children of God living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. We are to live according to this identity and calling for God’s purpose of bearing witness of Jesus.
Now make no mistake about it. Jesus has called His church and those who belong to it to bear witness of Him. Acts 1:8. The church exists in this world—in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation—until the time of His return to bear witness of Him.
In this sense we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are citizens of heaven, eagerly awaiting His return (Philippians 3:20). This world is not our home, in fact we are “aliens and strangers” here (1 Peter 2:11). As Ambassadors for Christ our chief duty is to represent the interests of the One who called us, the Lord Jesus. We are to bear witness of Him—by our lives and with our lips (in that order).
Now there have been a lot of differing perspectives when it comes to this “in the world, but not of the world” approach to things.
- There is what we might call the “out of the world but not of the world” approach. We call this the monastical approach. The monks in the monastery sequestered themselves in a place divorced from all worldly influence and involvement. The modern-day Amish folks live according to this same philosophy. But this is clearly not God’s design. It’s not even possible. When Paul addressed the problem of gross immorality that had occurred in the church in Corinth, he said this: “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for them you would have to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10).
It seems to me that the church in America has fallen into an “us vs. them” way of thinking when it comes to the lost. But our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against” the forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).
There is a great example of the wrong spirit when it comes to interacting with this crooked and perverse generation in Luke 9:51-56.
- There is what we might call the “in the world and of the world” approach. In our day this translates into the cultural relevant approach that has captivated much of the church in recent years. According to this way of thinking the key thing we need to do if we are to reach the lost is to make ourselves culturally relevant. Books have been written, like the book “Dying for Change.” The so-called “cursing pastor,” was using that approach when he cursed in his sermons. One author supposed that the most important thing we need to do when planting a church is to determine the kind of music the people wanted to hear. But this approach has been a disaster for the church. Nowhere in Scripture do we find God calling His people to be more like the people around them so that they might have an influence on them unto salvation. Instead we read of how radically different they are to be in Christ.
When God judged Ananias and Sapphira for deliberately and secretly withholding part of their offering we are told that “great fear came upon the whole church” (Acts 5:11). Then we read, “But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.” The church and those who belonged to it were clearly distinguished from those who did not belong to the church.
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 speaks to what should happen if an unbeliever were to enter an assembly and hear the word.
According to our text we are to “prove ourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach” that we might shine like lights in this crooked and perverse generation. In the world, but not of the world.
- There is what we might call the “in the world and out of the world on Sunday” approach. This is the approach where religious observance is substituted for a sincere ongoing walk with Christ. This is where a person calls himself a Christian and does Christian things, but his walk with Jesus is nothing but an afterthought—there is no reality or vitality to it. There can be no shining as a light for Jesus because the light is not on inside.
- Then finally there is the legitimate “in the world, but not of the world” approach. We are here. We are here by God’s design. We are here according to God’s purpose to bear witness of Him. We are here to be lights shining in the darkness.
Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck measure, but on a lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Now the only way that we can do that is to live rightly (blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach); shine brightly; and speak precisely.
Having said all of that, let me close with an illustration of what I’m talking about. Years ago, when I worked at Trojan Nuclear Plant, I struggled with working in such a difficult environment. Most of my fellow workers were unbelievers. In fact, when I first started working in the training department there was just two of us who were born-again. But I had a friend, Max Snook, who worked in Quality Assurance. Max is now, and has been ever since those days, the pastor of St. Helens Community Church. But Max understood something of what it means to live as a child of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. He went to work purposing to share Jesus with other people. He was joined in that effort by another fellow, Bill Craft. They would have Bible Study every day during lunch. And God granted them many opportunities to share the gospel. And people came to faith and trusted in Jesus. They were in the world, but not of the world. They were proving themselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in that environment. They were shining brightly for Jesus. They were holding forth the Word of Life. And God used them. And God wants to use you too.
People need Jesus. God has strategically put you in a place as His ambassador that others might come to know Him through you. You might be the only Christian witness some of your family and friends will ever see or hear from. Go. Shine brightly for Jesus.
If you were accused of being a Christian would there be any evidence by which you could be convicted?
As a child of God is there a discernible difference in your life—in the way you think, in the way you walk, in the say that you talk?
God has called you to a different manner of life. He has called you to be a child of light