Today, we begin this lesson with a video of high praise and joy to celebrate our gift of Eternal Life, and what a joy this really is. I encourage you to go back and study lesson one which will help you to understand why we are where we are in providing you with this video. Now sit back and enjoy because I know very shortly you are going to be on your feet praising and celebrating what God has blessed you with.
Relationships and Culture
Christianity is often thought of as a “Western” religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, and so were all of his followers. Much of the Bible actually takes place in Africa, some in modern Iraq, and some in modern Iran. Christianity is a God religion.
We are all born into a culture of some kind. None of us can help being deeply influenced by the values and priorities of the culture we are born into. When we accept Christ, those values must also be examined by the light of Scripture. That which is out of line with Scripture must be left behind and reformed, even if it causes a rift with those in our culture. The apostles were all dis-fellowshipped and persecuted by their Jewish brothers and sisters. The Greeks and Romans were murdered before cheering crowds of their own culture. Our first identification must no longer be with our culture or heritage, but it must be with the body of Christ. Jesus Himself had to face this dilemma in a very personal way:
They said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And heanswered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:32-35)
Family roots are where we learn and derive our cultural identity yet, Jesus declares that he will identify himself with, and fellowship with “whoever does the will of God.” After Jesus is raised from the dead this idea becomes even clearer:
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven… Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Act 2:5,9-11).
People from every possible background were coming under a single banner. Instead of identifying first with their heritage, they identified first with the people of God. This does not invalidate our heritage. On the contrary, each of us through our background brings something special to the body of Christ, especially when we have the courage to move outside of our cultural comfort zones. The beauty of people from all walks of life and backgrounds worshiping their creator on equal footing is a unique of the Body of Christ.
For many, this is one of the hardest kinds of separation. Giving God priority over every aspect of your cultural identity and values may cause some to see you as a traitor. In some Islamic cultures it could get you killed. Among immigrants, sometimes simply by not attending the ethnic church one may be considered no longer even a member of that ethnic group! Stand firm; this is a trick of the devil to slow you down. Even if they accuse you of losing your cultural identity, you can know in your heart that you are not losing it, but redeeming it in Christ. As we saw in Acts, Jesus wants and loves a group of worshipers from every kind of background.
Pleasures of this world.
Many people mistakenly believe that God is against pleasure. In fact it was God who created pleasure. The problem is that because of our fallen nature, many of the things that we naturally desire are not good for us and those around us. Since they are destructive, the devil tries everything possible to lure, tempt and supercharge our interest in them.
Sexual activity outside of marriage is one of the biggest temptations. It does not matterif it is cheating on your spouse, or if you have never been married. It does not matter if itis between someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. God has uniquely designed man and woman for one another and for sex to be part of a lifelong bonding relationship. When we violate this design, all kinds of unintended negative consequences result.
Alcohol and substance abuse is another area of temptation. Because the Bible does not Devote much attention to these areas, people often rationalize it. It is destructive to your Physical body, your emotional health, and it is costly!
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
There are many other ways that people are lured away by the world. Many of them are not innately wrong, but if done in large proportion they have a tendency to lead you away from the things of God and toward the things of the world. This includes things like computer games, television, hobbies, and news reading. We find ourselves with no passion for God because we are full of the interests, and distractions of the world. If something like this keeps you from God or consumes a lot of your time, challenge yourself by laying it down for a season, and seeking God instead. You may find like I did that, you are much happier without it altogether.
We should neither be making long lists of “dos” and “don’ts” that are not in the Bible, nor making excuses for compromise. The soul that is in love with God desires to be as close to Him as possible, and seeks the habits that will promote that.
The ideas of the world
While most people recognize that turning to God will have an impact on relationships and personal purity, coming into the Kingdom of God also addresses the ideologies that we align ourselves with. This is not about political affiliation, but about submission to God’s way of thinking. For some people this is a minor area of concerns, and for others it is a major struggle.
Being a Christian means acknowledging God as the supreme creator. The entire basis of the world’s thinking relies on evolution, which involves chance, mutation and death over incredibly long periods of time. God did not create through chance, mutation or death. He created spontaneously and out of nothing. The modern scientific academy does not accept this, not because of the evidence, but because if one wants to reject God, they need a system to believe in which deletes His influence. In fact, in many areas, there is a stunning lack of evidence for evolution. If evolution is removed people come face to face with a creator, and that means having to face His claims on their life and behavior.
Another area where the God’s values come in direct conflict with the world is the infinitely high value He places on life. Not only did He create us, He sent His son to die to save us. The devaluation and ultimate destruction of life is one of the main agendas of the enemy. He came “only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). This devaluation of life is seen in many areas. Slavery and human trafficking is one of the most horrible.
Killing a baby before it is born, known as “abortion,” is another. Some are more subtle. Killing or “euthanizing” the elderly, or using the stem cells from aborted babies, or working people to death in sweat shops are other ways that the devil devalues human life. Being a Christian means placing the same value for life that God himself places on it from start to finish. Sometimes this leads to hard moral choices, but those choices must begin by placing the same esteem for human life that God does.
There are many other deceptive philosophies which can ensnare us, but the key is that we submit them to the Word of God. The Bible speaks directly to the roots of every philosophical or political system ever created. Being submitted to God means submitting our ideologies too and weighing them against what God teaches us in the Scripture.
We hope that you are now truly experiencing and celebrating your joy of eternity. God gave this to you and no one can ever take it away from you. We minister to you from a position of peace, power, purpose and prosperity. I remain your brother in Christ, Pastor Davis/Master Teacher.