A few years back, I remember hearing a sermon by Alistair Begg where he criticized the church for trying so hard to look like the world. He was referring to this strange affinity that the American church has in trying to be like the world around us. Why do we do that?
We emulate the world’s music, the world’s clothing, the world’s speech, the world’s morals and standards. Why? Why do we try so hard to be like the world? All this, to worship a God who said this through Moses:
“‘I am the LORD your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan … you shall not walk in their statutes … I am the LORD your God.”
Do not be like them. That is the resounding message of the Bible. We are not to follow the customs of the nations around us. In about 64 AD, Peter wrote a letter to the church. In that letter, he told the church that they were called to follow God in a special way. They were to be different from the world. This was the main point of his letter. Here’s what he wrote:
1 Peter 1:15-16
“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’”
That word - holy - means to be different. It means to be separate, set apart. It means that the church is not supposed to look like the world around it. People are supposed to look at the church and say, “Wow! This place is different. These people aren’t like other people.”
So, why do we keep embracing the world and trying to be more and more like it? Why do we mimic the world around us when God clearly … let me say that again: CLEARLY … warns us that He is opposed to the ways of the world and they will destroy us? Following the world leads to death.
James was the first pastor of the first church and he took it even a step further. To James, embracing the world’s ideas and morals was not just sinful, it was actually an act of war against the God we claim to love and worship.
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Tomorrow: how should the church think and act if we are going to please God?