|Posted on August 16, 2017 at 6:15 AM|
Main Passage: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
Secondary Passage: Malachi 3:1-3
Key Verse: Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV
I was surprised wandering through Facebook one day, when I read a meme that said, "Exhale Impurity, Inhale the Holy Spirit." It's been a couple of years since I found it, so I can't find it's origin, but I do remember it was from a Christian website. It sounds well and good, but we cannot breathe in or out the Holy Spirit, nor can we exhale something bad-- sin-- and inhale the Holy Spirit. It was a trendy illustration which seems to have gone awry, or at least someone tried transliterating something from a cultural trend of spiritual breathing from New Age (Bright,CRU.org, Weibe, TheLife.com) What a misguided notion to think we can manipulate the Holy Spirit!
A current trend is for Christians to embrace the whole New Age holistic movement, adding Buddha and his teachings to a religious hodgepodge. From traditional Reiki massage, to "holy" yoga classes, to Eastern meditation, many in the church have been caught up in this wave of Buddhist-Hindu influence. It even infiltrates the Church through seemingly harmless ways of "enhancing our prayer life", as I was told once years ago.
My husband and I went to an evening prayer and Bible study service at a nearby church. The pastor began to lead everyone in guided imagery after the Bible study portion, just before prayer time. She had us to close our eyes and imagine we were on a mountain with a light in front of us. We were supposed to imagine this light travelling through our bodies, then coming back out to bring ourselves back onto the mountain with the light back in front of us. During prayer time, we were instructed to pray with our palms up, then turn them down to release anything bad, then back to palms up to receive God's goodness. My husband and I were very uneasy with these practices, so we sat praying on our own pondering Bible passages that came to mind. I learned later these were New Age practices from Hindu and Buddhist influences. Deeply troubled, we never went back. The sad part is many people were led naively down the wrong path. We are open to so many scary opportunities that have absolutely nothing to do with God.
What's the Deal?
New Age health and wellness permeates our society. It is simply accepted as normal, natural, and "healthy". A lot of Christians fall into it's trap, creating a collage of religions blurred with their Christian faith. Some are ambivalent toward God, while others are jaded by the organized church, and others seem to think normal prayer and bible study isn't enough for faith practice. Is it innocent and safe? What does it mean to be pure physically and spiritually? How should we respond to the religious influx from our global culture regarding our Christian faith? Let's consider these under the scope of our passages today.
Corinth was a major center of commerce with Asia and Italy in the first centuries B.C.E. It was also a spiritual hotspot with idols and temples in the midst of it's affluence. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was a major influence of lewd behavior in that city. Converts to Christianity were often from pagan backgrounds. They were easily drawn back into former lifestyles by allowing it to infiltrate the Corinthian church. Paul addressed these issues in the second letter to the Corinthian church. Paul called them out to be separate from the culture, to be pure in the faith in Jesus Christ. This meant to not be in close relationships with non-Christians-- marriages, business dealings, close friendships, etc. It was causing them to stumble in their newfound faith. Jesus once said "Whoever is not for me is against me," and "You cannot serve two masters..." (Matthew 12:30, 6:24). By being in close relationship with pagans, the influence of the local religions caused them to defile the temple of the Holy Spirit, their bodies. The other religions were not from God, but from Satan. The idea of spiritual and physical prostitution is alluded to in this passage. Paul called them to purity in their relationship with God and their bodies.
In Malachi's day, Israel had been in exile from their homeland because of their continued unfaithfulness to God. They were under the rule of Persia at that time, allowed to freely come and go. They were even permitted by the government to go back to their homeland. They had become ambivalent toward God because of how they viewed the hardships Israel faced in exile. Since they were living in a foreign land among pagan religions, these picked up some of the practices around them. This attitude affected how they viewed themselves and treated other people. They treated their money and goods as their own, instead of God's. Divorce was rampant. Lewd promiscuous behavior was the norm of the day. The Malachi, a prophet ("Messenger") for God, brought a message of love from God. in verse 1:2, they question God's love for them because of the pain Israel had long experienced in exile. They evidently forgot about their covenant with God with the promises of faithfulness AND the consquences of unfaithfulness. It's kind of like the people who signed an agreement for free Wi-Fi in exchange for cleaning toilets! (Fox News TECH) They didn't read before they accepted the terms of the usage of free Wi-Fi. Everyone one likes the idea of the benefits, but not what the rest of the agreement says. This was likely the case for them. God assures them through Malachi of His great love for Israel by telling them of the coming Messiah who will come to purify them. God will cleanse them of their sin one day!
I hardly see much of a difference looking at the church at Corinth of Paul's time and Israel in Persia of Malachi's time compared to Christians in America today. We've adopted the culture around us instead of standing out as God's people. Churches in a general sense have missed their mission to reach the lost and disciple the saved by not keeping up with current issues nor creating a welcoming environment for newcomers. Conversely, some have tried to be "relavent"by bringing outside culture in to entice people to come, thus undermining the Truth of the Bible; you might be lucky if you actually hear a translation-- instead of a paraphrase-- of the Bible.
A large number of Christians from a younger generation have abandoned the church altogether because they feel there is no place for them, no one understand them. A friend of mine, Emily Gehman, an online magazine editor, encourages millennials to return to church by sharing why she, as a millenial, stays in church in spite of the unhealthy church environment today in "A Millenial Anomaly? Why I'm Still in Church". As a result of our apathy toward God, the divorce rate for Christians isn't different from non-Christians, alternative lifestyles are widely accepted as "normal", smoking, alcohol consumption, and illicit drugs are used by quite a few Christians, and other religious practices are woven into their worldview fabric. We don't have to look weird or behave strangely to stand out because living as God's people makes us stand out anyway. We are called to greater purity by coming back to our faith in Jesus Christ, loving God because He has loved us with an everlasting love.
We are called to live a life of purity in our Christian faith out of love and respect for God. Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross to purify us before our Holy God who loves us with a perfect love. What flows from our hearts shows in how we live-- what we do with our bodies and how we treat other people. Set yourself apart again by doing these:
Clear out religious practices that are not part of what the Bible calls us to practice. Learn what they are and remove them from your life: transcendental meditation, Christianized versions like the spiritual breathing illustration at the beginning of this post, alternative health practices that have no firm research data of effectiveness, crystals and other paraphenalia. What you might be practicing is only the tip of the iceberg of evil. Look at the practices of the New Testament church, the 10 Commandments, and what Jesus taught for your guide to healthy Christian living.
Treat your body as God's. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit when you know Christ as your Savior. Leave harmful substances alone, like unhealthy foods, alcohol, mind-altering substances, and tobacco-related products. Avoid physical practices from other spiritual sources. Eat healthy foods, exercise, get your regular medical exams, only take medications and supplements your medical provider recommends to you. Save sex for convenant Christian marriage. Take proper care of your body so you can serve God and others better (Ephesians 2:10).
Evaluate cultural trends through the Bible. Know where a practice comes from and what is looks like.Do a topical Bible study to decide if something trendy is appropriate to do or not. It is far better to offend people by politely refusing to take part than to offend God by participating.
God loves you so much. He has a better, higher call for your life. Trust Him by showing your gratitude for your salvation by living a pure, holy life for Him. May God bless you!
"The New King James Study Bible", study notes for our passages today. Copyright 2007 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.
Have You Made the Wonderful Discovery of the Spirit-Filled Life?" by Dr.Bill Bright. https://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html
"Spiritual Oxygen: Are You Getting It?" by Stacy Weibe. https://thelife.com/spiritual-oxygen-are-you-getting-it.
"People Accidentally Agree to Clean Toilets for Free Wi-Fi" by Fox News Tech. http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/07/17/people-accidentally-agree-to-clean-toilets-for-free-wi-fi.html.
" A Millenial Anomaly: Why I'm Still in Church" by Emily Gehman, Christianity Today, The Exhange. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/july/millennial-anomaly-why-im-still-in-church.html.