Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Love not the World

This essay is difficult to write. It is easier for me to take the world – the unbeliever – to task than to criticize my brethren. Besides, I want to lay bare a sin that is endemic to the church in the West – a sin that has taken control of nearly all of us. It is a sin that is so common and deeply entrenched that whoever reads this will want to attack me instead of engaging in any self-examination.

God had warned Israel against entanglements with the surrounding world:

  • Make no treaty with them [the Canaanites], and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you (Deut. 7:2-4).
Anything that turns us away from following our God is of the greatest import. Israel’s entire welfare depended upon abiding in His Word. Consequently, their Redeemer trained them to keep His Word foremost:

  • He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:2-3).
Israel’s neighbors would continue to seduce Israel away from abiding in God’s every Word. How? We are naturally social creatures, easily influenced by our friends and neighbors. We want to be liked and accepted and don’t want to antagonize anyone with our scandalous doctrines and judgments. We idolatrously equate our value with popularity, professional respectability and social recognition. However, as Jesus explained, the antagonism between the children of this world and the children born from above is inevitable:

  • "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20; 16:1-2; 7:7)
We wrongly and naively suppose that if we can just be loving enough and partake in the same things as our neighbors, we will be loved and accepted. If we act like them, they will want to be like us. If we love the things that they love, they will love the things we love. We hide our light and restrain our saltiness and become fit for nothing but to be trodden down by men (Mat. 5:13).

However, the Bible gives no encouragement for becoming a friend to the world. Nor can we retain friendship with our Savior if we pursue friendship with the world:

  • You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? (James 4:4-5; 1 John 2:15)
When we allow the world to influence us, we become compromisers and adulterers! Well, what marriage vows do we violate? Our marriage to the Lord! When we are drawn away from a strict adherence to God’s Word, we cause Him to “envy intensely.” Why? He loves us intensely and wants to see nothing infringe upon His love for us!

How do we become a friend to the world? When we become inextricably entangled with the world:

  • Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?...What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 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" (2 Cor. 6:14-17). 
Blessing requires us to remove ourselves from those things that will contaminate us. Therefore, we cannot become dependent upon the world. We cannot form any relationship with unbelievers from which we cannot easily unyoke ourselves.

Today, this teaching has become distasteful to believer and unbeliever alike. We think it arrogant, judgmental and chauvinistic to believe that there should be such a sharp distinction between the two groups. An entire body of the church has simply rejected this teaching. It’s just too divisive. It separates us from our colleagues, friends and family. It isolates us from the rest of humanity.

Brian McLaren, a key writer of the Emergent Church, charges that:

  • Christians have been taught to see in "us vs. them" terms for centuries, and it will take time to reorient faithful people in a new direction -- "us with them," working for the common good (Huffington Post Religion Blog, 2/19/03).
In support of his indictment, McLaren cites two like-minded students:

  • “People don't want to have to side with the church and against their friends who are Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish or agnostic." 
  • “We can't find a church that doesn't load a bunch of extra baggage on us. We tried, but they all had this long list of people we had to be against. It's just not worth it.”
Of course, these indictments are misrepresentations. We are not “against” the world; it’s just that we cannot allow ourselves to be so closely associated with the world. To quote the old saying, “We can be in the world but not of it.”  We can even have non-Christian friends as long as we know clearly what our boundaries are.

Scripture is clear that there is a radical distinction between the two. We should love our neighbor, but we cannot get entangled in such a way that it compromises any aspect of our heavenly marriage. And we are married to Him: 

  • If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19)
  • They [Jesus’ children] are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:16)
Consequently, we are warned about the dangers of associating with the world:

  • Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Cor. 15:33-34; 5:9)
While the church sends out missionaries into the world, many of us are unprepared for such up-close involvement. Knowing this full well, John warns a certain woman:

  • Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work (2 John 1:9-11) 
While it is true that our Lord will keep those who are His, we mustn’t put Him to the test by attempting to navigate interpersonal waters that are too deep for us. If we truly trust Him, we will obey these warnings.

Some will say, “Well, I just trust Jesus with my involvement in secular society.” However, according to John, trusting Jesus is also a matter of avoiding negative influences if we are unprepared. Sometimes, in our arrogance, we think that we are prepared when we are not. And we are not prepared. We haven’t meditated deeply and regularly on His Word (Psalm 1). We allow ourselves to compromise Scripture in order to accommodate our new relationships or careers. 

Christian professionals with advanced degrees have done this. Theistic evolutionists have adopted an entirely unbiblical distinction to enable them to have both Darwin and Jesus. They divide the world into the physical and the spiritual, foolishly claiming that evolution is only concerned about the physical, while the Bible is only concerned about the spiritual. With this distinction, they hope to silence any contradiction between Darwin and Jesus.

However, they kill their faith in the process. The physical can no more be separated from the spiritual than the theology of the cross (spiritual) can be separated from the death of Jesus on the cross (physical). The physical and the spiritual are inseparable! To separate them is to lobotomize the mind from heart. Thus they shipwreck their faith.

When we marry ourselves to the surrounding culture, we violate our ultimate marriage. This takes many forms - material, sexual, and spiritual. We have become consumers, just like our neighbors. We encourage each other to spend lavishly on ourselves, ignoring the fact that many thousands of Christians are being made refugees and even martyrs at alarming rates. However, John warns:

  • If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:17)
We tolerate multiple forms of sin, claiming, “I can’t judge others,” conveniently forgetting that we are our brothers’ keepers. When a brother or sister sins, if we care about them and their eternal welfare, we will speak the truth in love.  We will not be silent or look the other way. Evangelical leader Albert Mohler described the church’s permissiveness this way:

  • “Evangelicals allowed culture to trump Scripture…the church largely followed the lead of its members and accepted what might be called the ‘privatization’ of divorce.’ Churches simply allowed a secular culture to determine that divorce is no big deal, and that it is a purely private matter.” 
Pastors are often so afraid of losing members that they don’t feed the flock with nourishing food.  Instead, Scripturally weak teachings and ideas abound.  Tolerance has become the supreme virtue. However, the Spirit warned the churches against this:

  • Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:20, 14). 
What’s the answer? The Church of Sardis had achieved “a reputation” by the standards of this world. However, the Spirit warned:

  • Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you (Rev. 3:2-3).
The Spirit instructs us to “remember,” “obey” and “repent” from our compromises and worldly standards. Our Savior alone must be exalted above everything else:

  • But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33) 
His Word alone must predominate, and when it does, He will take care of us far better than we can.

(Evidence of the depth of our compromise with the world:

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