I’m changing topics this week, but allow a little transition. The past few weeks I’ve been talking about why so many get ‘off balance’ in their walk with the Lord, offering the explanation that we’ve strayed from our Mission Statement: “Make disciples…teaching them to observe and to do all that I’ve commanded you.”
Within that Mission Statement we can see the Vision of how it is to be accomplished; through relationships which are close enough that others are able to ‘observe and do all I’ve commanded you’. If a person allows, those close relationships balance us out and knock off teachings and habits that are off-balance or sinful.
Today I offer another explanation: We’ve learned Christ out of context.
Don’t you hate being quoted out of context?
We all know what it is like to have someone take a tiny part of something we said, place it in a different context which gives it a totally different meaning than intended, and then tell someone ‘That’s what they said’. We can only counter: “That’s what I said, but it is out of context and not what I intended.”
But the damage is still done, isn’t it?
What if the whole of what God said was taught out of context? If we learned God out of context, do you think we would have difficulties if not outright spiritual and emotional damage from trying to live our lives according to that out-of-context understanding?
In the classic, award winning 1998 movie ‘The Truman Show’, Jim Carrey plays the title character, a man who doesn’t know his whole life is a reality show broadcast 24 hours a day since his birth.
Living on a giant sound stage, seen and heard through well placed tiny cameras and microphones, and directed behind the scenes by a man named ‘Christof’, all that happens in Truman’s life is a choreographed series of events for the benefit of the world-wide audience of The Truman Show.
Now an adult, he has no idea his family, friends, co-workers, and the people in town are all actors. Every one of them. He has no idea he is being manipulated and exploited. He thinks his world is THE world because that’s all he has ever known. He never contemplates there is anything else, until one day…
A line from The Truman Show is especially well known, in which Christof, the Producer/Director observes:
“We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”
Truman understood the world out of context because that was the reality presented to him.
You may be Truman but don’t know it
What if all you have learned your whole life about our Lord, His apostles, church life, and every word you’ve read in the New Testament, was presented to you completely out of context?
What if every pastor and teacher you’ve heard, had themselves learned God out of context and has taught you that out of context understanding?
Do you think the Lord intended His Word to be taught and understood out of context? Do we want our words lifted out of context, told to someone else, and then understood out of our intended context? Of course not.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and only leads in right context, but if we’ve learned God out of context, might that cause conflict within us between how God is leading and how we have learned Him?
We would be like a spiritual Truman. Living our whole spiritual life in a man-made construct, trying to understand God through that construct, and not able to figure out why certain things just don’t fit right, and worse, having the Lord leading us one way while the way we’ve learned Him is leading another.
Peek around the corner of the sound stage
Every writer of the New Testament was a member of and gathered with other believers in small home based churches. They wrote to those people meeting in homes, therefore home and close relationships is the context in which their words were intended to be applied. Even after those writers died, for the first 300 years the church continued to meet in homes.
When Christianity was legalized in the 300′s AD, Christians were called out of their homes and into former pagan temple auditoriums, which necessitated 1 man being in charge, so the role of a singular pastor was invented. From the 300′s on God’s Word was taught from that context, the original context of the home based church now relegated to being old fashioned or explained away entirely.
You might be a Truman if…
- You think God’s Word says a single pastor is the leader of a congregation meeting in an auditorium.
- You think an apostle or prophet or other 5-fold ministries do something other than help establish home based churches and minister in those home based churches.
- You think the charismatic gifts are manifest only in an auditorium as the pastor allows.
- You think a cell group is a home church.
- You think the 1-way sermon from a pastor is how the Bible says God’s Word is to be taught and shared.
Truman’s process of learning the world in context began by him noticing small things that just didn’t make sense. Here a little and there a little, he kept what he noticed to himself as he started to see the proper context of the world. Having begun his search to find the truth, he could not rest until he knew the truth.
Along the way there were people telling Truman he was wrong, that he could get in trouble going that direction; but he would not rest. Where are you in your search to know the Lord in the context He intended?
IF you are Truman
Our Lord is gracious enough to use whatever structure man presents Him with, including the modern out of context church. I was in that structure 25 years and thankful for what the Lord did in that structure, but I wanted to know the Lord as He intended Himself to be known.
Having spent your whole Christian life accepting the reality of your world as it was presented to you by the out-of-context church, what measure of obligation is now upon you to re-learn everything about the Lord in the proper context?
I’ll pick it up there next week, and close in the way Truman said goodnight to his friends:
“Oh, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.”