Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I lift you before the Father, that you may stand strong as you walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. I pray that we will always seek to live a life that glorifies Christ and not ourselves. I pray that you will have courage to face the challenges and difficulties created by living in a fallen world as we eagerly wait for our home in heaven with Christ.
Yet as I look around me, I am fearful. I am afraid for Christ’s Church and her future. I am afraid that we, God’s people, are allowing the world to influence us instead of being light in the world. Remember what the Apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:7-17 ESV). But I am afraid we have forgotten.
- We have forgotten to be light that shines brightly in a world of darkness.
- We have forgotten to let that light illuminate (expose) objects of darkness that cause us to stumble.
- We have forgotten to walk carefully.
- We have forgotten to stay awake; instead, we have fallen asleep on the job.
As I travel, I see Christians of all ages living no different from the world. Please, please understand that I find myself fighting this battle in my own life. I know there are sacrifices that I should make; sacrifices I fight against making. I find myself doing the very things I know I should not do. I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of God. I ask for prayers of strength and resolve to let go of these things.
Often, I witness Christians talking like the world. I see that we choose the same entertainment as the world. I notice that we are as distracted by sports as the next person. I cannot help but see that we dress like the world. Our marriages even reflect the relationships of the world more than we reflect the bride of Christ. Observers of Christianity are correct if they state that we are not much different from our neighbors.
How? How are we like the world? I think there are a number of specific ways we reflect the world. Let me warn you that this will not be easy to read. Some will be mad at what I say. Some will call me prudish (the word prudish is derived from prudence which carries the idea of wisdom, thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment), old-fashioned, or out-of-touch. My prayer is that we all will take what I say to heart and begin to make changes where needed in our individual and family lives as well as in our church families.
We talk like the world when we use language that is coarse, language we used to call “swearing” or “cussing.” We talk like the world when we abbreviate “Oh my God” to “OMG!” as well as using several other texting abbreviations. We talk like the world when we put others down for their race or ethnicity. We are using the world’s language when we compare ourselves to others saying where we live, work, and where we or our children go to school is superior to others. What happened to following Paul’s admonition of using language that builds up? “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32, ESV). We need to stop talking like the world, we need to cease glorifying ourselves instead of talking in a way that glorifies Christ and His people.
We choose the same entertainment by the movies we attend or watch at home. We choose the same books to read and listen to the same music. When we choose our entertainment without reflection or discernment concerning the content, we are supporting media that is full of the language we should avoid and is full of “soft” pornographic material. Movies and television are replete with shows that not only accept but also promote and glorify sexual immorality. Books and music do the same. How can we say we are against these things and still support them with our time and money? This is one area that I know I need to improve in. I covet your prayers and encouragement to do so.
In the early Twenty-first Century, sports rule the day. Both spectator and participation sports consume much of our time and money, becoming the drug of choice for most people. When we skip fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters in Christ to attend or watch a sporting event, we are demonstrating to others that that sport is our god. When our children’s participation in sports is greater than their participation in Christ, we are teaching them to worship this god of sports. Sadly, I have had parents tell me that they keep their child in sports to the neglect of church events, because statistics suggest that sports keep kids out of trouble. I want to scream, “SO DOES BEING A CHRISTIAN!” We can, we must choose Christ over sports.
An area of great concern for Christians is modesty in the way we dress. My working definition of modest dress is attire that does not draw unnecessary attention to you or your body. My friends, we are dressing like the world and are immodest in the process. Our choices in clothing are attracting attention to us and not pointing people to glorify the God who made us. This is immodesty in action. Men, when we wear our shorts that go up our thigh it is immodest. When we wear our trousers so low that our gluteus maximus shows (no one want to see that) we are bringing attention to us. When we go shirtless or wear skin tight shirts to show our gym physique, we are seeking our own glory not the glory of God. This is immodesty in action. Women, when you wear uncovered form-fitting leggings, yoga pants, or skin-tight pants you are bringing attention to your body and not dressing in a way that glorifies God. The same goes for shorts with long t-shirts leading men and other women to wonder if you have on anything other than that t-shirt. Wearing excessively tight or low-cut blouses that draw attention to your chest is self-glorification and not glorifying the Creator. This is immodesty in action. Brothers and sisters, such immodesty is not the way of Christ. We can do better.
Please listen as I challenge us in one more area. I plead with each of us to reflect on the words of Christ and of the Apostle Paul:
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32 ESV)
And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:2-12 ESV)
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. . . . To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 10-11 ESV)
Divorce is a cancer in the Church. Multiple marriages are a danger to our eternity. Scripture gives only two reasons to remarry 1) sexual immorality on the part of your spouse and 2) the death of your spouse. Any other reason for remarriage is not scriptural and is outside of God’s plan for marriage. Split homes are not only a danger to society but are also more and more a threat to God’s people. We must live different from the world.
Yet, I see something positive in the church today, a positive that was missing in my youth. To say this in one word: “GRACE.” We learned to understand our own shortcomings, our own sins, and our own individual reliance on God’s grace through Christ. We teach more and more that any righteousness we have is not our own, but is Christ’s gift to us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. . . and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God that depends on faith –” (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9 ESV). Knowing this we extend more grace and patience to others and forgive their past and their failings calling them alongside us as we strive to be holy as the One who calls is us holy.
May we, with the courage that comes in Christ as we walk by the Spirit, strive to live a life worthy of the One who gave his life for us.
With Love in Christ,