The Current of Culture

Earlier this week I was speaking at a church retreat in Panama City, Florida. The retreat was near the beach and while I was standing in line for lunch one day, I noticed a sign warning people of rip currents. Rip currents are strong, powerful channeled currents that pull people out to sea. They’re dangerous because most people panic when they’re in one and try to swim directly back to shore against the current, and they wear themselves out from fighting the current directly. The warning sign urged people to first swim parallel to shore to get out of the rip current and then swim back to shore at an angle. If you can’t do that, float and tread water and wave for help.

I thought this was a useful image for thinking about our lives in relation to worldliness and unbelief, and in relation to confessing our sins and worship. The pervasive worldliness and unbelief that we encounter in our culture, at work, in our media consumption is like a rip current. It pulls us out into the sea of unbelief, away from the shore of faith. It’s powerful; such worldliness makes sin easy and faithfulness hard. The thoughts, the habits, the currents of opinion—many of them are contrary to the word of God and they sweep us off our feet and make us wonder whether trusting in Jesus is worth it at all. And trying to swim directly against the current of worldliness is almost impossible. It wears us out, and we run the risk of drowning.

Sunday morning is the weekly place where we try to swim out of the current so we can return to shore. We confess our sins to God as a way of escaping from the worldly pull and returning to the calmer waters where we can swim. We get out of the rip current so we don’t drift away from shore and make shipwreck of our faith. And for some of us, we’re having trouble swimming out of the current. We’re just treading water and trying not to go under. If that’s you, today would be a good day to wave your hand for help. Let somebody know, your Community Group leader, one of the pastors, Erica or one of the women on her team. Get someone’s attention so we can try to help you out of the current. But either way, right now is a great opportunity to get out of the current of worldliness so that you can return to shore.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek him together now.

Prayer of Confession

Father, in this service, we want to pay careful attention to what we’ve heard, lest we drift away from it. Drifting is easy. You don’t have to do anything to drift. You just let the current take you. We confess that we all too often let the current of worldliness and unbelief take us where it wants. We see the currents of our coworkers and neighbors, the currents of opinion on social media and television; we see the hostility to you, the rebellion against you, and the willful ignoring of you. And we confess that we can be swayed by it. The strength of the cultural and societal pull feels stronger to us than the pull of your word, and the pull of reality. And so we drift. And we confess that this is a great evil.

Father, we ask you that you help us to get out of the current. We don’t ask that you rescue us out of the world, but that you deliver us from worldliness. Keep us in your name, Lord Jesus. Guard us. And if we need help to get out of the current, grant us the courage to wave our hand and get someone’s attention.

We know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now, in silence.