(Snowden pic) May 20, 2013 – Edward Snowden, contracted to work for the NSA, took a flight to Hong Kong in preparation of leaking highly classified information from the National Security Agency (aka NSA). Within months, documents were obtained and published by media outlets worldwide, most notably The Guardian (Britain), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Washington Post and The New York Times (U.S.), O Globo (Brazil), Le Monde (France), and similar outlets in Sweden, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Australia.
The leaked documents revealed previously unknown details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the United States’ NSA.
It was revealed that the NSA was harvesting millions of email and instant messaging contact lists, searching email content, tracking and mapping the location of cell phones. Additionally, the NSA was shown to be secretly accessing Yahoo and Google data centers to collect information from hundreds of millions of account holders worldwide by tapping undersea cables.
Former congressman Ron Paul released a video on his website saying, “Edward Snowden sacrificed his livelihood, citizenship, and freedom by exposing the disturbing scope of the NSA’s worldwide spying program. Thanks to one man’s courageous actions, Americans know about the truly egregious ways their government is spying on them.”
On the other hand, Secretary of State John Kerry said Snowden had “damaged his country very significantly” and “hurt operational security” by telling terrorists how to evade detection. “The bottom line,” Kerry added, “is this man has betrayed his country.”
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is quoted as saying, “We had a cyber Pearl Harbor. His name was Edward Snowden.” The Edward Snowden files were deemed by the Pentagon as the most significant leak in U.S. history. – Across political lines, Edward Snowden is both revered as a hero and a true patriot, and also reviled as a coward, a snitch, and a traitor.
And it’s pretty interesting to think about from a moral point of view:
- One one hand: A moral obligation to not leak classified information.
- On the other: A moral obligation to expose illegal surveillance.
And many of us would say both of those are true.
Question: How do you decide what’s right and what’s wrong?
For the Christian of course, our goal is to be most of all influenced by Christ. But Christ is not the only thing that influences us.
We all have this collection of beliefs and standards and ideals that we pick up from different places. Certainly from God. But also, our parents, the media we take in, Here’s another one, are you ready? – The World.
“The World” is a major theme in the NT.
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15)
For everything in the world (notice that he explains what he means…) —the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18)
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19)
John 17:6, 9, 11, 13-18
This is Jesus, praying to the father – on the night before he dies:
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6)
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9)
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you… (John 17:11a)
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (John 17:13)
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. (John 17:14)
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:16)
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:18)
So here Jesus uses the word ‘World’ 17 times in this prayer alone.
From which we get the word ‘Cosmos’. And when John uses this word, he uses it to mean different things. Which can be confusing.
Bark But think of the English word ‘Bark’. Bark is of course a word that means the sound a dog makes. But it’s also the tough exterior of a tree. – And apparently, it’s also an old-timey name for a particular kind of boat.
Calvin & hobbs “Enemy planes @ two o’clock!”
Years ago there was a Calvin and hobbs comic, where Calvin, the young boy is always imagining himself in these heroic situations. So he’s imagining himself as being the pilot of a fighter plane and he yells to Hobbs “Enemy planes at two o’clock! Enemy planes at two o’clock!” Calvin says “Okay got it, what do we do till then?”
The phrase two o’clock means multiple things.
Kosmos is the same way, has at least 3 meanings in the NT:
1. The Planet
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen… (Romans 1:20)
“For since the creation of the world.” – He’s talking about the planet.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
So is John saying that God so loved the actual planet that he sent his son? That doesn’t make sense. Here, when John uses the word Kosmos, he means humanity.
3. Our Culture
Dallas Willard (when describing the world) says it like this:
“Our cultural and social practices, that are under the control of Satan and, thus, opposed to God.” Dallas Willard
A lot of what we call ‘Culture’, previous generations (all the way back to Jesus) called ‘The World’.
Just to be perfectly clear, I am not one of those ‘Afraid that the world is going to infect me’ type of Christians. I’m really not. In fact, growing up, I think a lot of Christians cultures thought I WAS the world, when I wasn’t. You may or may not know this, but growing up, I had these different phases of crazy hair, and Mohawks, and purple hair, and blue hair.
Before Jordan was my wife, she was my girlfriend. Unsurprisingly.
And she went to Hope Christian School.
You know what’s funny, is the school didn’t put on dances. No no no. Worldly. So what happened was the parents put on dances for the students, but they had to be off campus.
And I remember this process that we had to go through in order for me to be approved to go to the dances with my girlfriend. So I was interviewed to make sure that I wasn’t planning on bringing the world to the dance.
And I had to make sure all my tattoos were covered up, and piercings were removed, and my hair wasn’t, you know, standing straight up.
And what’s really hysterical is that once I finally got to the dance, I didn’t dance. I didn’t think it was cool. I was into rock and roll, so me and by best buddy Jesse McDermott just sat down with our arms crossed.
But the emphasis was always ‘Stay as far away from the world as possible. Because the world will infect you.’
Marshall going to movies
You most certainly couldn’t go to the Sodom and Gamorrah known as the movies.
In fact, years ago I remember Marshall telling us that someone left the church b/c they saw Marshall going into a movie theater.
You definitely couldn’t dance. Well actually, you could dance in church but you better not dance anywhere else.
You couldn’t go to a public pool where people from other opposite sex were gonna be. Or what was called ‘Mixed Bathing’. I have no idea where that name came from. There’s was no soap or lufas involved.
You couldn’t play cards, even if you weren’t better money b/c it was ‘worldly’.
Women couldn’t wear jewelry, or makeup, or pants.
Women couldn’t wear jewelry b/c it was ‘worldly’. Women couldn’t wear makeup – “worldly”. Women couldn’t wear pants b/c it was ‘worldly’.
And how many of you know, that’s still the truth. If we could just get our women the straighten up, take that war paint off, we could really do some good in this world, hallelujah. And if that sounds bizarre, it’s because it is, in fact, bizarre.
I am not one of those ‘Afraid of the world’ Christians – I do not believe that if I hear a curse word, that I’m gonna start melting. Or if a girl walks by in a swimsuit, that I’m going to suddenly not gonna be able to control myself and I’ll turn into the incredible hulk.
I am not that. But I also understand how I always have to be looking to the culture with a bit of skepticism. Because what can happen is the worlds affections can become our affections.
Yuval Noah Harari – who wrote ‘Sapiens’ and recently “Homo Deus” (about as far as you can get from being a follower of Jesus) :
In earlier times, it was God who could define goodness, righteousness and beauty. Today, those answers lie within us. Our feelings give meaning to our private lives but also our social and political processes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the customer is always right, the voter knows best, if it feels good do it, and think for yourself: these are some of the main humanist credos.
“What was universally condemned is now celebrated. What was universally celebrated is now condemned. Those who refuse to celebrate are now condemned.” (Theo Hobson – British Theologian)
It’s what many people is our society would call ‘Progress’. And of course in some cases it is. – For example: In our societies work against systemic racism, progress is a wonderful thing. But in other areas: Sexuality, Abortion, hedonism, greed. – This is not progress. It’s not a step forward, it’s a step back.
To summarize: In Scripture, “The World” sometimes refers to a sinful culture that NORMALIZES the worst parts of us.
“The Worst Part of Us”
We Christians, we believe that we have these warring forces on the inside of us. That there’s what Paul calls ‘The Flesh’ that wants to do wrong. And then we believe that we have a spirit that has been reborn, and wants to do what is right. – If you can picture the devil and angel on your shoulders, that’s a pretty decent picture.
And what the world does, is it appeals to the worse part of you. This is why ‘trust your feelings’ is such bad advice. It’s fine for Obi Wan, but it’s not good for you.
Think about in Luke 16 where Jesus was talking to Peter: “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
This is Jesus rebuking one of his disciples by the way. Not some worldly person.
He’s not saying that everything we think is awesome is detestable. He’s saying there’s sometimes things that we celebrate, and clap for, that are detestable to God.
And then those worst parts of us are “NORMALIZED” in our sinful society.
Where we’re not just lying to ourselves about what’s right and wrong, but we’re in this echo chamber, where we’re all telling each other what we want to hear. You tell people what you want to hear yourself. And often when you’re telling someone ‘No, what you’re doing is fine.’ – Really the person your comforting is yourself.
Example: When you get married. You want dessert. So I’ll ask: “Should we have some dessert?” And what I really mean is: “Will you say yes so I don’t feel guilty doing something I know I shouldn’t do.” Some of you are single, and you need to get a spouse just so you can eat more junk food. That’s human society. – Where the worst parts of us become normalized, not because people are concerned for OUR well-being, but because they want to feel better about themselves.
Paul says something amazing in Romans ch6 “The wages of sin is death.” – Not the wages FOR sin, the wages OF sin. Sin has consequence built it. That’s why God tells us to not do it.
“Sin is not harmful because it’s forbidden. It’s forbidden because it’s harmful.” (Benjamin Franklin)
And there’s a huge amount of truth to that. So that’s why every healthy church (including this one) will have differences with their city when it comes to a number of different moral issues. And that’s not b/c we’re uptight, or prude or something.
It’s because we believe that sin never leads to human flourishing.
Sin does lead to pleasure. The Bible is actually honest about that. Hebrews 11 talks about ‘the passing pleasures of sin’.
There’s never a denial that sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend, in the moment, is a lot of fun. It’s fun, but it only leads to pain. It only leads to death.
It matters very little to the Christian what everybody else is doing. Often times ‘everyone else’ is very wrong. That’s the great danger of democracy, the majority is not always right.
So what’s the solution? I like how Maximus the Confessor put it in the 7th century:
“Christ has given us a new way to be human.”
We trust Jesus. We use his map on deciding what’s good and what’s evil. That’s true for our: Bodies, our minds, our sexuality, our desires, our ethics, our priorities, our passions, our hobbies, how we spend our money, how we spend our time, how we lead our families, how we conduct ourselves at work.
When it comes to morality, Jesus gets all the votes.
Only in Jesus do you find real and significant and meaningful life.
No matter if you’re a Christian, or an atheist, or anything in between. We all want life. – To have significance, and connection, and meaning, and joy. – All healthy people want that.
We just have differences in the best way to get there.
Jesus says it’s a narrow way that leads to life. And a wide way that leads to death.
Some people will use that to talk only about the afterlife and who’s getting into heaven. I think a much better reading of that – which is at the end of the sermon on the mount – is to say ‘There’s a certain way to live your life, (the way I just laid out for you in the sermon on the mount) that leads to life.’
And not just in the afterlife. But right here, right now. REAL life. – To live and be fully alive.
And then there’s wide path, which is basically ‘Do whatever the heck you want. Follow the crowd.’ – and it may be fun for awhile but in the end, you know what, it leads to death.
You can be breathing, while still experiencing what can only be described at death. And most people do.
One of the things that’s hard about being a pastor, is to get in front of people you love, even when it’s unpopular, or scary, or weird, and say ‘Hey, the way that’s you’re currently living, might not be the best. That there’s actually this OTHER way of living, that’s 1000 times better.
But I’ve learned how easy it is to become to familiar and comfortable with the world, that even without knowing it, we become completely indistinguishable from the world.
So there’s this balance. There’s this dance, where we’re not world denying separatists, but on the other hand, we’re always on the lookout for ways that we’ve become like the world. Sometimes without even knowing it.
There’s one very distinct way to fight against the world: Church.
Did you know that people show up here, some people as early at 6:30am on a Sunday to make this happen for us?
People come to the church and clean the bathrooms FOR FREE. That’s about as different from the world as you can get.
Why do they do that? Is it because they just have nothing better to do, or they just love cleaning toilets or something? – No. It’s because they see value in what happens here.
All week long, we live in the world. It’s seeping into our pores. And then we all get together and say ‘Oh yeah!! Now I remember… This is true, this is a lie. This is good, this is a evil.’ It’s not the only reason we come together, but it’s one of them certainly is to get together and collectively remember what is the world and what is Jesus. I know that sometimes life happens and there’s things that get in the way, I totally get that, so there’s no judgement from me whatsoever. I’m just saying that if you’re in the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you never set time aside to remind yourself of the way of Jesus, don’t be surprised when the way of Jesus starts to get a little distant in your mind.
I hear people all the time “Pastor David, I just feel so disconnected from Christian community.” – “Mhmm, when’s the last time you came to church?” “7 weeks ago.” – Ah, I think I know what the problem is.
“When’s the last time you went to your small group?” – Umm.. 2014. Ahh. Yeah I think I can help you there.
Church – unique – world.
The church is unique in the world. There’s no secular equivalent to coming to the table of Jesus.
Closing Scripture and then question:
(Prepare – communion)
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – (James 1:27)
QUESTION: In what ways have I been polluted by the world? – Not always easy.
It’s a lot easier to spot the world in someone else, than in yourself.
It’s a lot easier to spot the world in another culture than in your culture. Even in another part of American culture.
If you think about my younger millennial, progressive brothers and sisters.
Most of them have no problem spotting the world in conservative culture. – They’re eager to point out systemic racism, or corporate greed. But those same people are blinded to the world in radically new sex ethic, or hyper individualism, or commitment phobia, or anti-authoritarianism.
And so we’re always fighting this battle.
We’re not called to live outside of the world. So we won’t be buying a big compound in Oregon or anything like that. We’re living and doing church in one of the largest cities in the United States. – I believe it’s the 32nd largest city.
And we’re called to this city. And contributing the welfare of our city. Fully functioning members of society. IN the world, never OF the world.
(12:30 – Communion)
It’s one of the sacred practices (some would use the word sacraments) of the Christian faith. And believe it or not, receiving communion is one very tangible way that we fight against becoming secularized. B/C the world thinks you’re just eating a stupid piece of bread. But the church says ‘No there’s something else happening here. We may not even have the right words to express it, but like Paul said, this is our participation in the body and blood of Jesus. And so we’d encourage you to really enter into the experience and not just go through the motions. This is a very real and tangible way to meet with Jesus and to be healed by him.
(Pass) / (Invitation) / Offering
As we close service today, we’re going to receive our offering.
We have lots of different ways to give, and we just want to say that the money you give here goes to do a lot of great things in our city. We’re constantly working on getting better at communicating the gospel to our city, and that’s in both word and deed.
Individually we can all make a small difference, but together we can make a huge difference in the world.
As you prepare your gift, two quick announcements:
- Womens Conference – less than 4 weeks. Men needed.
- New Series ‘The Poet King’
Ok so we’re gonna pray over our offering, will you stand real quick.