Church is a worshiping community

 Like living stones, let yourselves be built[a] into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.- 1 Peter 2:5

Let us recognize that forms of worship (including the presence or absence of different kinds of liturgy, ceremony, music, colour, drama, etc.) will be developed by the church in keeping with indigenous culture.

Each church is God’s church. Some missions and missionaries have been slow to recognize this and to accept its implications in the direction of indigenous forms.

In Jesus teaching and that of the apostles the corollary of good news to the oppressed was a word of judgment to the oppressor.

The people of God are by His grace a unique multi-racial, multi-national, multi-cultural community.  This community is God’s new creation, His new humanity, in which Christ has abolished all barriers.  There is therefore no room for racism in the Christian society, or for tribalism – whether in its African form, or in the form of European social classes, or of the Indian caste system.  Despite the Church’s failures, this vision of a supra-ethnic community of love is not a romantic ideal, but a command of the lord, Therefore, while rejoicing in our cultural inheritance and developing our own indigenous forms, we must always remember that our primary identity as Christians is not in our particular cultures but in the one Lord and His one Body.

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.– Philippians 4:15

No church is, or should try to become, self-sufficient.

We are to challenge what is evil and affirm what is good – to welcome and seek to promote all that is wholesome and enriching in art, science, technology, agriculture, industry, education, community development and social welfare – to denounce injustice and support the powerless and the oppressed – to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, which is the most liberating and humanizing force in the world – and to actively engage in good works of love. Although, in social and cultural activity as in evangelism, we must leave the results to God, we are confident that He will bless our endeavours and use them to develop our community.

Finally, beloved,[a] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[b] these things.– Philippians 4:8

The Church cannot impose Christian standards on an unwilling society, but it can commend them by both argument and example.

In every culture Christians find themselves in a situation of conflict and often of suffering.  We are called to fight.

For our[a] struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.– Ephesians 6:12

We need each other.

While energetically labouring on earth, we look forward with joyful anticipation to the return of Christ, and to the new heaven and new earth in which righteousness will dwell.  for then not only will culture be transformed, as the nations bring their glory into the New Jerusalem, but the whole creation will be liberated from its present bondage of futility, decay and pain so as to share the glorious freedom of God’s children.  Then at last, every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue openly proclaim that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

church is a worshiping community

 

 

Advertisements

Conversion

Jesus warned us that this turning away from the past may involve painful sacrifices, even the loss of family and possessions.

It also means to a reappraisal of every aspect of our world view, our behaviour and our relationships.

Our World View

The heart of every culture is a “religion” of some kind. These religious beliefs function like tectonic plates that give shape to observable patterns of life in the cultural community. J.H. Bavinck puts it simply:

“Culture is religion made visible; it is religion actualized in the innumerable relations of daily life.”

B.Harvie Conn builds on Bavinck’s insights: he stresses…

“…the core place of religion in the structuring of culture’s meaning and usage.”
Religion is “not an area of life, one among many, but primarily a direction of life …. Religion, then, becomes the heart of culture’s integrity, its central dynamic as an organism, the totalistic radical response of man-in-covenant to the revelation of God.”
“Religion” is a whole cluster of basic beliefs and values, which is the reason why for our purposes we are looking at “worldview” as an equivalent expression. True conversion to Christ is bound to strike at the heart of our cultural inheritance.
Our Behaviour
The lordship of Jesus challenges our moral standards and whole ethical lifestyle.  This is not “repentance” but rather the “fruit that befits repentance,” the change of conduct which issues from a change of outlook. Both our minds and our wills must submit to the obedience of Christ.
Our Relationships
At the day of Pentecost, after Peter finished speaking, those who received his message were baptized, devoted themselves to the new fellowship and found that the Lord added to their fellowship daily.  Their “transfer” meant they were spiritually distinct rather than that they were socially segregated.
“Jesus is Lord” means more than that he is Lord of our world view, behaviours and relationships, and more so, he is Lord of culture. It means that He is Lord of the powers, having been exalted by the Father to universal sovereignty; principalities and powers having been made subject to Him.  Many from the majority world believers have spoken both of the reality of evil powers and the necessity to demonstrate the supremacy of Jesus over them.
Power in human hands is always dangerous.  We are called to mind the recurring theme of Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians – that God’s power, which is clearly seen in the cross of Christ, operates through human weakness.  Worldly people worship power – Christians who have it know its peril.
Conversion is in essence a turning to God which continues as all areas of life are brought in increasingly radical ways under the lordship of Christ.  Conversion involves the Christian’s complete transformation and total renewal in mind and character according to the likeness of Christ.
conversion

Power of God

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.– Romans 1:16

Messengers of the gospel who have proved the power of God in their own lives rightly believe it can be the same experience of others too. 

Just as the centurion’s faith put to shame the unbelief of the Jews in Jesus’ day, so today the believing expectancy of Christians in other cultures sometimes show up the western believer’s lack of faith.

God’s promises to Abraham to bless all families of the earth and through the gospel, see all come to a saving knowledge of who Jesus is.  We all need to look to God to save people and to build His Church.

While Jesus Himself was fully at home in His own culture, He and His message were rejected and despised. A reminder to us all.

The wind[a] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. – John 3:8

While seeking to communicate the gospel with care, faithfulness and zeal, we leave the results to God in humility.

power of God

Origin of human culture

God created mankind, male and female, in His own likeness by endowing them with distinctive human faculties – rational, moral, social, creative and spiritual.  He also told them to have children, to fill the earth and to subdue it.  These divine commands are the origin of human culture.

Today we have lost our way.  All our work is accompanied by sweat and struggle and is disfigured by selfishness.

The affirmation that we are made in God’s image still stands, though the divine likeness has been distorted by sin.  I believe that God also is still looking to us to exercise stewardship of the earth and its creatures and that we still have our gift of inventiveness making us resourceful and successful in doing so.

heavenearth

What is God’s view of culture?

For example, is Jewish culture created by God to be imposed on everyone who follows God?  Is there some indication in Scripture that God takes a different position?  Paul articulates his approach to cultural diversity —

 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ].  To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews [for Christ]; to men under the Law, [I became] as one [a]under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might win those who are under the Law.  To those who are without (outside) the Law, [I became] as one without the Law, though [I am] not without the law of God, but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  To the [b]weak I became [as the] weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means [in any and every way] save some [by leading them to faith in Jesus Christ]. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

The early Christians, who were Jewish, believed everyone who comes to Jesus must also convert to Jewish culture, but God used the apostle Paul, himself a Jew, to teach his generation and ours a different approach.  We find him arguing fiercely against the majority position of the early church for the right of Gentiles to follow Jesus within their own sociocultural contexts. God Himself had shown first Peter, then Paul and Barnabas, that this was the right way, by giving the Holy Spirit to Gentiles who had not converted to Jewish culture.

But the Church has continually forgotten the lesson. We have continually reverted to the assumption that becoming Christian means becoming like us culturally.

If, then, we take a scriptural approach, we should adapt ourselves and our presentation of God’s message to the culture of the receiving people, not misrepresent God as some early Jewish Christians did by requiring that converts become like them to be acceptable to God.

When Jesus wanted to get across important points, He aimed at the worldview level.  Someone asked, “Who is my neighbour?” so He told them a story and then asked who was being neighbourly.  He was leading them to reconsider and, hopefully, change a basic value deep down in their system. – Charles Kraft

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person [who insults you or violates your rights]; but whoever [a]slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise].  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’  “But I say to you, [a]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:39,43-33

culture-malaysia

What is God’s view of culture?

Christianity and Culture

When Your Culture Clashes With God’s Kingdom

Christianity and Culture

Culture and The Kingdom of God

A Biblical View of Diversity

How does culture affect the way we understand Scripture?