Judges 3:7-11 (Part 1) – To Seek Holiness or To Seek Cultural Relevance – That is The Question

Posted: August 4, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 3:7-11 (Part 1 of 2)
Othniel Becomes Israel’s Judge

Recently, over the last few days, I have been reading a book entitled, The Hole in our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung. The point of the book is that we, today, have veered away from wanting to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests, as Christians. We have begun to see it as acceptable to think about, ponder upon, and participate in actions that are clearly not holy. We have lowered the bar on our holiness. Compare our generation of Christians to the spiritual giants of the past. We live in a culture that is progressively less and less moral and it has affected us as Christians. In his book, DeYoung states,

“In the past Christians equated holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices such as drinking and dancing; our churches have many unregenerate persons in them who are necessarily uninterested in holiness; we emphasize a culture of cool that pushes the boundaries with language, entertainment, alcohol, fashion, and whatever else is deemed cool; labeling something as unholy or ungodly feels judgmental; we fear legalism and are frightened by words like diligence, effort and duty; we face the reality that pursuing holiness is hard work; and finally, many Christians have tried and just plain given up.”

We would rather blend in than be different. We would rather go with the tide and stand against it. We would rather accept that which is clearly against Scripture. Seeking holiness and separation from that which is immoral and against God’s Word is often too difficult. We are called Neanderthals of the past when we go against the tide of “I should be able to do what makes me feel good” sentiment of our day. We would rather condone gay marriage that fight against the backlash of culture. We would rather be silent on men dressed like as normal rather than neuroses that requires psychological assistance. We would rather let them go to the bathroom in the same bathroom as our precious “female by nature” wives and daughters. We would rather allow our daughters to dress in ways that attract the sensual thoughts of men and act all surprised and shocked that our daughters are sexually active and getting pregnant out of wedlock. We would rather accept that having babies without being married is now acceptable. Sex outside of marriage is normative now and those who do not participate in premarital sex are considered weird. Adultery is the single leading cause of divorce in America. We trade in our spouses like we trade cars. Why even get married? More and more Americans see marriage as unnecessary legal entanglements and why shouldn’t they? Half of Protestant denominations now openly accept and/or perform gay marriage and have no issue with gay clergy. We accept that religion should be a menu of options now rather than the Scriptural imperative that Jesus is the only way to the Father in heaven. We now see that we should be able to pick and choose what fits us best from Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and the host of other religions. We have made ourselves our own gods in the process. Holiness is for old fogeys. Holiness is a standard imposed upon us by the mythical religions of the past. We are too evolved now to seek to live by standards set by some external force that we cannot see.

And, as Christians, we are in this thing now and it is deep. The culture itself bombards us with our worship of ourselves and what we think is right. The culture bombards us with sex as recreation. The culture bombards us with self-styled, menu-driven religion of tolerance. The culture bombards us with the need to accept gay lifestyles as normative. The culture bombards us with greed as acceptable behavior. The culture bombards us with lying, cheating, stealing. The culture bombards us with adultery and fornication as acceptable. We have two choices. One is that we are to stand firm on the Word of God as written or become like the culture and throw away the Bible and just be another self-actualization “religion” where we in essence worship ourselves and the high ideals of self-love, self-actualization, and the continual attempt to be one with the goodness of the universe. To be holy is to seek to please God. To be unholy is to seek to please ourselves. To be holy is hard work. To be like the world around us is easy.

That idea of holiness vs. acceptance of the culture around us just to fit and attract people is as age old as God choosing the Israelites to be His holy people. As followers of Jesus Christ chosen by Him through grace by faith, we are called to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests, but yet attract people. Do we forget the commands toward holiness just to fit in. Look what is beginning to happen to Israel when they decide that it is easier to blend in than stand out. Let’s read Judges 3:7-11 now for the first of two reads:

7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim,[a] to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9 But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge[b] and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.

In this passage, we that the nation has succumbed to the attractiveness of the idol worship of the nations around Israel as well as of the remnants of the former nations that were left behind when Israel did completely drive them out of the Promised Land. They intermarried with them and accepted their pagan gods. By accepting these gods into their homes, they gradually began to accept the immoral practices associated with them. They gradually allowed these immoral activities to be considered normative. Before long they had strayed from God and were living just like the world around them. Similarly, today, the church has a choice to make and so its people. We can become so enamored with attracting people inside our fellowship that we begin accepting behaviors as normative that are clearly against Scripture just so we can fill the pews. Likewise, as individuals, we must be discerning about connecting with people where they are at, yet, not compromising on the essential beliefs of the Christian faith.

In the day of the Israelites, Baal was the most worshiped god of the Canaanites. Most often cast in the form of a bull, he symbolized virility and power and strength and growth. Asherah was Baal’s female consort and was viewed as the goddess of fertility and sensuality. In essence, they represented the worship of desire and of self. Not too much different from the world in which we live today.

How can we be holy without driving people away in today’s culture? How can we be holy and attract people to Jesus Christ? How can we do this? How can we get people to see their need in the midst of all this pleasure-seeking? How can we attract them and be holy at the same time?

That’s the struggle of God’s people through the ages and is certainly no less and probably more intense now. We must demonstrate to the world that we are different through our striving for holiness. We must demonstrate to them that their pursuits are going to leave them empty. We need to be different so that they will see us when all this anti-scriptural behavior (sin) that they have touted as new freedom ensnares and enslaves them. God wants us to be holy not because He is keeping us from fun but rather He knows that sin is destructive and soul deadening. It always comes up empty and wanting.

That is when they can see us as Christ followers and be drawn to us. How can they be drawn to us if we are no different than the culture? That’s when we can tell them about the forgiveness in Jesus Christ. That’s when we can tell them about His righteous covering. That’s when we lead them toward the truth of Scripture and its conviction through the Holy Spirit of our sins that we use to think were “culturally relevant”. It’s only by being different and separate and apart that we can attract those whom the Lord wills. Fitting in is not the answer. We’ve seen Israel’s example. Holiness is the answer.

 

Amen and Amen.

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