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Posts Tagged ‘deceptive philosophy’

I heard a couple of sermons on Sunday, one of which spoke of “The King”, and the other that addressed holiness. They put me in mind of something I wrote many years ago.  I guess I never published it, because I had to dig it out of an old notebook.

 

Church Government

 

I saw a picture in my mind of the British Parliament, and I sensed the question, “Is England a Monarchy or a Democracy?”  Now this seemed to be a fairly unspiritual question, but I began to ponder my answer.  My immediate impulse was to say it was a monarchy, but the picture of the parliament reminded me that it was in fact a democracy.   While England does have a “Royal Family”, they actually have no real function within the day-to-day running of the country.  While some might claim that they still have a “monarchy”, it is not their way of government.

 

As I continued to meditate in this vein another question came; “Why are the people of England willing to pay the expense of this royal family, when they serve no real purpose in the governing of their country?”  I sensed that the answer lies in the people’s desire to be associated with the monarchy. That all of the pomp and trappings of royalty make the people feel royal about themselves, as though this distinguishes them from other countries.  It occurred to me that if the people of England really believed in the concept of a monarchy (i.e. that the royal family was God ordained and bred for leadership) that there wouldn’t be anyone else they would want to run their country; but instead they have chosen democracy as their form of government.

 

Certainly as an American I can appreciate democracy, because as a citizen I want my beliefs and desires to be reflected in the leadership of my community, my state and this nation.  There is nothing wrong with the British choosing democracy over a monarchy, but their desire to maintain the trappings of royalty creates an interesting illusion; it helps them to view themselves as one thing when they’re really something else.

 

As I continued to pray, I sensed the Lord say that this is a picture of His church.  He said that though we claim Him as “King”, He is rarely allowed to be involved in the decision making process, or the day to day affairs of the church; that decisions are primarily made by the people and for the people; that though we desire to be associated with His majesty, we do not necessarily desire to submit to His authority, and that though His name appears on the letterhead, the words of the message do not necessarily come from Him.

 

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul warned of the body becoming disconnected from the Head; he said, “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ”.  It seems that much of popular Christian culture has based itself on “the basic principles of this world”, and that in attempt to become relevant to the world, we’ve conformed ourselves to what we think will be found appealing in the marketplace.  Much of the “Christian” guidance (i.e. books, tapes, seminars…) on subjects like marriage, child rearing, inner healing… are more rooted in psychology than in God’s word, and we’ve even begun to study the corporate world for marketing strategies to be deployed within the church.  Based on these strategies, which put “what the people want” at the forefront, we are now seeing new interpretations (read; not necessarily translations) of scripture, which subtly distort anything which might offend someone who has adapted to the current cultural view.

 

In the book of Revelation there are messages to seven churches, which seem to be representative of the end time churches.  Within those the Lord points out some positive things, but He also gives stern warnings about the things He has against them.  He warns about forsaking our first love (i.e. allowing something other than Christ to be at the forefront of the church); that we must being willing to endure hardship and suffering (i.e. be willing to forsake our comfort); against adhering to false doctrines, which allow us to indulge our flesh and still believe that we are righteous before a Holy God; against tolerating sexual immorality within the church; against falling asleep, and not fulfilling His role for the church and against being lukewarm in our relationship with Him.  It is hard to deny that all of these things are prominently featured within modern Christianity.

 

At the end of each message there is a promise, but those promises are reserved for those who overcome these things.  Despite warnings throughout the New Testament, the Western church seems to be falling into many of these deadly patterns.  Our only hope is to re-connect to the Head, to tune our ears to His Holy Spirit; to renew our relationship with our “First Love”, to seek the Lord while He may be found, and to be like Jesus (e.g. to only do what we see the Father doing first).

 

Within this portion of Revelation, the one group the Lord doesn’t seem to have an issue with is the church of Philadelphia, which He says kept His word and did not deny His name.  This seems to be such a basic principle and yet this is the only church of which He could say this.  If we would choose to be that church, the promises of God are waiting for us there.  “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

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On this side of eternity, there is a battle that goes on every day of our lives, and if we do not discern it, we can quietly live an existence of turmoil and defeat.  It begins with our first thought of the day, which sets the tone for everything that follows it.  And while the objective of this war is ultimately the fidelity of our hearts, the battle itself is most commonly waged upon the fertile ground of our minds.  Even if the enemy never successfully wrestles away our allegiance, succumbing to this daily struggle can drastically impact the fruit produced by our lives.  When Jesus spoke of the greatest commandment, He not only told us to love God with all of our heart and soul, He instructed us to love Him with “all” of our mind.  But what does that really look like?

 

First and foremost, our journey with God must begin with a change of mind, which is commonly referred to within the scripture as “repentance”.  The book of Proverbs says that as a man thinks, so is he (23:7); therefore, when we surrender our lives to the Lord, our ways of thinking must also be placed on the altar.  We can no longer be conformed to the patterns of this world, and we need to allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2).  It is not simply resisting “evil” thoughts, and having “good” ones.  The Apostle Paul warns that those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. He adds that the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:5).  Similarly, the book of James (1:8) warns us that we cannot have it both ways, as a double-minded man is unstable in everything he does.

 

While those words are clearly ripe with implication, how to apply them may not always be obvious.  Thankfully, the scripture gets very practical on this matter.  It tells us that we shouldn’t allow our minds to be consumed with earthly things (Phil 3:19, Col 3:2), or to let our hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14:27), or even to worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34).  It says that because “seen” things (i.e. natural) are perishing, we need to stay focused on “unseen” things (i.e. spiritual), which are eternal (2Cor. 4:18); and that we need to fix our attention on the person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:2).  In a more general way, it tells us to look for those things which are noble, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and praiseworthy; and to set our minds on them (Phil 4:8).

 

The Bible acknowledges that all of this won’t come easy.  While it concedes that we will have to take “every thought captive”, it also assures us that through the power of God’s Spirit, we can demolish every argument and pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of who He is (2 Cor. 10:5), and that by carrying our concerns to Him in prayer, we can experience a peace that will further guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:6-7).

 

This picture stands in stark contrast to the paradigm of our culture, which encourages us to open our minds (including our imaginations) to every possibility, and to lend equal weight to every viewpoint.  The scripture warns us to “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition, and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ (Col. 2:8)”.  But that guidance is challenging, especially in an age when our senses are relentlessly bombarded with images, ideas, opinions agendas…  Readily drinking these things into our soul is akin to swallowing untreated water from the river; it is bound to make our hearts and minds sick.

 

I would suggest that upon hearing news of break-ins around our neighborhood, most of us would consider taking additional steps toward keeping our home secure.  And so it should be with our minds.  If we consistently battle anxious thoughts, or find ourselves mired in the hurts of the past, or are consumed with fear about what the future holds, or recognize that our outlook has become overwhelmingly negative, or are filled with animosity toward other people, or catch ourselves wondering whether God & His promises are even real, maybe it’s time to call on the Holy Spirit and to invite Him to become the new filtration system for what flows in and out of our minds.

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