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Kingdom living in a cancel culture world

(Photo: Dan Delzell)
(Photo: Dan Delzell)

Freedom of speech is under assault in America. As noted by the New York Post, the repressive "phenomenon of 'cancel culture' promotes the 'canceling' of people, brands, and even shows and movies due to what some consider to be offensive or problematic remarks or ideologies."

Nikki Haley once said, "Our society is built on the values of free speech and mutual respect, but cancel culture rejects both. In place of free speech, it demands conformity. Instead of mutual respect, it tears people down."

In the midst of these domineering developments, tremendous peace and strength continues to flow to those who "hope in the Lord" (Isaiah 40:31) and "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). God places a spiritual kingdom within people who receive the King of Kings as their Lord and Savior (John 1:12). 

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The Apostle Paul summed up the Christian life this way: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). God's kingdom is all about Jesus Christ reigning supreme in the hearts, minds, and lives of His followers (Colossians 3:12-17). The Messiah declared, "The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). And the Apostle Paul wrote, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

The greatest obstacle to the Kingdom of God flourishing in the hearts of believers is not cancel culture, but rather, our sinful nature. I refer to this nature as the "basement room of our soul."

Paul wrote, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature" (Romans 7:18). Unfortunately, our old nature didn't get the memo about the change in management that occurred on the day we came to faith in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Our old nature fights to hang on to power and control even though it no longer sits on the throne of our heart. 

The New Testament identifies a number of danger zones for Christians, such as: Are believers loving and caring for one another, or being selfish, harsh and judgmental? (1 Cor. 16:14; Romans 2:1-4). What thoughts are God's people entertaining on a daily basis? (Colossians 3:1,2; Romans 8:5-8). How are believers using their bodies? (1 Cor. 6:18-20). These issues remain critical for Christians today, and present a much larger threat to spiritual health and effective discipleship than the cancel culture climate in America.

Do you find yourself so fixated on our nation's troubles that you are neglecting to address specific sins in your attitudes and actions? Meditating on God's Word every day is a powerful weapon in this conflict with our sinful nature (Psalm 119:97-112). Scripture is a tremendous chaperone as we seek to steer clear of various land mines. We can get so overwhelmed with cultural dilemmas that we fail to guard our heart from the toxic sludge in the basement of our soul.

Christians do not have to live in the basement by indulging impure thoughts and bad behavior. Instead, believers "have been set free from sin" (Romans 6:18) in order to obey God and enjoy fellowship with the Lord on the upper levels of our soul. The "grace of God that brings salvation ... teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). In other words, God's grace teaches us to stay upstairs with Christ, rather than to venture down into the realm of dark desires. 

The basement of our soul oozes with a spirit of self-importance, which produces this kind of attitude: "I sit on the throne of my heart. I am the lord of my destiny. I am the lord of my thought life. I am the lord of my behavior. I am the lord of my decisions. I am the lord of my body and my sexuality. I have the final say about right and wrong. I am the lord of my life."  

Whenever you face the temptation to go to the basement of your soul, just remember: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In other words, you are free as a Christian to say "no" to any urges to go back down to the basement (Romans 6:22). The Lord has "called you out of darkness into His wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). And "everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness" (2 Timothy 2:19).

The sinful nature celebrates the self. Whereas, Christianity celebrates Christ. And there is not enough room on the throne of your heart for both of them to be your king. You can either live on the upper floors of your soul with Christ as your King, or in the basement with self as your dictator.

The Bible states: "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Romans 7:8-9). 

In spite of this ongoing struggle with our sinful nature, God's Kingdom presses on and will exist forever in a place of perfection (John 14:1-4). Imagine living in a place that has no sin, disease, death, demons, corruption, hatred, temptation or pollution of any kind. Imagine a world where no one has a sinful nature.

Thankfully, God's Kingdom is never in jeopardy. After all, did Lucifer's rebellion in Heaven cancel God's eternal plan of redemption? Did Judas' betrayal of Jesus cancel the Savior's path to the cross where He atoned for our sins? Do those who hate Christ cancel God's grace in the lives of believers? Has the persecution of Christians in China canceled the spiritual and numerical growth of God's Kingdom in that country? Of course not. 

Satan, Judas, and oppressive government officials are unable to cancel the Kingdom of God in the hearts of those who are saved, redeemed, born again, justified, and forgiven through faith in Christ. God's eternal Kingdom marches forward in the hearts and minds of believers all around the world. It is a victorious march because "the Father has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13). 

Cultures in every generation have experienced rampant sin and total separation from God. Our culture in America is no exception. Nevertheless, God has established a glorious Kingdom in the hearts of His people. Rejoice and be glad today if you are in the Kingdom of God! "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). The same cannot be said of any other ruler or king. 

And if you find yourself today outside of God's Kingdom looking in, pay close attention to this command from the King of Kings: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17). Likewise, Paul's message in Athens was one of repentance: "God commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).

The Savior's executioners were completely unable to prevent Christ's resurrection from the dead. And the oppressive dark forces at work in our world today have absolutely no ability to cancel God's Kingdom. "So do not fear" (Isaiah 41:10). "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10).

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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