One of those phrases which are said far too often and almost flippantly, are believers, Christians, are “to be in the world but not of the world.” Usually it is a teacher or someone who is attempting to make a point through the use of this phrase, but no real, concrete explanation is ever given which would give meaning to the aphorism.
The listener is somewhat perplexed and unsure how to alter their behavior, so they can then avoid being “of the world.” I’m sure, in many instances, the frustration builds, and no attempt is made to alter their life. Thoughts of finding some kind of camouflage may even immediately be considered to avoid being detected . . . .by anyone!
While this saying usually sounds so much wiser than the wisdom actually imparted, the Apostle Paul, in the letter to the Romans, wrote to them saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”(Romans 12:2 ESV).
The saying, “being in but not of the world,” is not in the Bible, but the principle is. The Apostle Paul, after spending eleven chapters informing the church in Rome of God’s plan, of how God chose people to be His in spite of the fact every single person had rejected Him and had chosen to worship the inferiority of creation rather than Him; He made a decision to choose some of us anyway.
Paul then demonstrated how on our own, no one would be able to come to Him through His Son. He then gave the example of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah—and how God will stillsave a remnant who will accept His Messiah Jesus. Then Paul concludes by telling the Roman Christians they should, as an act of worship, “present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice” which is their natural, spiritual worship response as a saved, redeemed people.
Okay, so far so good. Yet just as the saying of “we’re in the world but not of the world” sounds really cool in concept, how exactly does this occur? Paul doesn’t hesitate, but quickly adds the way, the mechanics which will allow this to occur: through “the renewal of our minds.”
When computers first started to become the ubiquitous necessity they are now, there was an aphorism that was immediately recognizable and understood: “Garbage in, garbage out!” If you enter bad data, you will never—and have no hope of ever—get good data from the computer.
Paul understood this was true of people as well. We are created beings and the One who created us knows how we are made and what is needed for us to function well. While Paul is writing to Christians, this principle is true of all of humanity. If you eat junk food, if you consume violent or risqué media, do not be shocked when the cigarettes you smoke make you wheeze, the donuts keep you from seeing your toes and the media you allow in your mind affects your ability to think clearly and function normally.
One other note: the Greek word translated as conformed gives us the ability to understand this conformity with the world that literally “fashions us together with” the world so we cannot be separated from it. This is the same idea in camouflage. Regardless of who you are, you have made the choice to “blend in” so well, you cannot and will not be distinguishable from your surroundings.
So, let’s return to our confusing little homily: “in the world yet not of the world.” As believers in Jesus Christ, as those who Paul says have been “recreated” by the Spirit, we are literally “no longer of this world.” Just as a diver must wear an air tank, a mask and flippers to propel him through the water and to keep him alive, believers must breath faith, consume God’s Word, and we must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christians are to be different. “Different” does not mean weird! Different means we exist through our faith, we are sustained by God’s Word and we find our energy, our power through the Holy Spirit. As we use our faith, consume God’s Word and live by the Spirit’s power, we will find our conformity will be to Jesus Christ. Paul even said this clearly that every believer is “to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
We are “in” not “of.” The only way we can exist “in” is for us to “look like” Jesus Christ—literally, for people to “see Jesus,” when they see us.
Now that’s some great camouflage!
Are All Imaginations Created Equal?
Why is it some people are so much more “imaginative” than others? Why do we value people with imagination? Is imagination a learned behavior or a developed one? Can “concrete” thinkers have great imaginations or does this belong only to those who are more “abstract” in their thinking?
Maybe the question should be, “Does God give imagination as a gift?”
If you take the time to do a search of “Where does imagination come from/originate?” you will find a plethora of information ranging from opinion to scientific study. Though, admittedly, even many in the science community communicate the elusive nature of the origin of one’s imagination.
Regarding the well-being and progress of humanity, we owe much to men and women over the years who have shared their “imaginings” with the rest of us. Steve Jobs gave us the iPhone, Isaac Newton the Laws of Gravity, and The Eagles gave us one of the most recognizable guitar riffs at the beginning of their hit song, Life in the Fast Lane!
Well, there was the guy who gave us the Pet Rock of the late 1970’s.
I used to wonder what kind of mind thought of putting a rock in a wooden cage, selling it for seven bucks and calling it a pet.
Oh! Wait! Maybe he was related to the guy who shared “Gopher Eggs” with the people of the world!
People without imagination only saw a golf ball sitting in green, Easter-basket grass; some guy figured out non-imaginative people would actually buy them—even if for a prank joke!
Yet I believe God encourages believers to exercise their imaginations as well. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the churches in the city of Rome, asks his readers to imagine what it will be like when those God has chosen recognize the Messiah Jesus for who He truly is!
Paul, referencing his fellow Israelites God chose through their founder Abraham, makes this statement about the Jews: “Now if their stumbling brings riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full number bring” (Romans 11:12 HCSB)!
Here is Paul’s point: The Jews rejected Jesus during His earthly ministry 2000 years ago and the vast majority of them have rejected Him since—yet all of humanity has also rejected Messiah Jesus! Yet Rabbi Paul was reminding his readers about the prophecy of the Old Testament—The Torah—that prophesied the Gentiles (everyone not a Jew) and the Israelites as a group will eventually accept who Messiah Jesus is!
So, Paul is telling his readers, “The rejection of Messiah Jesus by the Jewish people has caused me to tell those who are not Jews about Messiah Jesus!” The result means Gentiles, non-Jews, can now enjoy a relationship with God because of the rejection by the Jews.
Paul could have been bitter. He could have even been vindictive. Instead Paul pointed out the obvious. Gentiles are now being saved, being brought into a relationship with Messiah Jesus! But wait! Can you imagine this? If people are now being brought into a relationship with God because the Jewish people rejected Messiah Jesus, can you even imagine what will happen to humanity when the Jews accept Messiah Jesus as the Old Testament prophets affirm?
Paul continues in this passage it will mean “life from the dead” and blessings beyond imagination on all of those who recognize Messiah Jesus! There will come a day where the Middle East will not be a source and central location of human strife. There is coming a day when government corruption will be unknown, justice and integrity will reign supreme and the earth will be healed ecologically!
If God, through His grace given to humanity, can allow our dysfunctional selves to light homes and cool them, to have cars, phones, and anti-biotics, can we ever imagine a day when war is no more, when death is not proud and where justice and righteousness is du jour and de facto?
Imagination is indeed a “good” thing. Yet the right kind of imagination requires a mind made new by God.
Crime dramas have been a major fare of TV viewing diets since the 1950’s. Whether a show opens “On a dark and rainy night,” or we are ushered into a crime scene as the crime occurs in medias res, the crime drama continues to draw viewers.
Yet here’s an observation I have made: while watching a particular, unnamed drama which would fall into the above mentioned category, I noticed while the characters have no scruples about “blowing away” a bad guy with a gun intent on harming someone, no one—and I mean no one—is allowed to head-shoot the crazed dog trying to take a bite out of one of the characters portraying a cop at the order of the above-mentioned bad guy!
Fido with fangs gets to live; Guido the killer pimp does not.
Now you may be thinking, “Hey dude, it’s not the dogs fault! I mean, dude, it was trained that way!”
You may believe I desire to see Fido (Fee-Fee, Rover, Claude-the Killer-Cat, whatever) get whacked, I don’t. My wife and I are owned by five cats (“Please, call me ‘The Litter Whisperer’”) and we treat them like family—we love our cats! My observation here has to do more with perceived value and balance.
There are laws and caveats always protecting the mistreatment of animals. Animals are viewed as innocent, as creatures in need of our care and stewardship so we should not do anything which could be construed as cruelty to them. We do not desire, as a people, to communicate anything which would denigrate and devalue the life of animals.
I’m good with this. I love my animals and I have given up even the slightest desire to hunt because of my feelings in this matter. I believe it’s fine for others to hunt, but I cannot. My issues are more with my total dislike of death—especially death in which I would be a cause. Yet while I personally do not desire to cause any unwanted death (yessiree, I’m one of those people who honk and brake for squirrels), I would not hesitate to make the choice between a fang-laden Cujo and me; I win and Cujo gets whacked!
So here’s my concern: we go out of our way not to ever show an animal being hurt, but we have no issues with shooting holes in people, with someone shot bleeding out of their mouth and with news people taking pictures of the aftermath of the Boston Bombings and putting them on the news and Internet.
Am I missing something?
Who have we become as a people? Lines will form with angry voices screaming at the mistreatment of animals, there are cries for baby whales, walruses and seals, yet we receive nothing but silence (and occasionally applause) over the depiction of human death and dismemberment. Are we to be extolled for protecting animals all the while we allow the wholesale slaughter of humanity–portrayed with fictional characters or in real life?
Has anyone ever thought this is a reflection of our values rather than an attempt to influence them?
I mean, really?
Follow along class: “suicide” is self-killing; “herbicide” is weed killing; “homicide” is the killing of another human; insecticide is the killing of insects and “genocide” is the killing of a whole group based on race. When we “decide” we are killing off options, the other possible realities we could experience when we make a decision.
Very few people have even heard of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor whose trial over the last five-plus weeks has illuminated the dark, bloody and heartless world of late-term abortions. The fact almost no one has heard of this man is a testimony to the complete apathy of the major news outlets regarding their responsibilities—implied or otherwise—to keep the nation informed.
As it turns out, few members of the national media consider this a worthy subject to cover.
While I find abortion abhorrent, despicable, cruel, and as an act, nothing short of legalized convenience-killing, my desire is not really to focus on abortion per se, but rather what its practice and tolerance says about us as a people.
Over this past month our country has been shocked with the violence of the Boston Bombings. How could these men choose to do these things? How is it the majority—if not all—of these types of violence been committed by young men obsessed with killing and “striking at” a perceived lack in their world?
As a pastor and a Christian who believes in the authority of Scripture and the exclusiveness of salvation through Jesus Christ, the 1973 SCOTUS decision of Roe-v-Wade which legalized abortion on demand is a watershed event in our country. Regardless of the arguments now forming in your mind, Roe-v-Wade did more than merely legalize abortion; it validated and rationalized an attitude toward newborn life in particular and “life” in general.
The generations born since this turning point of societal and cultural thinking have realized life is nothing more than a whim; a decision of an adult dependent on circumstance and convenience. According to society and now mandated by law, all children have been a mere subject of choice, a convenience and nothing more than the proverbial whim of the mother. Gone is the idea of intrinsic value of life, of its gift and the imprimatur of Deity on it.
It is no wonder why life is viewed as “cheap” and of no value. Life has become nothing more than the result of a choice. Some may say, “Life is what you make of it, what you do!” While I may be able to comprehend the sentiment, what happens when we as a people fail or we are hurt or crippled? What do we do when we get too old to “do” anything making us significant?
The atheistic mind believes life is found only in the “now” (because when you’re dead you’re dead and there’s nothing but nothing) and the past is nothing more than something we “hope” (an avenue of faith I might add) we may improve on.
The evolutionary mind sees us essentially as “Humanity 1.8”; the apes, Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal species we have surpassed prove our superiority. Homo-Sapien-Sapien has overcome, has evolved and survived as the fittest of the species and “Humanity 1.8” is the latest release in the evolutionary line. We are “better” and therefore more valuable because we survived and do survive.
Yet may I point out this rings hollow for those who lost life and limbs in Boston, on September 11 or any other of the mass killing occurring throughout the twentieth century until today.
Do we as a people sacrifice everything on the altar of the convenient? We are taught through the actions of society we all have our “rights” and how dare anyone violate our rights or offend our sensibilities! Those right-wing whackos clinging to their God and their guns are the reasons we have violence and hatred still in our country!
How quickly we have forgotten Nazi Germany outlawed guns and Hitler replaced God. Lenin and Stalin outlawed both God and guns. The resultant loss of life: Hitler killed over 6 million Jews and millions more undesirables; Stalin, not wanting the Nazis to outdo him, conservatively killed over 45 million people.
So much for God and guns, eh?
Yet I offer an observation: if the fittest survive, if we all have a choice, if we all have our rights—especially our right to never be offended—what do we then do with those who cannot speak, cannot stand or especially those who are never given a chance to speak, to stand or even to live?
As a country we mourn our losses—especially difficult are the ones we view as “senseless.” Yet contrary to our words, our actions scream our attitude; life is cheap because choices are easy. We are unable to know the full extent of those choices because we have nothing oppositional giving us a comparison; once we de-cide we have literally “killed off” all of the other realities providing a comparison to our choice.
And after all of the killing and maiming we have witnessed lately, shouldn’t we be more judicious regarding our killing decisions?
I mean, seriously?