What do the following words have in common?
For the most part these are words that describe people who are not believers in Jesus. How about this list?
- beer drinker
- cigarette smoker
- marijuana user
- sports addict
- movie lover
If we are honest with ourselves we will note that these are things that some (many?) Christians would say are sinful. They are the types of people Christians teach their kids to avoid. However, i would posit that not only are these not named as sins in Scripture, but we need to stop avoiding these sorts of people when we–as God’s ambassadors–have been entrusted with the gospel that can save them. In fact, we need to be bold enough to share the gospel with both groups. We are not better than them.
When you think of the Christians you know, what comes to mind?
- Hypocrites who do all the things the Bible says not to do? (see first list above)
- Or goody two shoes who cut themselves off from anything and anyone even potentially unchristian? (see second list above)
Art Azurdia—in his book Connected Christianity—calls the first of these errors cultural gluttony, and the second cultural anemia. In this book—from which his sermon from the 2018 Shepherd’s Conference is based—he argues “to be authentically Christian requires us to be meaningfully worldly—that in fact, Jesus Himself envisions no other kind of Christianity.” A question he asks is when was the last time you shared a meal with an unbeliever?
The whole book is an exposition of John 17:17-19. The passage reads, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
He begins in chapter 1 by going through verse 18. The mission is the emphasis. Jesus did not pray that His disciples be taken out of the world; Jesus prays for their mission in the world.
“We cannot hope to be authentically Christian without being meaningfully worldly.” In truth, nonbelievers have two attempted arguments against Christianity: first, “they’re a bunch of hypocrites”; second, “I can’t do anything fun if I become a Christian.” Both of these arguments come because of Christians who are either overly worldly or not worldly enough. Azurdia writes in a hope that Christians would become meaningfully worldly and embrace the Great Commission God keeps them on this earth to accomplish.
In chapter 2, he backtracks to verse 17. It is here Azurdia speaks of the Word of God, theology, and our need for sanctification as a necessary part of being a worldly Christian. He begins the chapter by drawing a huge distinction between moral people and holy people; “morality is the negative concept, in that it defines itself in terms of what one refrains from doing.” He explains that sanctification must be accomplished by the Word of God, but that sanctification in John 17 is specifically a “sanctification for mission.”
In chapter 3, he looks at verse 19. Jesus sanctified Himself on the cross. This was His primary role in our sanctification for mission. “Jesus Christ died to make you a worldly Christian.” If it was not for the death and resurrection of Christ, we would have no mission for which to be a worldly Christian.
Finally, in chapter 4, Azurdia holds up Christ to us, and he explains how Christ is supremely effective as our high priest, is uniquely qualified as our high priest, and is perfectly compassionate as our high priest. He says, “a ‘worldliness’ that is decidedly and distinctly Christian will not, in most cases, be received enthusiastically.” It is for this reason we must be reminded of our Great High Priest according to Hebrews 4:14-16 who prayed for us in John 17. This truth is “the only way to persevere as a worldly Christian.”
In conclusion, if you struggle with being too indulgent in culture or too withdrawn from culture as a Christian, you need to pick up this super short read by Art Azurdia. If you would rather not pay the couple of dollars for the book, then at least check out his sermon from the Shepherd’s Conference earlier this year. Whatever you do, the fact remains that our Christian testimony is atrocious to the world, and this book may just have at least a prescription leading to a cure.
Soli Deo Gloria