Sunday, May 3, 2009

Galatians - Week 9 Has the Church gone too far?

In your opinion has the church gone too far into the culture trying to reach people?

If so, how?

"Be ye in the world but not of the world."

Most of us are familiar with this scripture and the church has struggled with this for two-thousand years asking questions like:

"How far can we go into the culture?"
"What can and can't we do?"
"What is and isn't permissible?"

In and effort to remain pure, untainted, and separate from the world and culture in general we have withdrawn, removed ourselves, and it manifests itself in the following ways:

"I don't go to those places, watch those movies, listen to that music, wear those clothes, live in that location, or play in that area..."

In our efforts to set ourselves apart to be "salt and light" we not only remove ourselves from culture but end up isolating ourselves from culture. We now have whole groups of people buying up large tracts of land, churning their own butter, and who doesn't like home churned butter?, home schooling their 15 kids, and stocking up on ammo and ramen noodles waiting for the rapture.

This isn't just isolation any longer as it moves more to marginalization as Christians become less and less of an influential power that creates and makes culture with a Biblical, gospel centered world view and what once was a desire to remain in the world but not of the world becomes total avoidance with the culture, certain people, certain technology. In our retreat, in our absence this void is filled with a godless, unbiblical, demonic, self-centered, world view and the church, the gospel, and Christians are all marginalized and seen as just another fanatical best to be tolerated and at word to be harassed, arrested, tortured, and executed.

The problem with the command..."Be ye in the world but not of the world" is that it is not a command! You will not find this in scripture, in fact we find just the opposite and I could give many examples (In the gospel of John alone Jesus tells us at least thirty-nine times that He was “sent” by the Father) but will give one directly from Jesus.

Mark 16:15 "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

Galatians 4:12

Paul was masterful at getting into the culture, connecting with people right where they were and sharing the gospel with them. 1 Corinthians 9:22 "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." Galatians 4:12 Paul says, "I beg you to become like me as I became like you." Please put away your "I'm holy" attitude, your self imposed separation, your "I don't go there, do that, associate with those types" mentality.

In doing so we ourselves become stumbling blocks for those who would otherwise come to Christ. Our outward attempts at holiness can lead us and others to believe that they must meet some moral code or checklist before coming to church, before hanging out with us, and before coming to Christ.

#1 - You and I are to use every means within the context of the culture in which we live to share the gospel.

Foreign missions would not be successful if they did not learn the language, dress, and work themselves into the culture and if they did not connect with people right where they are. Missions exist because worship and knowledge of Jesus do not and each of us live within the context of our own cultures within which there are many sub-cultures, each with their own language and dress.

1. Be informed about the culture in which you live.
2. Work yourself into that culture.
3. Connect with people right where they are to then connect them to Jesus.
4. Use the arts, media, and technology all to advance the gospel.

Example: 24 - watch an episode - redeem 24 for Jesus (Jack Bauer is a messiah figure, one man who alone can save the entire world)
Technology, blogs, facebook, twitter, MySpace, the Internet, texting, all can be used to advance the gospel.

Galatians 4:12 "Become like me....I became like you."
Don't be an obstacle, don't be self-righteous, and don’t force others to some "higher level of morality" before coming to Jesus. Instead use every means within the context of the culture in which you live to share the gospel.

Galatians 4:13-14
The funny thing is that Paul was not planning on stopping in Galatia, wasn't planning on preaching to these people or planting churches in Galatia. Yet because of a "bodily ailment" Paul was forced to stop.

Have you ever asked the question? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Here was Paul who had given his life to Jesus, denounced his old life, left his old ways, was preaching, teaching, planting churches and it is clear that God's hand was upon him. Paul was certainly filled with God's Holy Spirit as he wrote a majority of our New Testament Bible. You would think that out of all people Paul would have had some extra protection right? Yet time and time again Paul's life was struck with illness, near death, trials, persecution, hardships...why?

Wasn't Paul good? Why did God allow bad things to happen to Paul? Better yet...why does God allow bad things to happen to you? To me?

There are two ways we can look at God.
1. Through a microscope
2. Through a telescope

Both of these magnify but both in very different ways.

The microscope takes teeny tiny things and blows them up making them look bigger than they actually are where as the telescope takes large things very far away and brings them into focus so we can see them.

If you and I magnify God in a microscope we will see our life as the most important, see our problems as the most important and always ask the question....why me?

If you and I magnify God through a telescope we will see God and His glory as the most important, see our problems as they are, but instead of asking why me? You and I will ask for what purpose God?

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
There is no perfect time to share the gospel. In God's great sovereignty and in His mighty plans He allows things to happen, illness, tragedy, hurt, pain, suffering, even death that in the microscopic level grieve us and Him greatly. Yet in the scheme of eternity bring about His good will and glory.

How can you say this? How can you write this? I will give you just one example...Jesus.

Jesus, God's only son, perfect in every way, without sin...arrested, beaten, falsely accused, mocked, spit upon, the flesh ripped from His back as He was beaten, crucified, His blood poured out on a disgusting Roman cross, taking upon Himself our sins, dying in our place.

Don't you think that at that moment and at that time that all of heaven was horrified at what they saw? That God was grieved? That Jesus was desperate and alone? He cried out...Father, Abba, Daddy! Why have you forsaken me?"

Yet in the telescope this was not a mistake, not an accident, not an isolated event, but part of God's plan, a plan to redeem man to God, a plan to lift the curse off all creation, a plan to conquer sin, hell, and death for all eternity, and a plan to glorify God!

Romans 8:28 "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him..."

#2 We are to utilize every event in our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly as a means to share the gospel and to glorify God.

Galatians 4:15-18 Paul says being zealous is a good thing as long as it is for the right purpose and it is true. The problem is that there were some in the church who are worse than someone who just started a new diet (Galatians 4:17). Have you ever known someone who just started a new diet? Don't you just hate those people? The very night before they were partying like it was 1999, just chowing down at the Chinese buffet trying to eat their body weight in egg noodles and now? They are the Dr. Gupta of nutrition. You go to lunch with them and they kindly begin to point out to you how many calories/carbs/fat grams are in each bite you take while they happily munch on air and water.

They aren't concerned about your health! They want someone to suffer with them, to validate their decision and they want others to follow them...they really want control.

Paul is saying "These guys don't love you...aren't' concerned about you...they don't care where you spend eternity...if you know, worship, and serve God...all they care about is the here and now. These guys are fundamentalist which is a lie because they are no fun at all! All they want from you is for you to be religious, miserable, and to serve them. The truth be known they can't stand it that you have freedom in Jesus while they are still stuck in their religious prisons!"

Galatians 4:18-20

#3 Understand bringing someone to Christ often requires an investment of our lives.

Paul compares this to childbirth. Anyone ever witness the miracle of childbirth live or watch a video in health class? I would call it more like the "bloody, messy, fluid filled, screaming at your husband childbirth." The real miracle is that the wife ever wants to have more children and that the husband lives to see another day.

Paul says..."I have loved you from the day I heard about you, cared about you for months, worried over you, protected you, prayed over you, put your welfare above my own, put you above myself, your needs before my needs, undergone terrible pain, discomfort, hardships for you just to see you born into the kingdom of God."

Paul is comparing what the Galatians are doing to a pregnant mother, carrying her baby for nine months, undergoing all the pains of childbirth, without an epidural, delivering, getting to see the baby for a brief moment and then being told by the doctor she will have to begin the process all over again.

You and I must understand that our relationships are an investment and very often can take months, even years before seeing any real life change for both believers and unbelievers.

God has placed us in this place at this time for His purposes.

1. Use every means with the context of the culture of which you live to share the gospel.
2. Utilize every event in your life as a means to share the gospel and to glorify God.
3. Understand that very often bringing someone to Christ requires an investment of our lives.

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