The Stream of Human Custom

Do we let our culture and its traditions or the unchanging biblical standard inform our lives as Christians? Pastor Ian reminds us that we are different from the world that we live. 

In the 4th century, a North African theologian named Augustine, despaired over the power that human culture and tradition had to erode spiritual ambition in ways that turned every man into a copy of every other man. He wrote, "Woe unto thee, thou stream of human custom. Who shall stay thy course? How long shall it be before thou art dried up? How long wilt thou carry down the sons of Eve into that huge and formidable ocean, which even they who are embarked on the cross can scarce pass over? . . . And yet, thou stream of hell, into thee are cast the sons of men." (Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book X, Chapter 16)

In Augustine’s mind, culture and all the traditions it has informed is like a powerful river with currents so strong it even drags along Christians (“they who are embarked on the cross”) whose confessed desire is to swim against it. The Apostle Paul clearly had this concern for the church in Corinth. He felt that in their tolerance of sin they had begun to swim with current of their culture rather than against it, and so in his second letter to them, he wrote, “Therefore come out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord…” (2 Cor 6:17) In Augustine’s nomenclature, he is pleading, “get out of the river; get out of the stream of human custom!”

Friends, God is doing something wonderful in and through Grace Baptist Church… but He is doing it in a dangerous day. He is growing us deep (and wide) in Him but He is doing this in a day in which many of us feel the constant pull of that powerful cultural current that ever draws us to live and act like every other person whose destiny is that “formidable ocean”. He is shedding His light in our hearts while the greater current of culture attempts to pull us back into the shade.

Two weeks ago Paul Valo, Senior Pastor of Christ Church, Orlando, posted this comment on his Facebook page in response to the pressures cultural currents place on pastors: “In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, who are fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn't quite measure up to someone's expectation at any given moment, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google.” The pressures pastors feel are evidence of the pull of human custom that measures them by the ever-shifting secular standards of the day, rather than by the unchanging, counter-intuitive, biblical standard. In fact, I felt the surprising pull of this current two weeks ago. Someone who I do not know, has gone on Google and given Grace Baptist Church a one-star rating. No comment. Just a lousy review of one out of five stars. Is my sudden sorrow evidence that I too have reduced serving the Lord to Google reviews? Is it evidence that I am serving Christ while wading waist deep in the current of human custom? And if so, where and how do I find rescue?

In the next two weeks, I believe God is going to offer us specific help in His word as we run to the strength and security found in 1 John 2:3-11 and 1 John 2:12-17. In these two life-defining passages, we will discover that the authentic follower of Christ is an uncommon creation in that he or she is decidedly not in the majority. We are as different from the world in which we live as Joshua and Caleb were different from the inhabitants of Canaan. This is why in John’s first letter to the churches, he describes us as “children of the light” and then specifically outlines behavioural traits of those who walk in the light. As we prepare our hearts to hear His word this week, let’s expect that His Word will pull us out of the flow of human custom, and that He will equip us to live as children of light, ever marked as destined for His pleasure!

 

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This Week:

  • Thanksgiving!
    • For the birth of Caleb Yong, a precious life given to the family of Aaron and Angel Yong!
    • For the miracle of covenant marriage, given to Joey Raju and Racquel Caloza!
    • For the many new people God is bringing into our Faith family.
  • Save the date! Plan now to be a part of our “Grace Together” church camp: June 12-15, 2019 at the Lotus Desaru in Johor.
  • Reminder: The church office will be closed every Monday. If you have urgent need of staff or pastoral assistance on a Monday, please feel free to call one of the numbers listed in the ministry guide.