Megachurch Pastor Matt Chandler said he's "deeply concerned" by church leaders today who ignore the "moral imperatives" of the Bible and instead focus on "looking cool" to avoid appearing legalistic to a watching world.
Chandler, author and pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, this week delivered a message titled "Citizens of Heaven: In the World But Not Of" at the annual Together for the Gospel conference in in Louisville, Kentucky.
"We've got a full generation of pastors, Christians and leaders who stay away from the moral imperatives of the Word of God for fear of the accusation of legalism," he began. "Like the one thing we must not be in a day in age where we must look cool and know what's cool and communicate what's cool is be legalistic."
"In putting on our responsibility to lay before our brothers and sisters the moral imperatives that God has called us into, we have given ground to showing the world the light of the glory of God in Christ," he continued.
Throughout Scripture, God clearly outlines how He wants His people to walk, live, and relate to one another and the world around them. However, as fallen people," all rules, commands and external authority seem to threaten our autonomy," Chandler said.
"Is this not the day and age in which we're living where men and women think no one knows what's best for them except them?" he asked.
Citing Matthew 5:13–16 — the passage where Jesus commands His followers to "Be salt and light" in a fallen world — Chandler said Jesus is laying before His hearers that being "born anew" means to be "conformed by the Spirit's power into an external, moral reality."
"One of the ways that we show we are sons and daughters of God is there's been an inward transformation that has led to an external, outward transformation that the world finds peculiar," the pastor said.
Chandler read Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will."
This verse, he said, shows "how to live with grace-driven effort, not erring on the side of legalism but certainly not erring on the side of license, either."
"Don't be guided by the world, guided by its principles, guided by its values, guided by its entertainment," he said, adding that we are being "discipled by the world" around us.
"Everything you watch, everything you read, everything you intake are forming and shaping your life," he said. "It is the holiness of Heaven that drives out the filthiness of the world. It is the beauty of Christ that compels us to say 'no' to what is broken and grotesque in the world."
Chandler said he's "deeply concerned" by the need of many believers to "feel like we're in or that we know, or at least we can banter back and forth, which what the world's watching and partaking in."
"I do believe that being entertained by what God finds deplorable is probably a bad use of 30 minutes to two, three hours," he said. "If I find myself entertained by rape and incest and violence and sexual perversion, what does that say about where my mind and heart are? Is Jesus sitting there and enjoying that?"
"Don't play with lions," he warned. "Eventually, in season, at the right time, it will turn, and it will devour. Therefore, put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh," he said.
"We must embrace being the peculiar people we are," the pastor emphasized. "I have yet to hear the story of anyone coming to know Jesus Christ because the pastor knew a little bit about 'Game of Thrones.'"
The Church, Chandler contended, is meant to be a picture of the future that is to come.
"But we must be serious about God's call on our lives to cultivate a soul transformed by the presence of Jesus into the life that He has called us into," he concluded.
Previously, the pastor stressed that to effectively witness to a watching world, Christians need to do better in coming together around core beliefs rather than allowing secondary issues to divide them.
"My appeal ... would be as best you can, let's make the most important thing that 1 Corinthians 15 passage from the Apostle Paul about what's of utmost importance. Let's let that be the closed handed part here and then let's begin to have dialogue around these secondary issues that tend to divide us," he said.
Chandler urged: "Please, please, please be careful of what you carpet bomb on social media, what you decide is something that makes someone or doesn't make someone a Christian that's really outside of how the Bible does it. And let's learn to be more generous with one another."