he Collegiate Letter   

The Collegiate Letter Values of Our Time

By Dave Breese

There appears to be a word which emerges out of the kaleidoscope of events in our time that is, in one way or another, applied to most decisions today. That, as we will all agree, is the word, “values.” It is difficult to hear a panel discussion, a lecture, and even a sermon that does not refer to the idea that even this has something to do with values.

But really, what is a value? By most common agreement, a value is a standard, a measuring instrument by which we govern our activities and evaluate the results of even a day’s work. A value is a line, the conformity to which is good and the breaching of which is bad. Try as we will, we cannot discuss values without quite quickly seeing them take to themselves religious overtones. The discussion on values is made interesting by the variety of formulas which are now presented. So we have traditional values, family values, religious values, personal values, moral values, legal values. Further interest is added by the dynamic nature of this discussion so that we have changing values and simply new values.

A Value-Free Society?
The more perceptive among us speak of biblical values, divine standards, and even Christian values. The acceptance of these descriptions is noted by the implied criticism against anything, the family, the corporation, or the government itself, that is “value-free.” A value-free society sounds a bit light and airy, but it is soon recognized as a dangerous thing. I have no doubt that you, starting now and reaching into the days to come, will have to be a promoter of a certain set of values and a defender of those values against the value-free detractors who multiply on every hand.

Being people of moral sensitivity, you and I should certainly welcome the values discussions. One would have to be pretty insensate not to recognize that “any values are better than no values.” We certainly agree that the laws of the land are absolutely necessary for the culture itself to survive. The simplest expressions of these are the agreement that a man must not murder another, he must not steal, he must not lie, he must operate in some measure for the good of another. What would society be without laws and penalties that keep a person from acting like an animal and merely living as he pleases?

The answer is that the resultant situation would be anarchy. This is a condition in a land where there is no final authority, no law, no king, no guiding influence from anywhere. Anarchy cannot be simply discussed academically because it means burning houses, bodies in the street, sexual assaults, destruction of the culture and fear prevailing everywhere. We must agree that the argument for the necessity of values is irrefutable. It is values that keep the lovely landscape of civilization from turning into an arid wasteland. Yes, we can easily see that values make the world go round.

Having said this, I have another suspicion about the talk of values. I believe that we have attached the adjectives—traditional, family, personal—because of a reluctance to ascribe to values their true source. That is, traditional values did not come from tradition nor family values from the family. Rather, when we face it, we face the fact that values come to us from a higher source. They come from the Bible. It is the Bible that is our true and ultimate source of the laws by which we must live. Even though the worldly mind of our time may resent it, one cannot find a source of the foundational values of life apart from the Scriptures.

Law of God
Strictly speaking, therefore, it is not exactly proper to attach any adjective to the word “values.” The Law of God comes to us from the omniscient Being who is Master of the universe. Therefore, the only final values are those which He has given to us in His Word. For many, it has been a long time since they read the dictates of Divine Law. This is the Law without which it is impossible for the culture to survive. A moment given to reviewing them would be well spent.

  • “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  • Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
  • Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am ajealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
  • And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  • Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  • Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  • Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  • Thou shalt not kill.
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  • Thou shalt not steal.
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” (Ex. 20:3-17).

Upon reading these great truths, we must agree that no formulation of values is a set of real values at all which does not ultimately rely on these Ten Commandments of God. A simple reading of them makes instantly clear that many of the practices of governments, businesses, families, people are in violation of the Law given to us by God. Think for just a moment how many of the problems of the world would be instantly solved if the culture were to turn and declare its obedience to the commandments of God as are expressed in Holy Scripture.

If people did not kill, all wars would cease.

If people did not steal, new cultural harmony would set in.

If people did not commit adultery, there would be no illegitimate children, no AIDS epidemic, and a hundred expensive problems would disappear. Time would fail to list the benefits in the social structure of obedience to God who made us and the world. Let us remember then that conversations concerning values, if they do not refer to the values of the Bible, are mostly loose talk.

Some of the thoughtful will ask, “Do we go to heaven because we have kept the Law of Moses and lived up to those values?” In answering that question, we must remember that the Law was given to make possible the survival of a nation, of a culture. During the days of its paramountcy in the nation of Israel, obedience to the Law of God made of Israel the greatest nation on the face of the earth. It was characterized by prosperity and plenty, so much that the Queen of Sheba came to see the results of the leadership of King Solomon and the obedience to the Law of God.

The Simplest Answer
If not by keeping the Law, how is individual salvation achieved? The simplest answer is, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). So, we see that salvation does not come by doing something, but by believing in Jesus Christ. This is true because, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). How then do we obtain salvation? The Scripture says, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Salvation then comes by being justified, by being declared righteous because we believe in the finished work of Christ on the cross. So, we have the promise of Scripture, “He that believes on Him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). Therefore, in the strongest fashion, the Bible says, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:36). So it is individual faith in the sacrifice of Christ that gives to us everlasting life when we believe on Him.

Will there ever be a time when the righteousness of God and faith in Jesus Christ be the recognized law of the land? The Bible promises that Jesus Christ is coming again. It then declares that He, the Messiah of Israel, will rule the world. He will set up His kingdom called “the millennial reign of Christ” and be Master of earth for a thousand year period. Until then, we can be sure that many messianic movements will come upon the world with leaders who promise that they are in fact, Jesus Christ. Referring to that time, Jesus said, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect”(Matt. 24:24). He also said, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall become cold” (Matt. 24:11,12). We notice then that we are not told that the message of Christ will permeate and transform the culture before He returns in power and great glory. Until then, we note that the Bible says, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” During this time before the return of Christ, however, there can be a gigantic ingathering of people who come to Christ and believe the Gospel. Then, being Christians, they are promised protection from the opposition of the world. We must not expect, however, that religious activity will transform the world. Rather, it will be the method by which God calls people out of this world, invites them to believe the Gospel and live for Him in times like these.

Values of Our Time
We must all let it be known that we Christians welcome the discussion of values in our time. It opens the door to some very animated give-and-take that can turn into a good testimony for Christ and for the truth of the Bible. Being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we who believe the Gospel must endeavor to be strategic to the benefit of the Gospel in a world like this.

A final reminder. The world is going to have to have ethically sophisticated young people who can answer the complicated values questions that are breaking upon us as of now. The discussion of values has brought forth some incredibly foolish notions from many people and organizations. Concerning all of this, I pray for you. May God help these to be the days in which wisdom is formed that will be useful to Him in the days to come.

By the way, please take the time to write and request your copy of The Christian Life Bible. It contains Master Outlines and Study Notes. Let’s be in touch in these days to come and trust God to use us to produce a vital result in times like these.