We’ve talked about the problem of self. The self is our internal environment where thoughts, the sense of identity, and spiritual desires take place. Self is who we are. And the self can be a problem when we don’t know ourselves. Now –we’re going to focus on the pressures that disturb the human person from the outside. Every human person lives in two domains of existence –the domain of the bio-psychological and the domain of interactions with what is outside the skin.
The life outside the skin is a dynamic interchange that can influence the human person. This is where we experience the social world. We know, for instance, that human interactions often have a profound influence on us. If we interact with refined people, we also become refined in many ways. But if we mixed with the wrong crowd – our personalities become corrupted in thinking and behaviour. Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 15.33:
Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
The point is pretty clear: we are shaped–in some way or another –by the company we keep. We’re not always aware of this –but this doesn’t change the fact –that human beings are continually influenced by their surroundings. I would even say that most people today –are really the product of a social environment scripted by the anti-God opinions of our society. So the human environment affects us in different ways. From these observations some intellectuals have argued that if human beings are influenced by the environment all you need to do to achieve their transformation is to re-make them. But how? Change their environment.
Karl Marx, for example believed that if you change the material conditions of people –you allow them to actualise themselves as fully human. Many people embraced this theory.
Yes –they say: take an individual from the neighbourhood where there is crime and violence –put him in a nice place –and you’ll re-make that person. But we know that a different or even perfect environment is not enough. Go back to the Garden of Eden and look what happened there. Adam and Even started life with a beautiful – and perfect environment. What a wonderful opportunity for developing a unique personality –yet in this perfect environment they failed.
The whole history of civilisation shows that changing the environment is not enough. Even if you improve the environment –some adolescents will still commit crimes just for the fun of it. So –where can we find a superior environment? What kind of environment is suitable for purity and separates us from the profane? The answer to that question is found in Acts 17.28:
For in him we live and move and have our being.
If this text teaches us anything –it teaches that human beings have the living God as their environment. By describing God as our environment, I mean two things: that God surrounds us with unmistakable indications of his glory, and that we can’t exist without the sustaining presence of God. I think this is what Paul meant when he said: "For in him we live and move and have our being."
We all know this. But do we really believe it. I say this because in my experience –as a pastor – the most difficult task is get people to believe the things they say or think they believe. Notice carefully what Paul says, “For in him we live”. So what is life? No one can tell for sure. Biologists say that life is “a self-supporting chemical process that happens inside living organisms that continually reproduce themselves”.
The problem is that scientists have tried to reproduce this kind life –but they’ve failed. No one can really solve the riddle of life. Our text doesn’t give us a detailed explanation of the problem of life –but it tells us enough to know where it comes from: For in him we live.
That stuff that separates the living from the dead –is something that comes from God. It’s in “him” that we live. He sustains us. Not only that. In the same sentence Paul goes on to say that in him “we move”. No movement of our bodies –no step is taken except in the power of God. And then Paul adds: “ For in him we live and move and have our being”. You see, all life comes from God. God is closer to us than the houses that we live in, closer than our own thoughts. For “in him we live and move and have our being”.
This is the reality that people must acknowledge to become what God meant them to be. When we consciously live in God, we live in a superior environment where we become more and more normal people.
If our life in God is not consistent with the demands of society is not because there’s something wrong with us, it’s because society lives in a different environment –an environment of ideas, values and behaviours that has moved so far from God that we don’t know what a healthy and normal life is anymore.
So- what should we do with a person surrounded by an environment of delinquency and moral corruption? Take him out of it? We could. But that’s not enough. What we should do is take that person to the cross to find the joy of living in fellowship with God. God will re-make that person. And within a few days or weeks or months that person will change his or her own environment by moving from that place somewhere else. And if they can’t escape the influence of their godless environment, they will be Christians where they are. The truth is if we can’t be Christians where we are –we won’t be Christians anywhere. Remember the text of Acts 17.28:
For in him we live and move and have our being.
This means that God is present everywhere. He’s present in church, in the office, in the supermarket, in the home. So- what is this text calling us to do? The text is calling us to believe what we think we believe. You believe in God, then live and move and have your being in Him. Believe that, and if you live in that belief you’ll find an environment that is higher –richer –and superior to all other environments.
Have a quick glance of Acts 17:16 –28 and see if you can identify other ways in which Paul says that “we live and move and have our being in God”?
So God is transcendent, above all things, beyond all things, and yet he is very close to us. If that’s true, how close, do you think God is to our problems?