Q'eqchi woman - Peten, Guatemala

Life is a mission’s trip

The fastest way for me to remember how much Spanish I actually know is to drop me off somewhere in some Spanish-speaking country and leave me there alone for a week. By the end of the week, I’ll be practically conversant. But if you were to ask me something in Spanish just off the cuff now? Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

It’s so easy to adopt the culture of the world you live in. Well, maybe easy isn’t the right word, but the longer you live in a different culture than the one you were born in, the easier I think it becomes to fit in. In some cases, that’s what needs to happen, especially with missionaries who leave America and go to foreign lands. The best thing they can do is to leave American culture in America because other countries don’t need us; they need Christ. America can’t take care of America, so why should a missionary take anything American with them to another country? America needs Christ, just like everyone else. So in that case, forsaking the culture you were born into is a good idea, within reason, of course.

But what if the culture you’re moving into rejects God completely? So how do you live in it without following it? How do you eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds?

Q'eqchi woman - Peten, Guatemala

Q’eqchi woman – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Colossians 2:8.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

The verse this morning caught my eye because I don’t think of philosophies as something that can capture you. But they do. The world and people in the world who have good intentions try to rationalize their existence, try to make sense of things that can’t make sense, and the result is a belief system without hope and without purpose. Because the world clings to the idea that there is no God — or if there is a God, He doesn’t care.

That’s what they believe. So that’s how they live. And once you step into that sort of culture, once you begin to adopt those kinds of precepts in your life, they become like a prison. You’d think embracing the concept that you have no rules would be freeing. But that’s not the case. Living a life with no rules just makes you a slave to sin.

I’ve been on many mission’s trips, as a high school student and as an adult. And part of me sort of feels like life is one big mission’s trip. After all, this world isn’t our home. We all may have been born here, but we were born again in the culture of Heaven. That’s our real home. That’s where our family is. So every day we live down here is a mission’s experience where we are supposed to tell others about Christ, to support each other as we go through life and to portray an example of who Christ really is.

As an American, I can tell you that the culture I live in right now isn’t healthy. Granted, there are some aspects that are good, the concept of freedom and free will and the idea of personal responsibility, but those aspects of American culture are slowly disappearing. American culture in the 21st century isn’t something any Christian should aspire to adopt. How can you exist in this culture and stay on target? How can we live here and keep believing in the things that matter when all the things that don’t matter scream so loud it’s hard to hear anything else?

The key is in the verse. Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense comes from the world. And if it comes from the world, it will be damaging. So stay away from them. Don’t let them into your life. Instead, know what Christ says. Know how Christ lived. Know His perspective on life. And adopt that.

It sounds easy. But it’s not.

We are surrounded every moment by faith system of our world. And while we are surrounded by them constantly — on television and radio and the internet and even our closest friends — it’s easy to adopt their perspective. But the moment you agree to see things their way, you’re opening the door to let the culture take over.

I blogged yesterday about a filter verse we should run our thoughts through; that verse is sufficient for today too. Don’t just switch off your brain and accept everything you hear on television or on the radio or on the internet. Don’t just accept everything you hear at church. Don’t just accept everything your good Christian friends tell you.

If you belong to Christ, this world isn’t our home. So this culture isn’t our home either. Question everything. And if the answers contradict Scripture, if the answers you find go against what Christ has said, don’t believe it. And if you can’t understand it, trust God to work it out.

Rusted chain on the schoolhouse door - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Ignorance of God is a luxury none of us can afford.

Who is God? Who is Jesus? How do we answer questions like that? If people demand to know what we believe, are we able to tell them? I blogged about our response to people who ask us about our faith last week, but it’s one thing to speak harshly to people who don’t believe; it’s something completely different to be unable to answer at all.

Rusted chain on the schoolhouse door - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Rusted chain on the schoolhouse door – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 15:34.

Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.

One thing you need to know about the Book of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote it to a church. Granted, as a church, they were having some major issues. But they were still a church. They believed the truth. Paul himself had brought the Gospel to them. So how can he get off saying that they don’t even know God?

This is another instance where I like to go to other translations just to make sure I’m understanding it right.

1 Corinthians 15:34 (Amplified Version)

Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God’s presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame.

I love the Amplified Version just because it gets into so much word detail that other translations avoid. Yes, Paul is saying that the people of the Church of Corinth need to think carefully about what’s right, but according to the Amplified Version, they need to come back to their right minds. Which means at one point, they were thinking clearly.

This is important to me because if the Church of Corinth, one of the first churches, can stumble and get all confused, it can happen to any church, anywhere, anytime. And we don’t have a Paul around to write us personalized letters telling us how screwed up we’ve gotten.

The Church of Corinth let a lot of bad stuff in. They were heavily influenced by the culture they were living in, and they allowed what should have been holy to be corrupted into rituals that meant nothing. Basically, they were flipping God off and daring Him to do something about it.

Sadly, believers now aren’t much different. We say we believe the truth. We say we follow Christ. We say the Bible is important. But when you get right down into the nitty-gritty of our lives, all of that “religious stuff” takes second chair to the pressures of the everyday. And after all, Jesus said we’re supposed to be in the world, and we need to relevant. Right? So what’s wrong with bending to society a little? What’s wrong with living together before we get married? What’s wrong with writing our kids off because all kids misbehave? What’s wrong with sacrificing our relationship with God because there’s something else we’d rather spend our time on?

It’s not like we’ll go to hell for it.

No, we won’t. But what is the point of being a Christian if you refuse to know God? Fire insurance? You just accept Christ so that you won’t suffer in hell for eternity and then you live your life however makes you feel good? I guess you can do that. But if you are, you’re missing the point.

I know this is harsher than I normally like to be, but I was reading and this verse jumped out at me. I just know so many people who say they follow Christ … but they really follow the world. They follow the trends and the culture. They only care about what makes them happy. And I think it’s time that those of us who truly believe in Christ and who truly follow Him day-to-day, need to stop.

We need to wake up, Christians. We need to hold our brothers and sisters accountable to what they say they believe, and we need to stop making excuses for their obvious sin. I’m bad at that. I hate confrontation, and I hate telling anyone that they’re wrong. But sin is wrong. And it’s not me being judgmental; it’s me warning them that if they don’t stop what they’re doing, their actions will eventually catch up with them. And if they go on sinning and still claim to follow Christ, what kind of damage are they doing?

So let’s start thinking clearly. Let’s stop willfully choosing to sin, no matter if it makes us feel good or not. And let’s not refuse to know God because if you don’t want to know God, why do you want to be a Christian? What do you think it’s about? And what exactly do you think eternity is going to be like?

You believers who think this world is all there is are in for a nasty surprise when you get to heaven. Yes, you’ll be in heaven, and, yes, you’ll have escaped the flames of hell. But then you’ll understand that the life we have on Earth isn’t about getting everything we want and living so that our days are full of pleasure. Life on Earth is a chance to share Christ with other people, to bring as many people as we can with us. Life on Earth is a chance to build a relationship with God before we go home. And if you spend these few short years on Earth doing nothing but accumulating treasures that will eventually be destroyed, when you get home, you’ll have nothing.

I love the Message paraphrase. Many times it actually nails the Greek, at least in context, better than any other translation.  I think it’s well said.

1 Corinthians 15:34 (The Message)

Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts. Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these. Aren’t you embarrassed that you’ve let this kind of thing go on as long as you have?

Good question.