Living godly in a Christ denying world that tries to compartmentalize itself into religious and secular has always been a difficult thing to do. Always, both in the Old Testament and New Testament ages, we have seen that pious people sometimes drift away from their love relation-ship with God.
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write:
These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand,
Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience,
And how thou canst not bear them which are evil:
And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not,
And hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience,
And for My Name’s sake hast labored,
And hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee,
Because thou hast left thy first love.
Revelation 2: 1 thru 4
The Pharisees had done this, yet they put so much emphasis on their outward religious activity, few thought to question their devotion. Until John the Baptist, and afterwards the Lord Jesus Himself, nobody dared to question what was going on inside them. People tend to simply assume that anyone serving diligently in a position of spiritual leadership must be where they should be in their personal walk with the Lord. The tendency to fool people by putting on a cloak of religion is nothing new.
The Pharisees composed the orthodox religious aristocracy of their day among the Jews. Pharisees, to maintain an appearance of deep devotion to God, separated themselves from their society in many ways. Outwardly the were filled with religious activity that was the admiration of men, but they were the recipients of Jesus harshest rebukes, condemnations, and reprimands. Think about it. Did Jesus do any of these things to the Sadducees? No, He did not. The problem was not one of doctrine either. It was a problem of heart. They had put heavy emphasis on the law and neglected the concerns of the people they were commissioned to serve.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin,
And have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith:
These ye ought to have done,
And not to leave the other undone.
Matthew 23: 23
What the Scripture is teaching us is that devotion to God is supposed to be more than just a ritualistic display for the purpose of impressing one’s fellows. It is possible to know a great deal about the Scripture and to be involved in a great deal of religious activity and yet know little of true spirituality. It is possible to develop a disciplined lifestyle filled with strict tradition and rigid legalism, and be lacking in the essential ingredient, heartfelt response. One can spend hours studying about God without developing a personal relationship. Even a layperson can have professional faith that is not personal faith.
There are modern day Pharisees in the church. Anyone can possess a great deal of knowledge about God. They can even quote the fine points of their denomination’s traditions and doctrinal distinctions, yet they do not truly walk with God on a daily basis. This has been called “practicing churchianity” instead of modeling a personal commitment to the living Lord Jesus.
The Christian who wishes to live a godly lifestyle cannot do as many people do. They cannot compartmentalize their lives into what they do that is religious, and what they do in relationship to others. Neither can they separate their professional lives from their personal faith. Their response to the ethical issues they face in life must be determined by what the Word of God has to say. A genuinely Christian response to the issues of life for any believer should be based on what they understand about the mind of Christ.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:
For they are foolishness unto him:
Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things,
Yet he himself is judged of no man.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2: 14 thru 16
What is meant when we use the term compartmentalizing is attempting to separate and spread apart the issues that accompany our daily lives. What happens when we isolate some aspect of our lives from our Christian commitment, responding to events around us without giving serious consideration to biblical imperatives? The answer is that even if we do not initially give in to the temptation to respond in a non-Christian manner, we have moved away from the walk of faith.
Of course, the tendency of people to operate with a different set of values and behaviors during the week than we espouse on Sunday is not what God planned for us. Michael Anthony has defined five areas that form traps for believers to fall into that allows for spiritual compartmentalization. These are not all inclusive, but they are worthy of consideration:
1. An over familiarity with the things of God.
2. Pride over one’s status.
3. Believing your own press.
4. An inability to maintain objectivity.
5. Using religious activities as a substitute for personal spiritual development.
If a Christian understands the character of the trap that appeals to them in particular, that Christian is better prepared to walk the walk that models a Christ honoring life style before a lost and dying world. The balance of this paper will discuss the five traps given above.
Over familiarity with the things of God has been credited with the downfall of many television evangelists. Whether this is true or not, it should be a serious consideration for those with some knowledge of the Scripture. We should be concerned whether we might grow Gospel hardened; because of much familiarity with the things of God we cease to fear and glorify Him. Do you think this is impossible? Recently, a pastor who had lasted through the terrible persecution in Africa, testified that after coming to the United States and attending seminary, he found himself more concerned with discussing minor theological points than in spending time travailing in effectual prayer. Whether an individual is a Sunday School Teacher, Deacon, Pastor, or the leader in some other area of church work, let them examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith. Loss of the reverential respect for the Most High can allow an individual into the most awful types of immorality given enough time. Do we not see this in the pews all the time? When people having set under the preaching and teaching of the Word are revealed to be involved in all sorts of improper and long term behaviors this trap of familiarity is demonstrated.
Pride over one’s status, particularly as a church leader is a serious trap. The pride over one’s status in the world is secondary in its ability to destroy, to the danger of destructive pride a person might develop over their church position. Acting in a position of leadership within the church will automatically bring respect and prestige. It is not only the individual who finds their position of church service the only place where they have recognition who might succumb to this trap. No, the more we find ourselves elevated or put on a pedestal, the more dangerous the trap of pride of position may be to us. Apart from the ever present awareness that whatever position we find accorded to us has been given to us by the hand of the Lord, we are all in danger of the pride of place.
Believing your own press is a danger that pastors and ministers face every day. Because church members tend to think of these people as some kind of super saint with special abilities and powers they tend to boast about the church they attend. It is dangerous when they begin to think they are different than the average Christian, instead of someone who has been called to perform a particular service. It is easy for anyone to forget the Scripture that says not many mighty or noble are called, that no flesh should glorify in the Lord’s presence when being given accolades by others.
An inability to maintain objectivity has been the downfall of kings, even kings like King David and King Solomon. This is one of the greatest of all traps. Because of this leaders become tyrants and followers become anarchists. Losing touch with reality can lead to a string of failures that bring ever increasing disgrace upon the Name of Christ whom we carry. It is possible for someone to begin to think that the rules that apply to others do not apply to them. They forget that even when we speak in legalities, not all things are expedient. People who get so engrossed in their own world they forget God’s Word and its universal laws have compartmentalized their faith.
Using religious activities as a substitute for continuing spiritual development is in the final analysis one of the most common traps. We might want to lay the blame for the power of this trap upon the fast paced society in which we live, but how would we then explain all the Marthas throughout history who have been much cumbered with serving? Being over extended, “taking on more than we can chew” is destructive to spiritual development. One preacher said, many years ago, that he had become to busy for prayer and Bible study, but he thought God would understand. He was thoroughly enmeshed in the trap and did not even know it. People also get involved with daily activity not tied to Christian service, but the seduction of Christian work is that it deceives the individual into not recognizing they are in trouble.
It should become clear to those who have learned the existence of these five traps that each have their own seductiveness and each may be avoided only by making the pursuit of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ the burning passion of their lives. As a woman, who is a wife indeed, wants to know her husband’s very thoughts and ways, so each member of that church which is the Bride of Christ should desire such personal relationship with the bride-groom.
Genuine humility and holy passion are ingredients necessary to all who take up the calling of the Lord upon their lives. It was once said that it yet remains to be seen what God would do with a man or woman wholly sold out to Him. One thing is certain, that individual would come closest to perfectly modeling a godly lifestyle than anyone ever has before.
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