set apart people

For King or Culture?

We are to be a set-apart people group. A colony of heaven on earth. Citizens of an upside-down kingdom. The church. 

If “church” means “ekklesia”, and “ekklesia” means a gathering of the people of God, then the church began in the Old Testament. The original gathering of God’s people were the Isrealites, God’s chosen race. 

If the blueprint begins there, then what kind of “church” was God creating from the very beginning? An institution, or a people?

He called Abraham out and from him produced an entire nation of people, told them not to worship the idols of the people groups around them, led them in miraculous ways (HELLO, getting to see God as a visible cloud and fire every day!?), gave them specific rules to live by for their own good, and expected them to obey.

Did they? Not so much.

Mostly the entire Old Testament is a repeat of the phrase “And again the Isrealites did evil in the sight of the Lord….”

They weren’t extraordinary humans with special skills and capabilities, they were regular people just like you and me. They messed up over and over, just like you and me. 

I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t seen a major move of God in the West in so long because he is doing what he did in the Old Testament, allowing us to wander around in the desert because we refused to obey. 

What was the mistake that they repeated habitually? Syncretism. It’s a word we don’t use very much anymore, but we still practice almost daily. It’s the combining of different beliefs and cultures. When you take bits and pieces of the cultures around you and blend them with your own. 

The Isrealites did this by marrying into tribes that worshiped other gods. Instead of the host cultures becoming more Godly, the Isrealites became more worldly in order to fit in. 

They never stopped believing in God, they just added things from the culture around them to their own faith. Compromise happened one drop at a time. 

As a church, has the world around us become more Godly, or have we become more worldly?

Now, using Jesus’ words in the New Testament we know that God doesn’t mean for us to cloister ourselves away from the world so that this doesn’t happen. He prayed very clearly in John 17:14-19

 “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 ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Jesus didn’t want us to be removed from the world at large, He was asking the Father to send us into the world sanctified (set apart, made holy) by the truth of the word to be light in the darkness that surrounds us. 

You know, the age old phrase “be in the world, but not of the world”. 

From the very beginning of the church, syncretism has been one of the number one tools of the enemy (don’t forget that the church has an enemy!). They were tempted then to bow to the idols around them just as we are now tempted to bow to the idols around us.

What are the idols in our world today? 

Sex. Money. Power. Fame. 

Before you say “You’re right, but I  haven’t had an affair or been power and money hungry….”, remember that it all starts with small compromises. Tiny fissures in the surface of our holiness. 

It’s not usually changing our beliefs, rather it is our beliefs being diluted one drop at a time.

Tiny fissures - that Netflix show that would have been called porn 40 years ago, those extra hours at work away from family just to pay the bills from the new car we didn’t need, the seeking of that position at church in order to have more power, not to serve...

There is just as much syncretism in our lives today as there was in the Old Testament, ours has just been normalized to the point of being invisible to our eyes. 

Are we, personally and corporately, bowing to the King or to the culture?

Are we, personally and corporately, bowing to the King or to the culture? Click To Tweet

No wonder the church has veered so far from what God meant it to be. His people have yet again allowed syncretism to profane his set apart people. 

Ask yourself, “Where have I allowed syncretism in my life?” I would wager that if you ask that with a sincere heart you will be blown away by the answers. I know I have.

How did God deal with syncretism? He sent His Word through His prophets and He rebuked His people for compromising their convictions. Perhaps the Church needs some prophetic preaching...some biblical rebuking. 

But so often now our churches look like businesses. Our pastors are CEOs with executives under them. Our pews are filled with saints who have forgotten that they have a mandate other than showing up on Sunday. We may not be selling indulgences anymore, but we are all indulging in spiritual laziness and apathy. 

I said it before, I’ll say it again. 

We need another reformation.


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