There are so many questions when it comes to living out one’s faith and also living in a world that seems increasingly hostile to Christianity. The Gospel Coalition, a fellowship of evangelical churches, held their annual conference and hosted a panel discussion with authors Timothy Keller, Jen Michele, and Brett McCracken where they tackled the topic of why we love Jesus in this secular age. This discussion addressed ways that culture has changed towards Christianity, how community is defined, and how Christians can operate in an individualist society. It was enlightening and hopeful to hear the truth of the gospel applied to the world that we are all living in.
The panel offered encouragement in many ways. One of the first questions that was asked by Collin Hansen, an editor from the Gospel Coalition, was why we still celebrate the crucifixion when people think that it makes Christianity seem dark and sick. Hansen asks the three speakers how we love Jesus in a broken world that does not understand the Gospel. Tim Keller quickly reminds the audience that Philippians Chapter 2 says that Jesus emptied Himself, became a servant, and died for us. Our savior gave up His power, which is completely counter-cultural to our power driven world today. Christ calls us to empty ourselves as well, which is why we must focus on the crucifixion because it is the ultimate example of sacrifice and love.
Hansen then asked the panel what was appealing about having Jesus in their lives. Jen Michele answered by discussing how people want to control their own lives and do not want to admit that they need Jesus. But when we learn to give up our independence, Christ offers us true freedom and a life that is fulfilling in ways that are so much greater than what the world offers. Brett McCracken then brought up how Christ redeems our concept of community in today’s digital world. He calls out the false sense of community that we feel because we are connected through technology. In reality, these connections have only created a “loneliness epidemic.” He reminds us that we need real relationships – – relationships that offer accountability and strengthen faith. The Lord created community not so that we could be constantly affirmed, but so that we could sharpen one another and build each other up. McCracken states that real community “is a gift for our own salvation.” He challenges listeners to seek relationships centered upon Christ so that others will wonder and ask what keeps the relationships together.
Then the conversation turned to truth. Hansen asserted that the secular world has lost truth because people believe that they must look only to themselves for truth rather than relying upon the gospel. He asks the panelists if there is a way to confront the secular age with this teaching. All three speakers affirmed that we reach a dead end when we only look within ourselves for truth. Keller states that there is no ground for justice or morality if we do not believe in an objective truth. This belief that truth can only come from each person individually will take us further from knowing the Lord. Keller says that the closer we are to the Lord the more we know ourselves and vice versa. We must renounce the practice of being our own idols. Michele says that a tension exists today between “thy will and my will.” She assures listeners that we truly live our best life when we are seeking “thy will” and not our own. It does not mean that life will be easy, but it will be much better than trying to live for yourself.
Another noteworthy subject that was addressed was Christians’ witness to the world and how Christians are portrayed. Hansen charged that secularism makes people selfish but Christianity turns people towards one another in love, even calling us to love our enemies. This seems radical to our secular society. Keller says that Christians need to be better at doing what the Bible calls us to do. We can always grow in loving and doing good deeds so that others will see Christ through our witness.
Lastly, when asked about spiritual disciplines, both McCracken and Michele said that being part of a local church is vital to one’s walk with the Lord. The local church offers community and a chance to grow in one’s faith alongside other believers. The church reminds us that we need one another and that we were made to worship. Keller then said that being immersed in the Psalms is also a great spiritual discipline because the psalms teach us how to talk to God. They are full of wisdom, emotion, and truth and they can be a guide for prayer.
This panel’s discussion on culture and truth forces us to think about ways that Christians can improve their witness to the world. It can be challenging to be a Christian in today’s secular society, but the panelists remind us that we are called to live for the Lord and that He offers a greater life than we could ever imagine. We are not meant to live life independently from others or the Lord. This discussion was centered on Christ as each speaker offered valid and wise insight into our culture and how we are to live as Christians. They brought to light ways that Christians can be encouraged to share their faith and gave practical steps to remain faithful to the teachings of scripture.