Monday, April 27, 2009

Developing a Christian Worldview

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday morning just gone. Enjoy.

The Biblical Story as THE Grand-Narrative for Life

In this series we are going to be looking at the development of a Christian worldview based on the bible as THE grand-narrative for life.

We are going to look at God’s story, Genesis through to Revelation, as THE framing story for our lives.

The story out of which we live life, approach life, make decisions, determine priorities, steward our finances, etc.

Our entire preaching team will be preaching different messages and addressing different topics within the series.

There will be plenty of variety; it’ll always be interesting, challenging, encouraging, and life changing.


We all have a worldview, a particular way of look at the world.

Our worldview is…

‘The set of beliefs about fundamental aspects of reality that ground and influence one’s perceiving, thinking, knowing, and doing.’

More simply, worldview is our philosophy, mindset, outlook on life, perspective, through which we live our lives, make our decisions, behave and so on.

The lenses through which we look at and interpret life and the world.

Everyone has a worldview. It may be undeveloped, intuitive, and even inconsistent, or it may be the product of serious reflection.

Either way we all have a worldview.

It will be made up and determined by all sorts of influences.

- Generation type (mouse = small rodent or an infrared scrolling device for our computers, quality TV = a head in a box talking to the family or 100 channels in high definition on a 46inch wide screen television)
- Up bring and parents influence on our lives (man does the outside work, women does the inside work, vote national son, vote labour, don’t vote there all crooks)
- Movies we’ve watched
- Music we listen to
- People we hang out with
- Experiences we have had
- Stuff we heard, someone say, sometime, somewhere, sounded pretty good
- Accurate biblical theology and understanding
- Inaccurate biblical theology and understanding
- Western world and social conditioning that is all around us

All of these things influence us and cause us to have the worldview that we have.

All of these things influence the lenses through which we look at life.

The end result is also that we have a mixed bag kind of worldview.

We might have a similar worldview to the people around us but it will still be our own unique perspective on life.

This worldview implicitly affects the way that we live, the choices we make, the attitudes that we carry, everything that we do.

It’s through this worldview that we perceive, interpret, and then respond to and live life.

It will determine your attitude and treatment of…

- You earned it, you spend it on what you like, its yours
- Money is God’s, I steward it on his behalf
- I pay my tithes, as long as I give 10% to God in the offering, I can do what I like with the rest

Pre-marital Sex
- Bible teaches clearly sex is only for marriage
- Everyone is doing it so surely not that bad
- Didn’t have condoms in the bible so now its all good, don’t get pregnant or catch an STI

Depending on your worldview, that is shaped by all those different influencers, you’ll have your own unique perspective on things like money and pre-marital sex.

As Christ-followers, as Christians, our goal in life though, isn’t a unique personal perspective on life.

Our goal must be to see things from a biblical perspective, to develop a Christian worldview.

Jesus came to teach and reshape the worldview of that day and age and of our day and age.

He came to teach a new way of looking at the world and living in the world.

He came and taught a Kingdom worldview, a Christian worldview, a biblical worldview.

In Matthew 5 the, Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly says, you have heard it said… but I say unto you…

He was teaching a new way.

He was teaching a new way of looking at the world, at life, at everything.

He taught that blessed are the poor, the meek, the hungry, the persecuted.

He taught that anger wanting to kill someone is as bad as actually killing them.

He taught that lust is just as sinful as actual adultery.

He taught that and eye for and eye, or a tooth for a tooth, isn’t the way it is to work anymore, we are to turn the other cheek.

He taught that we are to love our enemies.

He taught that we are not to store up treasures and possessions on earth.

He taught that it’s not about saying Lord and sounding religious. It’s about obeying our father who is in heaven.

Jesus taught a whole new way of living, a whole new way of viewing the world.

His teaching is to shape our worldview.

Our goal must be to see, interpret, perceive the world according to Jesus’ teachings not simply according to what we have picked up here there and everywhere over the years.

Romans 12:2
- Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
- Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

We have to develop a Christian worldview.

The Biblical Story as THE Grand-Narrative for Life:

How do we develop a Christian worldview?

It will be a life long process, a journey we must chose to walk everyday.

Being transformed by God, into the likeness of Christ is a life long process.

Also we can take the time to study the essential elements of a worldview. Things like our…

- beliefs about the existence and nature of God
- beliefs about the origins and nature of the universe
- beliefs about the purpose of the universe, of creation, of humankind
- beliefs about the nature and purpose of humanity, in general and personally
- beliefs about what is right and wrong, good and evil in the world and how evil can be overcome and wrongs made right.

We can take the time to study theses issues and ensure that our worldview is indeed a biblical worldview.

We can go to the bible and study each of these topics one by one.

We could find truth by doing this. The bible is a divine book. It is full of wisdom, full of instructions for living life, is full of commands to follow.

God’s word is a mine that we can dig into searching for riches of truth and encouragement for life.

So we could develop our Christian world view through a study of appropriate biblical principles and propositions.

However, the bible is so much more than a set of principles and propositions though.

The bible is a grand-narrative, a metanarrative.

This means that the bible is an all encompassing story, a grand story which orders, explains, and gives meaning to life.

It’s the overarching story in which all of our individual stories fit and by which we can make sense of our stories.

Too often we focus on a devotional style reading of the bible that emphasises reading it only in parts and in pieces, looking for a ‘word for the day.’

The bible though is the grandest story of all, its God’s story, and it must be the framing story of our lives.

I’m a reader, I read a lot. Non-fiction and fiction. If you read novels you probably know how easy it is to pick up a 800 page or 1000 page novel and race through it cover to cover in no time at all.

Yet the bible 800-900 pages. Wow, it takes an eternity to read.

Partly that’s because we mainly read it looking for that ‘word for the day.’ Hard to keep going once you have had a few ‘words.’

Partly as well it is because we too often don’t have a sense of the big story that is unfolding as we read.

We get lost and bogged down in all the little stories along the way.

We lose sense of how they all tie together and what is going on.

In a novel there is a sense of beginning, an introduction of characters, the establishment of a stable situation that is about to be disrupted. Then there is some sort of significant conflict, action and drama, tension and the need for resolution. That resolution comes, we see now how our main characters are going to live on with stability restored and we finish the last page happily shutting the book. (Unless there is going to be a sequel).

Most of the time we don’t get that sense of a grand story unfolding as we read the bible, yet that is exactly what is happening.

The bible from Genesis to Revelation contains one major story and it’s the most exciting, mind blowing, paradigm shattering, history changing, you could ever come across.

There is a lot more to the story than the fact that humans are sinful and need Jesus in order to go to heaven.

It’s and exciting story. It’s the true story of the whole world.

In this series, as we look to develop a Christian worldview, rather than digging here an there in the bible for truths essential to life, we are going to look at the grand-narrative of scripture and as we journey through that we’ll pause along the way to learn the lessons we need to learn.

We are going to focus on the big story of the bible, God’s story, and allow that to be the framing story that shapes our worldview.

This is important because framing stories make a huge difference to how we interpret the rest of life.

We have to allow the right story to frame our lives.

Not the story of western culture, postmodernism, evolution, relativism, etc, etc, but God’s story.

Take the issue of humanity for example…

If our lives are framed by the story of evolution – then we are all area as a result of chance, because our ancestors where strongest and survived when others where weak, the strongest will survive today and the weak will die, this is in the best interests of humankind, our species is getting stronger and stronger. Don’t help the weak, the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. Keep them down, wipe them out, they’ll only threaten our survival and use our resources if lift them up.

If our lives are framed by God’s, the biblical grand-narrative – humanity is the climax of his creation. Every person is created in his image, with special standing before God, special fellowship with God, unique eschatological expectations, and for special community with God, with each other, and with the world we live in. As a result of this and our commitment to live according to a biblical worldview we are compelled to make a stand for justice, to pursue relationship with God, to develop community one with another, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy, to take a stand for the poor, the oppressed, the weak and the marginalized.

Your framing story profoundly impacts the way that you live life.

Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre says, ‘I can only answer the question, what am I to do? If I can first answer the question, of what story do I find myself a part?

We can only truly know what to do in life; how to live life, once we accurately establish and understand the story we are a part of.

We can only make sense of life today, of our lives today, if we understand how the story started, what has happened in the story so far, and how the story is going to end.

That’s what’s exciting about the biblical grand-narrative; we can look at the start, the middle, and even forwards into the future in regards to how the story will end.

The Biblical Grand-Narrative:

Chapter One – Creation
God creates the heavens and the earth, creates mankind. The master piece of His creation, made in His image, living in an incredible relationship and place of blessing with God.

Chapter Two – Sin
Humankind rebelled against God, death, destruction, chaos, entered the world. Because of sin we are relationally separated from God. The wonder of creation, us included, is marred.

Chapter Three – Israel
God adopts Israel as his special people, always with the plan of reaching out and adopting every people has his own afresh. Israel’s journey with God is full of highs and lows as they live righteously for a season but then fall away into sin and idolatry.

Chapter Four – Christ
God sends his only Son Jesus, who dies on the cross, sinless and perfect, he pays the price for your sin and mine. We can be forgiven our sins by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Chapter Five - Church
The body of Christ, you and I, the great community of believers, living to see his kingdom come, his will be done on earth as in heaven. Empower by the Holy Spirit, called to work together as the body of Christ.

Chapter Six – Re-Creation
Our eternal hope as Christians. A new heavens and a new earth. Eternal relationship with Christ. God will wipe away every tear from there eye, etc etc. Here we we’ll be looking at things like the second coming of Jesus, the rapture, heaven and hell, the millennial reign, pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post-tribulation, all those kinds of things.

As we journey through each chapter in the biblical-narrative we are going to pause and learn the lessons we need to learn essential to developing a Christian worldview.

Four Barriers to Developing a Christian Worldview:

The one thing all of us know is that we don’t know everything. All of us, to one degree or another, have a worldview that is a mixture of all sorts of things, we have to adjust this.

So, from time to time throughout this series, hopefully, you are going to be faced with challenges of some sort or another to your worldview.

At times it may be in little things, on other occasions it may be in regards to some big things.

It’s important that we are willing to adjust our thinking, perceiving, and understanding to be in line with God’s word when these things come up.

Four Barriers to Developing a Christian Worldview

1. Poor Theology

I don’t think anyone has a perfect and definitively true systematic theology worked out in their head.

We all carry bits and pieces of theology with us that are probably pretty poor.

Poor due to our own personal interpretations of the bible as we read it privately.

We’ll be talking about this in a couple of weeks.

Basically though we are all theologians, we all read the bible and draw conclusions from our readings.

We are not necessarily all good theologians though, sometimes the conclusions we draw are a long way away from an accurate reading of the text.

Poor theology as well due to the fact that all of us have listened to preachers for years and years, and preachers don’t always get things right.

It’s a real challenge to preachers.

When it comes to preaching though, poor theology because as listeners we have only ever remember lines that really stand out to us, not whole sermons and the balance that was hopefully taught around that line.

- God’s will, God’s bill – forget stewardship or long term financial planning.
- Bigger level, bigger devil – forget the complexities that come with increased responsibilities, it’s the devil making it hard.
- God says it, I believe it, that settles it – oh if life was that simple.
- If the Spirit’s not moving, I move the Spirit – because of course I have the ability to control God.
- God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called – don’t worry about training, all you need is the Spirit.
- Faith is the currency of heaven – no where does the bible talk about wisdom, oh there is that one funny book in the Old Testament.
- Don’t just walk on water, get out of the boat and blow it up – I’m not even sure what that means.
- 1 Cross + 3 nails = 4 given – I don’t know why we bother with soteriology, the study of salvation, all we need is some simple maths.

Often all we remember are the one liners, and often all that is give as an explanation is the one liners.

Developing a Christian worldview almost has to mean challenging some of the nice one liners we have though.

It’ll mean challenging things like our concepts of heaven and hell.

Most people think heaven is a place you go when you die, a place where the streets are gold, where God is preparing a mansion for you, where you will spend eternity.

The bible doesn’t teach that.

Most people think hell is a large lake of fire.

It seems most likely that this is not the case either.

We have to be willing to let go of some of the poor theology we have inherited over the years.

Embrace the challenge.

2. Our Own Agendas and Self-Interests

No matter who we are we all have personal agendas and self interests that mean we want to and look for particular conclusions or perspectives to be biblical.

If you don’t want your kid to get a tattoo then no matter what the bible will teach that tattoos are of the devil.

If you want to get a tattoo, no matter what the bible will teach that tattoos are all good.

We have our own self interests that make it hard for us to develop a Christian worldview.

We don’t want to look at issues of worldview because it might mean change we have to make that we don’t want to make.

We don’t want to look at a Christian perspective on poverty, or justice, or the environment.

The result may mean too much change.

The reality is the Christian life is meant to be a radical, counter culture, scary, faith filled adventure, measured by different standards and weights than what the world measures with.

I think intuitively we all know this to be true, yet we are reluctant to embrace this in its fullness, I’m reluctant to really embrace this.

Encroaches on every area of life. I don’t always like this. My money, my time, my goals, my achievements, my ambitions.

It’ll mean some things that we don’t really want it to mean.

3. The Discipleship Challenge

Man it’s easy following Jesus at first. Living with Jesus adds so much to your world.

Ever present help in times of trouble, source of wisdom, strength, encouragement.

Business is struggling, we go to God’s word and we find keys to overcome.

Relationship issues, we find keys for breakthrough here.

All sorts of things. It’s like the bible is a life coach that will lead you to certain victory.

And it is that.

Then you start to develop a Christian worldview based on the bible as the grand-narrative for life

You discover that victory might not be what you defined as victory.

Success might not be what you have previously defined as success, what the world around you defines as success.

You discover that following Jesus means changing and shifting priorities, goals, dreams, everything.

At first following Jesus meant extra blessing and favour on your dreams and ambitions, that you would more likely achieve the things you always wanted to achieve.

Now following Jesus means redefining your life.

It’s the discipleship challenge. It’s a real challenged.

It’s moving from saying God you’re mine, come bless my life to…

God I am yours, how can I bless you.

You had a plan and God was going to help you make it all come true.

Now you discover that God has a plan and life is actually about getting in behind that.

This can be a challenging and difficult transition.

4. The Clash of Western Worldview and Christian Worldview

I think the greatest barrier we have to over come in developing a Christian worldview is the western worldview and social conditioning of the western world that we are surrounded with.

Each of us is massively influenced by western worldview.

If we are not careful the story of the western world so easily becomes the framing story of our lives.

Essentially the western story is a story of humanism, individualism, and consumerism.

Reason and logic rule the world, ‘knowledge is power.’

Through science alone, and utterly apart from God, humankind could build a perfect world.

This story is basically unhelpful and untrue, yet so easily we find ourselves living according to it.

Our western worldview and culture so easily ends up determining…

- How we define abundance and lack.
- How we define success.
- How we interpret scripture.

Western social conditioning so easily determines what we see as fashionable, reasonable, justifiable, normal, or right or wrong.

It doesn’t take long for us to have moved a long way away from God’s story.

We need to reflect and be aware of when our western perspective is informing us rather than the bible.

The biblical grand-narrative is a very different story to the western story.

But it is the true story of the whole world, the only story out of which we can successfully live life.

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