Sunday, November 1, 2009

What Makes Us Different?

"On October 31 the people returned from another observance. This time they fasted and dressed in sackcloth and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of the ancestors. 
The Book of the Law of the LORD their God was read aloud to them for about three hours. Then for three more hours they took turns confessing their sins and worshiping the LORD their God."
Nehemiah 9:1-3 (NLT)

I told myself I wasn't going to blog about Halloween. After all, I've already annoyed enough of my Facebook friends by calling it a dark holiday filled with evil and posting this link:


However, the LORD put the above passage literally in my lap this afternoon, as I was flipping through my New Living Translation Bible searching for something else that I had intended to read to my children. I would highly recommend reading the entirety of this chapter--it is a powerful example of corporate confession of sin and the patience and loving kindness that God shows to His people.

We, as Christians, bemoan the decline of our culture. We see the violence, abuse, and moral decay around us, and we wonder, "What happened? How did we get here?".

The people in the book of Nehemiah were in similar straights. Here they were, in the land the LORD had promised to their forefathers--Abraham, Issac, and Jacob--and they no longer possessed it:

"So now today we are slaves here in the land of plenty that you gave to our ancestors! We are slaves among all this abundance!  The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our cattle. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery."
Nehemiah 9:36-37 (NLT)

The reason for our decline is the same as theirs: they, as a people, had neglected to obey God's laws.

I am continually amazed by how American Christians have sought to justify practices that do not line up with what the Scriptures teach, simply because "it's part of our culture".

Guess what, people? God has no intention of His People "blending into" the culture! He wants people that are set apart for Him!

"So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."
I Thessalonians 5:6

No, this does not necessarily mean "being weird", but it does mean that "We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29
If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that there is disobedience in the name of "our culture" surrounding us, even in the church:

  • Christians, allowing their children to spend more time filling their minds with secular and even blatantly anti-Christian media than they do filling their minds with things that are good, honest, just, pure, and of good reputation (Philippians 4:8),
  • Christians allowing their daughters to dress in ways that are immodest, unfeminine, and unbecoming, (I Timothy 2: 9-10),
  • Christians amassing huge amounts of consumer debt when the Bible clearly calls debt a curse (Proverbs 22:7),
  • Christians having surgery done on themselves to prevent them from having more children, when the Bible clearly calls children a blessings (Psalm 127:3-5),
  • Christians continuing to hold onto and pass down to their children the "fun tradition" of costumes and candy on Halloween, completely disregarding the pagan origins--not to mention the current evil--of the celebration. This is the one "holiday" that Christians celebrate without caring what they are celebrating, and frankly, I just don't get it,
  • And yes, Christians continuing to send their children off to the secular humanist indoctrination that is the government public school system (Colossians 2:8).
Now, let me be clear that I do not write these things to shame anyone or to make anyone think I am better than they are. Far be it from me to pretend to be perfect. I know I am hopelessly flawed and lost apart from the saving work the Christ accomplished for me when he died on the cross and rose again the third day (I Corinthians 15).

I also recognize, again, that for the most part, we are all such slaves to our culture that we don't even realize the evil that we do. Myself included.

But, that doesn't give us an excuse to remain as we are! We must always be seeking God's will--seeking to become more like Christ in every aspect of our being!

"We urge you, brethren, 
admonish the unruly,
encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak,
be patient with everyone."
I Thessalonians 5:14

This is a good summary of why I have written what I have written today. Some of us could be categorized as "the unruly"--we just don't seem to know any better, and we need to be straightened out!

Many of us could be categorized as "the fainthearted"--afraid to step out in faithful obedience to God's Word.

Still others might be classified as "the weak"--knowing that they should obey, but not really knowing how to do it.

Please understand that what I have written here is with a heart of utmost patience for my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I know that swimming against the cultural flow is hard.

Temptation is everywhere,

Ridicule is always forthcoming,

and Sticking your neck out is libel to get it chopped off!

However, I fervently believe that when we stop going it alone--when we surround ourselves with the encouragement and admonition of like-minded believers--that biblical Christian community will start to change us. When together, we devote ourselves to the Scriptures and prayer, God will be at work in us! (Acts 2:42)

"For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst."
Matthew 18:20

"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, 
and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
The effective prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
James 5:16

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tiana,
Great post. Thank you for being willing to be bold, to stick your neck out there, to speak truth. We ARE too tainted with our cultural surroundings, as a good friend once said, "When a glove falls in the mud, the mud doesn't get all glovie." We need to surround ourselves with great Christian community while still sharing Christ with the lost. So, when we participate in things like Halloween, how do we look any different, how are we set apart if we enjoy participating in satan's day? Will we not too become muddy like the glove?
Hannah

*Mirage* said...

I totally agree with you. God bless you for speaking out. It's very hard to do so, not knowing what the response is going to be.

It makes me sad when people think they can be Christians and still do all the unChristian things they've always done. Because I've been there. I've been them. And I'm realizing now that obedience means that when God opens your eyes to the fact that you're doing something that could be wrong, you don't just refuse to look into it because you don't want to be convicted, no, you dig into it with a heart of wanting to please God and you begin to change and pray about what needs changing.

6 months ago I did not wear a headcovering. Now I do. This is the most profound thing I think which God has been working on me about, but there have been many other less drastic things. And I have seen my faith strengthen in accordance with the difficulty of the changes I've made. Small change = small increase in faith. Big change (headcovering in my case) = a bigger increase in faith. And in love. The more I obey Him the more I love Him and want to obey! I still have rebellion in my life of course. There are still things I don't wanna look into because I don't wanna change. I pray that God will deal with me in those things because they are holding me back.

Sorry for the ramble. I just wanted to share that once you get past the not wanting to let go it gets easier and easier every time to give a new area of your life to God! So if anyone is reading this and scared of what people will say or will it be worth it to give up that stumbling block in your life, YES! It is so worth it and the more you focus on Jesus the less you care what negativity people throw at you. And I don't mean that you don't care in an apathetic or unfeeling way, I mean that you feel compassion for those who are persecuting you but their hurtful words hurt less because you aren't living to please them anymore. You are living to please God! And it's so wonderful and warm and bright to live that way! :D

*Mirage* said...

I tagged you: http://everypreciousjoy.blogspot.com/2009/11/mom-with-mission-blog-award.html

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I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.

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Bible--Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, Apologia Biblical World View Book 1, "Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?"
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