Each culture lives in light of the dominant story it believes. Ever since the garden of Eden, humanity has been deceived into believing a false story, a myth. We’re presently facing not just one dominant myth, but a profusion of enticing myths that promise to satisfy but only leave us wanting. Trevin Wax’s book This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel highlights these myths, exposes them for what they are, and provides a way to navigate the world with our compasses recalibrated to the true-north story of the gospel.
Powerful stories appeal to our deepest longings. As Wax observes, “When someone believes a myth about the world, it’s usually because, deep down, they want something in that story to be true.” Wax—the Bible and reference publisher for LifeWay and TGC blogger—argues we’re desperately hungry for something the myth promises to satisfy. That hunger is often a good, God-given longing, wrongly directed or deceived into finding its fulfillment in something less than or opposed to the gospel.
The gospel exposes the lie each myth is telling because it’s not just another good story alongside the competing stories of the world. The gospel is the true and better story that both confronts and challenges the myths we’re told every day, while it “also answers our deeper longings in ways that surprise us.”
Equip the Church
I regularly ask the question, “How will this resource equip the local church?” Wax’s process for identifying the longing, exposing the lie, and bringing the light of the gospel to the dominant myths equips readers to apply this process to the myths we face. He’s eager to train up God’s people for fruitful cultural engagement with a heart to win others to Jesus. He challenges us to be evangelistically engaged while cautioning against falling off the saddle toward either syncretism or separatism—becoming like the world or removing ourselves from the world.
As a pastor, I recognize the urgency of exposing these myths.
Every second, our phones tell us, You can become wise if you keep swiping and You are the center of the universe. Hollywood tells us, There is a better story than the one you’re living in, while seeking to provide an escapist alternative. The myth that happiness is the reason you live, work, and relate and the quickest route is through acquiring more, faster leads us to purchase countless items we don’t need through Amazon now. My congregation is buying into these lies. So are my children. So am I.
Question the Myths
I was reading This Is Our Time when I discovered my 13-year-old son watching countless unboxing videos—YouTube videos of people opening boxes of new items they’ve purchased. I asked him what longing these videos fulfilled. At first, he said he didn’t know. After more probing questions, he identified that he enjoyed the sense of newness he experienced. The videos provided him with a vicarious, though temporary, sense of satisfaction associated with the newness of discovery. These videos also convinced him that he needed to keep buying new things to keep the sensation coming (an advertiser’s dream). This interaction led us to start asking several questions:
- What longing is this appealing to?
- What is happening to us as we watch?
- What are we being led to believe as a result?
- What do we end up doing in response?
I developed a shorter version: What is happening to us and what happens through us as a result? As we learn together how to answer these questions, we allow the gospel to confront lies and satisfy our deeper longings.
Uncertain. Confused. Overwhelmed. Many Christians feel bombarded by the messages they hear and the trends they see in our rapidly changing world. How can we resist being conformed to the pattern of this world? What will faithfulness to Christ look like in these tumultuous times? How can we be true to the gospel in a world where myths and false visions of the world so often prevail?
In This is Our Time, Trevin Wax provides snapshots of 21st-century American Life. By analyzing our common beliefs and practices (smartphone habits, entertainment intake, and our views of shopping, sex, marriage, politics, and life’s purpose), Wax helps us see through the myths of society to the hope of the gospel.
Engage the World
Wax’s thoughts on politics, marriage, and sexuality were profoundly timely. As I aim to lead our church and family through the murky and tumultuous waters of this present age, I’m too often prone to either underengagement or overreaction. I need the reminder to live as part of an “exilic” people—to seek the welfare of “Babylon” while also living prophetically as God’s holy people today. Ours was never intended to be a private religion but a public faith that influences the world for the glory of God and the good of humanity.
How, then, do I find myself both “at home” and “not at home” while I live out a public faith in a broken world? I remember that I’m first of all a citizen of heaven. As Wax reminds us,
The church is God’s shining city on a hill, not the United States. The church will be around long after today’s empires and political parties fade away. So, if you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of the church. After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter.
I hope members of our church read This Is Our Time. I’ll certainly recommend parents read it to help them address the myths their children face every day at school and among their peers.
And I’ll return to these pages regularly as I navigate these waters personally and with my family. It turns out I’ve been believing many of the myths Wax exposes, and I received a needed wake-up call.
There is no truer or better story than the story of God rescuing and redeeming us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only his story deeply satisfies the longings that all other myths fail to fulfill.