Author Os Guinness discusses the need for today's Christian church to experience a spiritual revival if it is to be truly effective in changing the world for Jesus Christ. (Part 2 of 2)
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Os Guinness: You know that maxim "think globally, act locally," That's a secular one. Our equivalent, I think, is to think and pray globally with vision for the entire world, 'cause the Gospel's for the whole world. But to act locally, and for each of us, that's the sphere of our calling. So, none of us can save the world. We're just little finite people, but we're called to be faithful. Are we homemakers or teachers or lawyers or computer scientists or cab drivers or political leaders? If each of us is faithful in the whole of the spheres of our calling, the salt and light will be salty.
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John Fuller: Well, that's a cultural commentator and a very biblical thinker, Os Guinness, reflecting on the state of the Christian community and how you can have hope in God. And he's back with us again on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: You know, John, Os is a deep thinker and that's what I love, because it makes me think. And I hope today as you listen, as last time, it would do the same for you, that it would make you think about things that aren't just day-to-day thoughts, but what are those deep things in your heart, the way that you want to connect with God to live out in faithful service before Him your life? And that's what we're talking about. These are big things. Os Guinness, of course, he was in our Truth Project and that's been very successful, a very successful program.
John: Yeah, thousands and thousands of people have seen that and it's a great privilege to have Os with us today after seeing some of his comments and thoughts in that series.
Jim: Yeah, in fact, if you did not see The Truth Project, that would be something to get and just go to the website. John'll have more details. Os, let me welcome you formally back to the program.
Os: Well, it's a real privilege to be with you. You keep saying I'm a deep thinker. You've probably terrified some people. (Laughter) What I loved about The Truth—
John: You terrify us a little bit.
Os: --what I loved about The Truth Project, people come up to me all over the place—
Os: --you know, because of that series and they really just understood. Truth is so important and is in such crisis today and I don't think we put it in very complicated ways. People got it.
Jim: Well, and it was good. I think almost 4 million people have seen The Truth Project, so thank you for participating with that. I want to capture the story of your great-great-great grandfather, because I think it's a great story, to be honest. There's a reason you have the last name Guinness and of course, that's a very famous beer and that was your great-great-great grandfather, correct?
Os: Indeed, yes. And he came to Christ through the teaching of John Wesley and the preaching of John Wesley in the Irish Revival. My own branch of the family is the only one that's kept the faith ever since. In Ireland's last duel, it's a story. Do I have time to tell you it briefly?
Os: A city councilor insulted Daniel O' Connell, the great Irish liberator. The only recourse was a duel. The city councilor was a crack shot. O'Connell was a duffer. And to everyone's amazement, I'm cutting the story short, everyone's amazement, the city councilor, the crack shot missed and O'Connell hit him and killed him.
And the man's widow was 22 with two young children, [she] went to Scotland to think of taking her life. She was despairing and she saw a plow boy whistling and singing hymns and ashamed of thinking [of] her taking her life with two kids left behind, she crossed, talked to him and came to faith.
Went back to Dublin and met and married my great-great grandfather, the son of Arthur Guinness, the brewer. But here's my point. Without those pistols and I met the guy who owns them a few years ago and I picked them up and I thought, without one of those two pistols, my side of the family wouldn't be.
Jim: That's amazing.
Os: But here's the amazing thing. That woman, having come to Christ, every day the journal shows, she prayed for our family for 12 generations.
Os: And every one of them following her with, I think, one, maybe two exceptions, they're all followers of Jesus.
Jim: That's powerful.
Os: And so, prayers intergenerationally and that's something very simple that we can do today, really pray for the succeeding gen[erations]. I pray. My son [hasn't] even got a girlfriend at the moment. I pray for his grandchildren. I must say, I can't go much beyond that in my envisaging it, but prayer for the generations is a key part of handing on. And I'm proud to say I have a tremendous heritage of faith in the Gospel going back to Arthur Guinness, the brewer.
Jim: (Chuckling) That's a great story. We spoke last time about loving our enemies and having courage to boldly take a stand for Jesus in the culture by engaging with others. But I want to ask you about one component of that which is very important to me and this is something that's been on my heart for a long time. That is the character trait of humility. It's something that obviously Jesus possessed and then expressed to others. He was forceful and strong at the same time, but He was humble and it seems to me, within Christian leadership, that characteristic is wanting. Humility is one of those characteristics that seems hard to live by. And yet, it's the very thing that could draw people into the dialogue, into the discussion, so that there can be a resetting of what is important, but it takes humility, doesn't it?
Os: Indeed. I mean, you keep adding useful things (Chuckling), persuasion, love, etc., etc. and humility is one of the key ones. Wilberforce was incredibly humble. And obviously, humility is a wonderful Christian virtue. Each of us is finite. Each of us is fallen. So we should never think more highly of ourselves than we should do. And yet, you look at America today and not at all blessed are the poor in spirit.
I remember a series of that in Washington, the preacher shall be nameless, but I was appalled that he told us the Greek and the Hebrew and the biblical this that and the other, but he never said it in the modern context. Here's a culture which to any foreign visitor like me is obvious, blessed are the No. 1's. Number 2's are nowhere. Blessed are the MVPs. Blessed are the Hall of Famers. Blessed are the celebrities. It's all about that. And much of our Christian culture is too, rather than the way of Jesus. He comes in on the donkey and so on. So, you know, I'm sure you'll have David Brooks on the radio; his new book coming out is on humility and the road to character and that's incredibly important.
Jim: Well, and the difficulty we have in this regard to be humble in the arena, is hard because we've begun to misunderstand what courage is. We think courage is a zero-sum game of winning, being the MVP, being No. 1, what you just said there. But the Lord and where you see those illustrations where God, you know, He's standing there in front of Pontius Pilate. He could have straightened that out, but He didn't. He didn't win in the way the world was expecting Him to rise up and win. And many people were frustrated by that. They wanted Him to overthrow Rome, these people that were lording it over the Jews. That's what the zealots were all about. They wanted someone to rise up and basically win the victory over Rome and get their land back. Sometimes I feel like we have a parallel strategy here in America. It's about winning the White House. It's about winning Congress. Those are important things, but that's not where culture changes. Culture changes in the heart.
Os: Oh exactly. I agree. And my book on apologetics coming out in June makes this point. A lot of apologetics goes wrong, as if we're the great boxing hope. We've got to slay all comers and you got to appear on television or the university and do that, whereas we are just the junior counsels. The real prosecutor is the Holy Spirit doing the work that matters. And we have far too high a view of ourselves. So we have to admit we don't know all the answers.
Jim: Os, let me let me ask you this. Many, many generations if not every generation thinks they're in the end times, because teenagers don't behave the way they should. A friend of mine read newspaper columns or newspaper headlines from the 1930s. It sounded like they could have been written today and Just about the lack of following authority, some of the major themes that we have been talking about. And then at the end, he says this is a headline from the 1930s. And everybody gasps, thinking, wow! That could have been written today.
And it proves the point that we and every generation with the darkness of each generation tend to overestimate the darkness and underestimate God's work in that generation. When you look at it though there will be a generation where we're over the tipping point culturally. Many people feel we're in that spot today, that we're losing religious liberties, that we're on the downhill slide of power and that's a very disturbing place to be, because we don't know how to behave in that environment
Jim: Do we fight to get it back or do we humble ourselves and persuade gently to get it back? It seems like the strategy is lost. We don't know what to do now. What do you recommend?
Os: Well, there's a difference in the rise and decline of nations and the end times. And of course, as you've said, there are many times previously. I mean you look at the Dark Ages that I mentioned. Historians say never have more people said the end of all things is at hand. It was truly dark.
And there's darkness today. Take what we're seeing in the Middle East through the Islamic state. This is vile. So we have seen, certainly in my lifetime even today, we are seeing evil, but that is there and that's a difference even from the tipping point idea. I think we're approaching a tipping point. The West is in decline. The American republic is in decline.
You have to sustain freedom as the Founders understood and if you don't do a certain way, it goes; freedom goes. There are three main ways it goes. It goes through becoming permissiveness and license. Or people who are free so love security that they have so much security, they stifle freedom--one nation under surveillance. Or they so prize freedom, they'll do whatever it takes to defend freedom, including what contradicts freedom. Take Abu Ghraib.
So all the classical historical ways in which freedom undermines you can see in America now. And I think there's no question we're approaching the point of no return. That's a different question, but that doesn't mean the end times. And of course as you know, our Lord says even He didn't know and He begins and ends talking about the end times, saying we certainly don't know. So there are many things and particularly the constellation of events in the Middle East, extraordinary things, but we don't know. We've got to live every day as if He's coming back this afternoon. And yet, every day as if it could be another thousand years, but we do see evil and we are approaching the point of no return in the West and in America.
John: So in light of your book, Renaissance, The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times and thinking of what Jim just asked, do we accept the hard times that come, even if its government imposed or its from individuals that just really hate us for our faith? Do we accept that? Do we fight? How do we respond to the lower levels I might call it of persecution?
Os: We have to respond in a Christ-like way. So William Wilberforce, you do the Lord's work in the Lord's way. He always loved his enemies. You probably know one time one of his enemies died; he immediately saw the man's wife had a pension to live on. He was known for his love, although he attacked slavery dramatically in his pronunciations. The failure of much of the Christian right, they demonize the enemies. We must never demonize our enemies.
We must do the Dan Cathy approach, reach out to them and so on. So, we've got to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way. Now fight, take apologetics. In the Scriptures, military metaphors are always in the supernatural—the principalities and the powers. When we're dealing with people and arguments that are human, they're legal metaphors—witnessing, truth and so on. So. We've got to "fight" in quotes in ways that are profoundly biblical and not make the mistakes of the church in the past.
Jim: Talk about the Scripture where Jesus is saying, you know what? "The world's gonna hate you. Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Os: "Count it all joy."
Jim: It's an interesting dichotomy. I mean, He's recognizing that you're not gonna be favorable to a lot of people. You're not gonna be their best buddy, but be of good cheer, you know. Be joyful, because I've overcome the world. Sometimes it seems, Os, that we have a short perspective on what's happening. God's got the big wheel in His hands, not in our hands. And we can lose hope though, I think in some ways not trusting that God is actually in control.
In fact, as I've met with people who don't have a Christian worldview, one of the things, the common things that they will say to me is, "As a community, you guys seem fearful." And that's unfortunately, isn't it?
Os: Oh, it's terrible. I mean, you know, the most common refrain in Scriptures, "Have no fear." But I think we need to ransack history. You can see false responses. One, you can see this in Germany in the 1930s, "Quietism." I'll just retreat and pray. Or another, the opposite extreme is a kind of hot-headed activism--take things in our own hands, whatever it takes now and they don't work and we've gotta look at what does work. Now the thing we haven't mentioned today is prayer.
Os: In other words, this is an urgent time for praying, 'cause only the Lord can do things we know we can't.
John: And you're talking a different kind of prayer than, "Lord, help me find a good parking spot in this big shopping center."
Os: Well, I pray that, too. (Laughter)
John: I mean, what kind of prayer are you talking about that really is going to change me and then change the culture around me, Os?
Os: But a prayer, beginning with a trust in the sovereignty of the Lord, overwhelming things in our localized world, but the Lord's bigger than globalization or again, prayer in the sense of supernatural waging. You know, Nietzsche talked in the 1880s of a war of spirits. And he understood where we were farther than most Christians. We won't combat secularism just by arguments. There's a spiritual dimension—principalities and powers—behind much of the highest of this and we've gotta recognize it. And you can only wage that through supernatural prayer and there's excellent stuff, like take Jack Hayford's books and so on. And we need to bring that in as basic and normal.
John: Well, I appreciate that spiritual emphasis and you're listening to Dr. Os Guinness on today's "Focus on the Family," challenging us to impact the world for Christ and he's written about that in his book, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times and we're offering that to you as a thank you for your generous financial contribution to this ministry when you call 800-A-FAMILY or when you donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Os, one of the things that I've observed, especially when you look at the Early Church again, is that idea of orthopraxy, the doing of the Word. And they seem to convince the culture of the goodness of the Christian faith, because the Christians were willing to do really hard work, to take care of the sick, those that were dying in the plague. They put their lives at risk. They saved the babies who were thrown away, that were thrown into the river to die. They built hospitals. They built orphanages. They did these good deeds, as the Scripture says and lo and behold, people honored their Father in heaven.
Jim: And again, this tension with generational tension, younger people tend to want to lift that up again and I'm with that. I believe in that, too. It's a great tradition of the Christian church, but how does that go in concert with orthodoxy? So, orthopraxy, the doing of the Word and orthodoxy, the truth of the Word, and my impression of that is standing on the street corner, just speaking truth. If you isolate either of those, they seem not to work very well, but they work really well together.
Os: Uh-hm. My way of approaching it is, our Lord didn't call us to certain beliefs. He called us to three things: one, to know and trust Him and through Him, His Father. So, the heart of it is relational. But secondly, He called us to live His way. They were followers of "the Way." They were followers of Jesus. They lived His way.
Now it's living a way, that produces a culture. A culture is simply a way of life lived in common together. So, if we all love our enemies together, if we all turn the cheek together, if we all forgive without limit together, the way of Jesus produces a Christian culture and so on. And we've gotta get back to some of the biblical, the Hebrew, the Greek ways of saying this and we've gotta get back to that way of Jesus. The third thing He called us to, of course, is to share our faith with others and for often, for Evangelicals, that's the only one that they commission.
Jim: Do we sometimes just overcomplicate it as believers?
Jim: We think we have to do too much, rather than just live it and share it?
Os: But speak it, too.
Jim: And speak it.
Os: No gap between the speaking and the living. So, I agree with you. I love the fact again and again, the pagans said, great is the God of the Christians, 'cause they could see it as the way of Jesus was lived out. You look at the best of our culture. I've got a chapter on that—the gifts of the Gospel, philanthropy, giving, caring, reforming, the universities, the rise of modern science and the human rights. These are all the fruits of the gifts of the Gospel lived out. And we've gotta have the courage. If we live out the Gospel today, you know, it was actually Wilberforce who said, "Let 1,000 flowers bloom." If every follower of Jesus lived it out with joy and completeness in the whole of their lives, that will be the renaissance--a flowering again of the Christian faith in our culture.
Jim: As you talk about renaissance, is there a difference between living and hoping for a renaissance versus a revival? Or are you saying the same thing?
Os: Well, I say, pick your word.
Os: But many of the other words have got[ten] a little stale, you know. They have a certain amount of baggage. And certainly, the Renaissance with a capital R does, too. Part of it was classical; part of it was even pagan.
But the word in itself, there were renaissances before the Renaissance, that were spiritual. Francis of Assisi was called a renaissance. And of course, the real meaning of the term, it's a French word for "new birth." So, it goes back to John, chapter 3 and being born again. So, it's a wonderful word if we see it possibly, but pick your word and use it with a freshness. We need renewal. We need revival. We need reformation. We need the whole lot and the Lord's capable of giving it to us. And I like the word "renaissance" for its freshness and that sense of a cultural flowering.
Os: That's what we need today—justice, the arts, humanness, families, you name it.
Jim: Os, as you talk about renaissance and the meaning of that, if you could paint that picture for us today, if things would change today, what does that look like? What would be happening if it were working?
Os: Jim, one way of answering that would be, even to think of my own lifetime. I came to Christ in 1960. Evangelicals had deep, rich, solid theology and wonderfully warm hearts, but nothing in the area of arts, very little in politics and in many of, say the academic disciplines, next to nothing.
But look what's happened. I mean, when I went to L'Abri, you had Hans Rookmaaker, Francis Schaeffer talking about the arts and people flocked there. Now look at Christians in the visual arts. Art is all over the world, painting and designing to the glory of the Lord and the same in music and the same in other spheres. It's beginning to happen.
So, even in the 50 years that I've followed our Lord, you can see an incredible flowering in area after area after area. Take say, the Wedgwood Circle and they're trying to seed the clouds and see film and all sorts of things flourish to the glory of God. All this is beginning to happen.
Another way I would put it, you talk about the big picture and people can be discouraged and I answer that by saying, many of the generalizations are depressing. They're very challenging. But the exceptions are incredibly exciting. And of course, that's the Gospel. The church is an exception to the way of the world and the green shoots are coming through the concrete once—
Jim: Right, through the--
Os: We mentioned—
Os: --we mentioned Europe. I mean, to see Christian meetings in the Sorbonne at the heart of that university of Paris, packed, amazing. Or one of my earlier heroes, Michael Green, now in his mid-80s, great New Testament scholar, an irrepressible evangelist, he went to Poland recently for a week's mission in a university. There were 25 Christians, probably feeling rather small. At the end of his week's mission, 250 new believers and the little group of 25 was trying to integrate this huge influx of 250. You get stories like that all over Europe. Something's happening.
Jim: And what's so fascinating with that, the stories that come out of the Middle East, Muslims becoming Christian.
Os: In Iran.
Jim: I mean, many, many testimonies of that. What's fascinating, Os, is how God works at that individual level. Sometimes we can be distracted by the higher level, can't we? 'Cause we don't know what God's doing at the individual heart level.
Os: That's right. We can run away in each direction, being overwhelmed and discouraged or sometimes looking at the others and taking a false comfort. For instance, the Gospel is exploding in the Global South. If it weren't for the African brothers and sisters, the Church of England would be in profound trouble. And look what's happening in Asia, where I happened to be born, is the epicenter of the fastest growth of the church in 2,000 years.
But if we go too far that way, I have to add, there's a sting in the tail. Most of the Global South is premodern. We have caved in to the seductions of modernity, so, their challenge is coming.
Os: So, we've gotta be as realistic as we can, always looking at challenges in the white of the eye, but always coming away with hope because of the Gospel.
Jim: So, Os, you know, as we wrap up, I'm the mom or dad and I'm hearing you talk like this. You're from Oxford (Laughing) and you've got such a grasp on what's happening. How do I communicate this to my 14-year-old? How do I walk with him and talk with him about these big issues, these big ideas?
Os: Well, let me mention two very simple things that used to be at the core of the strongest Evangelicals in the past. One was family worship, beginning the family praying together. The Catholics say, "Pray together; stay together." The other of those often-ignored, the family dining table.
Os: When I came to the U.S. the first time in '68, the biggest shock to me as a European, I didn't meet a single American family that had supper together. You had sports practice, violin lessons, and the family dining table was a pit stop, like a Grand Prix. Get your food, off you go to the next thing.
Well, in Europe and you can see traditionally, the family dining table is where the cohesion starts. You hear stories, my family dining table. I know my great-great-grandfather and my grandfather and so on as if they were living people, 'cause I heard those stories—
Os: --again and again and again. The family dining table, it's a very, very simple thing. Recover family worship and recover family cohesion through eating together.
Jim: Today in Europe, how is that with the meal in the evening? Are people together in Europe?
Os: Well, no, the trouble is, the problem isn't 'cause America's America. The problem is American's modern. And the faster Europe goes and the more modern it gets, you have the same dilemmas there.
Os: And we've gotta stand against the tide, but we've gotta be conscious of the things that undo us; to resist you have to recognize.
Jim: Os, these past couple of days, it's been so good to talk with you. I think you're laying out the framework and in your book, Renaissance, you definitely are providing all of us in the Christian community the tools to think differently, think more deeply about our faith and what it means to be a Christian. I really appreciate that encouragement coming from you. I'm not offended by it at all. Don't live a thin Christian life; that's what you're saying. Be robust in your faith. Know what you believe. Share it. Speak it. Live it, so that it has the authenticity that draws people to our Lord. Is that—
Os: And at the end of the day—
Jim: --a good way to summarize?
Os: --absolutely and at the end of the day, still be people of hope--
Jim: That's exactly right.
Os: --because we should have no fear. Our Lord is greater than all. He can be trusted in all situations. Have faith in Him. Have no fear.
Jim: Hm … Os Guinness, author of the book, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, thanks for being with us.
Os: My pleasure.
John: Well, there's been so much hope that Os Guinness has offered us during the past couple of days and I hope you've taken some notes and really have absorbed what he's talking about, being people who follow the way of Jesus.
And I hope you'll read his book to help you in your faith journey. Ask for a copy when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or online, you'll find it at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And when you contribute to the work here of Focus on the Family, we'll send a copy of that book to you. One of our main tenets, our core beliefs here is the prominence of the Gospel, the importance of the Good News of Jesus Christ and it's really what drives our work here. If you'd like to be part of that, please donate online or when you call us and as I said, we'll send that book to you.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday. We'll have some insights for single adults who want to marry. That's Monday, when we'll once again, have trusted advice to help you thrive.
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Os GuinnessView Bio
Os Guinness is an author and social critic. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of London and his D.Phil in the social sciences from Oriel College, Oxford. Os has written or edited more than 30 books, including The Call, Time for Truth and Long Journey Home. His forthcoming book Fool's Talk – The Recovery of Christian Persuasion will be published by InterVarsity Press in June, 2015. Os has spoken at dozens of the world's major universities, and spoken widely to political and business conferences on many issues, including religious freedom, across the world. He is currently a senior fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics in Oxford, though he still lives with his wife, Jenny, in the Washington, D.C. area.