- Not Every Story is Based in Reality
- How Homosexuality Became Normal in the West
- How Evolutionists Explain Poverty
- Lies Enslave, Truth Transforms
- Human Evil, Cosmic Consequences
- NURTURING: The Wonder of Being There
- Personal God, Personal Creation
- The Implications of Moral Freedom
- Work, Save, Give: The Protestant Ethic
- Three Ways God’s Universe Makes Sense
- HOME SCHOOLING: Why It Makes Sense Today
- Christianity is True Even If You Don’t Believe It!
- Moral God, Moral Universe
- What Do Singapore and Apple Have in Common?
- God’s Laws, the “Secret” to Life
- Time Matters: Present, Past, Future
- The Doctrine of the Trinity Matters in Real Life?
- Two Fronts in the War of the Century
In recent times, poverty levels have improved in much of the world. Nevertheless, too many communities and nations remain in the trap of Satan’s lies, which impact every dimension of life: moral, spiritual, social, economic, and political. Lies like,
- All that really matters is now. Let us “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
- Truth, if it exists at all, is unknowable.
- Human life has no intrinsic value.
All forms of human poverty emerge from lies. These untruths bind both individuals and cultures. We fall prey to these lies because of our rebellion against God, which began when our first parents believed the lie of the serpent rather than the truth of the Word of God. We have believed and manufactured lies ever since. Therefore, since poverty begins in our minds and beliefs, so must the solution. We can snap the cords of the web in three steps—preaching the gospel, renewing minds, and discipling nations.
Proclaim the gospel
The first step, proclaiming the gospel, is indispensable. Paul states boldly, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation of everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).
The gospel, however, is not a mere system of moral improvement. It addresses our deepest spiritual need. People don’t need another program of self-help. They are not merely imperfect and in need of tweaking; they are broken. We need resurrection because without God we are dead. As Paul says, “you were dead … but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ …” Eph. 2:,14. The gospel breaks the power of sin and death.
It’s not enough simply to put our trust in Jesus Christ, although this is the indispensable first step. We also must renew (or instill) the Christian mind. This means discipleship, but not merely a discipleship that instills basic doctrinal points and Christian habits in the new believer (as good as these things are). It means teaching a new mindset, or worldview, based on the reality of the new birth and the reality of the created order. We must learn to think God’s thoughts after him.
We live in an anti-intellectual age dominated by secularism and animism whose lies seep even into the minds of Christians. We must learn to reject these lies and embrace truth in every area of life.
Secularism denies absolute truth and transcendent reality and embraces philosophical materialism. We must reject this framework. We must also reject animism, which is mystical and anti-intellectual by nature. In fact, postmodernism may be seen as neo-animistic, it denies reason and reality. Sadly, these lies have produced secular and animist evangelicals who don’t realize they have abandoned their birthright—a sound mind.
Renew our minds by the application of truth
Note how Jesus answered a question about which of the commandments was primary. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29–30).
Paul urged believers, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).
God’s Word commends the believers in Berea (Acts 17:10–15) because they used their minds to discover whether Paul’s teaching was true. Peter urged Christians, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Pet. 1:13).
The Jews abandoned the tribal deities and family altars of their ancestors. They repented of the animism all around them and turned to the one true God. Their concept of reality was transformed. It changed them, and not only them. It changed the world forever. In his book The Gift of the Jews, Thomas Cahill observes:
The Jews gave us a whole new vocabulary, a whole new Temple of the Spirit, an inner landscape of ideas and feelings that had never been known before. Because of their unique belief—monotheism—the Jews were able to give us the Great Whole, a unified universe that makes sense and that, because of its evident superiority as a worldview, completely overwhelms the warring and contradictory phenomena of polytheism. They gave us the Conscience of the West. . . .
The Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside—our outlook and our inner life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best words, in fact—new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice—are the gifts of the Jews.
If people, communities, and nations are to flourish, this outlook is critically important. It is metaphysical capital—truth—a mindset that reflects reality. Truth sets people and nations free to thrive. Metaphysical capital is more important than physical capital. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Disciple the nations
Believing the gospel and renewing our minds are necessary but not sufficient. We must also, according to Christ’s command, disciple the nations.
Most Christians would say we do this by missionary activity and development work, pointing to one of four basic models. But only one model best reflects God’s heart as revealed in Scripture.
The first is the secular-evolutionary approach. Unfortunately, many Christian relief and development agencies follow this view. The second approach, secular-revolutionary, relies heavily on a Marxist analysis. The third, animistic-cosmological, comes from what I call “last-days evangelicalism,” the conviction that we are in the final days before Christ’s return, therefore, we must “save souls” while feeding the hungry. If Jesus is coming back next week, why bother building for the future?
The approach most faithful to the scripture is theistic transformation. Feeding and preaching are both vital. But transformation means radical change in all spheres of life. When a caterpillar emerges as a butterfly, it’s no longer what it was; it has been transformed. Theistic transformation entails not merely a change in religious sentiments but a radical reorientation of a person’s life. Our goal must be nothing short of discipling nations at the level of culture.
As Ken Meyers has said,
Discipleship is not engaging with another culture to present a small set of new propositions. Rather, discipleship is a work of alternative enculturation—to present a new way to understand life and the world in which we live, that is, a new way to understand ‘what is real.’ And this new way of understanding life is incarnated in alternative cultural forms that are sustained across generations and, when possible, shared with our neighbors.”
What did Jesus command?
The Bible declares, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). We are to bring the life and wisdom of God to bear on all of life, not just a privatized “religious” sphere.
We need to rethink the meaning of Christ’s command. He sends us not to merely disciple individuals, but entire cultures to the glory of God. Only discipling nations at the level of culture leads to transformational development of spirit, mind, body … and societies.
God intends for cultures to be redeemed. By his grace we can do this by providing kingdom principles and a biblical worldview as we share the good news.
– Darrow Miller
This DM&F Classic blog post is excerpted from the book Discipling Nations. For the entire text go here.