#2 IN the World, Not OF the World (shortened)

(This is a shortened version of my Bible study.  For full version, click here.)


            Philippians 3:18-20:  “. . . many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. . . .”

            As Christians, we are citizens of two different worlds – the world (including our own country and society) and God’s Kingdom.  And oftentimes, these worlds are in conflict.  So ... how can we as Christians best live out this verse about being in the world but not of it?     

            Let’s break down some of the challenges and differences we face.

 
            Purposes and Goals:  The world doesn’t have much to offer in this area other than in making the most of their time on this earth.  Maybe leaving a positive legacy, leaving the world a little better than they found it.  And while these are admirable, they fall far short of having an eternal purpose and goal. 

            But as Christians, we believe that this life is not all there is.  The best is yet to come and what we do on earth matters eternally.  We can have an effect on the souls of people and on God’s Kingdom.  God placed us here to find Him and to love Him, to love other people and help them find Him, and to bring God glory.  But we can waste our time and we can blow our witness if we fail to take our God-given responsibilities and purposes seriously.


            What We Rely On:  If someone doesn’t believe in God - in a Greater Being that is watching over us and guiding us - then they do not really have anyone to rely on but themselves or other fallible human beings.  That would be scary to me, to believe that we are left all alone on this earth, with no one to rely on but ourselves. 

            But Christians believe that there is a God who is watching over us and guiding us and holding all things in His hands.  And even though this world is full of problems, we know that He will eventually make all things better and redeem this fallen world.  That should give us incredible hope and strength and the ability to keep going.


            What’s Important:  Success, power, money, sex, companionship, possessions, youth, beauty.  These are things that we all consider important. 


            How about “happiness”?  Don’t most people hold up “happiness” as one of the greatest goals in the world?  But, oh, the problems this can lead to!  And when we combine it with “God just wants us to be happy,” then we put God’s stamp-of-approval on whatever selfish, destructive, immoral thing we want to pursue. 


            But do we have a right to pursue whatever we want that makes us happy?  Does God “just want us to be happy”?  How would a Christian’s answer differ from the world’s?  Is it okay to divorce your spouse to find someone who makes you happier?  How about living together before you are married?  Why not polygamy?  Is that “Christian”?  The Mormons would say so.


            To the world, things like success and money and happiness and sex are “end goals,” the things they work for.  But in and of themselves, these things will not satisfy completely.  They might fill our hands for a moment, but they won’t fill our souls for eternity.


            As Christians, though, we shouldn’t see these things as end goals.  They can definitely be enjoyed for the blessings that they are (in the way God intended), but ultimately we know that what’s really important is that we glorify God with our lives and that we share with others the message about God’s gifts of salvation, love, and healing.  The other things will burn up in the end, but only what we do for God’s glory and His Kingdom will last.  But do we live like these are our true priorities?



                Defining Success:  The world defines success by things like  . . .  how much money you make, how much respect you gain, how many possessions you own, how high you are on the ladder of success, how many people you order around, how popular you are, how beautiful you are, how many people show up at your funeral, etc.  But while these are nice, they are not eternal.  While we might be always remembered and loved by our families and while we might have passed down some lasting accomplishments, soon after we are gone, someone else will move in and fill the void we left in the workplace and use the things we left behind.  We are replaceable in this world.  And someone else will enjoy the things we worked hard to earn. 

            But once again, Christians define success differently.  We do not define it by the things we gain in this world, but by the things we store up in eternity, the work that we do for God’s Kingdom.  Those are the only things we can take with us when we go.  And we are not replaceable in God’s Kingdom.  God wants a relationship with each and every person He made.  We are all just as valuable and cherished as the next person.  And God wants us to bring as many of His wayward children back to Him as possible, because we all matter. 

            But I think the hardest part to deal with is that the true “success” of a Christian is invisible.  We won’t be able to see or know the effects that we have had on eternity until the end.  And this can be discouraging.  Buying a bigger house or a new car is a much more immediate result and an obvious indication that we have done good work.  But I bet we will all be surprised to eventually see our “success” from God’s perspective.  But the questions is: Will we be delightfully surprised or horrified?  
    

            Value of People: Without a Creator to place value on people and to establish a moral code, we are at the mercy of other people to decide who has value and who doesn’t, who matters and who doesn’t.  And this can lead (and has led) to all sorts of horrifying scenarios.

            How do Christians and non-Christians differ in their views of abortion, the right to assisted suicide, the death penalty, the mentally-handicapped or terminally ill or elderly, selective termination of a pregnancy when the baby is handicapped, ethnic cleansing and genocide, acid attacks on women and unfair treatment of women, human trafficking, prostitution, the value of animals compared to people (is a baby bear equal in value to a human baby), racism, sexism, genetic engineering of human life, etc.? 

            Without a belief in a Creator, how does someone develop a worldview and an opinion on these issues?  What do they base their views and “rightness or wrongness” on?

             We Christians know that God values people immensely.  We are made in His image.  We are all worth dying for and are greatly loved, just because God decided we were.  He has placed an eternal value on people, not only giving them eternal souls but the promise that He will eventually redeem all things.  In the end, He will set all things right again and demand justice for all of the wrongs that people seem to be getting away with now.  He will eventually stand up for the poor, the mistreated, the aliens, the orphaned, the weak, and those who are denied justice.  (Of course, He does do this to a certain degree on earth, just not fully and completely until eternity.)

            But until He does so, He calls all believers to stand up for them as His representatives here on earth.  But do we do that?  Or are we more concerned with our “nice, little lives”?  With making a comfortable little place on this earth for ourselves?  With enjoying the pleasures that everyone else gets to enjoy?  Or are we fighting for the people and values that matter to Him?  Do we have His priorities straight? 


Compromising or Grieving?

            Do we grieve for the condition that our world is in and seek to be different and take a stand for God’s truth?  Or do we compromise our faith to “fit in” and to impress the world?              

            In Jeremiah, we read about how Jehudi reads a scroll to the king that Jeremiah gave him.  This scroll is God’s words given to Jeremiah about all the sins of the people and the punishments that God would inflict on them.  It is meant to be a warning, to turn the hearts of the people toward repentance.  And this is how the king responds: 

            “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.  The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. . . . 
            ‘Therefore, this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah . . . I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them . . . every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.’”  (Jeremiah 36:23-24, 30-31)

            What I found interesting – and convicting – is that God was going to punish the attendants to the king.  But they didn’t burn the scroll; the king did.  Shouldn’t the king bear all the blame? 

            Yes, the king was the one responsible for leading the people, for the spiritual tone and practices of the country, and for burning the warnings of the Lord.  But the attendants were responsible for their own apathetic response and their fear of God.  Or lack of it, I should say.

            Instead of worrying about what God thought, they worried about what the king thought.  Instead of fearing God, they fell right in line with the king, mimicking his own indifferent attitude toward God.  They did not take the warnings of the Lord seriously, just as the king didn’t.  They did not grieve over their sins or fear the Lord or feel any conviction or remorse or repentance.  They did not take the truth seriously.  They simply followed the king’s lead.  They blended in with the general spiritual tone of those around them.  And God would hold them accountable for it, even if they were just lowly attendants.

            This message stood out to me because so many of us are “attendants.”  We may not be leaders, but we are part of the group.  Of this world and society.  And I wonder how many of us seek to appease the “leaders” or adopt the group’s attitudes, instead of humbling our hearts before the Lord and doing the right thing according to Him?  How many of us “go along with the group” so that we don’t stand out as weird or “too-holy”?  How many of us compromise our standards or beliefs so that things don’t get uncomfortable for us?  How many of us sit by and watch others “burn” the words of the Lord and destroy the truth because it’s too scary to stand up for it?  How many of us do not feel any conviction anymore when people around us do wrong because we are busy mimicking them?  How many of us have grown lukewarm or have surrounded ourselves with “truth” that tickles our ears or have replaced God with idols of our own making?  How many of us have no real fear of God anymore?   

            “I will punish [them] for their wickedness . . . because they have not listened.”       “[They] showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” 

            Who do you fear more?  Who do you seek to please and be like?  The people you are around, the group you follow, the social majority?  Or the holy God to whom we will all give an accountant for our lives and choices one day?  Does your life accurately reflect how much you fear the Lord?  Is this comforting to you or convicting?  Do you grieve over the condition of our country, our world?  Or are you too busy blending in or sampling its delights?  

            Psalm 14:2:  “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”  

            It might not matter much to the world if we grieve over the condition it’s in, if we live the truth out loud and boldly, if we never compromise or hide our faith, or if we set our hearts on righteousness and humbling ourselves before God.  But it matters to God.  And it affects our eternity and His Kingdom and the spiritual battle and how God deals with our country and how He deals with us when it’s time to pour out punishment on the wicked.  If we are not grieving the immorality in society (and in our own hearts) and the bold ways society is defying God, we are passively supporting it. 

            Do you grieve?  (Here's an example of another Christian who understands grieving for our culture.)  


One Example

            Let’s veer off a little in a different direction.  One area where I think we are seeing the incredible pressure to compromise on God’s Word is the issue of gay marriage.  And I think this is a great example to help us think about how to be “in the world, but not of the world.” 

            How do we hold to biblical truth in a country that is drifting so far from God’s ways and that is pressuring Christians to fall in line?  How do we set ourselves apart and yet love our neighbor?  Where is the line between loving our neighbor yet not condoning godless choices?  What should a Christian’s response be to gay marriage now that it has become legal in America?  (And this can be applied to other sorts of moral dilemmas.  And I don’t expect you to agree with everything I say here.  I am still formulating my views on this.  It’s a work in progress.) 


1.  For starters, don’t panic!

            “The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short?’”  (Numbers 11:23)

            “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”  (Habakkuk 2:20)

            God has not lost control.  He is still on the throne.  Nor has anyone changed His laws and truths.  It bothers me when I hear Christians freaking out and saying, “Man is changing God’s laws!  Man is changing God’s laws!”  No, we aren’t.  Call it what they want, it still doesn’t change the fact that God decided that marriage is between one man and one woman.  And God’s laws still stand.   
            God's laws still stand, whether someone acknowledges them or not, whether people want to agree with Him or not.  His laws still stand.  And we will be judged by them in the end.



2.  Pray for our country!  Pray for revival!  Seek righteousness and humility before the Lord!

            “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14-15)   

            I fear that Christians (and “Christians”) in America are so focused on and bothered about the ways that other people fail to live rightly before the Lord that we fail to focus on and be bothered about the ways that we fail to live rightly before the Lord.  We are so busy wagging our fingers at others, saying, “No, no, no, don’t do that,” that we are not taking the time to examine our own hearts, to consider if we are seeking righteousness and truly humbling ourselves before Him. 

            We have grown lukewarm, comfortable, and lazy in our spiritual lives.  Enamored with this world instead of being enamored with God.  Focused on our priorities instead of God’s.  Worshipping a God that we created instead of God as He is.  (That way, we don’t have to feel convicted or guilty).  Overlooking sin in our lives but finding it in everyone else’s.  Examining everyone else but ourselves. 

            But we convince ourselves that we are doing okay as long as we are trying to get everyone else to live as God wants them to live.  But sometimes our passionate efforts are just a cover for our lack of passionate heart-devotion to the Lord.  We are so busy doing for the Lord that we fail at truly being with the Lord.   

            But our biggest concern shouldn’t be worldly non-believers who live worldly lives, but the ways that we live worldly lives without being bothered by it.    

            “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.”  (1 Cor. 5:12-13)

            If we started to focus less on how others are living and more on how we are living, and if we focused on truly humbling ourselves before the Lord and on seeking righteousness, we might see a serious revival and God would turn toward us and hear our prayers. 



3.  Look for open doors and opportunities to take a stand for God’s truth!

            But do not do this if you are not doing the first two things.  No one wants to hear a panicky, haughty Christian preaching about what everyone else is doing wrong and how they should be living their lives, without first having calmed down, taken a look at themselves, and humbled themselves before the Lord. 

            But for those believers who are seeking to be humble before the Lord and who are seeking righteousness in their own lives and who are trusting that God is still in control and that He is listening to our prayers, we also need to be alert for any open doors that God brings for us to share about the hope that is in us and to stand up for His truth in appropriate ways.

            “Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”  (1 Peter 3:15)



4.  Get to know Scripture deeply.

            It is all-too-easy to be led astray about God’s truth if we don’t really know God’s Word for ourselves.  And this will happen more and more, as more and more churches fall to societal pressure to redefine God’s truths and to cut out sections of Scripture that make them uncomfortable. 

            I’ll be honest here, I really wish I could say that it doesn’t matter who you love – homosexual or heterosexual – as long as you are loved and are loved by someone else.  I would love to be one of those warm, fuzzy, squishy Christians who tells everyone “It’s okay.  We’re all good here.  God is a God of love, and love is the only thing that matters here.”  I would love to not be the “bearer of bad news,” to not have to say anything negative about anyone else’s choices, especially when it comes to something as personal and tender as love. 

            But really knowing what the Bible says is why I can – why I have to - say that God does not condone homosexuality in the Bible in any way.  It is always spoken of in a negative way, never in a positive or ambiguous way.  While He loves, loves, loves people – heterosexual or homosexual – He does not allow us to change His truth based on how we feel or what we wish was true. 


            God is a God of love, yes.  But He is also a holy and just God who will not let us get away with tampering with His Word.  And it is very clear throughout the whole Bible that God speaks against homosexuality.  And the churches and Christians who are now embracing it are straying from the clear teaching of Scripture.  It might give them major favor with the world, but not with God.  And they will be held accountable for it.

            It is one thing to love and respect other people, regardless of their choices, but it’s another to express approval of things that God does not approve of for the sake of making others feel loved and supported.  (See "God is love, but love is NOT a god.")  

            While Jesus was always compassionate toward sinful people, He was never accepting of sin.  He took sin seriously. 

            After all, our sin cost Him His life.        

             “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”  (2 Timothy 4: 3-4)

             “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)    

            Immerse yourself in God’s Word daily.  Drink from it deeply.  And get to know it well so that you know what you are talking about when it’s time to take a stand for God’s truth.  In love and gentleness, as we are called to do.  As more and more churches begin to tickle the ears of people, telling them what they want to hear, we are going to need Christians who really know what God’s Word says.  And who live it themselves!



5.  And lastly, love others and share God’s grace!

            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . . Then your reward will be great, and you will be Sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-31, 35-36)

            We need to love our fellow humans!  We need to be loving when we are sharing truth.  We need to be loving when they disagree.  And we need to be loving when we are mocked, persecuted, and scorned. 

            At the root of it all, we need to be loving.  Because these are the people that God made in His image and that He loved so much that He sent Jesus to die for them, too, so that they might find life in Him.     


            “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  (Matthew 5:45)  God provides for the righteous and unrighteous alike.  And Jesus ate with sinners.  In fact, He preferred the company of sinners to the company of the religious snobs. 

            I don’t think this means that God the Father and Jesus condone the lifestyles and choices of sinners, of the unrighteous.  Providing for them and visiting with them does not translate into agreeing with the way they live.  But it does show that God and Jesus care about sinners and value them as people.  (Thank God!  Because let’s remember that we are all sinners!  We are all in that same boat, regardless of our sin.) 

            Jesus looks beyond a sinner’s lifestyle and choices and sinfulness, and He sees the person deep within.  The person worth getting to know, worth loving, worth forgiving, worth saving.

            This does not mean He overlooks sinfulness or that the unrighteous will not be held accountable for it, but He sees them as more than just their sin.  He sees them – He sees all of us - as people worth dying for, worth rescuing from themselves.  And this includes the homosexual person. 

            Should we believers treat un-believers (should we sinners treat fellow sinners) with any less respect, kindness, grace, or love than that? 


            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. . . . Then your reward will be great, and you will be Sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-31, 35-36)


            Yes, there is a degree to which we have to separate ourselves from the world around us and take a stand against moral decay and blatant sinfulness.  But there is a degree to which we have to get in there, into the mess, to live alongside the people of this world, to treat them with love, kindness, mercy, and grace, and to do all we can to draw them to Christ, even while we disagree with their choices.  

            And while I’m not always sure the best way to do that, there’s got to be a way.  Jesus did it.  And if He could do it, so can we. 

            Look at how Jesus treated the woman at the well (John 4).  He never told her she was a sinner or scolded her for her lifestyle or pulled back from her or treated her differently than anyone else. 

            Actually, He did treat her differently.  He reached out to her, whereas others probably shamed her (which would explain why she was at the well alone in the middle of the day, instead of going when all the other women went).

            Knowing that she was a broken person in need of healing, He approached her.  He risked breaking social norms by even speaking to her.  But He did not scold or condemn her.  He simply stated the truth that she had five husbands and was now living with a man she was not married to.  He stated the facts about her life and told her that He was the Messiah and offered her everything He had to give – love, salvation, forgiveness.  And then He left it up to her to come to the conclusion that she was living in sin and needed to change. 

            He didn’t make it about a change of behavior, but about a change of the heart first.  Clean the inside of the cup before tackling the outside.  He didn’t force His truths on her or wait till she got her act together to reach out to her in love.  He tried to draw her with simple truth and kindness, instead of turning His back on her or trying to shame her or trying to push her out of her sinful lifestyle. 

            And the woman caught in adultery in John 8?  The religious leaders wanted to punish her, to give her what her actions deserved.  But Jesus stood up for her.  He gave her back her life instead of applying the required, appropriate penalty.  He stopped the throwing of stones, even though He alone had every right to throw them. 

            It didn’t mean that He condoned her choices (He challenged her to leave her life of sin), although I am sure it might look like that to the religious leaders.  But I think He cared more about where she was going than where she had been.  He cared more about the potential for her to get her life right than He did about what she had done wrong.  He cared more about making sure everyone else minded their own business than He did about “dishing out justice” and impressing the religious snobs.  And He cared more about reaching past her broken, sinful condition and touching her heart and offering her grace, mercy, forgiveness, and healing than He did about the fact that His actions might be interpreted by the religious leaders as supporting or excusing her immorality.

            I fear that we Christians, in an effort to stand firmly on God’s Truth, can fail sometimes at seeing and loving the person behind the sin.  We fail at extending grace, mercy, kindness, and respect because we don’t want to look like we have compromised God’s Word or gone soft on sin.  We slam the door on sinners of various kinds and turn away from them so that it doesn’t look like we agree with their choices.  We throw stones at others, when we should be shielding them from stones. 

            This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call sin what it is.  After all, remember that Jesus didn’t excuse the woman’s life of sin; He challenged her to leave it.  It just means that it’s not our job to dish out punishment for sins or to condemn, criticize, and shun those who sin.  For we are all sinners.  We are all on the same level at the foot of the cross.  We all need grace and mercy and love and forgiveness.  And we need to extend it to others also, to draw them to Christ.  We need to love the person while still upholding God’s truth.  

            (And on the other hand, as pointed out earlier, we need to be careful about being too compromising about sin, too accepting of it.  So many churches are going far too soft on sin.  They are trying to be so accepting of people that they are denying our need to admit we are sinners in need of a Savior.  There's got to be a balance between truth and love.)       


            We need to live the Word in our own lives, stand up for His truth, and do our best to draw – not push – other people into the kingdom of God, being living examples of His love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, and grace.

            “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. . . . So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”  (2 Peter 3:11-14)    



Persecution

            As long as we are looking at differences between Christians and the world, there is one more issue to consider: persecution.  The more different we look from the world and the more “black-and-white” our beliefs, the more hated and persecuted we will be.  And this shouldn’t surprise us. 

            John 15:18-19:  (Jesus’ words) “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.” 

            In America, we are fortunate to not usually face violent persecution.  But more and more, (especially in the legal system, the school system, the workplace, and the court of public opinion) we are facing more and more hostility towards our beliefs and our right to live out our beliefs.  Kids are being harassed at school for wearing crosses, bringing Bibles, writing papers about Jesus, or saying “God bless America” over the loud speaker.  Business owners are facing legal troubles for running their private businesses according to their biblical convictions.  Laws are being made to silence Christian viewpoints.  And someday, we may find that even quoting certain Bible verses has become a “hate crime.”   

            As Christians start to look more and more different and to set themselves apart from the values of the world, we will be hated more and persecuted more.  (And if the world is loving you too much, you should ask yourself if you are faithfully following the Lord and the Word?  Sometimes you can tell the spiritual maturity and faithfulness of Christians - especially those in the public eye - by how much the world loves and celebrates them.)

            Are you ready for the persecution?  Are you strong enough in your convictions to take a stand?  To be called names and criticized harshly, when all you are trying to do is be faithful to the Lord?  How do we balance love with truth?  How do we balance sharing God’s message and exposing the “fruitless deeds of darkness” with people’s free will and their right to decide for themselves?  How do we gracefully bear with opposition and persecution and yet firmly stand our ground?  Do you know the Word well enough to know what stand to take?  If you don’t, it will be all too easy to compromise, to sit back and watch the scroll being burned, to buy into the “tickle your ears” messages.

            Christians, get ready! 
           


            So how do we balance the two things – being in the world and yet not of the world?  Being part of God’s Kingdom while residents on earth?  Living among “scroll-burners” without compromising our faith?  Loving our neighbor without encouraging godlessness?  Being gracious while calling sin “sin”?  Maintaining a strong faith while living in a world where people water down the Gospel and attack those who stand up for God’s Truth, and where fellow Christians are growing lukewarm, lazy, and comfortable?   

            Do we live in remembrance that we are aliens on this earth, passing through for a short time?  That there is a Holy God watching all we do and that one day we will give an account to Him for what we did or what we failed to do?  And how can we live in such a way as to draw others to God, without repelling them by acting “better or superior” and without compromising our values and blending in with them? 


Bible Verses:

2 Timothy 3:12:  “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . .”



Matthew 10:14, 16:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. . . .  I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”



Colossians 3:2:  “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”



Romans 12:1-2:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.”



1 Corinthians 9:20-22:  “. . . To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” 



Ephesians 5:11: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
           


Questions:

4.  What are some areas where Christians might be sitting by and watching people “burn the scroll”?  In what areas and ways are we Christians sinking into apathy and lukewarm-ness, or compromising our faith and the Truth, or failing to take a stand, or failing to share our faith?  Why are we doing this?  Who might we be tempted to impress or please, leading us to do something we know we shouldn’t do?  What can we do about all this?  Examples?
 

6.  What about “moral relativity” - about defining morality and "right and wrong" however we want and changing it as we see fit, instead of believing that God has defined morality and "right and wrong" and that it's unchangeable?  In what ways might “moral relativity” be good and in what ways might it be bad?  What effect does moral relativity have on us, our country, and the Christian faith?  (And what are some of God's most important values, the ones we should be upholding above all?  What are some things that we think He values that He really doesn't value as much as we think He does?) 


12.  What was Jesus’ purpose and reason for spending time with sinners?  Was it just to “be friends” or were there other motives for forming relationships with sinners?  How can His example be our guide when forming friendships with unbelievers?  (Is there a difference in how we should act toward your average unbeliever and towards staunch, resistant unbelievers who are on the attack?)  


15.  What can we learn from Jesus’ example of how He treated the woman at the well and the one caught in adultery?  How can we apply it to life?  Examples?


17.  What are some of the “tickle the ears” messages that some churches are sharing?  What causes many Christians to conform to the world and compromise their faith and buy into “tickle the ears” teachings, despite God’s warnings not to?  What is the danger in this, and how can we fight it or stand against it?     


21.  Can you think of examples of persecution that we need to just tolerate and examples of when we should “fight back”?  Have you experienced any persecution or hostility because of your faith?  Have you ever had the chance to stand up in the face of hostility, opposition, or unfairness?  What happened?


26.  Is it our responsibility to “push” God’s truth on people who don’t want it?  In a society that already knows what the Bible says and yet deliberately ignores it, should we keep trying to push God’s truth on them and fight to bring back God’s standards and morals . . . or should we hand them over to their rebellious decisions and “shake the dust from our feet”?  Where is the balance, especially given that people do not want to hear it and that Christians are being persecuted for taking a godly stand?


27.  What does it mean to “set your mind on things above”?  What kind of effect should this have on a believer’s life?
   

30.  How can we be “transformed by the renewing of our mind”?  (Note that this doesn’t just happen to you.  It is a command to be transformed.)


34.  How can we balance “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness” with “become all things to all men”?  (Think of some practical, everyday examples or examples from your own life.)  When does “become all things to all men” slide into being unhealthy or ungodly?  And how can we protect ourselves from that? 


39.  How can we best balance standing up for biblical standards with tolerating someone else’s freedom?  When and about what social or legal issues should we step in and fight for what’s godly (and how), and when should we step back and tolerate what others choose to do?    
 

40.  What does it mean to “fear the Lord”?  (Look up verses on it.)  What are indications that we are fearing Him and indications that we are not fearing Him?  And what effect does it have on us, on our spiritual life, and our country?

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