stevengworld

Assimilate or Separate

July 7, 2015
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Life isn’t really all that hard to figure out. From childhood we learn the lesson to either follow rules or make your own. In teenage years, you either follow the crowd or gather your own. In college, you follow a group or make your own. In adulthood, you get in where you fit in or you remain an outcast.

This same pattern applies to schools, work places, and churches sadly. Whatever is the running ethos in these arenas seems to dominate the culture as well as the culture makers. Believers who interact in all these arenas are faced with a common agenda – assimilate to the current ethos or separate to make your own.

In other words, the choices that typically awaits Christians are to be a follower or a radical; resemble or rebel; afraid of being different or daring to be different.

Sadly, these two options aren’t really options. They are two polemical sides where a person can easily find themselves all for the wrong reasons. Being like Jesus I think means to be in both camps, and yet have another category, the middle. There are times when it’s healthy to assimilate with the right group of folks or believers that are heading in a good and right direction. There are times when it’s healthy to separate from the right group of folks or believers that are heading in the wrong and dangerous direction. And then there’s the middle where both groups are joined together to offset the bad and properly promote the good in a safe manner. For instance, having the believers who think their small group of what they have in common are better than those who don’t share in those specifics, and to have them mingle around the believers who have nothing in common with them all for a sole purpose of unity building.

It’s become clearer to me after having one of the most eye-opening lunches ever that culture needs to be created to flourish with people who desire to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Suffice it to say that commonalities and differences need one another like Paul describes the body of Christ in First Corinthians 12. However, I think we, the church, often forget how much we need folks who are nothing like us in lots of ways so that we don’t become rigid, unwilling, and pompous in our thoughts and actions.

We can be in the world celebrating what’s good and looking for what’s redeemable (assimilation) while not getting immersed in the world that’s celebrating what’s evil and wicked and destructive (separation). The gospel actually calls us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light so that we can then go back into darkness to make disciples of light, teaching them to go do the exact same thing we have done with them. We are to do this until we’re taken from this world and joined with Christ in heaven awaiting his second coming and our glorified bodies. And if the gospel isn’t enough to compel us to be radical, rebelling outcasts who are more than okay with being followers who resemble the good and redeemable parts of the world’s culture, then I’m not sure we understand the gospel rightly.

The gospel introduces us to the mission that God’s set in motion before the creation of the world. So a necessary reminder of the saving gospel can help us rightly walk the line of the misleading options that are normally placed before us all. Why? Because God in flesh did that for our benefit, and it’s naturally acceptable for us to mimic him.

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Dodging God or Deceiving Self

July 2, 2015
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I’ve given extensive thought to bible reading and why it seems to elude Christians. I’ve dealt with it myself on several occasions and talked to other brothers and sisters who’ve told me about their struggles to read the bible. Some time ago I was told that believers ought to read their bibles every single day, preferably in the morning. Daily bible reading is the sign of spiritual maturity. After all, who doesn’t fall for that pitch?

Then I was told that faithful Christians are the ones who are in their bibles at least once a week. That always seemed like a ploy to make those less than mature believers feel better about themselves. It’s okay that they didn’t read every day because after all the week is hectic and lives get busy, and so forth. The least pastors and bible teachers could do is cut some slack to the majority of Christians.

Living with believers who barely ever read their bibles really caused a strain on my mental. I wanted to scream unfaithful out one end while giving encouraging words out the other. Needless to say a crock pot of self-righteousness began to simmer everyday in my heart. So in the dangerous game of comparison, I fed my ego and quickly propped myself up on the highest pedestal amongst my peers whom I knew weren’t readers.

For years I fought through the idea of acceptance before God without reading against the idea of being faithful because of the acceptance before God. This battle just recently ended in my heart and mind as I finally came to a point where I can see the difference.

I am now settled on two reasons why believers don’t read their bibles.

Believers don’t read their bibles because they’re dodging God. Yes, I said it. They’re dodging God. They don’t want to be confronted with the teachings of scripture. They’re comfortable in their own way of thinking and living. Being accountable to only themselves. Not really seeing God as their supreme Lord, they dodge him and his teachings. Their bibles carry authority and they know this. Thus making them their own sovereigns on every day except Sunday.

Because they dodge God, they deceive themselves. Internally they think they’re good enough to not need the teachings of the bible. Good enough to purposely deceive themselves into thinking they know best, even better than God does. Because they’re good enough, they can do without the confrontation that comes from the teachings of scripture. It’s quite cyclical how this works. They don’t think they’re bad people in need of much grace on a daily basis. Overall, they’re good people. This has nothing to do with the imputed righteousness of Christ on their lives, but their own actions.

So what’s the remedy?

Believers need a heavy dose of reality. Their sin is blinding them, and it’s causing them great pain though they don’t see it. They are justified and now friends with God, and co-heirs with Christ. But that’s solely based on the work of the Trinity. Redeemed humanity needs to remember that, and recall that as often as needed. Next step is to understand that they’re still sinners in need of transformation. In other words, they’re not as awesome as God wants them to be because they’re so far from being like Jesus, so they need the grace and transforming work of the gospel to take root and bloom in their lives. That happens as they consider the holiness of God, the grace and mercy of Jesus, the convicting and freeing work of the Spirit, their inability to be any of those things on their own power, the power of the gospel and the wonderful communicative tool given to them through prayer.

But I really want all believers to settle on and camp at the fact that they choose to deceive themselves into thinking as believers they don’t need God’s Word. This is a wilful conscious choice they make on a regular basis to the point that they begin to believe their own lives. Wake up my brothers and sisters. Stop dodging God.


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