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" Evangelism: Cultural Conversion? "

    "Repent therefore and be CONVERTED, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord," (Ac3:19)

    "Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be CONVERTED to You." (Ps51:13)

    "When Jehovah your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you have taken possession and dwelt in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise. You shall not do so unto Jehovah your God; for everything that is an abomination to Jehovah which He has hated, they have done unto their gods; FOR THEY BURN EVEN THEIR SONS AND DAUGHTERS IN THE FIRE UNTO THEIR GODS." (De12:29-31)

One evening in February the ABC network news included a story about the work of Youth with a Mission in South America and this particular jungle tribe, where the Brazilian government had banned missionaries from landing their planes and evangelizing. The reason? The Christians had adopted this baby that had been buried alive in order to kill her, because she was born with birth defects. Apparently then, the girl's brother rescued her, carried her out of the jungle on his back, where she was adopted, treated medically, and is now a growing healthy girl.

The tribal people, as they saw her growing abnormally, thought she had a "monkey's soul". Thus, engaged in what to them is a 'normal' practice of infanticide: Buried alive, and left to die in the dirt.

The Brazilian government is accusing the Christians of using this incident as an "excuse" to go in and "evangelize" the natives to Christianity, and thus "destroying ancient civilizations" in the process.

The Christians are calling it "murder", and seeking to raise 'awareness' of it at the legislative levels. The government calls it culture and seeks to stop Christian evangelism. In other words, for those jungle natives to kill their babies is a cultural (civilizational) matter worthy of preservation. And outsiders should just keep their noses out of the local native tribal customs, and let them be as they are. It's history. It's culture. It's that tribe's indigenous "civilization". Outsiders? If you don't like it? Just butt out, and mind your own business. Stop trying to -change- people!

Around the same time was the woman who gave birth to octuplets. As I saw the NBC "Dateline" interview, the interviewer used language such as, "What -POSSESSED- YOU to have more children???" As if it was the most incredulous thing: that someone would embrace 'life'. Why wouldn't she -kill- (terminate) some of the babies (embryos)?? To kill them would make so much 'more sense'... after all, she already had six! As there is also talk of bringing 'action' against the doctors who helped it happen. There were frozen embryos that, otherwise, some of them would have been destroyed... killed. The mother embraces -LIFE-.

As a youth I grew up in N.Dakota. Catholic country. Those who today think the mother and doctor should be prosecuted obviously have never seen the large 12-15 child (and sometimes more) families that have been routine throughout history.

God said, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Ge1:28) and if anybody -caused- a baby to die in the womb, "you shall requite soul for soul" (Ex21:22-23)

But sinful man says: Giving birth? Bad! Killing babies? Good! It is the mother's "right" to do so. And if somebody wants to stop the practice? String-em-up!!! Such a BAD PERSON for having empathy for the 'LIFE' of the most helpless and vulnerable of society!

    "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil" (Is5:20)
As "7" had been extricated from the womb, the doctor is feeling around inside, and "Whoa! We also have "H"." (They had labeled the babies A-G as they were assembly-lining them out of the womb) "H" grabbed the doctor's finger with its hand: 'Don't forget about meeee!'

Considering the state of humanity in this, I have utterly no regard for the political agenda-driven activist hypocrisies about things done "FOR THE CHILDREN" See what 'wonderful' people we are!! How much we 'care'!!

    "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes...who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous!" (Is5:21,23)
Thing is, -murder- is not a "religious" matter. It is not a "cultural" matter. It is a matter commanded by the Creator. Before all the various different cultures came into existence, God commanded, as Noah was departing the ark after the flood...
    "Surely the blood of your souls will I require; at the hand of every living thing will I require it, and at the hand of man. At the hand of every manís brother I will require the soul of man. Whoever sheds manís blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; SWARM in the earth and multiply in it." (Gen9:5-7)
This is not the (so-called) Ten Commandments from Sinai through Moses. This is what some people call part of the "Noahide" covenant. This was before Babel and Nimrod; before all the national languages; before the formation of continents, nations, tribes and ethnicities; before anything called Judaism or Christianity. This is part of the BASIC COVENANT between the Creator and His creation. ALL PEOPLE, no matter their present cultural state, are beholden to the Noahide law to NOT TAKE ANOTHER HUMAN LIFE in murder. All that Ex21:23 does is to clarify -what- constitutes human life. Notice it says, "soul for soul". In other words, that baby in the womb is possessed of soul. The baby is possessed of blood, and "the soul is in the blood" (Le17:11)

All of mankind, no matter their cultural ethnicity, are possessed of conscience, of God's Law in the heart. (Rom2:15) The Creator "gives to all life, breath and all things" (Ac17:25) The One who gives life commands His creation NOT to 'take' each other's life.

So, when cultures over the course of generations go astray from their Creator, and a missionary comes along proclaiming the Creator to them, proclaiming what the Creator's Laws are, is that missionary "changing" their culture? Rather, is such a person not seeking to "RESTORE" that culture to the Creator's standards and obedience! Their civilization has become 'broken'. The missionary is trying to help 'fix' it.

I don't know what sort of organization Youth with a Mission is, whether they are Wolves or Sheep. But when/if a -Godly- missionary seeks to evangelize, is not the goal even greater than merely 'fixing' a culture. It is for the purpose of bringing the Lost into conformity with God's holiness of Salvational Redemption through Jesus' shed blood....

    "..to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in [Jesus Christ] (Ac26:18)
In the past we have addressed cultural/ethnic issues relative to God: "gods of ethnicity" [link] - "Cultural Christianity?" [link] - Bali & the pagan "church" [link]

When a missionary preaches, and an artisan of Bali or some other Pacific island comes to faith in Christ, does that artisan stop carving "art"? Does he stop being an "artist"? In that context... Yes. Their art is sculpted and dedicated in worship to the pagan gods. To our western mind, becoming a Believer into Jesus Christ, thus, also changes 'culture'. Does a Japanese person stop sweeping their doorways? Well, does a person not maintain cleanliness and order. But perhaps they will learn to sweep in a non-Shinto manner. In a way... a 'cultural' adjustment. I used to perform all the staples of classical choral music. Now that I know better, could I go back to professional choral performance? The staples of choral music hark back to Babylon and Rome: the Mass, and various music of praise and veneration of Hindu, Buddhist and various other pagan deities. How can I, as God's child, perform that which blasphemes His Holy Name? I cannot. I am no longer of that culture.

What about western "art"? Until more recent years where it has been mostly secular, where did art reside, and commissioned by whom? Study the history of art, and one is studying, by default, a history also of the Babylonish/Roman 'church'. But so-mixed is Rome and the various cultures that embrace it, that have been "christian-IZED, that many aspects of culture (in most nations) is synonymous with paganism.

So, the sinner, in whatever culture, comes to Faith in Jesus Christ; by definition seeks to be holy unto God; by definition also repudiates the sin of their "culture". To sinners, their sin -is- their culture. And so we see the outworkings of what Peter declares...

    "In this regard, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same overflow of dissipation, blaspheming." (1Pt4:4)
So, what does the Believer do? Preach -at- the world that they must change their culture and behavior? Well, like we say often from these pages: Dogs bark, ducks quack... and sinners sin. The world's culture is what it is because the world "lies in wickedness." (1Jn5:19) One can no more preach at the world to "stop sinning", than we can yell at a dog to "Stop Barking!" The more a stranger (which is what the Believer is to the world Heb11:13) yells at a dog, the more fierce will be the dog's insistent growls, barks and gnashing of its fangs; and if it gets loose, it is going to come and bite the stranger.

Nor does the Believer request the world to "stop that...because it offends me". The world is -their- turf. We are citizens of a different place... Heaven. (Php3:20) Being from Heaven we have a -different- 'culture' than the world. We are 'strangers' to them. They have their culture, and we have ours. And God's 'holiness', by definition, does not mix the two. By definition, 'holiness' keeps the Believer -separate- from the culture of sin. The Believer does not participate and fellowship with it.

Thus... missionaries are not about changing cultures, or uprooting civilizations. That is God's domain. God is the one who set the "boundaries of their dwellings" (Ac17:26)

But it is also equally true that, if -enough- sinners turn to Christ, it will have an impact on the world's culture. When enough people were being converted, they stopped buying the idols to Artemis/Diana, and the craftsmen stirred up a ruckus against the apostles. (Ac19:24-27) One of the accusations regarding the missionary work of the apostles was that they had, "turned the world upside down" (Ac17:6b)

Sinners were repenting, and the new converts had been, as the word says, "converted". Changed. They used to live one way, but now they lived a different (Godly) way.

The world's culture kills babies, rocks out to lascivious lewd parties of sexual orgies and drunkenness. The Believer lives a holy life of righteousness, purity, sobriety and self-control.

    "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christís have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Ga5:22-25)
The emerging church of my college-age generation used to quote a lot about "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness". But if anybody like myself might -continue- the 'context' of those verses, and also speak of self-control, and of crucifying the flesh and its lusts...in other words...holiness in -action-; about -loving- in "deed and in truth" (1Jn3:18)... people like myself were judged as being "judgmental". They were full of 'love' and 'peace', as long as others agreed with their false faith. But if a True Believer wanted to -live- what was 'claimed', their love and peace quickly changed into hate and vicious condemnation. They would quote "judge not that you not be judged". But would not hesitate to -judge- anybody that did not condone their lasciviousness.

You see... Faith-in-Action is a 'cultural' change. The world behaves one way. That is its culture. But the world's culture, by Godly definition, is sinful. When a sinner is -saved- OUT OF sin, and becomes the "righteousness of God in Christ" (2Co5:21) we do NOT "continue in sin" so that "grace might abound". Paul says emphatically, "LET IT NOT BE!" (Rom6:1-2) The Christian life becomes a new (if you will) 'culture'.

God's righteousness and satan's sinfulness are complete opposites. Right now satan is ruler of this world. (Jn12:31, 14:30, 16:11) But just as he has "nothing in" Christ, the Believer also has nothing in him.

Satan is the ruler of death. (Heb2:14) Jesus is the author of Life. (Jn1:4) Thus, is it any wonder that the world embraces the culture of death; and Christians embrace Life. This is why the world objects to Christians squawking about things like abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research, and such things.

Militance that embraces suicidal Jihad is of satan. Cultures that embrace what is often called "Judeo/Christian" values abhor such things, and even in war try not to kill any more "collateral" people than is absolutely necessary to accomplish the mission.

But are Judeo/Christian values "Christian"? Most rulers of nations with Judeo/Christian values are not Believers. But at some point in their histories there was enough Biblical impact from Christians, that the Church's presence in that society made a cultural difference. They were "salt" on the earth, and shone as "lights". (Mt5:13,16, Php2:15) God's people are exhorted to "Seek the peace" of the place where you live, for "in its peace you shall have peace" (Jer29:7)

But just because a nation has had a Biblical influence, does that mean Christians should insist on the Ten Commandments being posted in public places? That they should insist on the right for public Manger Scene displays? It's the World. If the world wants it, they will do it. But the world is satan's domain right now. That is the culture. But soon the Creator will be coming with His Hosts to wrench control from satan, and will rule as "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev17:14, 19:16) At which point the world's -culture- will also change. He will rule in righteousness.

    "Of the increase of His government and peace upon the throne of David there will be no end; and upon His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with JUDGMENT and with JUSTICE from now on, even forever. The zeal of Jehovah of Hosts will accomplish this." (Is9:7)
Amen!
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