Render to God

Jonathan Noyes

Something has to change.

It’s time to make a shift. Blending into the world around us is no longer an option for the church. The culture rejects the Christian worldview and won’t be appeased by anything short of total ideological surrender, so it’s time for us to get counter-cultural.

When I think about living a counter-cultural life, Jesus comes to mind. When the Pharisees asked if paying taxes to Rome was lawful, Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mk. 12:17).

According to Jesus, some things do belong to Caesar (though not everything Caesar thinks is his belongs to him). So render to Caesar what is properly his. But, more importantly, render to God the things that are God’s.

What belongs to God? We do. Rendering to God means continuing to be faithful in all areas of life, even when we live in a distinctly anti-Christian culture. How do we do that? Here’s what I suggest.

First, God’s people don’t seek the world’s approval. Instead, we seek the approval of One. When we try to curry the favor of the world, we’re rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.

James reminds us, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

Caesar’s offer of friendship is false. He turns on us the moment we present God’s truth. There is no neutrality here, no middle ground, no meeting the culture where it’s at, hoping to gain acceptance.

Second, God’s people don’t compromise what the Bible says about controversial issues like human sexuality, identity, and abortion.

The world doesn’t want us to speak our message clearly, so it condemns the words we use because of the ideas behind them. When we use words like sin, rebellion, salvation, and repentance, we are labeled hateful, bigoted, and intolerant. Worse, we might even be accused of committing hate crimes. Still, we remain resolute.

Remember, though, we don’t have license to be unloving, nasty, or mean, but we also can’t give in to the cultural pressures to compromise our message. Instead, we stay salty.

Finally, God’s people remain levelheaded in all circumstances. We do not allow ourselves to get all worked up just because the world is doing what the world does.

The world’s going to be illogical, irrational, and sometimes incapable of civil discourse. We expect that of people in darkness. Because they can’t see clearly, they bump into things. Don’t be confused or surprised when the world is being the world. Expect it.

Keep in mind that the world knows nothing about the peace of God that passes all understanding. They don’t know about trusting a sovereign Lord. When the world acts like the world, remember you’re not dealing with light. You’re dealing with darkness. When darkness is dark, stay focused on your task. It’s your job to be the light.

Whether it’s forgoing worldly approval, standing firm in your convictions, or remaining calm in all circumstances, be prepared to render to God that which is God’s. Then, when the test truly comes, when the powers of darkness press in on you from the structures of this world, you will continue to do God’s work God’s way.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do this alone. God has given us a community so we can work together on these things and find support. We learn to “render to God” together.