Extra Thoughts About Blaspheming The Culture (Worldliness)…
The notes below are extra points that for one reason or another were not included in the three recent posts called “Blaspheming The Culture” (#1: HERE; #2: HERE; #3: HERE). They are not posted below in any kind of intentional order…
May the LORD use these points below to point out the ways that we His people are worldly, are blending in with the world culture instead of standing out with the Lord Jesus Christ, and may He bring us all to repentance and the forgiveness & cleansing from all unrighteousness that He graciously gives in response to genuine repentance and confession (1 John 1:9)…
Church worship services are often designed to make non-Christians as comfortable as possible—turn it into entertainment, turn it into a kind of show or concert, make the sermons “talks” and focus on self-help principles with some Christian language, make it non-offensive and pleasant—we started adding a spoonful of sugar to the bottle of the medicine of God’s Word (like Mary Poppins) and have slid completely down that slippery slope until now there are just a few drops of medicine (if any) in the bottle of sugar that we serve. And that is IN the church! And all of this is done with the goal of trying to get non-Christians to come in the door and stay—we want them to know Jesus, but what Jesus are we introducing them to?
And this bottle-full of sugar has rotted our teaching as well—we often focus on those verses/passages that non-Christians are more likely to agree with and accept, and in turn we Christians often only agree with and accept those easier-to-believe passages as well.
- For example, in Hebrews 6:1-3: “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.”
Oh loved ones, part of the elementary teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ is repentance from sin & eternal judgment! We should all be learning that FIRST, but in many local churches, at best, that is pushed to the “college/grad school” of Christian maturity (or it is cut out of the syllabus altogether where even Christians don’t like hearing those Truths—and that is a perfect example of our tastes/desires changing to be like the culture, instead of their tastes/desires changing to be like Christ!). We all need to learn those hard but important Truths at the beginning, not at the end.
1 Chronicles 5:24-25: “These were the heads of their families: Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel. They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families. 25 But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.”
Brave, famous men who were in charge—movers & shakers, decision-makers, people who got things done, popular, looked up to, followed—SUCCESSFUL!
And yet look at verse 25: they were unfaithful to the LORD.
Their earthly success caused people to overlook & approve of their unfaithfulness to the LORD.
Their unfaithfulness to God wasn’t just in the sense that they sinned/did some bad things…it was that of course. But even more specifically, they were unfaithful in the sense that they were like everyone else around them. They blended IN with the culture of their Gentile/non-Jewish neighbors, they did not stand OUT from the surrounding culture.
This is our problem today, loved ones—same problem as 3,000+ years ago…humanity hasn’t changed (just our technology/outside has changed; our inner-soul problems are identical).
Christians often without realizing it–and sometimes we DO realize it!--work hard not at being different from culture but at blending in with it—we WANT to show non-Christians we’re basically the same as them, our religion/belief is at its core the same as theirs, we basically have the same goals/values they have, etc. Some do this because they aren’t actually Christian, but many genuine, reborn Christians do this because we think it’s the only way/best way to get non-Christians to church—make things as similar as possible to what they are used to.
But that doesn’t change non-Christians—it changes US…we compromise, we accommodate, we syncretize (blend in ingredients/beliefs that non-Christians are used to/prefer) with the pure recipe of God’s Word, God’s Truth—in some ways it does make certain churches/ministries/authors/speakers famous, they’re seen as more brave to buck tradition, they’re put in charge of more things & thus are seen as more successful.
But are they faithful to the LORD & His Word? That is the question…
Oh loved ones, the business world understands the importance of letting customers know how their product is different from other products. Coke doesn’t say, “You know, we really want you to buy Coke, but were basically the same as Pepsi.” They would never say that! They aim to show how Coke is different/better than other “colas”, not basically the same.
Now this is a very imperfect analogy: Christ is not a product we sell, He is a Person we share with others & introduce others to & proclaim through our words & actions; He isn’t something we use, He is the One we worship.
And yet God commands us to be different from the world to show them HE is different, that God’s values are NOT the world’s values, that He isn’t one idol among many but the One True God, He isn’t one perspective but THE way THE Truth THE Life, not one road among many but the only Name under heaven by which people can be saved (Acts 4:12), to show the world that “What is honored among men is detestable in the eyes of God” (Luke 16:15).
This was one of the main purposes of all the dietary and other specific commands in the Old Testament. We read those today and think, “Wow God is a micro-manager…what’s the big deal about all this stuff?”
But God was setting His people apart from the non-Jewish cultures surrounding them—He was making it clear that they were to be different in ways that were obvious. There is to be NO CAMOUFLAGE in the wardrobe/uniforms of God’s people. Christ’s robe of righteousness to us is like Joseph’s—a colorful coat, noticed by all, hated/despised by many! This at best caused people to laugh/point & at worst caused others to get angry/offended at these differences. Non-Christians often, when they see us being different in our beliefs/actions, accuse Christians of being self-righteous: “So you think you’re better than me?” And so back off from maturing, from becoming better than ourselves…
The early church faced hostility because their teaching and way of life was in direct opposition to the culture’s teaching and way of life—they are mutually exclusive! We cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of the Lord Jesus—we cannot serve two masters. There is no negotiation or compromise with sin, loved ones—there can be no truce with sinful beliefs & actions. “Friendship with the world is enmity [hatred] against God” (James 4:4). The culture 2k years ago didn’t say, “We are mad at you because of all the good deeds you do.” THAT wasn’t offensive to them! They were offended by the early Christians’ TEACHING—the Gospel, the Word of God. It is the same today.
We see this in John 10 below:
John 10:24-33: 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying,
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them,
“I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied,
“but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
It is the same today—(usually) not for our good deeds are Christians vilified, but for our teaching, our beliefs, the exclusiveness of faith alone by grace alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation & eternal life, the utter importance of repentance & faith, not just intellectual belief.
Peter tells us to be gentle & respectful in HOW we share our hope in Christ with non-Christians, because our hope in Christ will often create hostility & anger from non-Christians:
- For example, the only reason we have hope is because Jesus died on the cross & rose again to pay the penalty for our sins so we don’t have to—that implies, even without us saying it (and many non-Christians realize this!), that those who DON’T receive & surrender to the Lord Jesus as their Savior WILL have to pay the penalty for their sins. So our hope in Christ directly implies the hopelessness of people without Christ. But we try to take away the offense of the cross by adding, “But wait, don’t get mad…God is love & hell isn’t a real place (& if it is, just between you & me, it’s probably only for people who actually believe in hell!). He won’t send YOU there…you are so kind & loving & nice.”
1 John 5:11-13: “Whoever has the Son of God has life”—we like that part of the verse, but don’t forget the second half—“whoever does NOT have the Son of God does not have life.” BOTH are true, and the second part is often what makes many people angry. And so we often avoid it…or reject it altogether…
That is why Scripture says we are the aroma of life to some and the aroma of death to others. To some, simply by being maturing Christians, we offend them just with who we are.
This is what Hebrews 11:7 says of Noah—by building the ark Noah condemned the world. By the simple act of preparing for God’s righteous Judgment of the world, by taking shelter in the safety that God provided, that by itself was also a condemnation of the world. Noah could not avoid it, no matter how kind he was while he was building the ark (and I believe he truly was kind).
- “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”
The only way Noah could avoid condemning the world with his faith would have been to have NOT built the ark, to have NOT gotten on the ark at all, that is, to have not acted on his faith (which is to have no faith at all), and that is what many church-attenders are doing today. There IS room on the ark for non-Christians, the blood of Christ is enough to cover & forgive & cleanse anyone, but they must go through Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone—there is no back-door, and there is no other way, and there are eternal consequences for not repenting & receiving the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
This is what we see in Acts 6, loved ones—the early church refused to be like everyone else, they refused to camouflage their distinctiveness, they didn’t downplay & cover up & minimize what made their beliefs & actions & values different from non-Christians—they EMPHASIZED those differences, they were clear & up front about those differences from the beginning (instead of ignoring them to try to get non-Christians to come to church).
And it got the early church into trouble with the culture—big trouble. They were honoring the LORD—the 1st commandment!—and by doing so they also were making many non-Christians very upset/angry.
Does this mean we are supposed to run off to monastaries and isolate/seclude ourselves with other Christians from the rest of the world? NO! We are to go out into the world to proclaim the grace & Truth of the Gospel! But though we are to be in the culture, we are not to feed on it as we go! We are to feed on God’s Word!
- People who clean sewers—they are in the sewers…they must be…that’s the only way to clean them! But they would never be tempted to drink the sewage, to bathe in it! They are in it but not of it—they don’t internalize/take it into themselves.
But so many Christians and church-attenders FEED on the culture—we drink deeply of the beliefs/values/perspectives/goals of the sinful world: we get a principle here and there from a t.v. show or song or commercial or movie or celebrity or Facebook meme, etc. We drink in the culture’s beliefs & rarely if ever read our Bibles—we gulp culture & gargle Christ—and so we are no longer cleaning up the sewer but are becoming like it! It’s no wonder that it is often very difficult to tell who a church attender is & who is not—we resemble each other so much!
Thus James 1:27: “…keep one’s self from being POLLUTED by the world.” Spiritual pollution is everywhere, and we are not only breathing in the exhaust, we are taking in the fumes directly from the tail-pipe, we are paying money to carry the tail-pipe with us wherever we go so we can breathe it in throughout our day. And we celebrate this by saying, “See–I’m not like THOSE Christians who can’t have any fun and are so narrow and legalistic…”
Various Scripture Passages
Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
1 Peter 4:1-5: Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
- By the Holy Spirit’s power, our refraining from sin is a witness to non-Christians
& noticed by them—just as when we casually give in to sin.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16: But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
- We give off the aroma of Christ to some and the aroma of death to others—some people are drawn to Christ in us and some are repulsed by Christ in us.
Galatians 5:10-11: 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
- We must not add to the offense of the cross,
but we must not water it down/sweeten it to make it less offensive.
Titus 2:11-13: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…
- God’s grace gives us what we dont deserve (forgiveness) & enables us to give God what He deserves: our obedience. Both are grace. Our holiness from the Lord Jesus & our obedience to the Lord Jesus will often offend non-Christians.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]? Or what does a believerhave in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[b]
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[c]
Daniel 3 (HERE), but especially verses 13-20: Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.
Sometimes we dam the swift flow of rivers for good reasons. God will eventually damn the swift, sinful flow of the river of this world—it’s attitudes, values, beliefs that oppose God—for good reasons.
If you are in the flow of the current of the world’s values, beliefs, attitudes, there is hope—reach out for the sturdy branch of the Cross of Jesus Christ! Repent of your sinfulness & receive His death & return to life as your rescue, your forgiveness, your new life, your adoption as a child of God! Don’t go with the flow of the culture, get free in the tree of Christ, climb into its branches & rest in its shade by faith in the Son of God!
We in the U.S. Church today are the ultimate “pragmatic generation”—if something “works” [e.g. gets the results we want], it must be good/from God! NO! Steroids work, in a way, but they can kill your body! They give results in the short-run, but the long-term results are devastating.
Yes local churches can grow on a diet of watered-down Gospel, but tumors are a type of growth as well, a growth we don’t want. Yes you can get an energy boost for a little while by eating a candy bar, but why don’t we see professional athletes eating snickers during games? Because that is not a good way to get energy, that is not healthy, it gives short-run results but longer-term consequnces. They get their energy from all the hard work and conditioning—running laps and practice practice practice—over the course of the season—their bodies are are trained in painful and exhausting ways but it pays off when they need it most, MUCH better than any candy bar.
We keep passing out candy bar/cake gospels to people (which are no Gospel at all!) instead of the true Gospel, bread & vegetables–Jesus, the Bread of Life!
We keep passing out candy discipleship (follow Jesus in easy ways) instead of training others in push-up/sit-up discipleship. “WORK OUT your salvation with fear & trembling, for it is God Who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:!2-13)—we don’t give people that. We don’t give people, “Repent of your sins,” we don’t give people “take up your cross & follow Me, or you aren’t worthy to be My disciple.” This isn’t earning salvation, it is what happens when we are truly reborn & receive the Gospel and live out the Gospel as disciples, not just as intellectual believers…
Don’t look at short-term results—size of a local church, popularity of a teacher, amount of books an author has sold—those things don’t mean they are teaching God’s Word faithfully and Truthfully.
Non-Christians can learn, in a way, to be more patient or generous in certain situations, but that doesn’t mean they have the fruit of the Holy Spirit! They have a substitute fruit that isn’t true fruit at all—grape flavored Hi-C has ZERO grape juice! Apples can be taped onto a random tree, but that doesn’t mean the tree is an apple tree (though it might look like it from a distance)!
True fruit of the Holy Spirit, true conversions, true growth from the LORD, fruit that LASTS, fruit that comes from repentance, from surrender to Christ Jesus, fruit that results not in people admiring us and our fruit (or in us becoming self-satisfied as we admire our own fruit) but that makes people more amazed at the LORD Jesus and His cross and empty tomb, that fruit only comes with the true Gospel.
What would a battery be if it had TWO positive ends? It could give you no energy. It needs a positive AND a negative end. Thus the Gospel encourages us AND humbles us, the Gospel pops the inflated balloon of our self-esteem and fills us with Christ-esteem, confidence in Him and NOT ourselves at all. The Gospel hurts AND heals, the Gospel should bring us low AND raise us up. We must have both.
The world likes a round table–all equal, no distinctions, general sentiments/feelings (not specific Truth), no head/authority, all edges smooth to upset no one.
Christ’s Banquet Table–where all are invited thru repentance & faith alone–is a rectangle: specific Truth/sharp edges/King Jesus alone as Judge/Ruler/Head & where ALL Christians sit at the place of least honor…because just having an undeserved seat at His Table is enough, is more than we deserve. THAT is the table we are to invite others’ to, not the round table of the world’s values…
Postmodernism can make a compelling case against the authenticity of our parents’ chore list (did they REALLY write it??? How can you really know for sure!!!???) by analyzing handwriting. But deep down, we simply don’t want to do the chores & are clever in justifying our disobedience…
No more reclining in self-induced postmodern comfort of uncertainty regarding Truth. We can’t hover forever (accepting all perspectives)–we must eventually decide what is True and what isn’t. All helicopters either land or crash–not if but where.
When a company gives assembly instructions with an object, the instructions assume/imply that the instructions can be correctly understood and the object put together rightly! There are MANY ways to misinterpret the instructions, but it is possible to understand the instructions correctly. By giving His people the Bible, our heavenly Father both teaches and assumes that the Bible can be correctly interpreted—1 Corinthians 2:6-16.
12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[c] 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
But while Biblical compassion (hopefully!) sounds great, we must remember that it is ultimately still looked at by (most) non-Christians as hateful. We are in a unique time in the sense that the only thing the culture considers true love/kindness is 100% unconditional support, acceptance and approval (celebration!) of what the Bible calls sin, whether all beliefs, all lifestyles, all religions, etc. Anything less than 100% unconditional support, acceptance and approval—including Biblical compassion—is usually rejected as hate and is usually not seen as actual compassion; it is still considered unloving.
But there’s nothing we can do about that—we cannot control how people perceive us. We must not add to the offensiveness of the Cross and we must not try to make it less offensive. Again, we are the aroma of life to those who are being saved and the aroma of death to those who are not.
The perfect Biblical compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ was ultimately responded to with “Crucify Him!” by both Pharisee and peasant, by Roman AND Jewish culture—Christ says if they hated Him they will also hate us.
So our goal isn’t to make people happy—getting a positive response from them—but to respond with grace & Truth & point them to Christ Who alone can make them holy. “If I were still trying to please people I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1). You WILL lose friends with Biblical compassion (because it won’t always FEEL like compassion to them), but the hope is that in the long-run you will gain something better than a friend—a true brother or sister in Christ, made new, forgiven & adopted by repentance & faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How should U.S. Christians respond to our worldliness/lack of holiness?
Daniel 9:1-19 (HERE)–a powerful template for genuine & serious repentance.