Jeff Lawrence

Living in an Upside Down World

jeffglawrence living in an Upside Down World

Depending on your age and experience, you may occasionally glance at the news, read the headlines, watch the latest updates and wonder – “what in the world is going on?”  We’re living in an upside down world. As a Jesus follower, you may feel like a sojourner in a foreign land.

The New Testament is full of encouragement, warning, exhortation, and wisdom to guide us through diverse times.  When culture has shifted and much of the Judeo-Christian values marginalized or completely discarded, you have a wealth of guidance to reorient yourself to God’s Kingdom where His eternal values are intrinsically opposed to the values and ethics of this world.

If you have tasted God’s mercy, been overwhelmed by his grace, and immersed in His love, salvation has afforded you a new set of eyes, ears, and mind.  You are a new creation.  Home no longer feels like home for birthed within you is a longing for distant shores.

You are an alien in a foreign land.  An outlander.  The call of God’s Kingdom is within you. The domain of the living God is that for which you were made; the eternal housed in jars of clay.  C.S. Lewis said it well: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Yet it should be noted that the gravitational pull of this world is forceful.  The appeal to our senses invites us to drown our eternal longings in the temporary.  To own more, excel more, and get more while garnishing fame and fortune is the ultimate fulfillment.  Yet a drink from that cup only leaves you wanting.

And here is the ultimate struggle: flesh desiring the temporary and the spirit yearning for God.  The soul within makes us image-bearers of God.  The flesh is hungry for the material.  The need to be clothed, sheltered, and nourished appeals for more, for better, and for the physical.  The soul longs to breathe the air of the divine, to soar and be near, abide with, and revel in God’s companionship.

On a personal level, this war is intense, for no one knows the heart of man other than God – “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” – 1 Samuel 16:7.  We live in and are surrounded by a secular humanistic society.  The relativist worldview is preeminent. Our postmodern world has slowly realigned itself to post-Christian thinking all while the church has either been distracted or is fast asleep.  There are new and appealing thoughts on truth, the individual self, and the ultimate authority placed upon our innermost feelings.

With this new authority, practically anything goes.  If you feel it deep within, you must follow, for here is your own highest truth.  This preeminent truth, therefore, cannot be marginalized or refuted by critical thinking or logical processing.  To do so, would be cruel, unkind, and hurtful.  As Jesus followers, we hope to be grace-filled, gentle, and hopeful.  Yet the Gospel message and all we know to be true of God’s Word and reality as a whole is counterintuitive to this culture.

Yet interestingly, the appeal of practical humanism immersed in the language of love and acceptance is intoxicating for many Bible-believing, Church-going Christians.  It is, at its core, captivating our flesh and giving voice to our inner man.  Disguised in charming, beautiful, and appetizing language, we have invited this guest to our dinner tables; added this ingredient to our social and community conversations, and inadvertently adopted its tenants.

The world is upside down.  What we know to be true is now false and what we know to be false is now true.  All the while, the church is paralyzed to find the right language and platform to dispel this darkness.  We’ve retreated.  We struggle to engage our culture.  Biblical illiteracy has produced a culture-affirming crowd of churchgoers, unsure of the foundation upon which they stand.

The scripture warns us of these days.  The early Church encountered all types of heresies with cultural inclusion.  The waring between fleshly desires and Holy Spirit-fed transformation has been and will continue to be a battleground.  For we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1-3), sanctified over time (Philippians 1:6), and ultimately glorified as citizens of heaven (Romans 8:17).  We are sojourners, passing through to another place and another time.

This being true, how then shall we live?  How do we become light in darkness, hope in despair, and truth to the perishing?

First, we must acknowledge God’s Word as the highest pinnacle of truth.  We must be able to affirm this truth through pathways of faith and reason.  We hold this belief knowing the supernatural nature of the Bible and affirming its authority with solid, critical reasoning and an absolute statement of faith.  God is ultimate reality and His Word conforms to Him.

Second, we must embrace the reality of the deceptive nature of the wisdom of this world and the forces of evil amassed in support of it.  The appeal to our fallen nature, the flesh, is immense.  The Bible, therefore, as our source of highest truth, tells us: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Through the clarity of scripture, we see Satan as prowling and on the hunt.  Simply put, Satan’s strategy is to make sin look normal and righteousness strange.  It’s upside down.  Sound familiar?

Let’s view this through the eyes of secular humanism and relative truth but this time, let’s juxtaposition against the words of Jesus:

  • Culture says – “Follow Your Heart” but Jesus said – “follow me” and the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21-23

  • Culture says – “Be True to Yourself” but Jesus said – “Deny Yourself“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

  • Culture says – “Believe in Yourself” but Jesus said – “Believe in Me”. ” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

  • Culture says – “Live Your Truth” but Jesus said – “I am Truth”.If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32

  • Culture says – “As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters” but Jesus said – “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world – and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36

In our upside world where the highest authority is given to the inner self, we must recognize the danger while gracefully living and speaking the antithesis.  God’s Word alive in us and His Spirit working through us will do supernaturally more than we could imagine and dispel the darkness.

Third, we must contend for the faith.  As mentioned before, the early church contended for the faith by refuting heresies.  Oftentimes, these heresies were slight alterations in belief systems.  For example, a slight change in the understanding of the divinity of Christ would lead to larger and more dramatic shifts further downstream.  Therefore, the early church would undergo a course correction to return to foundational doctrinal principles.  Through solid leadership, they would return to what they knew to be true – God’s Word.  In so doing, they would adhere and obey the Word.

The modern attractional Church would do well to do the same.  Two thousand years of church history is available to inform and guide, led by some of the great thinkers and theologians of our faith: Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Augustine, and Martin Luther among a few.

Yet today we’ve succumbed to practices far removed from the biblical understanding of the New Testament Church; overseen by leaders who no longer qualify by the biblical standards of eldership.

Our measures of success have shifted from disciple-making to people in seats and dollars in plates.  We no longer seek wise leaders who are theologically trained to preach the Word.  The anti-intellectual movement that began with the Pietism movement of the 17th and 18th centuries has now produced, as J.P. Moreland states – less emphasis on “a studied period of reflection and conviction and put on an emotional, simple, popular preaching”.

We have diminished the role of Pastor to Performer and have placed the care of our sheep to men who fixate on their Instagram followers or the analytics of their latest reels.  They have become life coaches who aggressively encourage personal development; with a flare of cloaked arrogance, they berate their congregations with glorious irreverence.  They lack the empathy and compassion of Jesus. Our Pastors are now CEOs building a corporate culture held accountable by business people disguised as Jesus people.

Our Houses of Prayer are now Houses of spectating with a modern marketing campaign built around “Come & See”.  If you glance at this church’s Instagram and Facebook pages, you quickly see it’s much more fun, full of life, and happier here than there.  It’s all come and see without the be and go.  This compartmentalized Jesus fits nicely into a life pursuing the American dream.

It’s time to contend for the faith. 

As J.P. Moreland stated in his revolutionary book: Love your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life and Soul – “Anti-intellectualism has spawned an irrelevant gospel. Today, we share the gospel primarily as a means of addressing felt needs.”

Remember again – in today’s upside-down, feelings are everything.  The modern, life-coach, Instagram-happy, come-and-see church is playing to culture by offering a feel-good Gospel,  amazing music, and a talented speaker.  But if you peer behind the curtain, you might be surprised by what you see.  The players are quite different from their alter ego personas on stage.  No pursuit of holiness – only relevance.  

We must contend for the faith.

“A movement that cannot or will not draw boundaries, or that allows the modern cultural fear of exclusion to set its theological agenda, is doomed to lose its doctrinal identity. Once it does, it will drift from whatever moorings it may have had in historic Christianity.”
― Carl R. Trueman, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind 

Having read thus far, you might feel a little riled.  Maybe your church is a beautiful reflection of the New Testament Church.  Yes, there are great churches, flying just under the radar, that love Jesus, love others, and focus on making disciples in community.  We need more of you!

“There is nothing more irreligious than self-absorbed religion.”
― J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Or, you may have reached into the bag of cultural relativism and thought – “well that’s your opinion” (my truth versus your truth).  Let me be crystal clear: we have two thousand years of church history, examples of the application of the New Testament Church, precise scripture, modern trained theologians, wise leaders with age and experience who help guide us within the context of biblical community.  Without reservation, it’s clear the modern attractional church has drifted.  Humanism and relativism have soured the well of the Lord’s House.

Judas, the half-brother of Jesus (not to be mistaken with Judas the disciple) had just this type of heresy in focus when he penned the book of Jude.  He reminded the church of her call and the great gift of the Gospel.  And so he wrote:

 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Jude 1:3 & 4

We MUST contend for the faith. 

Only uncorrupted and undefiled faith has the power to repel darkness.  Only the biblical Church has the power of the Spirit to free captives of sin.  Only Jesus who exacts full and complete obedience has the power to overcome culture and send the enemy packing. 

So where do we start?

Let it begin on a personal level; a recommitment to pursue personal holiness.  Push back against the flesh and its massive pull towards earthly gratification.

Reconcile the ultimate authority of God’s Word.  Live in it.  Breathe it.  Speak it.  Obey it. 

Never forget, as a Jesus-follower, YOU are the Church!  Engage.  Ask questions.  Call leadership to walk in biblical transparency.  Be a part of the solution.  Jesus loves His Bride and she is His plan for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  Guide course correction in love and grace.

“The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.”― Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressing Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. 

Yes, you may feel right side up in an upside-down world.  I certainly hope so.  I also hope you firmly embrace it.  The cultural humanism and relativistic world is a dark place and the license to follow your feelings is leading to a rapid unraveling of our society’s cognitive reasoning.  The world has gone mad.

But Jesus said it would –

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

So how shall we live? 

Courageously.  With conviction.  Unapologetically.  In victory.  Together.  Love as our language.  Gentleness.  Kindness.  Self-control.

Let us be deep wells of faith, hope, and love – until Jesus returns.  And don’t forget, Jesus promised to be with you – even to the very end of the age!

Jeff Lawrence

For over 30 years I’ve had a front-row seat to ministry during seasons of monumental change.  As other worldviews grew in popularity, I’ve watched the Church, who, distracted or asleep, struggled to understand and respond.  While so many others would rather the church remain in systemic sickness, I believe there’s no better time than now to call her out and up to be the refined and uncorrupted Bride of Christ.

Jeff Lawrence

Jeff's Absolute Reads and Recommendations

Feelings are everything today!  How did we come about this new moral decay?  Where did transgenderism come from and how have we lost our mind?  If those questions and more are on your mind – click on the book and get yours today.  It’s a MUST Read!  Get Strange New World today on Amazon.

Although some may find this book a challenging read, if you have any desire to dive deeper this book by J.P. Moreland is a must.  Moreland takes us from the anti-intellectual movement to today and helps us understand the role of reason in our faith journey.  It is also a MUST Read!  Get Love Your God with All Your Mind on Amazon today.

Jared Wilson does a great job in navigating the comparison of the modern attractional Church versus the biblical missional Church.  He gently encourages his readers to reexamine the Bible’s teachings – an approach that is Gospel focused, grace based and fruit oriented.  Get The Prodigal Church today on Amazon.

And stay tuned for an upcoming project

The Rise of the Celebrity Pastor

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Our mission is to equip Jesus followers to go deeper

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World

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2 Responses

  1. Oh Jeff, I am thrilled to see your website! This is my passion to help people understand how drastically we are being led into all of the lies Satan is peddling today. I taught Erwin Lutzer’s book, No Reason to Hide, last winter to ladies in my church. I have been praying for revival in our nation for a long time. My pastor, Tom Gray, is leading us to set aside March as a time of prayer and fasting and challenging us to share Jesus with our neighbors. I have no idea if God might use us to be a cog in the wheel to bring about another great awakening or not, but I am praying for just that!
    Oh how I would love to sit down with you and hear more of your ideas on bringing this nation to its knees! Maybe on the beach this summer!

    1. Jean – I agree completely. I’m seeing a generational disconnect in some ways. Let’s talk more soon. In the meantime, share the post and have hard conversations. That’s a great starting point. Blessings – Jeff

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