Friday, December 27, 2013

POST #5: Personal Accountability

This concludes the series on Ezra: the church corporate and individual. 
Ezra 9:1-2 “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

Syncretism in Ezra manifested in the inter-marriage issue. In this post, I am not going to discuss marriage. However, suffice it to say that the pitfalls of a person of faith marrying a person of a different or non-existent faith is pretty much the same today as it was in Ezra’s day: If mom and dad aren’t on the same page spiritually, someone will either have to sell out in their faith or change his or her doctrine in order to please their spouse. The only other choice is to go it alone spiritually within a marriage. I’ve talked to couples who live this way, and lived it myself for a year before my husband came to Christ, and it isn’t a joyful scenario. And then, what will the children of these marriages choose: faith, no faith, or a syncretistic version of faith modeled by a parent who tried to appease a spouse by making un-Biblical compromises?

           This issue of marriage is crucial because everything flows out of the family. As the family goes, so goes the culture and community.
We’ve already looked at what syncretism in the church corporate and individual looks like in Post #3. So how do we avoid compromising our faith, be it in marriage, a career, the music we listen to, or the thoughts we allow to simmer on our mind?
The best way I know is to be in God’s Holy Word. If there’s anything at all we’ve learned from Ezra it is this essential thought: without the Word of God, we will grow distant from God and His Holiness.
In researching this topic, I came upon a comment from Ann, dated January 2013, posted on a website discussing various elements of philosophy and religion:

           “Maybe it’s just the path we’re on, but from my vantage point, there are very few biblically literate people around anymore, particularly newer believers. Everyone sets to work serving, but no one is studying to show thyself approved or entering through the narrow gate; being holy is not talked about much.”

          She’s right. The only way to grow spiritually and build up resistance to the world, replacing worldly desires with Godly, holy desires, is to be in the Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Personal Bible reading must always be central and the foundation to everything a Christian does.
Scripture can also be taught and encouraged in church and one-on-one discipleship, and understood more deeply through further study via an online class or enrollment in a Biblically legitimate seminary.

            Scripture is lived out and fine-tuned through fellowship in Christian community. As iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), Christian support, encouragement and accountability is a must for staying uninfluenced by the world and the people and trends in it.
The Christian life, as with anything worth doing, takes discipline. It’s similar to a work out. If I halt my bike-riding routine, it’s exceedingly difficult to start up again. Plus, when I stop working out, I also cease caring about what I eat. On the other hand, when I have just burned off hundreds of calories through exercise, junk food loses its appeal. It’s the same with holiness. The more we get of it, the less we want of the other stuff. 
One of the quotes Christians and non-Christians alike love to drool over is the quote attributed to Ghandi (but may not be exactly what he said):

            “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
That’s the humanistic take for you! 
We need to be diligent in separating ourselves from this sort of philosophizing that claims “I” can do this or “I” can do that in my own power. Because truthfully, “I” can never “be the change,” and to be quite honest, change based on what I or anybody else wants to see in the world (which is different for everyone) is scary! I mean, we already have that. We already have dictators who are being and effecting the change they want to see in the world. We already have television and movie executives being the change they want to see, with the result being movies that idolize hang-overs and casual sex. Based on the logic of the Ghandi quote, people are being the change they want to see in the world, and it doesn’t appear to be having a very positive effect overall.
If one must have a cliché to hang their theology on, how about this: "Be the church the Bible calls us to be in the world.” And each person individually is the church.
Ezra was the church, and look at the change he effected in the life of the Israelites. Though any decision the returnees would have arrived at would involve sorrow, they allowed Ezra’s Godly influence and example to bring them to repent and change their ways (Ezra 10:2-3).

            As individuals, we are tempted to think that legitimizing the world over Scripture is the way to impact and reach the culture. And how, I might ask, is that working for us? Does the world seem to be improving?
Ezra separated himself from the world unto God and isn’t it ironic that the world responded and was better for it.

No comments: