“You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
As far as genre goes, dystopian future novels tend to be a pretty unrealistic bunch. They imagine things being either much worse than they likely will be, much more technologically advanced than they’ll be, or both. They reflect either too great an optimism about the future, too great a pessimism, or, again, both. These features, unrealistic as they may be, are also what make them fun to read. They variously give us hope in what tomorrow might be and comfort that we aren’t as bad as we could be. Of all the entries into the genre, though, there are two that have proven to be the most prophetic of the bunch in their outlook. These are A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and 1984, by George Orwell. Although their respective visions of the future are not the same – in some ways they are opposites – something very similar lies in both of their hearts: The future will be marked by lies. Well, that may be where we are in the future relative to those books, but in another sense, it’s where we’ve always been. This morning, I want to talk about truth, lies, and the Gospel.
Let me start this with a question: When we give our lives to Christ and are saved, what is it we are saved from? The Sunday school answer to that question is we are saved from sin, death, and Hell. And that is absolutely true. No question there at all. But as right as that answer is, I think the full truth is bigger than that. We could compile a much bigger list of things we are saved from including ourselves. But I want to suggest another that you may not have considered before. In Christ, we are saved from lies.
I mentioned a second ago that the visions of the future offered up by A Brave New World and 1984, respectively, are opposites in many ways. In the former, we are taken up by distraction and pursuits of temporary pleasure. No one accomplishes anything of real value because we have so disconnected from the world that we are hardly any good in it. And this isn’t something forced on anyone. Rather, we seek it for ourselves through the abundant availability of a drug that makes all our worries and troubles melt away. This embrace of a constant flight from reality combined with all the casual sex you can stand makes the future a place that is filled with terribly limited pleasures and a total lack of meaning. The latter novel, on the other hand, imagines a future in which we are taken up by a totalitarian government. The state controls everything, most especially language. It dictates what words mean and defines them in ways consistent with its current aims, regardless of what reality may be.
In many ways, both of these visions have come true today. On the one hand, the ubiquitousness and easy, anonymous access to every sort of pornography imaginable along with increasingly immersive video games has made getting lost in a privatized, digital world in which our every desire can be met as we forget about the world around us incredibly easy to do. At the same time, the state and the media complex that seeks to uphold it has shown itself alarmingly willing to create new words and redefine other words in ways that fit a particularly desired narrative regardless of whether those words and ideas correspond to reality. Take, for instance, the notion of being “cisgender” or a “pregnant person.” In her confirmation hearing yesterday, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson either could not or, more likely, would not offer up a definition of a woman. And we are told we must embrace these ideas – regardless of what our personal beliefs may be – or face the consequences.
Both of these separate but equal threats to our culture are rooted in lies. On the one hand, reality is not something we should try to escape or from which we can hide for long. On the other hand, reality is not something we can define for ourselves. It simply is, and we can adjust ourselves to it. As much of a challenge as these ideas pose to our world, they are only symptoms of a much larger problem. This is a problem that stretches back to the beginning of human history. When the first man and woman ate the fruit at the serpent’s prompting, they embraced a lie about the world. They actually embraced several lies about the world. They embraced the idea that God wasn’t good. They accepted the notion that He was keeping something from us unfairly. They gave themselves over to the delusion that we should be able to define our own lives all by ourselves.
Ever since that moment, we have been following in their footsteps. Apart from Christ, we go through our lives having bought in to lies about the world and how it works. We don’t even know what we don’t know. We think we have it all figured out, but nothing could be further from the truth. Occasionally God in His wise graciousness gives us glimpses of our folly through pain and suffering, but even those we try to ignore and continue buying in to lies and fantasies because those feel safer than the chaos we see swirling about when we glance outside our protective bubbles. But those feelings of safety and security are themselves a delusion. The truth is that the world is a dangerous and scary place, and the more false things we believe about it, the greater becomes the risk we’ll find those dangers in devastatingly unexpected places.
We are not, however, without hope in this. This is the power of the Gospel. Yes, we are saved from our sins when we embrace Jesus as Lord. But an often overlooked, but equally important benefit of our salvation is that Jesus helps us to see what is true and what is not and to live our lives according to what is true. It is not just our spirits that are saved in Christ. Our minds are also made new. In his letter to the Roman believers, Paul called us to be transformed by renewing of our minds. As Paul put it here, we are being renewed in knowledge. But that’s not the end of it. We are not just renewed in knowledge. We are renewed in knowledge according to the image of our Creator. In other words, He helps us see the world as He designed it to be. He helps us to not only embrace, but understand reality. The Gospel is the single greatest force against the lies of this world that exists.
If you are not walking in Christ, or if your walk with Him has gotten off track, you are in imminent danger of being taken up by one lie or another about the world and how it works. It may be the notion that you can do life just fine on your own. It could be the silly thought that you don’t really need other people. It might possibly be the insane idea that sin really isn’t all that big of a deal. You can just get close to God’s way and that’s good enough. As long as you’re a good person, Heaven is on the radar for you. Your sin doesn’t have consequences beyond you. God can’t really be trusted, so you need to diversify your religious portfolio. On and on and on they go, and none of them are true. Come back to what is true. Come back to the one who both created and defines reality. Embrace the Gospel and live in the world that really exists. It is better and will always be better than whatever it is you’ve got going on.