Main Passage: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
Secondary Passage: Malachi 3:1-3
Key Verse: Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV
I was surprised when wandering through Facebook at a meme that said, “Exhale the Holy Spirit, Inhale the Holy Spirit.” It’s been a couple of years since I found it, so I can’t find its origin, but I remember it was from a Christian website. It sounds good, but we cannot breathe in or out the Holy Spirit, nor can we exhale bad energy and inhale the Holy Spirit. It was a trendy illustration that seems to have gone awry, or at least tried transliterating something. What a misguided notion to think we can manipulate the Holy Spirit! Where is purity in our Christian faith?
What’s the Deal?
A current trend is for Christians to embrace the holistic movement, adding Buddha and his teachings to a religious hodgepodge. From traditional Reiki massage to yoga classes, crystals to herbs to drive out bad energy, many poorly disciplined Christians in the church have embraced this wave of deconstructing Christian faith by replacing portions of Buddhist-Hindu-Pantheistic influence in a cancel culture. It infiltrates the Church through seemingly harmless ways of “enhancing our prayer life” because many gatekeepers in the church don’t believe in the authority of scripture. For example, my late husband and I went to an evening prayer and Bible study service at a nearby church. The study leader began to lead everyone in guided imagery after the Bible study portion, just before prayer time. Then we were told to pray with our palms up, and then turn them down to release anything bad, then back to palms up to receive God’s goodness. It sounds harmless. My husband and I felt very uneasy with these practices, so we sat praying on our own pondering Bible passages that came to mind. I learned later that these were New Age practices from Hindu and Buddhist influences. Deeply troubled, we never went back. The sad part is that this pastor led many people naively down the wrong path. We are open to so many scary spiritual opportunities that have absolutely nothing to do with God.
New Age health and wellness permeate our society. It is simply accepted as normal, natural, and healthy. Unfortunately, so many Christians fall into its trap, creating a collage of religions blurred with their Christian faith. Some are ambivalent toward God, others are jaded by the organized church, yet others seem to think ordinary prayer and bible study aren’t enough for faith practice. Is it innocent and safe? What does it mean to be pure physically and spiritually? How should we respond to the religious influx from our global culture regarding our Christian faith? Let’s consider these under the scope of our passages today.
Corinth was a major center of commerce with Asia and Italy in the first centuries B.C.E. It was also a spiritual hotspot with idols and temples amid its affluence. The goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was a major influence of lewd behavior in this city. Converts to Christianity were often from pagan backgrounds. They were quickly drawn back into former lifestyles by allowing it to infiltrate the Corinthian church. Paul addressed these issues in the second letter to the Corinthians. Paul called them out to be separate from the culture and pure in their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s correction meant not being in close relationships with non-Christians– marriages, business dealings, close friendships, etc. It was causing them to stumble in their newfound faith. Jesus once said, Whoever is not for me is against me.” and “You cannot serve two masters…” By being in close relationships with pagans, the influence of the area religions caused them to defile the temple of the Holy Spirit, that is, their bodies. These other religions were not from God. The idea of spiritual and physical prostitution is alluded to in this passage. Paul called them to purity in their relationship with God and their bodies.
In Malachi’s day, Israel had been in exile from their homeland, put into this position because of their unfaithfulness to God. They were under the rule of Persia and allowed to come and go freely. They were even allowed by the government to go back to their homeland. They were ambivalent toward God. Since they were living in a foreign land among pagan religions, they picked up some of the practices around them. This attitude affected how they viewed themselves and treated other people. They treated their money and goods as their own instead of God’s. Divorce was rampant. The prophet Malachi brought a message of love from God. in verse 1:2, they question God’s love for them because of the pain Israel experienced in exile. They evidently forgot about their covenant with God, promising faithfulness and the consequences of unfaithfulness. It’s like the people who signed an agreement for free Wi-Fi in exchange for cleaning toilets! (Fox News TECH) Everyone likes the idea of the benefits, but not what the rest of the agreement says. This was likely the case for them. God assures them through Malachi of His great love for them by telling them of the coming Messiah who will come to purify them (and us). God will cleanse them of their sins one day!
I hardly see much of a difference looking at Corinth in Paul’s time and Israel in Persia in Malachi’s time compared to American Christians today. We’ve adopted the culture around us instead of standing out as God’s people. In a general sense, churches have missed their mission to reach the lost and disciple the saved by not keeping up with current issues nor creating a welcoming environment for newcomers. Conversely, some have tried to be “relevant” by bringing outside culture into the church, undermining the Bible’s Truth. One of the causes, I believe, is that many churches are hooked on using a paraphrase of the Bible instead of a translation. As a result, the younger generations have abandoned the church because they feel there is no place for them and no one understands them. A friend of mine, Emily Gehman, a former online magazine editor, encourages millennials to return to church. She shares why she, as a millennial, stays in the church despite today’s unhealthy church environment in “A Millenial Anomaly? Why I’m Still in Church”.
The lack of trust in the Bible’s authority in believers’ lives has resulted in a high divorce rate for Christians, alternative lifestyles have become widely accepted as “normal,” like smoking, cannabis use, and alcohol consumption, and many Christians use illicit drugs. Other religious practices are part of their worldview fabric. We don’t have to look weird or behave strangely to stand out because living as God wants us to makes us stand out. He has called us to greater purity by coming back to our faith in Jesus Christ and loving God while accepting the Truth of His Word. He has loved us with an everlasting love and wants our exclusive love for Him.
We are called to live a life of purity in our Christian faith out of love and reverence for God. Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross to purify us before our Holy God, who loves us with perfect love. What flows from our hearts shows in how we live– what we do with our bodies and how we treat others. Set yourself apart again by doing these:
Clear out religious practices that are not part of what the Bible calls us to practice. Learn what they are and remove them from your life: transcendental meditation, Christianized versions like the spiritual breathing illustration at the beginning of this post, alternative health practices that utilize energy channeling, crystals, and other occult paraphernalia. What you might be practicing is only the tip of the iceberg of evil. Look at the practices of the New Testament church, the 10 Commandments, and what Jesus taught for your guide to healthy Christian living.
Treat your body as God’s. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit when you know Christ as your Savior. Leave harmful substances alone, like unhealthy foods, alcohol, mind-altering substances, and tobacco-related products. Avoid physical practices from other spiritual sources. Instead, eat healthy foods, exercise, get regular medical exams, and only take medications and supplements your medical provider recommends. Save sex for covenant Christian marriage. Take proper care of your body to serve God and others better (Ephesians 2:10).
Evaluate cultural trends through the Bible. Know where a practice comes from and what it looks like. Do a topical Bible study to decide if something trendy is appropriate or not. It is far better to offend people by politely refusing to participate than to offend God by blindly following the trend.
God loves you so much. He has a better, higher call for your life. Trust Him and show gratitude for your salvation by living a pure, holy life for Him. May God bless you!
“The New King James Study Bible,” study notes for our passages today. Copyright 2007 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.
Have You Made the Wonderful Discovery of the Spirit-Filled Life?” by Dr.Bill Bright. https://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html
“Spiritual Oxygen: Are You Getting It?” by Stacy Weibe. https://thelife.com/spiritual-oxygen-are-you-getting-it.
“People Accidentally Agree to Clean Toilets for Free Wi-Fi” by Fox News Tech. http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/07/17/people-accidentally-agree-to-clean-toilets-for-free-wi-fi.html.
” A Millenial Anomaly: Why I’m Still in Church” by Emily Gehman, Christianity Today, The Exchange. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/july/millennial-anomaly-why-im-still-in-church.html.
Used with permission from Charlaine Martin.