20 Truths for Our Time

Ed Stetzer: About a year ago Trevin Wax, the director of Bibles and Reference at LifeWay Christian Resources and general editor of the Gospel Project, wrote This Is Our Time. Trevin is also a teaching pastor at Third Baptist Church and a visiting professor at Wheaton College. Below are 20 truths from Trevin’s book.

1. Christians who shine the light of the gospel on the myths of our world do not simply say, “This is right and this is wrong,” but “This is better.” The gospel tells a better story. Yes, the gospel exposes the lies we believe and promote in society, but once our eyes adjust to its brightness, we discover how the gospel also answers our deeper longings in ways that surprise us. Evangelism is not just convincing people the gospel is true but also that it is better. (12)

2. It’s not what you’re looking at on your phone but that you’re always looking at your phone. It’s not what you might access on your phone that is most influential; it’s what your phone accesses in you. It’s not enough to ask, “What am I doing on my phone?” Instead, we’ve got to ask, “What is my phone doing to me?” The primary myth the smartphone tells you every day is that you are the center of the universe. If your phone is your world, and if the settings and apps are tailored to you and your interests, then with you at all times is a world that revolves around you. (20)

3. The church can bring you into contact with people who wouldn’t make it into your tailored news feed. A good church will cultivate relationships that are solid enough for people to say, “I love you, and you’re wrong.” If your church isn’t like that, then work at making your congregation a place where we break free from our prisons of online coddling so we can learn truer and deeper ways of love and grace. (40)

4. Faithfulness in a world of entertainment doesn’t start with the desire to be better interpreters of the world’s stories; it starts with the desire to better know God’s story. . . . Unless you inhabit the strange world of the Bible, with God’s Word on your lips and his stories planted in your heart, you will not be faithful in a world of entertainment. Faithfully engaging the world’s entertainment doesn’t start with cinema but with Scripture. (62)

5. When believers tell me they have no problem with explicit content because they have a high tolerance for viewing violence or nudity, I tell them that’s like bragging about having deadened senses. Desensitization is not a sign of spiritual progress but of sensual dullness. Do not confuse the ability to be unfazed by depictions of sin with spiritual maturity. (63)

6. As a Christian, saved by grace through faith, I am not authentic when I sin. I’m sinning against my newfound identity. I am being inauthentic when I choose to disobey God, when I give in to temptation. I’m rejecting the identity God has spoken over me. True authenticity is not accepting my own self-expression but accepting the self-expression of God through Jesus Christ. (85)

7. When your entire world is tailored to meet your needs and fulfill your desires, you cannot help but start to see the church the same way. You see your pastors as the people you pay to keep you happy. You see the programs as a way of serving your own needs. In other words, you import your consumer mindset into the church, and suddenly church is all about you and what you need, not about Jesus and what he has done, or about the Spirit of God and how he can empower you to serve others. Instead of the Kingdom Dream changing you, you let your American Dream change your church. (109–110)

8. The main reason we should not feel “at home” in a political party is because we already belong to a political society. It’s called the church. It transcends national borders and breaks down worldly barriers. There, we don’t vote for a president; we bow before a King. As the people of God, we should always feel in the world but not of the world, in America but not of America, in a political party but not of a political party. Embracing that tension is not weakness but faithfulness. (125)

9. If you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of the church. After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter. (135)

10. The Eastern myth of marriage (that it is primarily a contract) and the Western myth of marriage (that it is primarily an expression of love) do not get at the heart of marriage. You don’t endure in a marriage for fifty years simply by gritting your teeth; nor do you endure by “feeling” like you’re in love the whole time. There has to be something more. And faithfulness in our time must display the richness of marriage at its finest. (149)

11. The statistics [indicate] cohabitation is more likely to lead to future divorce. Why is this the case? Perhaps it’s because cohabitation robs a couple of the security of covenantal love. Premarital sex offers your partner one aspect of who you are (your body) while you hold on to all of the other aspects of your independence (social, economic, legal). It is a pale imitation of marital love, no matter how pleasurable it may be in the moment. (152)

12. Two myths: sex is nothing and sex is everything. Scripture counters both myths by setting sexuality within a different story, a world where sex is a sign. Sexuality points to something greater than itself. To treat sex as if it’s nothing is to diminish what sex signifies. To treat sex as if it’s everything is to confuse sex with the transcendent reality it points to. (167)

13. Sex is a sign, and whenever it is kidnapped from its covenantal home, it’s like a malfunctioning GPS that no longer points in the right direction. (168)

14. People are starving for God, and so they settle for sex. … One of the reasons our society is so sex-saturated is because we are so transcendence-starved. Unable to reach the heavens, we go under the bedsheets. (169)

15. When many people think of the Bible, they conclude that the Old Testament is full of prohibitions and irrelevant laws, and the New Testament gives us a Jesus who is soft on sin and all-inclusive. They ought to read the Gospels. (172)

16. In response to [the] radical downplaying of the seriousness of sex, the church must step up and say, “Sexuality is far more serious and mysterious than you think.” … On the flip side, when our society says, “Sex is everything, and this is where I get my identity, my fulfillment, my life,” we say, “Sex is less serious than you think. You are pinning too many hopes on sex.” … We put sex in its place not by saying, “Sex isn’t a big deal” but by telling people, “You are so much more than your sexuality.” We will not reduce our human self-understanding and self-expression to sexual urges. The church must elevate sexuality when the world diminishes it, and the church must knock the legs out from under sexuality when the world exalts it. (172, 173, 174)

17. As long as you are looking up to God for salvation, you cannot look down on anyone else. Grace shatters any sense of superiority. But that grace also transforms us into saints who pursue holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Being true to ourselves” means being true to Christ in us, the hope of glory. (177)

18. Church history is a treasure box, not a map. As Christians, we do not honor our forefathers and mothers by seeking to return to their times; rather, we honor them by receiving their wisdom and learning from their victories and failures. We retrieve from the past the elements and tools needed for faithfulness today. No golden age of Christianity existed in the past, only an unbroken line of broken sinners saved by the grace of God and empowered to transmit the gospel to the next generation. (195)

19. The turning point of the ages was not the dawn of reason in the 16th century but the dawn of new creation in the first. The turning point was not the discovery of science but the discovery of an empty tomb. The turning point was not the “free love” of self-gratification in the 1960s but God’s love offered through his Son’s self-sacrifice. We see the world differently from people who believe the myth of progress and the myth of decline. We do not believe the world is heading toward a secular utopia but toward a restored cosmos in which every knee bows to King Jesus. (196)

20. We can’t be faithful in our own time if we’re always longing for another. (199)

Taken from Trevin Wax’s book This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel (B&H).