The Allure of Cancel Culture
What is Cancel Culture? Its origins stem back to the 1980s. Back then to be “cancelled” was a slang term that meant to “break up with someone.” This concept has now infected society. It can be defined like this: “When a person or group decides to stop supporting someone or something based on a transgression that is either actual … or perceived.” If you are paying attention, the tornado of cancel culture is everywhere. It seems every day we are hearing about another celebrity whose career is over, another brand has lost business due to boycotts, or another division in our society has ruptured because of offensive comments. Cancel culture is in the air. You might feel the tension at your workplace, in your school, or with a group of friends.
But here is what I want to know: Why are people drawn to it? People are drawn to cancel culture because we like holding grudges. We like having power over people. We like being able to say, “I’m better than that person—I would never do that!” Cancel culture is a form of self-justification—a form of self-salvation. Why? Because we can say—I’m the whistleblower—I saved the day! Our culture is experiencing an absence of forgiveness. Do you feel this tension? When there is no culture of forgiveness … we are going to make sure we don’t mess up. We are going to build a wall around our hearts and ourselves so that no one sees the real me or knows what I actually think. Relational walls are erected, roots of bitterness form in our hearts, and division is pervasive in society—does that seem about right?
David addresses this topic in Psalm 51. I want to argue that Psalm 51 is counter-cultural—it turns the ubiquity of cancel culture on it’s head and shows us forgiveness is possible. It shows us that true repentance and forgiveness have lasting and transformative effects. Psalm 51 ultimately points us to the transformative power of the Gospel. How do you live a truly forgiven life?
Practice Personal Reflection
First, if you want to continue to live a truly forgiven life, you must practice person reflection. What I mean by this is we need to learn the discipline of confession. Here is the truth: the more you confess, the wiser you will get. Why? Wisdom shows you the depths of your sin. You are being honest with yourself. Some of us are not being honest with ourselves. We have a created a narrative based on what other people say about us and it may not be accurate. The path to freedom, the path to the forgiven life, requires that we truly know our sin and ourselves. Then we have to know the God who can forgive us. Do you know that God knows you inside and out?
God is not in the business of cancelling you. Instead, he cancelled your sin on the cross!
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:13-14, NLT).”
Do you believe that? Some of us do not. When you do, when you come to Jesus and give him your life he unplugs your heart so living water can flow in. I want you to imagine that your heart is like a DAM with a ton of water on the other side. God’s mercy and grace is like a raging river of living water. So many of us having put up a wall, a dam, blocking that water. We do not want God in that secret place because we are ashamed and we think he will not forgive us. We do not think his mercy is real. What I want you to see is that you are preventing God’s liberating work in your heart. Confession of sin shatters the dam, it breaks the wall, it unplugs your heart so that the living water of the gospel can flow into your heart! Friends, break the dam! Let the water flow!
Is the living water flowing in the secret places of your heart?
Surrender To Divine Transformation
This point is all about some HOLY SPIRIT counseling. The first point we looked at confession of sin. Yes, you can confess your sin—but a lot of people stop right there; no lasting change develops. So we have to confront this question: Do you really want to change? True, lasting change is only something only God can do. What does David say in Psalm51:7?
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7, ESV).”
The word, “purge,” or other translations say, “cleanse,” is a pointed word. It alludes to the cleansing of a leper, which was a horrific and contagious disease in the ancient world. The ritual cleanse involve hyssop, a medicinal herb in the Ancient Near East. The priest would dip the hyssop in sacrificial blood and then sprinkle it on the leper to “cleanse” them. The result? Whiter that snow.
Have you ever done a “cleanse” of your body? It’s intense. You typically drink some type of liquid that literally cleans you out from the inside—it is quite the experience. It purges you of all the toxins that your body has been holding onto. And know what? You do not feel well while you are doing it. You are asking—“will this pain ever stop?” I think that is why more people do not do it. It is not easy. But in the end … you feel amazing! You think, “why have I never done this before?” Hallelujah! It cleans out all the junk from inside us.
The same thing is true with confession that leads to transformation. It is painful when you open up those secret places but in the end, you feel whiter than snow. When we confess our sins to God and each other, we are purging ourselves of the toxins in our heart—and we are admitting the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the antidote. We need to drink from the Gospel every day! Commentator J.A. Motyer writes this:
“To cleanse is to remove whatever hinders or disqualifies, so cleansing is just what is needed for the error that keeps us away from God.”
Do you want to change? You need to take the cleanse of God through daily confession. The toxins of sin build up in our heart, just like food toxins build up in our gut. We need to be washed! And washing … this is a work of God. It is not something that we can do through our moral efforts. Look at Paul’s words in Titus 3:5. He blows up this idea of American individual achievement:
“He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5, NLT).”
Who saved us? God. Because of what we did? No. How are we saved? In his mercy; his sheer grace! Who does the washing? The Holy Spirit who applies new life to our dead souls. Amen! True forgiveness comes when we surrender to divine transformation.
Sing In Genuine Worship
When forgiveness is on the playlist of your life—it is so different! A heart that has been genuinely forgiven, that has experienced the mercy of our God—thanksgiving flows from it! This is the opposite of the message of cancel culture. I would ask you to reflect—is your heart more influenced by the message of cancel culture—or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In cancel culture there is no singing, there is no joy. Only anger. There is no grace and gratitude; there is only power and what we think we are owed. Cancel culture is ultimately about putting ourselves in the place of God. The message of cancel culture hinders our worship—our playlist is filled with angry, violent rage music. Our culture will always try to get us to worship something else—the rich, the powerful, the new thing. However, when you have tasted the mercy of God—all you can do is worship him! Look at David’s result:
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you (Psalm 51:13, ESV).”
That is the power of a forgiven life worshipping our great God. We sing—with joy! People will notice. You know what; I think people are done with cancel culture. We are done with the shaming, and the anger and the division. The world wants something different—it is written on their hearts Paul says (Romans 2:15). When the world sees lives transformed by the Gospel—when people can look at your own life and see a change—they will know something is different. When people come through the waters of baptism and testify to the grace of God—that is power! When people look at a person who they thought would never change, but they did, all they can say is, “That was God’s work!” J.A. Motyer again gets it right:
“Who better to pass on the message of forgiveness than a real sinner who has himself been really forgiven, but whose humiliation in the process empties his words of all pomposity and gives them a real cutting edge? And what a great privilege does he now have than to tell others the good news.”
Who better to tell people about the forgiven life than someone who has lived it? Are you living the forgiven life today? When you have experienced the Gospel, you want to sing!
Questions of A Forgiven Life
I want you to ask three questions, which lead us down the path of the forgiven life. Ready?
First, where are you HIDING? This is the personal reflection part. The reason we do not engage in confession is because we are hiding something. We might be afraid what would happen if someone found out. God wants to come into that secret place and show you that he paid for that sin. He wants to bring you into the light and cleanse you. What is the Holy Spirit showing you?
Second, what are you HOLDING? This is the divine transformation part. Some of us have become comfortable with our sin. We do not want to let it go because it is what we know. Jesus wants to come into that secret place and show you something better. What is the Holy Spirit showing you?
Third, what do you need to RELEASE? For some of us there is a barrier between us and God when we worship. The songs play—others sing—we are silent. And it’s not because we can’t sing; something is holding us back and we need to release it to God. We need open our mouth in praise. We need to remember … we need to believe the Gospel again. What is the Holy Spirit showing you?
The Gospel is all about our Savior’s sacrifice. His body was broken for you so we could pour out praise to him. All glory to Christ! Where are you hiding? What are you holding? What do you need to release? Allow those questions to lead you on the path of the forgiven life.