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July 2020


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“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 NKJ)

Following her birth on Pentecost, the Church remained vibrant for about 275 years, despite both Jewish and Roman persecution. Then, in about 313 AD, Emperor Constantine initiated a commingling of the Church and the Roman Empire by ending persecution of Christians and offering them favored treatment.

Christianity soon became, in effect, a state religion. People seeking political favor chose to profess faith. Conquered people were forced to “convert”. In the following centuries, this commingling of church and state led to: (1) a church hierarchy constantly seeking political and financial power; (2) a system of royal families throughout Europe claiming “divine right” from Christ to rule and conquer; (3) a tremendous increase in the number of people claiming Christian faith; and (4) a tremendous decrease in the percentage of those people who lived the lives Christ intended.

It was the advent of cultural Christianity in the western world.

My definition of “culture” is: The prevailing attitudes, values, and beliefs of a community as reflected in their customs, laws, traditions, social norms, and art. The abbreviated version of this is: What people believe and how they live.

My short definition of “Christianity” is: Receiving the Holy Spirit through biblical faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. (Matthew 28:18-20; John 3:3-8, 16)

My definition of “Christian culture” is: A culture where Christianity has a major or dominant impact on what people believe and how they live.

My definition of “cultural Christianity” is: Professed Christian faith where the human traditions and worldly principles of your culture, rather than scripture, have a major or dominant impact on what you believe and how you live.

Please reflect with me on how our forefathers’ cultural Christianity continues to impact us today. (Exodus 34:5-7)

In Christ, there is no ethnic or economic distinction, and no distinction between male or female, because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, all given dominion over the earth, all beloved children of God and heirs of His Kingdom. (Genesis 1:26-28; Galatians 3:28-29) Many women held positions of great responsibility in the early Church, including Priscilla, Chloe, Lydia, Phoebe, and Junia. Many wonderful Christian leaders were financially poor, and many were from Asia or Africa. (Acts 8:27, 13:1)

On the other hand, the culture of Rome was very patriarchal, and the cultures of the many European empires that replaced the Roman Empire all called for the preeminence of not just men but “White” men.

So, what prevailed? Women were totally displaced from positions of responsibility in the Church. The Holy Roman, Spanish, French, English, Dutch, and Portuguese empires all claimed divine Christian right to conquer, plunder, and enslave or control the other-than-White people of Africa, the America’s, and much of Asia.

This patriarchal, racist cultural Christianity crossed the Atlantic with many of the Europeans who settled North America. The Protestant Reformation did many good things but had not fixed this. Our nation’s founding documents did many good things and recognized the divinely endowed equality of “men”, but they did not fix this.

If we had more fully embraced a biblical Christian culture rather than the cultural Christianity passed on to us, we could have avoided the trauma of the Civil War, the alienations of the feminist movements, and so much more. Instead, we learned and continue to learn the Hard Way.

The bible warns us repeatedly about cultural Christianity – divisive traditions and doctrines of man, empty philosophies, teachings that suit our own passions and have a form of godliness, but no power. (Mark 7:6-8; Ephesians 4:14; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 4:3-4) The only way to cast it off is to prayerfully and honestly examine every belief in the light of the totality of scripture. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 16:13)

To steal the “redneck” style of Jeff Foxworthy:

If, as a Christian, you believe human reason, science or personal experience disprove the supernatural events and teachings of the bible, you are probably a cultural Christian.

If you believe you can pick and choose what portions of the bible you will accept, you are probably a cultural Christian.

If you believe Christianity is one valid religion among many, you are probably a cultural Christian.

If you believe the LBGQT definitions of gender, sexuality and marriage should displace the biblical definitions, you are probably a cultural Christian.

If your political affiliation is more important to you than your full adherence to Christian values, you are probably a cultural Christian.

If your ethnic identity is more important to you than your Christian identity, you are probably a cultural Christian.

If you believe you are only required by God to love and value people who look like you or believe like you, you are definitely a cultural Christian.

God bless you, and God bless our community.


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“And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)

Have you ever heard anyone in the Church give an altar call or invitation to church membership based on Luke 9:23?

“If you want to be forgiven of your sins and have everlasting life, put your trust in Jesus, who died on a cross for you, by denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and following Him.”
“If you want to become a member of 1st Denominational Church, we would love to have you. Simply deny yourself like we have, take up your cross daily like we do, and join us in following Jesus.”

The answer to both questions is, of course, “No”. In fact, most Christians today have never even heard a sermon on Luke 9:23 because your pastors know it asks more from you than you seem willing to give.

The Bible sets forth the mission of the Church, not a congregational visioning committee, and that mission is to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20) We want altar calls and membership drives to be easy. Becoming a disciple of Jesus does not sound easy.

To be a disciple of the One who died on the cross for us, we must bear our own cross and come after Him. (Luke 14:27) If we do not take up our cross and follow Jesus, we are not worthy of Him. (Matthew 10:38) And Luke 9:23 teaches we will not be able to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus until we deny ourselves.

What is a disciple? Jesus said a disciple must be taught to obey all that He has commanded. (Matthew 28:20) This is much more than bible study. A disciple of Jesus must both have and keep His commandments because that is what “followers” do. (John 14:21)

Jesus also said a disciple is not above his or her Master but must be fully trained to become like their Master. (Luke 6:40) This is a reminder we are to serve Him as Lord, not the other way around. It is also exactly what Paul was talking about in Philippians 2 when he said our mindset should be like Jesus, who gave no regard to His status in heaven as the Son of God, but obediently humbled Himself and bore His cross to Golgotha.

So, how do we take up our own cross? We embrace and carry out the daily service to God and others the Lord assigns to us. These are good works our Eternal Father prepared for us as new creations in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10) They are part of the blessed hope and future He has for us, and while our service will at times be sacrificial, the only part of you and me that will have to die is our selfishness. (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 12:1)

How do we follow Jesus? The Greek word Luke uses for “follow” is “akoloutheo”, which means “follow” or “accompany”. “Accompany” is really the better translation because while we seek to follow the teachings of Jesus set forth in scripture, we have far more than just a book. Jesus said He would be with us always. (Matthew 28:20) If we let Him, He will abide in us through the Holy Spirit and lead us through life from within. (John 15:4-7; Romans 8:14) When we are “yoked” to Him in this way, our burden is easy and light because He who is in us is greater than anything we face in this world. (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 John 4:4)

Finally, how do we deny ourselves? The Greek word Luke uses for “deny” is “arneomai”, which means to “deny”, “disregard” or “refuse to follow”. The first essential step in becoming a disciple of Jesus is my decision to stop leading my own life and let Him lead. Let Him decide what is best for me, not me. Let Him, and not me, set both the daily and long-term agendas for my life.

Can we be brutally honest? Christianity in America is dominated by “lovers of self” rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) It is being assured you “got saved”, finding the worship music and fellowship you enjoy and the tech-driven programs your kids like, or hearing an encouraging message about what God has done and can do for you. What service some of us do render is generally only a small portion of our day.

As a result, the Church in America has for generations demonstrated a shallow appearance of godliness but no real power to transform lives or communities. (2 Timothy 3:5)

Jesus wants disciples. America needs disciples. It is time to deny ourselves. How? Simply learn enough about the Lord and about yourself to realize you can trust Him to plan and lead your life much more than you can trust you. (Proverbs 3:5-8)

God bless you, and God bless our community.