The Contexts of Christianity

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

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By John Robert Lee

As another cycle of time begins with a New Year, hopes and resolutions offer some possibility of improved situations, personally and nationally. Our world is overwhelmed with many problems that impact the collective and personal lives of our societies, whether in large cities or small islands. Political divisions, crime, poverty, discriminations, abuses and other social issues that bring confusions and their suffering are everywhere. Climate and its obvious changes are increasingly an added factor in our existences.

The context of Biblical Christianity is this world in which we live. The world is our country, our neighborhood, our home. It is also the secret place of the heart.

‘Context’ can be defined as “the surrounding conditions in which something takes place.” Christianity cannot be lived apart from the world around us. Confronted by the hard challenges of daily life, faith in Christ Jesus is tested and proven. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). The Bible describes Him as Lord of creation: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created. Things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17). A parallel text to this, stressing the Lordship of Christ is in Philippians 2:9-11.

The foundation of New Testament Christianity is the salvation accomplished for believers through the death of Jesus Christ. “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15). The Resurrection of Jesus Christ indeed changes everything for humanity. The good news for all who will receive this gospel is “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Biblical Christianity embraces the entire creation. Its boundaries extend beyond the earthly limits of place, race, cultures, languages. Its context is cosmic, reaching to earth and heaven.

The bridge between Christ and our world, in all its physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual dimensions, both private and public, is faith. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4,5).

When Biblical revealed truths are not applied to the nitty-gritty of daily work, tears, temptations, triumphs, we are left with an empty shell of religious ritual and jargon. Through faith, Christian truth is proven when it is obeyed in the experienced context of our world. The meaning of Scripture teaching comes clearer when we measure our experiences by Bible insights. Faced with large supernatural questions, or nameless fears, Bible Scriptures are a final point of reference for the believer.

The God of the Bible always tells His people, “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, I am your God. I will help you. I will strengthen you. I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10). Because the Lord is near to us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7). The reality of the Presence of God is the ultimate context of our existence.

Our faith in Christ as supreme Lord and loving Saviour can be seen only through our works as we grapple with the bewildering and overwhelming context of our visible world. James writes, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:17, 18).

The life-changing power of Christianity will never be known and seen if the heart of the professing believer is not under the control of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity. “But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you.” (Romans 6:17).

The first context of Christian truth and faith is our private heart. “By their fruits you will know them” says Jesus (Matthew 7:16). The inner life is the main battle-ground of spiritual warfare. The quality of the Church-life depends on the quality of the inner life of its professing members. Because so much of “Christendom” is religious, external Pharisaic show, disconnected from a deep, true heart-faith, the Church and Christianity seem irrelevancies when confronted by crime, violence, pornographies, immoralities, political partisanship, general lawlessness. Where Biblical truth is not lived from the secret, personal heart, directing observable actions, then hypocrisy is the result. And then the Church has no powerful testimony and witness.

John Stott, a Christian writer, has said, “The time is too short for us to play the hypocrite. The needs of the world are so great that we cannot afford to dabble in religion or trifle with God…we must possess an inward reality and purity which are known and pleasing to God. We must neither soil our garments nor betray our name. Filled with the living Spirit of Christ, we can conquer.”

The ultimate context is the Holy Presence of God. He sees us in the workplace, school, bedroom, kitchen, on the Judge’s bench, in the Cabinet of ministers, on the hospital bed, at the graveside. “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).

Saying to murderers to “put down the gun” is not enough. They must hear clearly that hatred and killing is forbidden by God in whose Presence they stand, and under whose certain eternal judgement they are condemned for their horrendous crimes. The Judgement seat of God and Christ is also the context of all lives and actions.

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