Pagan-Friendly Worship

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by ScottEmerson, Jun 19, 2003.

  1. ScottEmerson

    ScottEmerson
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    This is a great article that may take you about five minutes to read. I'd love to hear your feedback about it. I am sure that it may offend some people, but it may also help others understand my perspective of culture and our role as Christians in it.

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    Making Our Churches Pagan-Friendly
    by Dave Crampton

    click here for a printable pdf version of this article
    We are currently living in an age where the quest for spirituality has never been higher. Yet the quest for Christian spirituality and meaning within church structures is the lowest it has been for a century. These days people are looking for meaning from non-institutional sources outside the church. Some sources are spiritual, such as movies, monastic retreats and new age teachings. About 60 percent of people might not go to church but most of them would be willing to have a meaningful spiritual experience apart from the church. Ninety percent will attend a church service if someone invited them and walked in with them. But, for the majority, it may be their only church service because they consider the church does not have what they are looking for.

    That's because many people embrace spirituality, but they distrust religion and link Christianity with that distrusted view of church and religion. Therefore they also tend to distrust Christianity. However most people are looking for something, even a spiritual experience, to make their lives meaningful. It is just that the church is not meeting this task as it tends to wrap services around an unchanging culture and "one size fits all" programming, usually based around a morning church service. Our congregations are pursuing this one size fits all ministry strategy while leaders are failing to understand the diverse surrounding culture does not have its needs met in a single set of programs, events and language and symbols. If people doesn't feel like they "fit " or "belong" to the programme at the church service, that automatically means they don't feel like they belong in church. Many churches, most notably the Salvation Army, Brethren and Catholic, base their services around the Holiness Meeting/Lords Supper/Mass, with other aspects of church life secondary.

    But those who want to successfully relate to the emerging culture will base church life around relationships. Rather than subscribing to a series of beliefs, newcomers first want to connect with a community of people who subscribe to those beliefs to see how they fit in. If they feel like they belong, they would be more likely to believe. So church life based on community is less likely to alienate newcomers and inquirers who may later come to embrace the Christian faith as a result of being part of a faith community. This doesn't mean the message changes, just the context of how it is being communicated.

    Christians need to communicate the unchanging message of the gospel in an authentic way that relates to all. Yet secular people, particular postmoderns, are wary of institutions despite respecting individualism within community. Personal relationships are highly sought after prior to a search for another truth or morality. They will be converted to community before being converted to Christ.

    If Churches want to have a secular and seeker-friendly community, leaders may have to step outside comfort zones and make a few changes. A worshipping community that is radically hospitable to outsiders is appealing to a spiritually-minded generation who can readily spot "spin and marketing."

    But what are we trying to achieve in our evangelism? Do we want to have people who behave like us, believe the way we do, or are we encouraging them to belong to our community? If believing is central, we hope to inform them of the Christian message so they can accept it. If behaviour is central, we aim to promote a change of lifestyle or habits. If belonging is the priority, we aim not to change their habits or beliefs, but to incorporate them into the Christian community. Once people belong, then we show them that belonging includes a change in belief and behaviour.

    Most people's initial preference is to belong to a community that accepts their individuality, and most people would prefer not to change their beliefs or lifestyle to fit in with the beliefs of individuals within that community. However the more they belong and develop personal relationships, the more open they are to change as they see that the beliefs of individuals in the community being modelled. They desire to be part of that community so they return to check it out. They sometimes don't like what they see, so they fall back on what is familiar and what is liked.

    Christian communities sometimes claim to cater for secular people but many are hostile environments where the needs of secular people are not met. While most Churches do not focus on secular people, they can provide an environment where both Christians and secular people are catered for.

    But when you think about it, secular people don't want to be "catered for" in a "safe, non-threatening environment". They are not looking for a "safe place to hear a dangerous message". They are looking for a place that they can be real. Their cry is more " show me what your deal is and let me decide if I want to join up or not".

    If you really listen to secular people you'll discover that their felt needs are quite deep. They have the need for meaning, the need for purpose, the need for forgiveness, and the need for love. They want to know how to make right decisions, how to protect their family, how to handle suffering and how to have hope in our world. These are deep issues.

    Secular people are therefore more likely to see how a Christian belief system could work for them as their needs are met. Often they desire to experience the benefits of these beliefs as they see that these beliefs can be true for them. Often a person can wake up one morning after living in real relationships with a community of Christians, and say "Hey! I believe this stuff now. They then discover that these beliefs are more about a relationship with Jesus that is to be experienced, as opposed to an intellectual knowledge about him.

    When we understand what belonging involves, we see why it is more fundamental than believing or behaving. If we start with belonging, then believing and behaving naturally fall into place. But if we start with believing or behaving, it is often hard to get belonging into the picture. There are people who believe what the Church teaches, but drop out of a supporting community as they don't feel a part of it. However those who do feel part of the community they will want to get involved.

    A few years ago I regularly visited a pub in New Zealand called Bar Bodega, where, when normally there was a band on stage, a microphone was offered to those present. This "open mic" allowed people to turn up and recite poetry or tell stories. Many Christians would call this "a time of sharing", and that is exactly what it was. Many items sounded offensive or stupid, others were quite creative. Every item was applauded and there was a sense of community at that venue. As soon as one member of the crowd finished, another took their place behind the microphone. I could just picture Jesus sitting at the back of that venue on a bar-stool, listening to that "sharing time" and talking to those around him.

    Jesus would certainly patronise places like Bodega, and where Jesus is, there should his people be also. But just as his people hesitate to frequent such places, so secular people hesitate to frequent churches, even if they are seekers. They need to be welcomed. As secular people become familiar and friendly with those in the church community they too will want to play their part in that community.

    If we have nothing in common with secular people, we don't understand their world, and can't speak their language, how can we hope to reach them?

    But the great chasm that exists between the church and contemporary society has to be bridged. This chasm has been caused by the church's inability to communicate the gospel effectively in today's culture. This ineffectiveness is often as a direct result of the social and relational gap between church-going Christians and their neighbours. Many Christians will not be able to recall having a meal or a drink with six non-Christian friends within the past six months, but have probably had a meal or a drink with six Christian friends within the past six weeks. As we retreat into the Christian subculture we lose the ability to speak the same language as secular people and to understand the context that the gospel needs to be presented. Secular culture is nothing more than the values, beliefs, hopes and dreams of the people we are trying to reach. When we totally remove ourselves from it, we miss out on the greatest tool that we have to understand those who need Christ.

    In the church world, we're always putting a negative prefix on people outside the church: Unchurched, non-believers, unsaved. "We're defining people by what they're not," says Todd Hahn, the lead pastor at Warehouse 242, a US Church that caters for secular and postmodern people. "There are more people who are not Christians than who are, so that makes them, statistically, normal. So that's what we call them."

    I`d prefer to call them what they are: normal; but seekers, secular, postmodern, atheist…

    Christians maintain secular people are suspicious of any evangelising motives, but in reality, those in the Christian community need to work a lot harder in getting to know and understand secular people rather than labelling such people as "them", automatically putting up psychological barriers. Another reason for the gap between "them and us" is the community's lack of understanding of the Church. They act as if it doesn't exist because they are not welcomed into it. Many in the community do not have close friends who are Christians. Furthermore, there is not a recognised voice amongst the Christian community that is big enough to influence society or even adequately challenge the surrounding culture.

    The more you get to know and be friends with secular people, the barriers between "them" and "us" are more likely to be broken down and eventually eliminated, and you eventually begin to wonder why this barrier was erected in the first place. If we want to be a "church without walls" I believe we, as individuals, have to knock down the wall of the "them and us" mentality and build relational bridges.

    There are many approaches that can lead to a better understanding of secular people and sometimes an unorthodox approach will be most likely to provide the best results. Most evangelistic church services consist of Christians telling fellow Christians why secular people shouldn't believe the way they believe. The problem is that most do not understand a secular worldview because they mix with people who share the same world but talk about people who they don't often come into contact with. One church decided to change that with "reverse evangelism" - it got secular people to speak at their services. The leaders took to the pews and secular people were invited to explain to the congregation why they weren't Christians. The biggest stumbling block to these secular people was the organization made up of the very people they were speaking to - the church. They noted that the church was irrelevant so they saw the faith communicated by the church also just as irrelevant.

    But as Christians listen to the secular viewpoints they begin to understand why many people do not embrace the Christian faith. This erases barriers between secular and Christian people, viewing results in terms of conversations, not conversions. As Christians dialogue with secular perspectives they are more likely to effectively communicate the gospel message as their understanding of secular people increases. As Christians understand secular worldviews and points of view they will be in a better position to communicate their message in a way that will connect with secular people. Maybe more churches should try reverse evangelism so their leaders can understand how to make their environment pagan friendly, encouraging Christians to share their faith as they develop positive relationships with their secular friends.
     
  2. Haruo

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    Interesting article, Scott, which will indeed offend those who think the great commission centers on the command to come out and be separate, but I doubt if it belongs in the Music Ministry forum. The stuff it's talking about certainly has its implications for music ministries, but is far broader in scope than this forum can deal with. Maybe you could restart it in the "Other Religions" forum?

    Haruo
     
  3. ScottEmerson

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    I placed it here for two reasons - first, much of what we talk about as far as the music we use in worship has its roots in how separate we should be. Second, I really don't go to any other forum but this one and the C/A forum [​IMG] .

    Perhaps after we've had a run at it, I'll post it on another forum!
     
  4. DanielFive

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    Scott,

    I'm glad you posted this article here, it gave me a better insight into where you are coming from. It only serves to strenghten my views on Seperation and Evangelism.

    The article deserves a proper response and I will get back to you in due course. I want to get plenty of Scripture in there.

    God Bless

    Enda
     
  5. Deacon

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    This is a great article! Too many churches are pushing their brand of Christianity rather than presenting Christ and the gospel as the bread of life. We should try to reach todays post-modern society in ways that they will understand and relate to.

    Rob
     
  6. Aaron

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    I'm at work, so I printed the article to be able to read it during break. It's hogwash. More doctrines of devils.

    I'll explain why later today, but I'll close this post with an observation. I noticed that those who demand volumes of Scriptural proofs against CCM will swallow this vomit wholesale despite the absence of even one passing reference.
     
  7. ScottEmerson

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    Welcome back, Aaron. We missed your rhetoric.

    The emphasis in the article is on today's culture and how they relate to the Christian faith. The article is not saying that those who are not relating exactly like that are committing grave acts of sin.

    And here are the two basic stances of the article that can be shown from the Bible.

    1. Christians need to communicate the unchanging message of the gospel in an authentic way that relates to all.

    2. Jesus would certainly patronise places like Bodega, and where Jesus is, there should his people be also.

    Everything else is about the world that we live in. The author nails it when he talks about the way that society sees us and why Christians are as ineffective in the world as they are.
     
  8. Aaron

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    What a day! I was going to use copious amounts of bandwidth and answer Emerson's posted heathen drivel point by point, but that would make an interminable post. Let me hit a couple of the more glaring hermenuetical offenses and answer the lesser arguments in the onslaught of replies that are sure to follow.

    The only idea I have of Bar Bodega is what the author described, and I have seen no evidence in the Scriptures that Christ hung-out in the popular establishments and listened to vain and profane babbling as a way to "identify" with pagans and share His "unchanging" message in a "relevant" way. In fact, the Spirit of Christ through David said:
    (Aside: This is not the same as his dinner with Simon or visit to Zacchaeus.)

    I will say not that "where Jesus is, there should his people be also," but that Jesus is where His people ARE, For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, Matthew 18:20.

    Though the author intended to extol the "virtues" of Bodega, he actually enumerated its vices. Jesus would not patronize Bodega, and neither does His people.

    Jesus cannot be pictured in this environment. That was an environment He shunned. He said, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee, Hebrews 2:12; Psalm 22:22.

    But I look in vain for a Scripture that says something to the effect, "I will declare thy name at the local pub wherein stands an open podium at which the people share many items that sound offensive or stupid, or quite creative, and where everyone applauds." It's just not there.

    Let's cut to the chase. The artical is saying only one thing really, Christians need to make companions of unsaved people to acclimate them to the Gospel. That's Crampton's entire message. Now he fluffs it a little with unsubstantiated and outright fabricated statistics, but his whole message is that our friendship with the world will lead them to Christ.

    As I said before, HOGWASH. The Spirit says the friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God, James 4:4.

    The Spirit also says, be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners, 1 Cor. 15:33.

    Crampton says, "Build relationships with unsaved people." God says, "Do not build relationships with unsaved people."

    Crampton says, "Your close relationship with an unsaved person will make them receptive to the Gospel." God says, "Your close relationship with the unsaved will only corrupt you, and make you God's enemy."

    And Crampton has proven God right. He's so messed up that he's hanging out in bars listening to profane beatniks and saying, "This is where Jesus is!" No wonder he's made the connection with the world. He's just like them.

    This is how evangelism is to be accomplished.

    1. Bind the strong man, the Devil. Jesus said No man can enter into a strong man‘s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house, Mark 3:27. How does one cast out devils? The same way Christ did, by the Spirit of God, Matt 12:28.

    Christ said that if we had the faith of a mustard seed, we could say unto this mountain, "Be ye removed and be cast into the sea," and it would obey us. But how is this faith nurtured? Prayer and Fasting, Matt. 17:21.

    2. Preach the Word. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

    3. The soul that is loosed from bondage to Satan and that hears the Word has faith revealed, and this faith saves him. By grace are ye saved through faith.

    This is the Scriptural method. This is the method prescribed and illustrated by Christ and the Apostles, and it is still the unchanging method our unchanging God wishes to use to communicate the unchanging message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Pretty simple, isn't it? Just kind of straight forward and simple, but God has chosen these "weak" and "foolish" methods in order to magnify the power of the Spirit.

    Crampton and his disciples would rather use the power of the flesh.

    P.S. I have to say that the article was so easy to refute, my only challenge was limiting which false doctrine to blast. And some of you thought it was great stuff? I wonder about you... :confused:

    [ June 22, 2003, 01:19 AM: Message edited by: Aaron ]
     
  9. Travelsong

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    What do over seas missionaries do? Am I crazy or do missionaries travel to foreign countries and learn the language and culture of the people in order to present them with redemptive analogies so that the message of the Gospel can be understood?Am I bananas or did this happen all throughout the New Testament? Would the teachings of Jesus have made any sense to jungle tribes? (By that I mean the manner in which Jesus taught, not the actual meaning)

    Ever read the book "Peace Child" by Don Richardson? Don was a missionary to the Sawi people of Papua New Guinea who were cannibal headhunters. To the Sawi people nothing was more honorable than to make peace with someone and then betray and kill them. When Don initially preached the Gospel to them he lost all hope because the Sawi's cheared for Judas. There seemed to be no way for him to find a culturally relavent way to share the Gospel message with them.It's quite a long story and I'll cut most of it out and relate the point that matters. One day Don finds out that the only guarenteed way to make peace between two tribes is to exchange a child which is called "the peace child". The most morally reprehensible thing that a Sawi can do is murder a peace child.Bingo.Don presents Jesus as God's peace child who will never die. Suddenly Judas is not the hero and the doorway is open for the Gospel to be recieved among the Sawi people.

    None of this would have been accomplished had God not called Don to live among a heathen and sinful people, learn their language and culture, and relate the message of salvation to them in a way they could understand.

    This my friend is the task of missionaries everywhere, not just over seas in foreign countries. It is the great commision to go out into all the world and preach the the good news.
     
  10. Helen

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    Just to put in a two-cents' worth before I shower for church...

    WE should be pagan-friendly as people. However churches are supposed to be a place where believers come to be together and to worship.

    A pagan-friendly worship? What or who do pagans worship? And how on earth can a Christian church be friendly toward that?

    We have visited far, FAR too many churches where all that is offered is basic salvation doctrine, Sunday after Sunday. Believers are already saved. They need more; they need a little meat. They need fellowship with one another. They need earnest prayer and praise time together.

    That way our lives are refreshed so that we can, individually, go back out into the world and be pagan-friendly ourselves, and they can see the difference Christ has made in our lives.

    Then, when they become believers, church will have real meaning for them.

    We are not called to entertain in the name of Christ, by the way....
     
  11. Dr. Bob

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    Amen, Helen! I personally can be pagan-friendly to share the Redemptive Message with the world around me.

    But God's church is to be pure, spotless, without blemish or wrinkle or any such thing. We ought to be aqs zealous for the purity of the church as we are to share the Gospel with the pagan world.
     
  12. Molly

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    I agree with the others here. I ,also, believe that God grows His Chruch and we are simply to be obedient to His Word...he does the drawing,the saving,the sanctifying....we are just to be living a godly example with those we meet in the marketplace,jobs,homes,etc...we are to be set apart so that the world can see that we are Christ's.

    The church is supposed to be like heaven on Earth and it is for believers....we come together to be eqiupped to go out and share Christ to a lost world....they are saved and then come to church. I do think that unsaved people can come to Christ from a worship service and from hearing biblical preaching,but the church does not change to entice others...we live godly and share the gospel with those we meet and be ready to give an answer. The church remains pure and then the message makes an impact because we are doing God's business God's way.

    I do trust God to do that. I put my faith in that,instead of my faith in man's ways.

    Good topic! [​IMG]
    Molly
     
  13. Deacon

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    Aaron wrote:
    God says not such thing! I’m sure glad that the person that was instrumental in bringing me to Christ didn’t feel the way you do!

    A Christian befriended me as a youth and continually invited me to ride to school with him. Later he invited me to a youth activity. I came to Christ after attending a “Young Life” group where we often sang contemporary songs of the 60’s. Those Christians that attended developed relationships with the unbelievers, who later made a decision whether (or not) to accept the gospel of Christ.
    Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10:
    Holiness/separateness is not what foods we eat, what music we listen to, what clothes we wear. Holiness is a heart issue. We worship God when we come to him in faith. Worship is pleasing to God: If I please God, I’m worshiping Him. The form may vary from culture to culture, from age to age, but the process of surrendering our will to Him remains an issue of the heart.

    I heard this just today. After my local church ministered to a family, we invited them to come to our church. They responded by saying: “Would you want people like us in your church”.

    Jesus ministered to the sick and needy. Sometimes reaching out to them takes us out of our comfort zone. I pray that God will keep me willing to stretch out and meet the needs of those He puts in my path and allow me to be the instrument that brings them to Christ. Don’t be a hinderance to God by placing your comfortable customs before showing God’s love to the unsaved.

    That doesn't necessarily mean that Sunday is a pagan sanctuary as others here have implied, but it does mean we can present the gospel and even our faith in living ways that are attractive to todays culture.

    Rob
     
  14. Deacon

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    At a testimony in church today a young man stood before us and told us how that not long ago he sat in the back of the church drunk, week after week.

    He described the feeling (that many have) that the preacher was preaching at him. The Spirit worked in his life and he has been attending our addictions group now for more than a month. He has accepted Christ! PTL!

    Pagan friendly worship doesn't have to compromise the truth or compromise teaching God's people. It does need to be sensitive to those who visit struggling and searching for truth.

    Rob
     
  15. DanielFive

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    Good post Molly [​IMG]
     
  16. Travelsong

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    God says not such thing! I’m sure glad that the person that was instrumental in bringing me to Christ didn’t feel the way you do!

    A Christian befriended me as a youth and continually invited me to ride to school with him. Later he invited me to a youth activity. I came to Christ after attending a “Young Life” group where we often sang contemporary songs of the 60’s. Those Christians that attended developed relationships with the unbelievers, who later made a decision whether (or not) to accept the gospel of Christ.
    </font>[/QUOTE]Apparently some people view the Gospel of salvation as priviledged information. Fortunately for you the person who befriended you did not feel this way.
     
  17. Aaron

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    ...friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God, James 4:4.

    Please explain what James was getting at here. Who was he talking about when he was talking about a "friend of the world."
     
  18. Travelsong

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    Nothing even needs to be explained. All you have to do is leave the verse in it's context. Have you tried that?

    1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?
    2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
    3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
    4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    Do you even evangalize? Do you preach fire and brimstone from the street corner? Do you take the time to show someone that you are genuinely concerned for their salvation?
     
  19. Molly

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    If we listened and adhered to Scott's article he posted,then church would and could be whatever works...(to reach lost and make others comfortable)The bible says the church is t be the pillar and support of Truth. pragmatism has affected too many churches already,let's not let that man made philosophy take over our church. The lost will come to know Christ through us sharing the gospel and being light and salt....church services just need to be biblical,not pragmatic. When we accept the pragmatists ways,then whatever *works* becomes the criterion instead of the Bible and Truth....


    And,no you can not have it both ways! :eek:

    Thanks,Enda!
    I would be interetsed to hear what you have to say about this,also! [​IMG]

    Scott,

    Read *Ashamed of the Gospel* by John MacArthur...it is an excellent book on this topic! It convinced my husband and I(we used to be in a seeker sensitive church,and we knew there were some problems,but we didn't understand it all until reading this book!)

    Molly
     
  20. Aaron

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    Actually, one would have to do a more complete study than Travelsong is willing to do to give a more complete answer. He still doesn't know when a basic principle with more than one application is being used to judge something particular.

    And he still hasn't explained anything, but if we were to listen to Travelsong we can only conclude that a worldly man is some odious troublemaker going around committing sexual sins and starting fights.

    Yet, not many worldly men have a desire to keep company with someone like that, and there are many worldly men who are moral, upstanding pillars of the community. Quite frankly, though the world can offer no remedy for those particular sins, it certainly does condemn and punish them.

    Consider a contrast presented by Christ in Luke 12:22-31. Who would condemn a man who works honestly to provide for the needs and comforts of this life? The world does not condemn him, the world commends him. It is worldly wisdom that says, "What shall I eat and drink, and wherewithall shall I be clothed?"

    No fighting here, neither is there any sexual sin, though these thoughts are certainly included in James' idea of "lusts."

    But Christ very emphatically and quite unmistakably draws a contrast between that kind of thinking—worldly—and righteous thinking. He says, "Do not think this way, for all these things do the nations of the world seek after." He tells us to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

    And also consider the reasons some men will reject the Gospel of Christ:
    Who would condemn these for their natural affections? There is no violence, no sexual sin. Quite the contrary, these men had very honorable, unselfish goals.

    Yet we see that Chirst found them unworthy. They were worldly minded.

    Now, I ask again, what is it that the Spirit means when he revealed to us that friendship with the world is enmity toward God?
     

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