Living in Pagan Culture
The Scandel of the Evangelical Conscience
According to pollsters such as The Barna Group and authors like Ronald Sider, evangelical Christians embrace lifestyles "every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." (1)
Let's clarify our definitions:
Hedonism - Self-centered pursuit of pleasure as a way of life.
Paganism applies to those who embrace no specific religion whatsoever.
When someone becomes a Child of God, the Bible tells them not to act like the World (2). The essence of being a Christian is to become "like Christ" (3). Becoming like Christ means that we are to reject and not practice the things which we used to do that compete with our Lord or cause our fellow Christians to stumble. Doing this, however, can and will place Christians and their children in difficult positions when living in a secular society.
As Barna's research points out, many Christians choose to live their lives and raise their children much the same as non-Christians. They continue to pursue the same physical pleasures, practice the same ethical values, acquire the same material luxuries, and entertain themselves in the same ways that their non-churched neighbors do.
Barna reveals that Christians have much the same attitudes toward pre-marital sex and divorce, too. They have about the same divorce rates as non-Christians, and in some cases, a little higher. They tend to give a little less to charity - 84% do not tithe. Barna concludes that "every day the Church is becoming more like the world it supposedly seeks to change." (4)
"Is there a down-side to being a hedonistic Christian? Are we not saved and as such, children of God? Will He not accept us just as we are, for as long as we live, and then take us into eternity? Will He not forgive all our sins? If the answer is yes, then what is the problem in being a worldly Christian? Why does the Bible, from beginning to end, constantly warn us against this?"
Is there something we are missing? Are there consequences or punishment for being a worldly Christian here on earth or in heaven? Are we really Christians, or do we just think we are? Do we lose something when we live like the world? Can we be disqualified from doing God's work and representing Him? Do we even want to represent Him?
The apostle Paul lists four sins in I Corinthians 10:6-10 which result in the disqualification of a Believer from living the Christian lifestyle.
To be disqualified carries the same meaning as being "benched." To be "benched" might mean loss of authority, respect of family and friends - the loss of meaning and purpose for life, or the loss of strength&discipline in hard times. In extreme cases it can mean that a severe illness or situation flattens a Christian from productive work. It might even mean a premature death!
Paul Benware puts it like this: "In the ultimate sense, the believer could be denied participation by premature death. The Lord is essentially saying to that believer, 'Come on home since there is nothing I can entrust to you anymore." (5)
Paul said "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (I Cor. 9:27), the word ADOKIMOS means to be "declared unfit," "rejected," and "disqualified."
Paul citing the example of the Children of Israel in the wilderness, says, "Do not be IDOLATERS as some of them were. We must not indulge in SEXUAL IMMORALITY as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put CHRIST TO THE TEST, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor GRUMBLE, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:6-10).
4 Sins Resulting in Disqualification
1. Disqualification due to Idolatry - Webster defines idolatry as excessive devotion or reverence to some person or thing. This means anyone or anything that competes with the Lord for our hearts and minds.
For the Boomer it may be a fat 401K or bulging IRA, a business or the fanciest house. For young adults it may be the fastest car, boat, athletic competition, or the party lifestyle. This can also include a lifestyle that is consumed by fear, anxiety, depression, health, drugs and sensuality.
As we come to be dominated by anything which consumes our time and passions to excess, even if they are not evil or bad in themselves, we fall into Idolatry.
2. Disqualification due to Sexual Immorality - For the Christian, this includes not only infidelity in marriage or outside of marriage, but also includes pornography, seductive&inappropriate ways of dress and acting out. According to Scripture, immorality results in disqualification here and now, or loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. (c.f. Num 25, 1Cor. 9:24-27).
One area of sexual immorality that is only now being discussed is the sexual education of Christian children both in and out of the home. This is not aimed at public schools necessarily. One needs only to observe the messages being forced upon our young parents and their children by the Corporate&Media Culture both in and out of the home.
In effect, these messages are specifically designed to force parents and children to adopt the Post-Modern culture's values. These are secular values that decide what the roles of young men and woman will be, rather than the values demanded by Scripture.
Merchants of Cool
Grants Pass author and communicator Bob Just has recently written a "MUST READ" article for World/Net Daily concerning this problem. In reveiwing a PBS documentary, "The Merchants of Cool" Bob, in no-nonsense language identifies the "Image" or "Look" children and parents are forced to adopt and become, regardless if they are 4 or 40. It's called the "Mook" and "Midriff".
"Both media caricatures will be immediately recognizable to you. The "mook" is the wild man you see everywhere, from the wild antics of comedian Tom Green and talk show host Howard Stern to just about every male you see on World Wrestling Federation. He's crude, he's rude, and he's in your face. This sells boys a false sense of male power.
And girls are no better off when it comes to their cultural image. They also get indoctrinated, as the PBS makes frighteningly clear. Girls are turned into dehumanized, nymphet "blow-up dolls," symbolized by an over-sexed character marketers call the "midriff." She's everywhere in the advertising world. Pop stars across the spectrum play this role and present it as feminine, from Britney Spears to Jennifer Lopez. Ironically, they have to play these roles - because the "culture machine" demands it."" (6)
Boys obsessed with the "physical," want to dominate others and prove their masculinity. Girls are taught to dress, look and act like the Barbie dolls they grow up with. Can anyone seriously doubt that children so trained from birth will be unaffected, even if they are "believers?" The amazing thing is to see how the Mook and Midriff shows up in Churches every Sunday!
3. Disqualification due to Trying the Lord - "Why did this happen to me, Lord?" "Why can't we buy that house, make a million, and retire comfortably?"
Questions like these can show our distrust of God's blessings and His ways of teaching and training us. It demonstrates that we are dissatisfied with how much God has provided for us. Just as the Children of Israel were guilty and complained about God's provisions, we also can be guilty of the same. In the wilderness God's justice was swift and severe. What about now?
4. Disqualification due to Grumbling - Murmuring and grumbling are manifestations of rebellion and lack of gratitude. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Samuel 15:23 NKJV).
Grumbling and rebellion are basically telling God we are tired of Him. "I'm tired of hamburger." "I never have anything new to wear." "I'm sick of this old car." "I am sick of my wife, husband, family, the church or the people who surround me."
We are not saying Christians should never ask for or expect God's blessings, or that we should not pray for relief from hard circumstances. But, we are saying that God expects us to recognize that He gave us those circumstances for a purpose. We are to thank Him with a grateful and humble heart. If we do not get what we desire, we are still to trust Him because He has more information than we do to make correct decisions regarding our needs.
Just being Negative?
Godly behavior, as defined by the Bible, in a secular culture becomes more important and difficult everyday. Those who concern themselves with this topic are becoming fewer in numbers. Those who are actually trying to live a Holy life are fewer still.
Are we just being negative? Are we just trying to frighten or insult our Christian brothers or sisters? Are we better than anyone else? Not at all! So what is our point?
We go back to our original question, which we believe deserves an answer…
"Is there a down-side to being a hedonistic Christian? Are we not saved and as such, children of God? Will He not accept us just as we are, for as long as we live, and then take us into eternity? Will He not forgive all our sins? If the answer is yes, then what is the problem with being a worldly Christian? Why does the Bible, from beginning to end, constantly warn us against this?"
Francis Schaeffer asked it in a different way, "How should we then live"? (7) There is an answer and it is a good one, and a serious study of the Bible will yield the answer. We must decide whether or not to take it seriously.
1, 4. Sider, Ronald. 2005. The scandal of the evangelical conscience. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.
2. Romans 12:2
3. Romans 8:29
5. Benware, Paul. 2002. The believer's payday. Chattanooga, Tennessee: AMG.
6. Bobjust.com / WorldNetDaily . Killer culture - A call to churches.
7. Schaeffer, Frances. 1976. How should we then live? Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.
Appendix - Applicable Scriptures:
Loving the World
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." (First John 2:15-17)
Loss of Reward
"Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward" (Second John 1:8).
"If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (First Cor. 3:15).
"For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality" (Col. 3:25).
Shame at His Coming
"Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming" (1 John 2:28).
Payback for Good or Evil
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt. 12:36-37).
"I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (benched). (1 Cor. 9:27).
"For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep" (1 Cor. 11:31).
"I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5).
"Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme" (1 Tim. 1:20).
"Do not be idolaters as some of them were. We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day" (1 Cor. 10:7-8).
"Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents" (1 Cor. 10:9).
"Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:10).
Loss of Inheritance
"Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters…nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
"For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph. 5:5).
Author Ken Emilio holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.