Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not of This World

I have been reading a book called “The Barbarian Way”. Disclaimer: I know, it is from one of those “emerging church” folks. But thankfully, the Lord gives us discernment and we can take the good and leave the bad.

The book centers around the concept that early Christianity (see Book of Acts) was raw, impulsive, dangerous, fearless, full of expressed faith, and zeal for the Lord’s word, mission and cause. You know somewhat like a “Barbarian Warrior”. Disclaimer: I quite don’t see the connection between Christians and the Barbarians with their pillaging, head cutting, monastery raiding, monk killing ways. But I do get the point of the analogy. The author is trying to demonstrate in a descriptive manner (attractive to men who watched “Gladiator” or “Braveheart”) that as the Church grew and Christianity became an accepted religion, the Christians started to become “civilized” or shall I say “mild mannered”. What’s wrong with being civilized? You may ask. Well by civilized the author means “compromised”, “worldly”, “a part of this world”, “living in the world”, “politically correct”, “seeker friendly”, “watered down”, etc... Or in other words the opposite to a “Barbarian Warrior” i.e., “lacking faith”, “weak”, “scared”, “timid”, “self-preserving, pain avoiding, fat, lazy, couch potatoes, holding on with white knuckles to the comforts of this world.”

I have to agree with this theory and after reading the book, I have to confess that I probably am one of those “self-preserving, pain avoiding, fat, lazy, couch potatoes, holding on with white knuckles to the comforts of this world”. Why do I say this? Well, the Lord never promised us the comforts of this world. He promised persecution, trials, and tribulations in this world. John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." See also 2 Timothy 3:12.

He told us the world (system) will hate us. John15:18-19 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

But, in our zeal for the comforts, luxuries, and pleasures of this world we have turned the Gospel upside down. Jesus is good news. He did save us from our own sins. Something we cannot do ourselves. But, we have taken the good news, edited out the “not to be conformed to this world” part, and edited in our own worldly desires. So that now Jesus not only saved us from our sins, but he also wants you to live “your best life now”, here on earth. Which translates to a worldly, comfortable, pleasure seeking existence.

Upon salvation we become new creations, born again, not of this world. 2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.; John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."; Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

We are to live in the world, but not to be of this world! 1Jo 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. But, based on the current state of the Church in the USA, one would think that the latest easy to read, revised for the fifth time, (trademarked and copywrited of course to maximize profits) version of the bible must state “love the world and the things of the world.”!!!

In the West, the body of Christ, the “Church”, seems to seek the world and conform “Christianity” around it. That way you can be of the world and not feel guilty about it. When I look at the Body of Christ in persecuted countries, i.e., China, India, Muslim/Islamic nations, etc.... I see true Christianity. Men and women willing to literally die for their faith in Christ! Bold, brave, full of faith, willing to suffer for Christ. Willing to sacrifice comfort, luxury, health, and safety of the world. Sounds a lot like the apostles, Paul, and the early Church, doesn’t it. People who have not been conformed to this world, but transformed. They literally left the world system behind, to serve their King.

How many Christians in the USA do you know are willing to give up “anything” for Christ? Education comes first, career comes first, work comes first, reputation comes first, the football game comes first, golf comes first, sleeping late on Sunday comes first, do I have to go on? Heck, we have become so worldly that I know of “Christians” who complain if the Church building is too cold or too hot, the chair is too hard, or the coffee is lukewarm!

Ok, so we may go on a missions trips to a poor third world country for a few days every once in a while. But we can’t wait to leave that forsaken place behind and get back to our air-conditioned, comfortable life. (Last mission trip I went to the people complained over a lack of air-conditioning in the hotel room! While the people we “served” lived in dirt floor shanty towns). Oh, but doesn’t it makes us feel good, to help others. It is like we do missions out of guilt for living so well for the rest of the year. And of course, we are willing to do it because after the mission trip, we can go back to our easy, comfortable lifestyle and feel all smug about what we did. But I digress. Disclaimer: I do not mean to insult all of those great missionaries that have truly left behind everything to serve the Lord all over the world.

In the West, instead changing the world we have adopted and “Christianized” the world. Think about it. If I took a modern day, western “Christian” and a non “Christian”, but “good” person and put them side by side, followed them all day, I sincerely believe that there will be no difference. Well’ maybe the “Christian” will go to an expensive “Christian school”, listen to “Christian rock radio”, chew “Christian gum”, go to the Church to hang out with his “Christian” friends and have a “Christian” Café Mochachino at the Church’s “Christian Coffee house”, in addition to watching a secular, worldly R rated film and justify it by allegorizing it to contain some sort of hidden Christian message.

Isn’t the ultimate evidence that we have secularized Christianity the fact that we have a Christian version of everything that is of the world? Christian pop music, Christian Rap, Christian Rock, Christian Clothing lines, etc…. They actually sell “Christian candy” among many other irrelevant and useless “Christian” consumer products at the local “Christian” megastore. We have made Christianity itself a consumer product. Churches even celebrate pagan events and feel good because they change the name and do it for Christ. (Let me see, we adopt a pagan celebration like Halloween, have the kids wear costumes, give candy & prizes, and throw the party on the same night. In a kid’s mind, (and mine) how is this any different from what the world does? If that is not conforming ourselves to the world and its system, I do not know what is.)

Contrary to what we have made Christianity,(a happy, happy, joy, joy, comfortable, consumer friendly experience), the apostles, the early Christians, and the prophets lived somber lives. Did they have joy in their life, of course, yes. But their joy was not measured by worldly standards. Their joy was/is in Christ, in the fact that they where saved, forgiven. The fact that they were given a gift beyond comprehension. That is why Paul had joy in a prison cell and Stephen had joy even though he was stoned to death. Because of their joy in Christ they left the world and became enemies of the world, insurgents, revolutionaries, a counter-culture to the world system. Or as the book I read puts it “Barbarians”.

The modern western Christian is literally living out his Christianity by the world’s standards and it ultimately affects his faith. The Bible calls believers ambassadors, enlisted soldier ( i.e., not a civilian), pilgrims. 2Co 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ,…; 2Ti 2:3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier; 1Pe 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

An ambassador represents a foreign land in a foreign country. He does not adopt the culture of the country he resides in, but represents his culture, his country in that foreign land. A soldier lives by the rules and standards of the military, he is not a civilian anymore. He wears an uniform, he follows orders (like them or not). Like the ambassador he represents his country in foreign lands. The pilgrim, is just passing by and like a gypsy, he does not adopt the culture of the land in which he is temporarily residing. They all stand out.

We should be like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel, among others. They lived in foreign lands, or moved to the promised land from foreign lands, but they all left behind or did not adopt or conform to the customs and culture of their adopted lands. They lived in them as foreigners, strangers in a strange land. Abraham did not worship the foreign gods or adopted the practices of his neighbors, Sodom & Gomorra. Joseph did not give in to the corrupt morals & religion of his new land. Moses left a corrupt culture and came back to lead his people out of that culture, Joshua entered a new land and exclaimed "[A]nd if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." See Joshua 24:15. Daniel was moved to a foreign land and excelled because he would not conform or compromise his faith. Nehemiah & Ezra, came back to the Promised land from a foreign land and left behind their corrupt customs/culture.

These heroes of faith, did not conform or adapt their faith on the one true God to the culture or world system they lived in. Who are we to do so? Who are we to conform God's word and our faith to the world’s standards. Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Maybe we do need to be like barbarians, uncivilized, not conforming to the world. Passing through the world and leaving a wake (not of destruction) but of changed lives. Lives that are so different than what the world sells that they stand out and set an example for others to follow. You know like a city on a hill!

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