Not of this World

In the beginning of my ministry I really didn’t know how I was supposed to dress or act in order to be a Christian. I really did not know any better and so I looked around at the church that I was involved in and just tried to dress like they did. Pathetic, I know, but like I said, I really didn’t know any better. So there I was with my new suits and my Pentecostal hair-do (Phd). I didn’t know how to tie a tie and so I would have to have the lady who lived in the neighborhood tie it for me, leaving it loose so I could slip it over the collar of my shirt. My ties were all bought in bulk from a thrift store and so it was rare that they ever matched my suits, either the black suit or the blue suit. Never seemed to matter much though, I had never used dry cleaning and so all my suits were washed in the washing machine. In short, I looked a mess. Nevertheless, my appearance pleased those in the Christian clothes Gestapo and they would comment regularly about how I looked “like a preacher”. This pleased me no end.

And one day it dawned on me. Actually, it fell on me like a fully loaded barbell; whatever this creature was that wore these suits and combed his hair just so, it wasn’t me. I had simply exchanged sub-cultures without knowing it. In the Word, Jesus says that we are to be known by our fruit but in the world, they are known by their tribal identifiers.

Whether it is tattoos, various piercings, plugs, long hair, no hair, or 70’s hair, it makes no difference. You are displaying to everyone around you exactly what your associations are by what you look like. And in Christian circles, it is really no different. Since I was saved, I obviously had to dress like a “saved” person dresses. There is no book on this that will give you the run-down on how a Christian dresses. It depends on what church tribe you are associated with. My tribe at the time determined that saved people, especially ministers, dressed like used car salesmen. Other tribes were either slightly more or less hip than that, depending on how “holy” they were.

The problem was that Jesus didn’t save me from a wrong sub-culture and lead me into a right one. He had changed what was on the inside of those clothes, my inner man. I no longer wanted to wear my “Cooler than Jesus” shirts because I wasn’t and I knew it. But even when trying to fit into this strange little hypocrisy, something seemed to be off about the whole thing. There was something wrong to me about describing certain kinds of clothing as “worldly” because of their style while other types of clothing that were more commonly accepted were not.

To the church, if I wore a cute little Tommy Hilfiger outfit or even an Armani suit, that would be fine. Just so long as it fit within the acceptable code. What is really disturbing is how a preacher can wear a $1,000 designer suit and be just fine but if he wears jeans and preaches or has tattoos and wears a Dickies shirt, the brownshirts come out and threaten him with exile to the island of misfit ministers, commonly referred to as a either a storefront church or youth ministry.

This is more insidious than just more of the same old religious garbage. It is passed from one of us to another much like a sick mother bird would regurgitate food contaminated by her disease into a baby chick’s mouth. We have this disease and now you will too, we say. What we miss while spreading this infection is that the world is the world, no matter what the name on the tag says. Whether you buy your clothes at Hot Topic or Rodeo Drive, it’s still the world system. And you have not escaped that system because you dress in a way that Joe Q. Public considers to be “normal”. On the contrary, it is my opinion that those who want to be the most normal looking are, in fact, the most bound by the very system that they profess to be separate from.

It is terrifying to realize that the way that the church acts is perfectly in accord with the system we are to hate. A good citizen of Heaven is virtually indistinguishable from a good citizen of the world nowadays. His clothing, home, credit rating, behavior and mannerisms all reflect what society dictates that a model citizen should be and do. A good Christian can be identified simply by observing the degree to which that Christian embodies what we would consider a “perfect citizen” to be. The more you look like a Ken and or Barbie doll, the better. The more upper middle class you appear in style, the better. The more cardigan sweaters you own the better. You must be perfectly safe and approachable with great manners and a people pleasing nature; the less dangerous, the better.

And so we have become for all intents and purposes the moral representatives of a satanic world system and nothing more. We are the short-shorn sheep that behave in a wonderfully predictable manner for our masters. Satan can count on us to not only exemplify the standards of the system he created but to preach it as gospel truth as well. You can now hear preached from thousands of pulpits on any given Sunday that you can give to the cause of Christ and receive a hundred fold return on your investment with your tax deductible gift. Jesus wants us to have the best things in the world, that’s why he rejected them, so you could have them. Never mind that business about not loving the world, that meant the bars and strip clubs, not the country clubs and gated communities.

The rule of the day is to conform, not disturb. To assimilate, not question. To make it comfortable to whomever comes in, not convicting. And the ineffective state of our churches is the just reward that we are reaping for our shameless compromise. Is that not why the Pentecostal churches of America are nothing more than the empty husks of their former selves? Somewhere along the line they determined that becoming members in good standing of the local ministerial association was more important than holiness or the moving of the Holy Ghost. And is that not why we have no heroes of the faith anymore, just an endless parade of Adonijahs lobbying for the much desired position of being the next big thing? We have sold out to a world system that has us in check, friends. You are bought with a price alright, the price of your new car and big house and the ever increasing price of first conforming with and then keeping up with the Joneses.

So many of the ministers I meet as I travel are completely in bondage to the world system while wholeheartedly believing that they are not. The very nature of this world system is one that forces us to conform to its standards. Hence, preachers are so busy kissing babies and practicing the delicate art of church politics that they have no time to get a word from God anymore. Because getting a word from God is not nearly as important as displaying exactly what it is that your congregation and by extension, society wants you to display. What does God matter anyway to most of us? He is at best an absentee God that we like to talk about in a personal way. But if he actually showed up at all in one of our church services, we would not have any clue what to do. Like old Prince John upon hearing that Richard the Lionhearted had come home, how many in the church would panic and then run for the hills rather than give an account of what they have been doing? They act as if there never will come a time to pay the piper for all of the sermons on cheap grace, easy salvation, worldly prosperity and the 7 steps to having your best life now. But that time is approaching faster than they know.

So when I stand among my brethren in the church most times I feel somehow different. And I am not the only one- that much I am sure of. There is a feeling in the air that something is off, no matter how many people believe that what is being said is true. We won’t dress the part that the world system tells us to, regardless of how much fleece it is wearing at the time or how white that fleece appears to be. We are not interested in the approval of the world and are not interested in running a successful ministry corporation. We would just as soon preach effectively to 10 people that we know God sent us to than 10,000 that He didn’t. To the new revolutionary, pleasing God is more important than pleasing man. And God is not fooled by the external representations we use to pacify the church. We must be less concerned with what we are displaying to our neighbors on the outside and much more concerned with the internal strongholds the enemy is using to keep us in bondage. First clean the inside and then what is shown on the outside will simply be an outward manifestation of an inward working. And not the whitewashed cover-up that satan delights in.

Here is the heart of the matter for me; I am not of this world and neither are you. We should be looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. How utterly foolish it is to reject one type of clothing for another when they are opposite sides of the same coin. One type may have a resemblance to a worldly clique and so it is easy to shun. We get on our kids when they dress like a punk rocker or a goth or according to the latest hip-hop style. And we sit back and self righteously declare it to be “worldly”. But then we go and adopt the latest mall fashion from a respectable store and make sure that we dress up or down so that we fit in with the others in church. In fact, most of us spend more time getting ready to look nice at church than we do praying for the service that night.

It is utter hypocrisy! This world is not your home! We gain our identity from our clothing, cars, houses and decorations when we should be gaining it from Jesus. And so many sit back and claim that they are just fine because they decorate with some odds and ends from the Christian book store. Does this mean that God wants you top live in a cave or to go and be Amish? Absolutely not, it means that you are not escaping worldliness because of where you shop or if you have tattoos or how long your hair is. In the same way, you are not worldly because you have money or wear decent clothing either, it is a matter of what is in your heart.

Not everyone that Jesus called was required to give up everything like the rich young ruler. Peter had a home and boats to go back to after the Lord had died. The issue with the rich young ruler was internal and that was what Jesus was after. He was holding onto his possessions and so the Lord told him to let them go. Some obviously did not have this idol in their lives and so the Lord did not require it of them.

Worldliness is inside of you and that is where you have to check, not the label on the back of someone’s shirt.

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8 thoughts on “Not of this World

  1. I think I just busted a gut!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you!!!Simply because I’m in one of those churches this week:)))) They call it “clean”.

    But at the same time, it’s sad. Pharisees are Pharisees…Sadusees are….sad…

    Just give me Jesus!!!!!!

  2. JC,
    I’m not much in to clothing, so I don’t know what you call the shirts that were real popular about 5 years ago. These things buttoned tightly around the neck like a band, and there was no tie. It was the fad for ministers. It didn’t last very long.

    Now it is silk shirts (untucked), or a “Hawaian” shirt with lots of pretty flowers. These shirts are most probably a whole lot more comfortable than the tight band shirt. I expect this fad to last a little longer.

  3. I think we would all be better off if we forgot about what is in style and focus on what is missing in our Gospel (like the power or the love for starters). I’m just spit-balling here but perhaps if our preachers spent as much time in prayer as they do worrying about their outfit, some people might just get saved, delivered and healed again.

  4. “stop worrying about their “outfit””

    men/outfits?????

    That’s another sign that men in the church are becoming effeminate.

  5. I so much agree! It is the heart that matters to God.
    “man looks upon the outside, but God looks upon the heart”
    May we also. As we spend the needed time with a person, the mouth will bear what’s in the heart.
    May God help us,
    Richard

  6. Excellent post James, we may be in this world but we are certainly not to espouse it’s values! And yet the church most certainly has…

    Glad to have found your blog, even though I am taking a break from mine for a while.
    Blessing to you in Christ Jesus, may the Spirit be poured out in and through your life as you bring Gods word to Africa!

    Susan

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