Separation From The World

Separation

 

                 We live in the United States, which is possibly one of the most culturally neutral and diverse countries of history. Sometimes it seems that absolutely anything will go.  Our culture promotes “have it your way” from fast food, clothing styles, coffee, social networking, entertainment, vocation, education, religion, sexual orientation, ethics, truth, and the list goes on and on.

                We don’t need to look far to see many subcultures and individuals who don’t think twice about being odd, as a matter of fact, they almost seem proud of it. Let’s face it, in our land the definition of "cool" has become anything that makes one stand out, even if it borders on ridiculous. If you don’t believe this, just go to the Mall at Washington DC or the lake front park in Burlington Vermont and watch people for about an hour. If you are not startled by some of the sights you may see, it could be that you have become more culturally neutral than you should be.

                My question isn’t why has the world become so wacky. We can almost expect it to head this direction in such an ethically neutral environment. My question is, why has so much of the Church tried to blend itself into this cultural dissonance in a pursuit of “relevance”? Why have so many of God’s people pursued conformity to the worlds model so far that they have been willing to sacrifice God’s law on the altar of their own clever ideas? Why has the man-made idea of being like the world to win the world proved so in effective, yet still it dominates so much of our evangelistic dogma. Why has all this cultural relevance and world friendly evangelism been so ineffective in turning the tide of society and bringing revival? Why does so much of the church today almost seem ashamed of who they are, or at least appear to be unsure of who they are? In this blog it is my desire to look at God’s word and embrace the call to be different?

                Ro 12:1 - 2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” (ASV). In this exhortation, Paul calls us to not even try to fit into the worlds mold, but to be conformed into an entirely different mold, the mold of Jesus Christ. When Christians embrace the teachings of Jesus in a real way, they will not fit into the world’s normal anymore. They will always end up becoming a community of people who stand out in contrast to the world around them; they will become a holy subculture of transformed people.

                Through all of Church history, true Christianity has been a subculture within a macro culture and has always faced conflicts with the macro culture on various fronts. These fronts have differed through history as to what the actual issues of conflict were, but the conflict will always be there for the person who truly wants to live the transformed life.

                In the United States people love and worship the god of pleasure. The God of pleasure has many temples and many followers who will offer the lives of themselves and their children in worship to this hideous grinning devil.  This drive is manifested on many fronts. I will continue by listing a few of these fronts along with how a mind transformed by Jesus and his teachings will automatically conflict with the values that seem to be so normal in this land.

                Over the past number of decades our culture has been involved in a very dangerous practice of redefining marriage. It all started with questioning the clear teachings in the new testament that divorce, and remarriage is sin. Once the apostate church caved on this issue, it was only a matter of years until some new liberal thinkers started to question the fact of whether marriage needed to be between a man and a woman. Couldn’t it be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman? Jesus clearly said that from the beginning, marriage has been meant to be between one man and one woman. Nothing else is acceptable! Once again, the God of pleasure was behind this whole thing. His ugly laugh echoes through the corridors of hell when men question God based on their own lusts. A follower of Jesus who believes in marriage defined as Jesus defined it will find himself in conflict with an angry world.

                In Washington DC, our nation’s capital, there is a museum called the Holocaust Museum which commemorates the terrible evils that took place under Hitler’s reign in Germany during World War II. While many “good citizens” go there each year and come out shaking their heads at the horrible atrocities, how many stop and ask, “Where is the memorial to all the American citizens whose lives have been cruelly snuffed out and offered up by their parents on the altar of their own pursuits?”  I speak of a race of silent innocent babies who have been robbed of the privilege of seeing the light of day. Robbed of their right to breath fresh air. Robbed of their right to life. These are not merely fetuses they are complete human beings whose lives have been stolen in the holocaust of abortion and child hatred. When we as Christian families choose to value children as Jesus taught, we will stand out in sharp contrast to the world around us. While they rush by in pursuit of pleasure and success, we will lumber along with our children, and although we may be sneered at for wasting our time and money, we will receive the true blessing in the end.

                Another sacred cow of pleasure worship that our nation honors is the God of sensual fashions. Ever since the industrial revolution gave us cheap clothing, clothing designs have become more of a language than a covering. Rather than wearing clothing until they wear out people wear them until they “go out”. The fashion cycle is always changing, and you will need to be always changing, as well, if you want to keep up with it. While many people including Christians think the whole thing is a harmless game, there is a hiss of the serpent coming out of all the madness. For one thing, our culture is in a free fall of redefining modesty with the standards getting lower and lower with each passing year. “Christians” who have been following this trend as well have already done away with many God ordained principals of propriety, and decency in the name of relevance. Most Christian’s look at the woman’s head covering described as an unchanging principal in 1 Corinthians 11 as an old tradition from the past. They also disregard the teachings about wearing gold, silver and costly array in 1 Timothy 2:9, in addition to going with lower standards of decency based on what the world considers normal and acceptable. True Christians should be willing to stand out and be different on this issue as well. The fact that we are secure in Christ should be evident in our abstinence of fashion chasing.

                Jesus said, “They who live by the sword will die by the sword.” He also said that His kingdom is not of this world and if it was his servants would fight. Jesus further instructed in the gospels that we are to love our enemies. If you are going to live out these teachings of Jesus literally you will find it impossible to blend your life with the politics, government, and military of our nation which takes the exact opposite sociological approach to dealing with neighbors and enemies. As strangers and pilgrims, we will live as ambassadors, not real citizens of the country we are passing through. The true Christian’s citizenship is out of this world yet the Christian society, a separated people, is one of the greatest blessing the world will ever know.

                The Bible defines worldliness in 1 John 2 when it calls us to, “love not the world for all that is in it is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” These three things are huge motivators in worldly societies. Since the church is a people who are motivated by a walk of the Spirit we will be driven by a different motivation to a different end. We will shun the drive for money, worldly success, temporal security and fleeting pleasure. Instead we will be a people who bear the image of Christ. In the same way that Jesus’s life brings hope to the whole world, the separated church will be the greatest preserving influence of a society.

                We cannot take the hand of Jesus without letting go of the hand of the world. I close with one more paraphrase from Jesus. “No man can serve two masters. He will always hate one and love the other. You cannot serve god and the ways of this world.” May Christ’s church be a people who have been separated unto their groom. May this holy subculture of transformed people, the Church, be the catalyst through which God can call more sinners into his kingdom and save them from the hopeless destiny of the nations of this world.

               

Jonathan