Developing a Biblical Worldview
A friend of mine recently posted the article at the following link about the reasons why kids who were raised in the church are leaving it when they get to college. The current number is that 70% of kids in the church will reject Christianity when they get to college age and that about a half of them will return to the church later in life.
My friend then made the following statement, “I’ve wanted to do research to find out what it is in the (faith) lives of the 30% who DON'T leave the church that keeps them there. Kind of reversing the focus.”
This has been a primary question that I’ve asked over the past 20 years as I’ve worked with high school students. In summary of all of the conversations I’ve had, the seminars I’ve attended, the books I’ve read, and the observations I’ve made, I can say that there are two easy answers to the question about what contributes to the 30% who stay in the church. I've found that a great percentage of those who attend church are not true Christians, and it all depends on the development of a biblical worldview. These are truths for all of mankind, at all ages, through all experiences - not just those who are leaving High School.
We need to get away from the thought that just because people attend church, look like Christians on Sundays, say the right things, and are involved in the right circles of influence they are true believers or disciples of Jesus Christ. There are many in our churches who are not going to make the Matthew 25 cut at the judgment. This was Jesus main point in telling the parable of the sheep and the goats: it was meant for those IN the church. This is not an “outside the church vs. inside the church” parable. No, these are all people who thought they knew Christ, yet to many He says, “Depart from me. I never knew you!” We need to have discernment regarding who is living their lives worthy of God’s blessing and those who are rejecting it. Parents who are living out a religious connection with no heart connection to the Holy Spirit are passing that same connection onto their kids. While those raised in the World War II generation (and the one following it) were taught that going to church was something that “good people” did, this teaching has not continued into our current day.
Think about it: when I was younger, our culture revered Sundays. There were no local sporting events planned for Sunday mornings or afternoons. Stores didn’t open until after 1 in the afternoon. You couldn’t buy alcohol on Sundays. Most of the families in just about every neighborhood went to church Sunday morning (or some Catholic friends went on Saturday night). This respect for Sundays just doesn’t exist in our culture anymore. It’s very easy to live a life without experiencing conviction about NOT going to church – and it’s not even as if we’re sitting at home doing nothing on Sunday mornings; no, some of us are too busy to fit church in even if we wanted to!!!
In essence, what Christ is saying in Matthew 25 (and many, many other passages) is that it’s all about the fruit of your discipleship. The term fruit is a metaphor for the term “evidence.” Christ is saying that a true disciple shows evidence of their relationship with Him. In essence you can’t do anything BUT show fruit of your relationship with Christ. You can’t hide Him. He’s what you think of, He’s what you talk about, you sing His praises when you’re “whistling while you work,” the pattern of your life is set around Him. This is much different from those who casually “attend a church.” While all of the things I mentioned in the above paragraphs, CAN be evidence of a relationship with Christ, they are not THE determining factor.
Families who live this way raise kids who tire of going to the right places, trying to look the part, and yet feel the emptiness of being white-washed tombs. When they are no longer under the rules of the home that “we go to church, we talk this way, etc.” they develop their own rules and they have no significant relationship with Christ to depend on. This lack of relationship with Jesus Christ may very well be one they inherited from their parents.
You can only go so far in anything if you lack a relationship connection. Marriages only last so long (7 years in the average in America today) if you’re not continually connecting relationally. It’s not about merely cohabitating and coasting off of the relationship that was developed in the dating time period. This never works. It’s no surprise that in Ephesians 5&6 Paul connects the relationship between us and Christ to the relationship between a husband and wife. If we’re only coasting on a relationship that we had with Him at camp, or through a VBS, or we feel at church on Sunday mornings, it’s simply not enough to get us through our lives as committed, devoted, true disciples of Jesus Christ.
The second point is that they have not developed a biblical worldview. A biblical worldview can be defined as, “using the Bible, and biblical truths, as a filter with which to understand and react the world around us.” Whether we realize it or not, every one of us has a worldview. It defines how we react to what we see around us, defines our priorities, and helps us find our purpose in the world. But most importantly, it helps us answer every question that comes our way. A true biblical worldview will cause us to ask the question, “What would God do in this situation?” or “What does the Bible say about this?” Without operating with a biblical worldview, a “Christian” answers the questions of life by asking, “What do I think God would have me to here? Or “What do I think the Bible says about this?”
Now, that difference may be a subtle one, but the divide widens quickly once we begin to act upon unbiblical advice, while thinking that it is biblical advice. If someone has developed their entire worldview on what they think God says or what they think the Bible says, without truly seeking what God DID say about something, or the Bible DOES say about something, then they are doing nothing less than defining their own religion.
You probably have seen the following letters written on a bracelet or a bumper sticker somewhere: “WWJD.” It stands for, “What Would Jesus Do.” It’s a common question that people will ask when they’re trying to figure out what they should do when difficult things come their way. I have a bracelet that looks something like this, but it’s a bit different. My bracelet has these letters:
Know what that stands for?
“How Would You Know What Jesus Would Do If You Don’t Know What He Did?”
Makes sense doesn’t it? How can you know What Jesus Would Do (WWJD) unless you studied the Gospels, unless you read the rest of the New Testament, unless you understood the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, unless you sought out the advice of wise biblical mentors who could help you understand the biblical concepts? You really can’t!
My favorite illustration that really drives this point home happened at a camp experience where I overheard two young ladies talking. The topic of the conversation I overheard was regarding whether or not one of them should consider having sex with their boyfriend. Their conversation went something like this…
“My boyfriend told me that we’re ready to have sex together. I’m not sure if this is the right time. What do you think we should do?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure when it’s the right time? What do you think our youth pastor would say?”
“Well, he’s always talking about us asking what Jesus would do, but I’m not sure what Jesus would say about this.”
“Well, Jesus is all about love, right? I mean, 1 Corinthians 13 is all about love and we sing songs about how much Jesus loves us, right?”
“So, do you love your boyfriend?”
“I think so.”
“Do you think your boyfriend loves you?”
“I think so.”
“So, if you love your boyfriend and your boyfriend loves you and Jesus is all about love, then why would Jesus say that you should NOT have sex with your boyfriend?”
“I never thought about it that way. Thanks!”
She had just received permission to have sex with her boyfriend from her friend and from Jesus. To her it was a done deal. She was religious, she was part of a church group, she has some level of care for God’s opinion on things, but she was going about finding out God’s opinion the wrong way. She was asking someone who knows little about God to expand her knowledge of God. You have to ask those who know MORE about God than you to expand your knowledge of God.
I don’t think these girls fell into the prediction that Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears what to hear.”
Those who fall into this prediction have an understanding of the truth and are uncomfortable with it, so they go from person to person, from teacher to teacher, to find those who say what they want to hear. They’re looking for others to affirm the desires of their heart. They will disregard anyone who disagrees with them and gather together those who will give them permission to give into their sinful desires.
Ultimately, we have to be sure that we’re not following either of these categories: those who are not seeking the truth in a productive manner, and those who are rejecting the truth and surrounding themselves with those who agree with them.
You see, our opinion on life just doesn’t matter! God’s opinion is the only one that matters and we have to be diligent to find His opinion and then align our opinion with His. This is what having a biblical worldview is all about. When questions such as the one above, or others such as who should I marry, what job should I take, where should I live, what is the definition between right and wrong, what music should I listen to, how should I spend my money – every question that comes at us in life – we need to turn to God’s opinion as our first answer and then wrestle with how to apply those truths to the situation presenting itself to us.
Now, to a great extent point two flows from point one. These families do not ask the question, “What would God have us do here?” They don’t know their Bibles, they don’t know how to hear the voice of God (John 10:27), and they’re just living their lives on the rumors they’ve heard about God through their church experience. Now, when they’re forced to make some serious decisions about sex, money, ethics, etc. they have no biblical foundation to fall back on. They can’t figure out what God would have them do. They think that they’re to pray and ask God to move in the direction they want God to move (“God, give me an A even though I didn’t study;” “God give me a job even though I’m lazy;” “God, heal this person of cancer even though we’re not going to give You the glory;” “God, get me out of this speeding ticket even though I was driving 92 mph;” the list goes on) and when they don’t seek God move they give up on Him!
I love this quote from Tozer on prayer, “God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the request of worldly, carnal, or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayer only of those who walk in His way.”
This failure to know the truths of God’s Written Word and very essence of God causes them to have a very flawed view of God and His workings and when God doesn’t work they want Him to work they abandon their church attendance. I rarely quote Mark Twain, but in "Huckleberry Finn" Huck experiences this same thing. Twain writes:
“Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn’t so. I tried it…I went out in the woods and turned it over in my mind a long time, but I couldn’t see no advantage about it–except for the other people; so at last I reckoned I wouldn’t worry about it any more, but just let it go.”
He tried prayer for selfish things and didn’t get the selfish things that he asked for so he just gave up on prayer, and in essence gave up on believing in God. We have this believe that God has to prove Himself to us or He doesn’t exist. The problem with this argument is that there is no limit to the things that God has to do for the skeptic to believe in Him.
“God, if you exist, strike that tree with lightning!”
No, lightning means there is no God, right?
But what if the lightning strikes from a cloudless sky? Then the skeptic simply says, “Coincidence! If that really was God, strike THAT tree with lightning,” as he points to another tree.
No, lightning means that God does not exist. Case closed.
If lightning does strike he again repeats the process, asking God to prove His existence with one hoop to jump through after another. There really is no end to this pattern. God knows this, so He doesn’t even engage in playing the game. I love that about God.
In the real world we’re not asking God to destroy trees. We’re asking Him to destroy sin, to destroy sickness, to destroy injustice, to move in a way that works against everything that we have so diligently worked to develop in our own lives that suddenly brings us disdain. Rather than taking credit for the part we’ve played in the process, and forgetting that it was man’s choice to sin that brought about these consequences in the first place, many times blaming God for what we did and refusing to follow His process in making things right.
You see, it’s not possible to incontrovertibly prove that there is a God by using science, philosophy, religion, or in any manner. Similarly, it’s not possible to incontrovertibly prove that there is NO God by using science, philosophy, religion, or in any other manner. Both can be used to provide evidence for or against such an argument. There remains in the middle of the arguments a gap. That gap is filled with faith. You either have faith that the arguments for are more valid and you believe (faith in action) that there is a God and align your life accordingly or you have faith that the arguments against are more valid and you believe (faith in action) that there is no God and this drives your actions.
A true relationship with Christ fixes all of these things. We must come to Him with humility, confessing our sins, repenting (moving away from them), accepting His grace, allowing Him to sanctify us into His image, learning to hear His voice, and following Him no matter where He leads us. Trusting God is not an easy thing at first, but the more we grow accustomed to it, the more we find that it truly is the answer to every dilemma of life.
James E. Bogoniewski, Jr.