Barnites: I want to write 2-3 follow-up mini-teachings to my instruction last Sunday based on Ro. 12:1-8. I simply did not have enough time to give you all I’d prepared.
First, Ro. 12:2– “Do not be conformed (squeezed into the patterns of) the world.”
How we Christians should relate to “the world” can be confusing. The word “world” in Scripture is used in several ways, depending on context. It can mean, “humanity,” as in “God so loved the world…” Or it can mean “nature: physical existence” as from Ps. 77: “The lightnings lit up the world.” But it can also mean, “mankind organizing and conducting itself outside of God’s influence and ways.” In Ro. 12 Paul means the word in this last sense.
We can be (and should be) “in” the world (humanity) in the sense that we develop relationships with people around us in order to do good to them and hopefully influence them toward Christ. Likewise we can even “love” the world if we mean the world as nature; the physical creation, while fallen, still retains substantial reflections of the original beauty and grace of God’s image. So we can admire the beauty of nature itself and as the truth found in the natural order of life is embodied in certain forms of music, art, and drama.
What Paul meant by “world” in Ro. 12 is the fallen moral life of humanity. He said elsewhere that Satan is in fact the “god” (ruler) of this world–so ultimately, demonic patterns of thinking, attitude, and actions are reflected in “this world’s” government, social structures, and human behavior. John tells us that “the whole world lies ‘in’ — that is, under the authority of– the evil one.” It is this fallen, evil-ridden “face” of the world that Paul tells us clearly that we must not be “conformed” to, ever, in any way if we expect to live the fullness of abundant life from Jesus in the kingdom of God.
So, for example, in the entertainment business, we must be discerning. Certain movies, novels, or dramas do not promote or reflect the negative “worldview” that we are reject. We can therefore embrace and enjoy these. Examples would be the new movie coming out, Risen, which is produced by Christians. Also in my view movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dances with Wolves, and movies in which Denzel Washington stars (Denzel is a Christian who will not star in a movie that promotes non-Christian truths) are “ok” — even though there may be elements in those movies that would offend the sensibilities of some Christians (in which case they should obey their consciences and not see them; the violence and language in even the above movies may be offensive to Christians even though the themes validate biblical truth ).
But there are plenty of movies, works of art, and other forms of entertainment that openly dive into and promote as “normal” aspects of worldly thought and behavior clearly contrary to biblical truth. The conclusions and “propaganda” of these productions should not be conformed to (and perhaps not even viewed) by Christians, and certainly not viewed by believers who are weak and struggling with their faith (In a similar way, most ex-alcoholic Christians would be very ill-advised to frequent a bar to meet friends or even to try to witness; but a Christian without an alcoholic past could be legitimately led to make a bar a place of fellowship and witness.)
Why should works like these be carefully discerned and their influence rejected by Christians? Because there is a “spirit” working through them that is dangerous to Christians because of their seductively persuasive effect. By promoting unbiblical realities as normal and good, they are blinding the minds and hearts of people to the truth of biblical values and godly kingdom living. Discernment is the key here: in John Wimber’s words, we are to “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” Paul said it a bit differently: “cling to what is good; reject totally all forms of evil.” I have walked out of more than one movie theatre because my spirit discerned that what I was viewing was poisonous to my soul.
So we should in fact “love”(because God loves) the world, and “not love” the world because that love will replace our love for God. We should be “in” the world (we can “enjoy” the good things of the world that God has given to us–like a good car, a nice home, protection from enemies, food on our tables) but yet we cannot be “of” the world in its fallenness. We can praise and know God more through the reflection of His image in the world He has made, but we must be discerning in order to avoid being immersed in the culture of worldly thinking and behavior around us. We must never allow ourselves to adopt the moral values and ways of thinking/behaving promoted by the world. After giving ourselves totally to the Lord as living sacrifices –step one–avoiding conformity to the world is step two as God’s Spirit lifts us out of the world and into the kingdom.
Next: How do we become “transformed by the renewing of our minds?”
Then: Are the seven gifts in Ro. 12:3-8 “inherent” gifts given by God to all humanity, Christian or not; or are they specifically given to Christians alone to build up the redeemed community?