Culturally Captive Customs?
As we’ve been going through the first letter to the church at Corinth we’ve seen many different ways in which they were acting just like the world, or in some cases even worse! We’ve been invited (and challenged) to a new way of life that is not conformed to the patterns of this world but is transformed and bringing transformation to the world around us. Much like light transforms darkness. As God’s light shines in our minds and our hearts it removes darkness and brings life to hidden places. The key is to invite God’s light into our lives, our cultures, and our customs, rather than assuming that everything that we’re doing, or not doing, is what God wants for us.
In the message this last Sunday we were challenged by 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 to live differently than the world around us by aligning ourselves with God’s desires, definitions, designs, and decrees rather than conforming to what the world believes, says, and does. The powerful truth in 6:11 is that “that is what you WERE.” In Christ, we can be transformed!
But, there still is a real battle happening between light and darkness. There is a kingdom of darkness that is seeking to bring death and destruction to this world. The good news is that darkness doesn’t overcome light; it’s the other way around! The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy and he uses doubt, deception, distraction, and discouragement to accomplish this. He brings temptations, attacks, and accusations against God’s people. This is a real battle and anyone can be influenced by a lie and any culture can be influenced by lies. The word used in the New Testament for this influence and control of the enemy is daimonizomai which would be best translated as “demonized.” There has been some confusion around that because of some translations that have used the words “possessed” or “oppressed” to translate the same phrase, which has led people to feel the need to parse those out into what can happen to which kind of person, but the truth is that there were believers or followers of Jesus, who were demonized, like the “daughter of Abraham” who was bound by the enemy (Luke 13), Judas (Luke 22:3), and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They had come into agreement with the enemy and aligned themselves with his desires, designs, and definitions. Yet as believers, we CAN walk in freedom in every part of our lives: We are called to confront lies with truth. Jesus said that “you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” (HE is the truth!)
+ I want to encourage you to check out our video Course, “The Way of Freedom” for more on this topic or if you want to find freedom for areas in your life that feel stuck or bound.
Ephesians 6:1-18 tells us to be dressed for a spiritual battle. A Helmet of Salvation to guard our thoughts, a Breastplate of Righteousness (Right-ness) to guard our feelings, Sandals of Peace to guard our steps, a Belt of Truth to hold it all together, a Shield of Faith to protect from lies (back to the previous point on how the enemy operates)…and finally the Sword of the Spirit, the only offensive weapon, to stab back at the enemy when he attacks. The church is called to be a force and not a fortress. We’re called to take the battle all the way to the gates of Hades!
+ Check out this series for more on the armor of God: “Faithful Fight”
So, because “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), we should hide from all things that are dark, right? Wrong. Because He is light we are called to SHINE light into areas of darkness. We’re not called to EMBRACE deeds of darkness because they are part of our story or the culture around us. At the same time, we are not called to ESCAPE from those things by hiding in our basements. We are called to make sure that WE are walking in the light and that we have not entered into agreement or alignment with ways of darkness and then we are called to ENGAGE the world around us with GOD’S light! Ephesians 5:8-10 puts it this way: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” It goes on to tell us to not be partners with darkness (Ephesians 5:11) because God has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light so that we may PROCLAIM Him (1 Peter 2:9) and shine His light with acts of love seen by everyone (Matthew 5:14-16).
As we approach a cultural celebration and custom like Halloween, it’s easy to just EMBRACE it because of thinking that it’s mostly innocent fun; just assuming that we can celebrate it like everyone else. It’s also easy to try to ESCAPE it because you rightly realize that there are forces of darkness operating in the world that want to bring death and destruction to the world, and here’s a night that tends to glorify that so you hide. Instead, we’re called to be people of discernment and light who ENGAGE people with light in a time that can celebrate death and darkness. This is one of the only times in the year when people in our neighborhoods come to us! It’s time to engage them with life, joy, and light!
A great question to consider is: How is God calling me to share the light, love, and truth of Jesus? …And then do something to engage the world with light.
Here are 4 simple ideas to ENGAGE with light:
1. Pray: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective,” so lift up your friends and neighbors in prayer. We are limited, but God's Spirit is not. Consider taking a prayer walk around your neighborhood, praying over your candy, and asking God to open up doors for connection and opportunity in your community. Be intentional as you meet neighbors and have conversations to ask if you could pray with them if topics of illness, struggles, or disappointment come up. Be a light on this dark night.
+ Prayer walks in your neighborhood are simple and powerful ways of bringing light into the spiritual realm regularly. I do this all of the time!
2. Reverse Trick-Or-Treat: Bring the treats with you door to door! Rather than just taking their treats, give them some treats as well. Introduce yourself and say a warm hello.
3. Have a Seat: Place some chairs in your yard. Wave, cheer for the parades of people going by, and chat with passersby as you hand out candy. Go the extra mile and set up a bonfire or warm beverages or easy snacks for neighbors to grab on the way.
4. Be Life-Giving: If you encounter teenagers, don't judge them, but speak life to them. Rather than saying, "Aren't you a little too old for this." Compliment their costumes and be inviting. Remember that it's “God’s kindness that leads people to repentance” and we can reflect that kindness in our words and interactions with others on Halloween (and every other time of the year too!)
Here are some MORE ideas for creative ways to shine a light this Halloween!
On Sunday we will also have some fun and “sweet” stickers that you can put on candies to share life and joy that way too!