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Church and Culture #2: In The World Not Of It

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Church and Culture  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  55:43
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In The World Not Of It

Last Week I spent some time talking about the concept of being in the world and not of it.
and we all know that the Bible… even Jesus himself prayed that we should be “IN THE WORLD” but not “OF THE WORLD”
and we take our cues from Christs Prayer for his disciples in John 17 and because we’ve reduced this passage into one pithy phrase. we’ve miss understood what Jesus is actually praying.
The whole passage goes something like this:
John 17:14–19 NKJV
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
So what is Jesus really praying here… Is He praying that we wants us to cut ourselves off from the world that we are in? creating a small cloister of Christians that technically live in the world, but are so separated from in that they cannot be tainted from it?
Was he praying that we would create our happy holy huddle, that keeps the world out?
Over the next few weeks we’re going to explore the concept of the Church and Culture. were going to talk about what the Bible really is asking us and instructing us when it comes to the world and culture. and I hope that by the end some of you will come out with a new understanding of culture as it relates to church.
So lets look at Jesus’ prayer and then let’s look at the church in relation to world culture.

“I have given them your world” - John 17:14a

Starting in Vs 14 he starts of by saying (and remember this is Jesus praying to God) That he has “given them (us) your world”
So thing number one we have to remember
This Globe
This continent
This country, Province, City
that we live in. every blade of grass, every building
The governments and the people
Everything BELONGS TO GOD!
and this is an important thing to note because it puts us in a very specific position. our job is not be be separated from HIS world, because that would be like saying that one should be separated from their own house.
this things that we live on. that God created Way back in Genesis 1. Still belongs to him.
and Jesus says I have GIVEN them your world. that is He has given US HIS world. that puts us in the role of a custodian or caretaker… We are here to take care of HIS world not to hide from it… It is ours as our gift and inheritance, to care for and improve.
So we need to put this false concept of being separated from the world right out of our minds… it’s not what God wants… though it may be what someone else wants....
So in that Context how are we to understand when Jesus says. that ...”the world has hated them because they were not of the world, just as I am not of the world” - John 17:14b
Obviously If we have been given something then is makes no sense that we should then be separated from that thing. but in the same way my ownership or care for a thing does not make me the same as that thing. In fact the fact that we are called to care for and own this thing places us above and not within…
People hated Jesus not because he separated himself from the world he lived in, because for sure that wasn’t the case… but instead he was so hated because he constantly placed himself ABOVE the concerns of the day. Above the Culture, and above the world he was in. He constantly pointed to a better way, and that is what people hated about his the most… because it wasn’t their way....
Bu then look at the people who hated Jesus the most… was it those who were IN the world… or was it those who already saw themselves as above it? was he harassed more by the woman at the well or by the pharisees?
and i’m starting off at this point because I want to get you out of this mind set that as Christians we need to be hiding from the world. or separated from it.
There is nowhere in the Bible that says we shouldn’t go to parties, or bars, or be out IN the world. there is nothing that says we shouldn’t watch movies or listen to music…
in fact I’m certain that when Jesus was with Zachaeus the finest modern music of the day was probably being played. and you notice there is no talk ANYWHERE in the Bible about how we shouldn’t not be within ear shot of certain music or eye range of certain movies (or theater back in the bible’s day)
instead Jesus says in Vs 15 that “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” -John 17:15
So here we are… stuck in the World because jesus prayed that God wouldn’t take us out of this sinful, dirty, fested world. This world that simply is getting worse and worse everyday!
this world where more and more people are starving everyday!
This world where more people are deing from war than ever before
Where Crime is skyrocketing.....
Am I making a point here???
OK… well then let me make one now

Christians have become victims of culture rather than masters of it.

and thats a sad thing because we used to be masters of culture.
200 years ago. the finest Hospitals were Christian Hospitals.
The finest Schools, where Christian schools
The Finest colleges and universities wer Christian ones
If you wanted to take in theatre or music it was likely to be Christian in nature and it was the BEST the world had to offer....
and I would argue that everytime Christians get our of their shells and take ahold of and embrace culture Christianity grows....
When we do the opposite and take the stance of being seperated from the world… Christianity shrinks.
I know that many don’t believe me… so let me start by going to the Bible for proof.
Let’s look at Paul for our example this time around.... and look at what he did in Acts 17:16-34
Acts 17:16–34 NKJV
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

To The Unknown God

Poeple are looking for God.... and I’ve said this before.
We all have a empy place in our spirit that only God can fill… and people out there are looking for ways of filling it… they are literally looking for the Unknown God.
Culture (media, and the like) tell them that Alcohol will fill that void…
It tells them that various sexual orientations will fill that void.
It tells them that virtually anything that feels good can fill that void.
and so people make Alcohol their god, and it controls them and they feel good when they sacrifies to that god… and when they do not, their god punishes them
and so the make… sports their god. and when their team is winning theyr god is smiling on them… when when their team doesnt....well...
or they make a god out of their sexual orientation. it becomes their religion, and often because someone hurt them ones. they look to gain love in all the wrong places.
and this is EXACTLY the same culture the Paul found himself in.
You want to talk abotu sports???? lets talk about grecco roman sports....
You want to talk about contending with other religions… lets talk about the stoic. the Epicureans, the Jews and then there were the followers of a myriad of Greek and roman gods:
Zeus/Jupiter King of Gods
Hera/Juno Goddess of Marriage
Poseidon/Neptune God of the Sea
Cronos/Saturn Youngest son of Uranus, Father of Zeus
Aphrodite/Venus Goddess of Love
Hades/Pluto God of the Underworld
Hephaistos/Vulcan God of the Forge
Demeter/Ceres Goddess of the Harvest
Apollo God of Music and Medicine
Athena/Minerva Goddess of Wisdom
Artemis/Diana Goddess of the Hunt
Ares/Mars God of War
Hermes/Mercury Messenger of the Gods
Dionysus/Bacchus God of Wine
Persephone Goddess of Underworld
Eros/Cupid God of Love
Gaia/Goddess of Earth...
I could go on
Alcohol was comon place far more than it is today.
There was very little that Paul didn’t have to face culturally. and we see in the passage that instead of running from the culture. rather than hiding or seperating himself from it. Paul stepped RIGHT INTO the culture of the day and shown the light to Jesus through it all.
The Unknown God was the romans way of making sure the didn’t miss a God and therefore encure theirs wrath...
And then there were the houshold Gods! (I’m not going to go into that)
My point is that if you thought that Paul was living in some sort of ideal Christian and cultural paradise. think again!
and yet he did not shy away from the culture of the day. he embraced it and in fact used it to his advantage.
WE see him time and again referenceing the culture of the day in order to make the case for Christ.
He used their search for God to introduce them to the one true one… and we know that this time of Paul was a time of great growth in Christianity.

Christianity and Pagans

As Christianity grew out of the middle east. it came on a major stumbling block. The pagans of Europe!
this was another time when Christianity had to choose between running for culture or embracing and using it.
Have you ever wondered why we have so many Christian holidays?
Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?
Why do we celebrate St. Valentines Day?
What about Halloween and All Saints Days (november 1st)
Each one of these is an example of Chritianity becoming a master of culture rather than the other way around.
Jesus Christ wasn’t born on December 25th… sorry. in fact Jesus was most likely born in september based on the fact that the shepherd were watching their flocks at night (somethig they wouldn’t have done in winter)... and being 6 months younger than John the baptist who was likely born somewhere in march....
so why is Christmas Christmas? well a long time ago the hight of pagan worship was the winter solstice where the sun in “reborn”… When Christians start rolling in they had a choice… fight the culture of the day or master it!
They chose to master it and since they didn’t really know when Jesus was born desided that December 25th (the winter solstice) would be a celebration of Jesus’ Birth… They stood in the midst of the culture they were in and did what Jesus wanted us to do. Take control of the culture of the day and use it to point the way to Jesus.
But the reverse can also be true.... when we ceace to be masters of culture. instead of pointing the way to Jesus the things ths WE do become suberted.
Is halloween a pagan holiday? NOPE sorry...
As christianity grew the celebration and honouring of saints grew as well. All Saints Day or All Hallows Day was created to honour all the saints that didn’t have their own “day”. the night before All Hallows Day.... All Hallows Eve. became Halloween. and up until the last century was a purely Christian day… so what happened?
well we stopped being master of culture and culture started taking over.. and suddenly we stopped focusing on the saints and started focusing on Candy.

It’s time to become the masters of culture again!

Paul Was a master of Culture. he was able to minister to any person, any place any time because he learned early that Culture does not effect God’s truth… he knew that it was OK for him to change modeso that he could reach differnt people groups with the gosple… that why he wrote: 1 Cor 9:20-23
1 Corinthians 9:20–23 NKJV
and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Can you imagine what Paul is saying?
When he was with the jews. he followed their customs and traditions… a culture that he was familiar with… he did things their way so that when he talked about Christ they would listen to him
When we has with the gentiles (those not under the law) he changed. he changed his speach his dress, his manner. he acted like they act. so that when we spoke about Christ to them they would listen as if listening to one of their own...
could you imagine if Paul had simply said.: NO this is my culture! I take saturdays off. I will absolutly not eat bacon with you. and when I’m going to eat bread I’ll take an extra few minutes to wash my hands the jewish way. I iwll wear my robes as I am accustomed to as I am a pharissee. They would have look at him like he was simply another on of the crazies that often lined the streets...
And in the same measure could you imaging if Paul had simply said. hey, I’m a follower of Christ that means freedom to hey my jewish friends. lets party! lets do brunch. I’m making bacon (it is so good!) they would have branded him as a heritic and possible even stoned him… it wouldn’t work!
and as we laugh at how absurd that would be. think of it… we are doing the exact same thing today.
we say This is my culture and It must be this way.
We take our pre-conceptions of what is respect, and what is decent and we look at these people and say. how disrespectful we will never be like them!
I was told ones that kids today are so rude and as as an example this person told me that she teaches her children that if it’s an adult you must say good morning or evening.... and to not to was just disrespectful
and in her particular culture that is perfectly acceptable… but here not saying good morning or even or whatever isn’t a sign of disrespect… in fact most adults wouldn’t even expect it.
My the culture of my father it would be 100% expected that the front seat of my car would go to my parents or my grandmother in law… and if he saw that my grandmother in law was sitting in the back seat I would be chastized roundly.
See these things are cultural and yet we Impose them on where we are and then balk at why this other culture doesn’t think and act the way we do!
And Can I be honest? its this kind of cultural clash that is damaging so many churches.
Churches who decided that Hyms are the way to go and anyone who comes in and dares to suggest something different is called unfaithful. they will say things like “it’s not really church unless you sing hymns”
Some churches like a preacher who yells and shouts and ends every sentance with the letter “a” and if someone comes with a quiet demeanor they say “that speaker was uninspired...”
Or churches who have thier exact style of service, and if it changes… oh boy look out!
and do you know who looses in the culture war?
Well you would think I would say the young people the youth the children… I should right now be telling you about how the young people are loosing out when we dig our heals in about things that are not Biblical but cultural… and don’t get me wrong. they are.
All throughout All Nations virtually every branch has a large discrepancy between the childrens ministries and the youth ministry and just as large a discrepancy between the the numbers of youth staying into adulthood… and the reasons for this aren’t biblical.
your youth are not rejecting God, they are not rejecting religion.... they are not running away from descipleship, or spiritual accountability.
They arn’t even really running AWAY from your culture
What’s happening is this:

Your children are running towards their own culture!

You children do not belong to your culture. sorry but it’s true. and there is nothing that you can do about that.
There is not training, no yelling, no fustrated lectures that are going to bring your children into your culture.
now don’t get me wrong they will conform to your wishes. they will eat with their right hand and they will bendlow with the best of them. and so long as they reside under your roof, they will pay the part.
but then when they are with their friends the will conform to their culture
when they move out they will eat burgers and fries rather than foo foo and peanut soup.
and they will move to churches that get THEIR Culture
see Christianity is not shinking per say… there are more people than ever who call themselves Christian or at least spiritual… but they are flocking to places that understand THEIR culture and cater to it
That doesn’t mean that they have thrown the Bible out the window for sure not. but they way they do Christianity more closely represents their lifestlye.... and that’s not a bad thing.
So the question that remains tonight is… what are we going to do?
are we going to be like the pharisees who had only 1 way of doing things who stuck to their culture and traditions so strongly that they eventually sent extinct...
Or are we going to learn to be like Paul
Will we, like him. learn to put aside our own cultures so that we can reach out to people in the culture that we are in?
Will be like paul be able to say. when we were in Ghana we became like the Ghanaian
When we were in the Philippines we became like the Philippinos
and when we were in Canada, WE chose to be come like the Canadians
so that by doing so we might reach some....
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