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A Theology of Counter Cultural Living

Updated: Apr 21

What Jesus has to say about life, marriage, race, gender, and materialism

*This blog will be updated throughout March of 2024 as we preach through this sermon series.

Renew Network Faith Statement: "We believe Jesus’ lordship through Scripture will lead us to be a distinct light in the world. We follow the first and second great commandments where love and loyalty to God comes first and love for others comes second. So we prioritize the gospel and one’s relationship with God, with a strong commitment to love people in their secondary points of need too. The gospel is God’s light for us. It teaches us grace, mercy, and love. It also teaches us God’s holiness, justice, and the reality of hell, which led to Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement for us. God’s light is grace and truth, mercy and righteousness, love and holiness. God’s light among us should be reflected in distinctive ways like the following:

  1. We believe that human life begins at conception and ends upon natural death, and that all human life is priceless in the eyes of God. All humans should be treated as image-bearers of God. For this reason, we stand for the sanctity of life both at its beginning and its end. We oppose elective abortions and euthanasia as immoral and sinful. We understand that there are very rare circumstances that may lead to difficult choices when a mother or child’s life is at stake, and we prayerfully surrender and defer to God’s wisdom, grace, and mercy in those circumstances. 

  2. We believe God created marriage as the context for the expression and enjoyment of sexual relations. Jesus defines marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman. We believe that all sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage, including same-sex unions and same-sex marriage, are immoral and must not be condoned by disciples of Jesus. 

  3. We believe that Jesus invites all races and ethnicities into the kingdom of God. Because humanity has exhibited grave racial injustices throughout history, we believe that everyone, especially disciples, must be proactive in securing justice for people of all races and that racial reconciliation must be a priority for the church. 

  4. We believe that both men and women were created by God to equally reflect, in gendered ways, the nature and character of God in the world. In marriage, husbands and wives are to submit to one another, yet there are gender specific expressions: husbands model themselves in relationship with their wives after Jesus’ sacrificial love for the church, and wives model themselves in relationship with their husbands after the church’s willingness to follow Jesus. In the church, men and women serve as partners in the use of their gifts in ministry, while seeking to uphold New Testament norms that teach that the lead teacher/preacher role in the gathered church and the elder/overseer role are for qualified men. The vision of the Bible is an equal partnership of men and women in creation, in marriage, in salvation, in the gifts of the Spirit, and in the ministries of the church but exercised in ways that honor gender as described in the Bible. 

  5. We believe that we must resist the forces of culture that focus on materialism and greed. The Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil and that greed is idolatry. Disciples of Jesus should joyfully give liberally and work sacrificially for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.


Support Scriptures: Romans 12:3–8; Matthew 22:36–40; 1 Corinthians 12:4–7; Ephesians 2:10; 4:11–13; 1 Peter 4:10–11; Matthew 20:24–27; Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:11–15; 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Corinthians 11:2–9; 14:33–36; Ephesians 5:21–33; Colossians 3:18–19; 1 Corinthians 7:32–35."


How Should We View Marriage? 

Marriage is a sacred covenant ordained by God for the permanent union of one man and one woman for purposes of mutual support, companionship, and propagation of humanity. 

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  — Matthew 19:5

There has been a cultural shift towards redefining marriage. Marriage plays a foundational role in society's stability and moral fabric. The repercussions of disregarding the sanctity of marriage range from social issues like divorce, sexual immorality, and single-parent households to broader consequences such as societal instability and moral decay. Marriage is a covenant ordained by God for mutual support, companionship, and the propagation of humanity. We cherish the goodness in marriage, rather than merely avoiding its pitfalls, and emphasizes the importance of actively loving one's spouse. We encourage couples to nurture their marriages with love, patience, and appreciation, thereby enjoying the fullness of the marital bond while safeguarding it from potential pitfalls.


Discussion questions:
  1. Taking your cue from the Genesis creation account, what are the major characteristics that differ between humans and animals?  

  2. List some similarities and differences between men and women that go beyond physical traits. How were you raised to view these differences? 

  3. What are some reasons for the decline in the Western world of strong marriages? 

  4. Why do you think the Bible says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14)? 

  5. What is sacred about marriage? What might be missed when we see marriage as merely a title that is given by a state official?

  6. How has our culture's view of marriage evolved over time, and what are some contributing factors to this shift?

  7. According to the biblical perspective presented in the sermon, what is the fundamental purpose and significance of marriage?

  8. In what ways can actively loving and cherishing one's spouse enhance the quality and resilience of a marriage, as discussed in the sermon?

  9. Reflect on the concept of "real love" as described in the sermon. How does understanding and embodying true love impact marital dynamics and longevity? Explore the role of faith and spirituality in sustaining and enriching marital relationships, as highlighted in the sermon.


How Should We View Human Life? 

We should view human life as sacred because, unlike other beings, humans were created in the image of God. 

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  — Genesis 1:27

We take on the biblical perspective on the sanctity of human life, emphasizing the concept of humans being made in the image of God. There is a contrast between Judeo-Christian beliefs with secular ideologies regarding the value of human life, particularly focusing on the treatment of babies and unborn children. Jesus' teachings and actions exemplify love and care for children, challenging us to emulate this attitude in their own lives. We uphold the sanctity of life while extending grace and compassion to those affected by abortion. We believe in the intrinsic value of every human being and advocate for active engagement in promoting and protecting human dignity, especially in the face of societal pressures and cultural norms.

Discussion questions:
  1. Read Genesis 1:26–27. How easily can you see the image of God in yourself? Describe what you see. 

  2. How does the biblical concept of human life being made in the image of God contrast with secular views that place value on human life based on societal contributions or circumstances? 

  3. Just because an action is legal does not mean that it is necessarily moral. What is the difference between something being legal and moral?  

  4. How can grace cover sins such as murder and abortion? Is it difficult for you to extend grace to those who have committed these sins or sins like them? 

  5. Read James 1:2–4. How would you describe this passage to a new believer? 

  6. How can you actively seek to minister to someone who regrets having aborted their child?

  7. How can you actively seek to minister to someone who is raising a child?


How Should We View Materialism?

Materialism is sin because it causes us to focus on the acquisition of earthly treasures and rewards that detract from spiritual blessings and riches that come from being in a right relationship with Jesus. 

“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
Discussion questions:
  1. Did you grow up materially poor, comfortable, or wealthy by US standards? How has the way you grew up impacted your view of money today? 

  2. Have you discussed materialism in your home? If you’ve discussed it, have you defined it clearly and called it sin?  

  3. Give examples of how our society values financial success over good character. 

  4. Read 1 Timothy 6:17–19. What are specific ways that you can protect yourself from becoming too preoccupied with money and possessions? 

  5. How can we be wise financially without becoming greedy and selfish? 


How Should We View Male and Female Roles?

God created males and females to have complementary physical bodies and strengths, equal spiritual gifts and worth, and he placed them in relationships where partnerships and mutual respect contribute to human flourishing. 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” — Ephesians 5:25
Discussion questions:
  1. Read John 4:1–42. How does this story display Jesus’ view of women? 

  2. What does Genesis 1:26–28 imply about God’s design regarding male and female? 

  3. Discuss the difference between complementarianism and egalitarianism. What has been your personal position on this issue? 

  4. How have societal and professional roles, as well as the breakdown of traditional marriage, impacted your views on male headship in the family? How has it affected your view of those with whom you are in relationship? 

  5. Read Ephesians 5:25. Practically, what would it look like for a husband to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”?

  6. Is this teaching on male leadership in the home and church challenging for you? If so, pray for wisdom and for God to clarify his Word and open your eyes to examples of his will in this area.


How Should We View Race and Ethnicity? 

God created one human race bearing his divine image from which emerged all the world’s ethnicities and nationalities. 

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”  — Acts 17:26

Discussion questions:
  1. How have you seen racism play out in your personal or professional life? Have you ever had an experience as a victim of racism?  

  2. How does the beautiful diversity in God’s creation apply to the issue of racial/ethnic differences? 

  3. How would you explain the biblical passages that allow for slavery to someone who already tends to be skeptical of the Bible? 

  4. In your own words, describe some of the tools that Jesus gives us to fight racial and ethnic division.  

  5. Describe critical theory and the impact it could have (or has had) on you and your church.  

  6. What are the limitations of trying to bring about racial healing without the biblical truth that we are all made in God’s image?


Further Reading and Resources:

  • Bobby Harrington, Renee Sproles, Daniel McCoy, Rick Oster, et al., “On Gender and the Bible,” a twelve-part series at Renew.org, https://renew.org/on-gender-and-the-bible-a-summary-part-12/.

  • Michael Burns "Escaping the Beast" (Illumination Publishers, 2020)

  • David Young "Resilient: Standing Firm in a Hostile World" (Renew, 2023)

  • Daren Overstreet "WILDFIRE How Progressive Theology is Impacting the Church" (Illumination Publishers, 2022)

  • ICOC Teachers Service Team "The Bible and Gender" (Illumination Publishers, 2020)

  • Jeanie Shaw "Women's Leadership," Leaven: (Vol. 18: Iss. 2, Article 10. , 2010) at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/leaven/vol18/iss2/10

  • Douglas Jacoby "The Women's Role & Current Practice" (1993) at https://www.douglasjacoby.com/wp-content/uploads/93Women.pdf

  • Renee Sproles "Male & Female: A Biblical Look at Gender" (Renew, 2023)

  • Carol M. Swain "Countercultural Living: What Jesus has to say about life, marriage, race, gender, and materialism" (Renew, 2021).

  • Thaddeus J. Williams "Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2020)

  • Voddie T. Baucham Jr., "Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe" (Salem Books, 2021)

  • Early church Fathers on the unborn https://www.churchfathers.org/abortion

  • Biblically Resilient Resource list https://www.biblicallyresilient.com/resources


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