Thoughts on Christian Culture 1: Gospel Saturation or Moral Paganism?

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Image courtesy smarnad @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Gospel message (including the books of Acts, Hebrews and the first several chapters of Romans) is for the entire world (Mark 16:15)
The NT Epistles are written instruction to members of the early Church. From them, we may continue to glean godly insight and wise instruction as we await Christ’s return.

~Everyone, regardless of how long they have claimed the label “Christian”, can benefit from hearing the true Word of salvation. (Revelation 14:6-7)

~It is acceptable to help others see their need through “lawful” use of the OT Law (Romans 7, 1 Timothy 1:8) …maybe will come back to this thought, later

~It is acceptable to (respectfully) share with an unbeliever the reason for your faith (1 Peter 3:15-16). Personal experience can be very convincing evidence. The OT narrative offers a record of our tendency to be wrong. Paul provided an explanation of our desperate spiritual need in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.

~It is acceptable to work out God’s love at a social level to help counteract the injustices of society (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:5; Romans 13:7-9)

~It is not remotely helpful for Christians to attempt to direct the behavior of the unconverted through external moralization which is based on Christian principles. In fact, Jesus soundly condemned this practice when He spoke “woes” over those who traveled land and sea to make a single convert…only to sink that person even deeper into a state of spiritual lostness (Matthew 23:15).

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Worship Around the World (Newsboys, founded: Australia)

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: To shew forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night

~Psalm 92:1-2 (KJV)

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet and there were loud voices in heaven, saying the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

~Revelation 11:15 (ESV)

Someone Said (Who’s the Boss?)

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Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Men must choose to be governed by God or condemn themselves to be ruled by tyrants.”
– William Penn

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (ESV) Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

*My commentary Happily, God did not intend to leave Israel in this horrifying situation. The disciplinary response was intended to bring the people to a place of repentance for_
1. Disregard for God’s authority and
2. Ingratitude for His goodness to them.
(See v 48, above, Genesis 3 and Romans 1:21)

2 Chronicles 7:13-14, 16 (ESV) When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

Jesus the Christ is the designated Head of the favored household (John 6:27-29)….When we properly acknowledge Him as such, we are made right with God.

Exposed

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Not my edit.  Design credit belongs to preachthegospel.org

I have seen this quote accredited to Charles Spurgeon on more than one occasion, and assume the photo attribution is correct.

No doubt about it, though.

Knowing Christ means encountering illumination as we have never before experienced.
And, the brighter the Light shines, the more clearly we will be able to see the dirt in the corners and under the furnishings of our lives.
Isaiah 2:5 (NKJV) O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the LORD.

John 8:12 (NKJV) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

1 John 1:6-9 (NKJV) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Real Men DO Cry

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Image courtesy graur codrin @ FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Jesus Wept (John 11:35)

In reality, life hurts. And it’s okay to admit it.

God incarnate knew the human experience of letting go of someone who He loved in this world. And, although He absolutely had the power to bring Lazarus back to life, He first opted to feel the pain of those who mourn the loss of a loved one.

There is certainly more that can be learned from the context of this illustration, but I tend to believe that the full (albeit sinless) identification of Christ Jesus with fallen humanity should not be overlooked.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. ~ Hebrews 2:14:17 (ESV)

And for clarification purposes, I guess I should also recognize that Paul identified the “children of Abraham” as those who have placed faith in God’s Promise of redemption through the Anointed One who would come from Abraham’s family line by way of Isaac.
For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring…_ (Romans 9:7-8 ESV)

“I’m Better Than That”…is a lie.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican
~Luke 18:11 (KJV)

If seeing other people’s sin doesn’t move us to compassion, it will inevitably (and irrationally) stoke our pride 😦

Truth is, it is God’s grace alone which prevents any of us from being “as bad as” the person whose sin is on display for the world to see. It is foolish to be arrogant over the fact that He didn’t allow me to sink as low as I had the potential to go.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+18:10-12&version=KJV

Not my edit.

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Let’s Be Friends?

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Image courtesy digitalart @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

…Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
~James 4:4 (ESV)

 

This is one of those verses that I wonder whether Christians often misunderstand, and thus, misapply.

If I was to simply strip this verse from all biblical context, I could easily conclude that James intends for Christians to make great efforts to visibly separate ourselves from any and all worldly people and their influences….and, many of us actually do make specific rules with regard to the things we will wear, watch, eat, listen to etc.

Such boundaries can make us feel safer (especially if we have a particular weakness) but it also tends to isolate us from the exact types of people Jesus has called us to interact with and love on His behalf.  For instance, what about the Apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 9:21-23) declaration about being “all things to all people so that perhaps some might be won to Christ”?

So, here we have a dilemma.  How can we, as believers, properly represent Christ by being friendly toward the world….without actually becoming contaminated by it?

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not of the opinion that “anything goes, so long as I claim to love Jesus”. That is not a perspective that I  promote.  And please note that if you believe you must maintain a form of physical separation from worldliness, then I am not trying to say that you are wrong to follow your conscience.

Of course, we should be concerned with remaining “unspotted from the world”, as James also wrote (See 1:27), but in the overall context of this letter (and Jesus’ and Paul’s words, elsewhere) he appears to be pointing to outward behaviors as a manifestation of inward attitudes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of James’ target audience, and it appears to me that James was actually bucking pretty hard against the idea of attaching  to a religiously founded, externally enforced form of morality that has not actually originated from a humbled and converted heart.  If that is the case, I believe we must recognize that strong fences are indeed required to try to contain the pride, greed, selfishness, covetousness, adulterous thoughts etc that tends to boil up out of our own sinful selves.

Such aggressive measures are necessary to prevent evil from adversely affecting those around us.  However, this requirement is not an automatic indicator of having had a life-giving encounter with the living Word of God.


Personally, I believe that the warning against “friendship with the world” is mainly referring to the alliances we make within our own hearts.

It’s a worthwhile study, I think.

 

You can look up the cited verses and related passages at Biblegateway.com