“Can someone carry the filth of the world in their heart and still have a genuine relationship with God?”
This is Pastor John Bevere* asking the one question I knew he was going to ask. Did you not see it coming? He further brings up the idea of grace. “Does the grace of Jesus Christ eradicate the necessity of cleansing ourselves from the world’s filth?”
Here are the answers from 2nd Corinthians, answers that we often do not hear quoted from the pulpit. Scripture we don’t often study in Sunday school or Bible studies: “As God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body and spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God’” [6:16–7:1].
People who are blessed enough to study the Bible know that it echoes. New Testament verses recall verses from the Old Testament. Old Testament verses foreshadow New Testament Scripture. That is the mighty power of God’s scripture: forty men of diverse backgrounds writing over a period of 1,500 years and yet you have echoes and foreshadowing.
Here Paul is quoting what God said to Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb [depending on the writings in Exodus or Deuteronomy].
In Old Testament times, very few men could muster enough desire for an authentic relationship with God. Bevere lists Moses, David, Daniel, Isaiah. These men purposefully rid themselves of worldly motives.
How many of us can do that today?
The world can be a horrible place, full of wars, famine, suffering, poverty, things that impact Christians and non-Christians alike. By remembering that we are “not of this world,” remembering that these things are just for a little while, we can see them in a different light and we should see them in a different light. The world can be a horrible place for us to fall into the temptation of sinning. Around every corner, we are cajoled into doing things that we know we should not do but we give in anyway. We think we can hide our motives, putting on a “Christian façade” when God knows what we are doing and He knows why we are doing it. Over and Over God warns that we should not worship idols and yet that is what we do, easily falling prey to various whims that society tells us we have to have, from the latest most flashy cars to the most wonderful over-the-top house.
I just recently heard a familiar wail, that we should not bury our heads as Christians. We should defend ourselves when people try to take away our valued activities. We often hear that the Bible has been taken out of school, prayer has been taken out of school and we can’t say Christmas anymore. I have often wondered about Christians who have abdicated their rights like this. I taught school for thirty-six years and I never asked that a Bible be removed or saw any sign that it could not be carried. When I saw a student pray before a test, my heart was gladdened and I have never been told directly by anyone that I could not say Christmas. Christian faith is a lifestyle that you can live without anti-Christian people telling you that you have to cease and desist. If you truly believe, you will find a way to let it show. You practice your faith, despite what the world says.
I have had other Christians tell me that we should be involved in the political arena. In all my years, I have never seen that amount to much. Some pastors may advocate a certain politician and then he or she gets in office after pandering to Christians and they do what they want to do. Good Christians who try to politicize their faith wind up feeling disappointed and feeling used, relegated to “window dressing” on a politician’s evangelical panel.
We need to get what is going on in 2nd Corinthians. We are living in this world but we are not supposed to get involved in the filth of this world. Jesus says that His kingdom is “not of this world.” As His followers, Christians are members of His kingdom which is “not of this world.” By remembering that we are “not of this world,” remembering that these things are just for a little while, we can see them in a different light. We are still in this world but we are no longer of it. We are still surrounded by all the horrors and tragedy of this life, but this is not our life. The knowledge that we are not of this world gives Christians hope even in the darkest times; hope that this will pass and at the end of it we will be in heaven with our God, face to face forever. This cracked and broken place is not where we belong, and it is not where we will stay.**
Bevere says “To maintain the most beneficial internal GPS setting—toward a close relationship with God—it would seem that the word holiness is a key factor.” Holiness is not found in reacting to the stresses and strains of this world. Holiness is not found in complaining about the things that have supposedly been taken away from us. Holiness is certainly not found in the political arena.
The GPS Bevere is referring to is internal. It tells us the correct directions, avoiding the filth of this world.
My GPS is my Holy Spirit. God guides, I respond and no one can take it away from me.
*From the book Good or God?
**From the Gotquestions.org Website, 2017.