Addressing a Culture of Anxiety
According to Genesis 2:8 God created a garden and put Adam in that garden. Later He fashioned a woman from Adam's rib and she too lived in that garden that was named Eden. In Genesis 3 we see satan, in the form of a serpent, successfully tempt the woman and then the man to violate God's one boundary: to never eat from a single specific tree. They do, and God casts them OUT of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23-24).
There was an inside Eden and an outside of Eden. This suggests that there were boundaries to Eden. The word "Eden" (᾽ēden) in Hebrew means "delight" and, since Eden was God's garden, we can safely say that when Adam and Eve violated God's boundary they basically cast themselves outside His delight.
When people violate God's boundaries regarding how we are to live they find themselves also outside the boundaries of His blessings....outside His delight.
We are in a season in human history that many refer to as "the end times." People in this season have a distinct style of living: they are lovers of themselves and lovers of money. They are boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving and unforgiving. They slander people habitually. They have no self-control. They are brutal. They despise good. They are traitors. They are stubborn and are very impressed with themselves. They love pleasure more than they love God. Worst of all,they have the ability to look godly but at the same time they deny God's power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Doesn't that sound like the world in which we live?
God created the very first human being. God fashioned the second one. All the other people who have ever lived have been built inside the wombs of their mothers (Psalm 139:13) which were all a type of Eden in which all our needs were met and which also had boundaries. And we were all cast out of those "Eden's" too and made to live in a world that is hostile to us who were created to walk in the image and likeness of God Himself.
I look around and I see God's boundaries being challenged and violated all around us.
God's design for sexuality is under attack. God designed human sexuality to be a way of celebrating the marriage union of a man and woman. The proud and blasphemous cheapen sex by making it a toy. Sexual immorality is celebrated. All sexual boundaries are being discarded by the unwise. Fornication, impersonal sex, homosexuality, rape, sodomy, pornography, bestiality and sex with children are being encouraged and held up as the norm.
God's design for marriage is under attack. His intention is that marriage would always and forever consist of a genetic man and a genetic woman coming into union to become one. It was designed as a way of illustrating the intimacy Jesus wishes to have with His bride...the Church - the union of two things that are totally different: God and Mankind (Ephesians 5). This can only be perfectly illustrated if the two humans in marriage are truly different as onlya genetic male and a genetic female can be. The beauty of God's plan is showing how two completely different beings can become ONE.
Those who love only themselves and what they want are discarding God’s beautiful plan. They wish to destroy the concept of a Godly marriage by redefining holy matrimony to be an intimate union between any two things of any combination. Men seek to "marry" other men; women seek to "marry" other women.
On October 22, 2010 a Taiwanese woman "married" herself - she is literally "a lover of herself." A South Korean man has "married" a body pillow in the image of an anime character. In December 2010 an Australian man, Joseph Guiso "wed" Honey, his 5-year-old Labrador. Why do these people feel the need to not only violate God's design for marriage but also proudly proclaim their actions? They are driven to mock God.
God's design for living is under attack. His intention is that we live our lives based in reality. Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6); He is the embodiment of reality. He is what IS. God knows that when we are rooted in the truth we can live secure lives. He knows that living based on lies kills people. Speaking to leaders of His day who practiced lie-based lives, Jesus said this:
"You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (John 8:44)
God's healthy plan for human life is being discarded by those who despise good and have no self control. Drunkenness through alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviors is strongly encouraged. Greed is held up as a wonderful thing. Fantasy is offered as a regular escape. Unmarried people living as if they were married often refer to their sexual partner as their "husband" or "wife". Homosexual couples refer to their "commitment ceremonies" as their "weddings" and try to bully our culture into agreeing with that.
Realities are constantly redefined in the name of political correctness. People, either through selfishness or greediness, have even chosen to redefine the word "baby" depending on whether or not they want to kill the child for their own benefit, supporting an entire industry based on the slaughter of innocent babies. EVERY one of these babies was personally knit in his or her mommy's womb by God Himself.
God built us. Nothing can alter that reality. Neither ignorance nor rebellion leading to the false conclusion that God did not...or that God is not can ever change the truth that God exists and that He designed us. Having designed us...we DO have a design and that design functions best when it honors the boundaries set for it.
As we have seen, God's boundaries for Mankind are under attack. The attackers do so in the name of pride, freedom from God, a hunger to harvest earthly pleasures. They do so because they think throwing off God's boundaries is a good thing. Even Christians routinely justify their own sin (sexual and otherwise) when the sin offers them something they really want. They suffer nonetheless.
Having rejected God and His boundaries for them, they have insulated themselves from His goodness and they remove themselves from His delight. They cast themselves out of Eden.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Roman 6:21 as it is translated in the NASB:
"Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death."
I love this verse because it reveals that everything we do has a reason. This verse falls in a passage that speaks about the fact that everything we do reflects a decision we make to literally give ourselves either to God or to satan (through sin).
"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Romans 6:16)
The truth is that people really do not know this reality because they reject reality as they routinely reject Jesus, the Truth. I love Romans 6:21 because it calls us to think about what we are doing and it reveals that when we choose sin as a master, the outcome will always be death.
What brought me to ponder these things and seek God about them is that while praying recently I realized that I can never remember a season in human history when there has been so much anxiety in the world. There have always been insecure adults in the world because their parents did not discipline them...did not give them godly boundaries when they were young. This insecurity has become pandemic.
What we are witnessing now is an entire culture of anxiety. The people cry out for relief from anxiety through counseling, medication, withdrawal from society and sometimes even prayer. These can offer temporary relief but that relief will always evaporate away because at the core of anxiety is insecurity and the source of that insecurity is discarded godly boundaries.
When Joshua portioned out the Promised Land (God's delight for His people) he did so by obeying God's direction. The boundaries of the land given to the various tribes were marked; these boundary markers are called landmarks. They served the purpose of reflecting the truth about "what is" concerning one's land.
Solomon wrote this in Proverb 22:28:
"Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set."
Why did he have to write that?
He wrote it because in that day, just as is the case today, people were discarding God's boundaries and that was causing insecurity in the people which resulted in unrest.
What can we do about all this? How can we, as mere individuals, affect a culture of anxiety?
- Honor God's boundaries for yourself
“Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate’, says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.’” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
The term "be separate" literally means, "set boundaries". In other words, refuse to let the doctrines of lost people come into your life. People don't realize it but satan is an evangelist - he evangelizes his kingdom and sends out his evangelists to encourage others to sin. Not all these evangelists are demons; in fact, most of them are just people who proudly choose to discard God's boundaries.
Take a stand! Say "NO!" to these ideas and disregard what others think about you for living a godly lifestyle.
- Repent of having violated God's boundaries in your life
We've all done this both knowingly and unknowingly. It's time we stop!
".....do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
Repentance is much more than merely changing what we do - that's just earthly behavior modification. Repentance means to discard our thought processes on an issue and replace it with God's thoughts on that issue.
It means to adopt His design and His boundaries and to discard anything the world will tell us is expedient or beneficial about abandoning His boundaries. We can't cheat just a little without breaking God's boundaries. We can't tell a "little white lie" or hide something or dress up sin to look okay without harming God's Kingdom, ourselves and others.
As we allow the Holy Spirit of God to convict us we will feel bad. This does not delight God; however, the result of this sorrow does:
"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)
That sorrow will be replaced with joy and a sense of well being in the Lord.
- Be humbly evident in your godly lifestyle.
In Acts 4:13 we see that people knew that Peter and John were uneducated and untrained men yet they "realized that they had been with Jesus" because of how they lived. How we live affects the people around us.
I once registered a car we bought and had to pay taxes on the purchase. The well meaning lady behind the counter whispered conspiratorially to me that if I lied on the form and said I just paid $100 for it instead of the true $9000 purchase price I wouldn't have to pay near as much in taxes that day.
As well meaning as she was, she was really being used to try to get me to drop a godly boundary in my life. I quietly thanked her but refused to do as she suggested. I told her, "I can't do that because I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I want to tell the truth and honor the government that Jesus works through."
I don't know if I angered her or if I walked off a fool in her eyes but I do know she had witnessed a person whose life reflected his relationship with Jesus, the firstborn of many brothers (Romans 8:29).
- Build relationships with those around you and engage them with truth
When we become vocal about reality, it often bothers those who would prefer to live deceptive lives. Even fellow Christians will sometimes object and tell us that its not our business to call a lie a lie. I believe that is a very dangerous lie in itself. It IS our business because all Christians are called to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). This means we represent the Kingdom of Jesus and His Kingdom is based on Himself.
"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)
Since Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6) reality must be the basis on which we build His Kingdom as we go.
This means that as we go (the literal translation of the term "go out into the world" in the Great Commission) we must humbly confront lies in the lives of those we meet....lies that are cheating them from the delight of God. We must lovingly explain the intent of God for His boundaries and the value therein. We must help them in their sorrow as they are convicted by the Holy Spirit and we must kindly help them restore the ancient boundaries in their lives.
We can do this. We have the Word of God and we have the body of Christ as a support system.
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I pray that as you have read this you are encouraged to take your place in God's plan to address the culture of anxiety in which we find ourselves. God always and forever has known the state of the world today. He has sovereignly chosen to place us here.....now. Peace will come to the lives of the anxious as they draw near to God only through Jesus in their lives.
Let's go minister the Kingdom of God.
Pastor Mike McInerney