MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.

Separation

September 10th, 2006 Viewed 2592 times, 2 so far today
This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. – II Corinthians 6:17-18

BricksSo begins one of the most difficult and complex topics that the church has faced since its founding. It is this topic that has divided churches over the color of carpet or issues of doctrine, and has created the multiple different “flavors” of Christianity we see in the world today. We all can agree that separation is important– God will do it ultimately when he separates the sheep from the goats (the saved from the unsaved), but how do we know who to separate from now, and what are the criteria?

Since there are multiple ways to begin this discussion, let’s start with the differences between the actors. There is Personal Separation and Ecclesiastical (or Church-based) Separation.

In Personal Separation, there are fewer guidelines and complexities, so I will cover them in short order. There’s a command in II John that if someone comes to your house and does not bring the gospel of Christ, then you are not to let him in the door, because that makes you a partaker in his evil deeds. Why? Because you will be seen not as taking a stand against the person’s beliefs (they are probably well known). If you feel the desire to share the gospel or try to reach them, choose a neutral place where you can talk with them.

Also, you are to choose your friends wisely. There are many passages that talk about the effect someone has on a friend and vice versa. However, the Holy Spirit saw fit to make sure that we realize that we are in the world and not of it and that we are to be witnesses. If we were to take a position of separation from all sin, we would not be able to witness. Christ went to those that needed Him, but He never went somewhere that would have been equated with sin.

He went to Zacceus’ house– a sinner, publican, but the house was not necessarily associated with sin. Mary Magdelen poured ointment on his feet and head, but again the person was a sinner, not the location. You’ll never find Jesus in the New Testament going into a idol’s temple. You’ll never see Him visiting a house of prostitution (he doesn’t even go to the women at the well’s house, maybe for the association with that house?). We too need to make sure that the places that we go and who we invite in do not have something attached to them that people would get the wrong impression.

When we get to Church-based separation is where things get difficult.

Love or Holiness

September 11th, 2006 Viewed 2978 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

Love GodIf you were to ask a random person to describe God some would tell you about where they believe He is (“The Man Upstairs”) some would tell you that He doesn’t exist, but I believe a majority of people would tell you something about God being love. And they would be correct, since 1 John 4:8 states plainly- “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

A loving God is something with which many can relate. They have or know of loving parents. They have love for a spouse, children or a dog, and it is easy to picture a loving God because, in this mindset, a loving God (much like Grandpa) doesn’t demand anything from us– and may shower us with gifts from time to time. Hence the whole line of thought “How can a loving God do XYZ?” (For you mathematicians out there, substitute XYZ with any tragedy and you’ve solved the equation.)

The interesting thing is that when God decides to identify Himself– or angels praise an attribute– they choose to praise something else entirely. They praise God’s holiness. When the Lord appeared in the temple to Isaiah– high and lifted up– it wasn’t “Love, Love, Love” that the angels cried out but “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Same thing in the book of Revelation around the throne of God.

In fact, it was God’s holiness that demanded Christ die for our sins. True, Christ came in love, but He came because sin demanded a sacrifice. Yes, if you look throughout the Bible you will find that God exhibits and is called on for His holiness many times. You will see it in how He dealt with Adam and Eve– one sin and they were out of the garden. How He dealt with Noah and the Flood– the whole Earth except for eight people destroyed. (In those days, you could have a get together at a house and say that the you truly had the whole world over! And the grandkids– the cutest in the world… I’ll stop now.)

On down the line you see God demonstrating holiness and justice. He did demonstrate love, mercy and compassion (part of the name of God said before Moses) but when He chose an attribute to express Himself to His people, it was His holiness.

So what does that mean to us?

Church Cliques

September 12th, 2006 Viewed 9697 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

Man AloneI’m sure it has happened to us at one time or another. Because of who we are, what we wore or something we have said we have found ourselves on the outside looking in. I’m not totally sure how cliques form. It could be our unending desire to find meaning in life by who our friends are. It could be a desire for companionship. It could be because we do not like change. For whatever reason, we find groups of people and others find and establish other groups and we’re defined by them and it’s hard to get into them once they are formed.

All that to say, cliques tend to also be a place where those that are in tend to look down on those who are not, and the new people seldom get recognized. This is a cultural (in someways high school-ian) invention that has found its way into our churches. Of all places, our churches should be places where– regardless of your passion to scrapbook and another’s to blog– we should be able to have a lot to talk about and share because of our mutual passion of following after God.

The problem is, the minor things all too often take the place of the major ones.

Wearing the Sunday Best

September 13th, 2006 Viewed 2570 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

German SistersWe’ve discussed before what type of clothing should be worn to church, so that is not necessarily what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about how the culture has affected how we come to church as a person– outwardly and inwardly.

First let’s look at how we come to church outwardly. Here I will briefly touch on what we’ve talked about before, mainly, how we prepare for church means a lot about what is going on inside of us. Personally, I feel that if I’m not giving God at least the respect as far as in how I dress as I would an employer then God really must not have that much of an effect on me. This is separate from the issue of whether women should wear head coverings, because it relates to the amount of effort I put into my external appearance for God.

Legalism

September 14th, 2006 Viewed 1863 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

GavelI often wondered if the Christian life would be a whole lot easier if God would just give us direction for everything that we were to do. If we could pray and receive an e-mail telling us exactly what to do, where to go, who to meet, etc. (the reasoning goes) then it would be a whole lot easier to obey Him and we wouldn’t wonder if we were doing the right or wrong thing.

I think this is legalism’s appeal. Throughout the centuries many religions have formed that have told people exactly what they must and must not do. Roman Catholics have requirements about church attendance, prayer beads, and other traditions and formalism that tells them exactly what they must do. In tribal communities there are sacrifices to gods that must be done in certain ways. Jehovah Witnesses have a certain number of hours that they must be reaching out to get more converts.

In some ways, Fundamental/Evangelical Christianity is one of the less stringent forms of Christianity, and I believe that this is why it has a tendency to become legalistic.

Spiritual Gifts

September 15th, 2006 Viewed 3552 times, 1 so far today
This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Cultural Invasion

The issue of Spiritual Gifts is one that divides Christianity multiple ways because of what people expect from a church because of their culture.

To begin any discussion of Spiritual gifts requires me to define what I’m talking about.  I believe that the Bible clearly speaks to the concept that each believer, upon salvation, is given a number of gifts (as few as one, but can be many) of which they are to use to edify the church.  Different believers are given different gifts that complement each other in the local assembly.  We can see this in Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians were Paul says that the gifts are complementary and necessary.

Problems come into play because of the nature of the gifts, so I guess I should list what the gifts are/were.  Gifts of the spirit differ from fruit of the spirit– they usually had an action and purpose.  They include speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy, exhorting, teaching, administration, helps, hospitality, and others.  The ones that are dividing the church are the first three.

In order to understand the debate that’s swirling, you need to understand the appeal and importance.  In the book of Acts, chapter 9, we see that tongues was used as a marker– or sign– gift to demonstrate that a Gentile named Cornelius was, in fact, a Christian.  Up until this point, Peter believed that only Jews could be saved, and God was making a point.

What were tongues?  Contrary to my good friend Stephen, I don’t believe that tongues are not foreign languages.  I believe that there were actually two forms of tongues.  One of my reasons for believing this is that in Acts 2 where the gift was first present there were many people gathered and they all heard what was being said in their native tongue.  The other supporting reference is in I Corinthians 13 where Paul clearly delineates that he speaks in the tongues of men and angels.  Granted that the tongues of men could be his own native tongue, but highly unlikely given the plural tongues.

However, I believe that this was a sign gift that expired.  If you look at the rest of the I Corinthians passage you see the statement that tongues would cease.  I believe that God used tongues at the beginning of the church to fulfill a prophecy in Joel, to give His stamp of approval on the Apostles, and to get the church up and running.  I don’t believe that it is in widespread use now.

MInTheGap

Standing in the Gap in a Society that's Warring with God.