Bubble Boy Meets Darth Vader – 2

In my last blog I laid out the struggle we as followers of Christ face, especially when we consider the pitfalls and strengths of living in a Christian bubble.  So, the question now is this.  If being part of the body of Christ, protected by the organism of His church how can we, and how should we, position ourselves to have balance in this world.  We don’t want to be so isolated that we are not being faithful to the great commission and we don’t want to be so assimilated that we are lost to the pleasures of this world.

Well, the answer is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Listen to the words of Jesus as recorded by John…

18“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:18 (NASB)

21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 (NASB)

So, there is something similar about how we are sent to how Jesus was sent by the Father…

Let’s walk through this together…

14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NASB)

  • The Word – was in heaven with the Father – John 1:1
  • The Word became flesh –
  • He dwelt among us – literally, He pitched his tent among us
  • He spoke about Love – and He loved
  • He spoke of forgiveness – and He forgave
  • He came to live among people and with them
  • What they observed was His glory…which was full of grace and truth…

Jesus was the visual aid…He was the visible expression of the invisible God.  He left the comforts of heaven to purposely infiltrate a sinful world.

And, get this, He has sent us into the world in a similar fashion

18“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:18 (NASB)

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, Ephesians 5:25 -29

So, how can the church respond to the world?

1. The Church can try to Avoid it – Which results in Isolation.

This is when we become withdrawn – often to the point where we develop our own language, values, customs, and social activities.  The mantra of this church is “separation” and being a “radical difference” from the world.  With this mindset the unbeliever is to be avoided at all costs.  I like the word picture that John Stott give us — He calls these kind of people Rabbit hole Christians

“You know—the kind who pops his head out of the hole, leaves his Christian roommate in the morning, and scurries to class, only to frantically search for a Christian to sit next to.  Thus he proceeds from class to class.  When dinner time comes, he sits with all the Christians in his dorm at one huge table and thinks, “What a Witness!”  From there he goes to his all-Christian Bible Study, and he might even catch a prayer meeting where the Christians pray for the non-believers on his floor.  (But what luck that he was able to live on the floor with seventeen Christians!)  Then at night he scurries back to his Christian roommate.  Safe!  He made it through the day and his only contacts with the world were those mad, brave dashes to and from Christian activities.”

Those who avoid the world “have a message but no audience.”

2. The Church can try to Join it – Which results in Assimilation

This is the exact opposite of Isolation.  It is immersion in the world.  Instead of being radically different these Christians want to radically identify with culture.  The end result is that they become assimilated and indistinguishable from the world.  Their salt has lost its saltiness and, as a result, their evangelism becomes ineffective.  The World has succeeded in pressuring these believes into its mold.

Those who join the world “have an audience, but no message.”

3. The Church can try to Juggle it – Which results in Spiritual Schizophrenia

This person is a citizen of two worlds and is attempting to be at home in both.  He puts on the clothes of Christianity with his brothers and sisters in Christ…he wants to live out his Christian walk, but when he is in the world he gives in to the very things he says he rejects.  He is neither radical nor different any more.

Those who try to juggle the church and the world “have both a message and an audience, but their lives are full of hypocrisy so that they are not taken seriously.”

4. The Church can try to Go After It – Which means that they are living “in” the world but are not “of” the world.

These Christians realize that they are citizens of heaven who have been called to live for God’s glory on this earth.  They realize that although they are “in” the world, they are not to be “of” it.  They maintain their difference as children of God, i.e. they are “in Christ”.  They maintain a purposeful involvement in the World for God’s glory.  They value the benefits of a Christian Bubble where safety, edification and equipping can take place, but they also value eating with the publicans and sinners, recognizing that they have both a calling for holiness and to be light to the lost.  John Stott is once again helpful here…

“We are to go as He went, to penetrate human society, to mix with unbelievers and fraternize with sinners.  Does not one of the Church’s greatest failures lie here?  We have disengaged too much.  We have become a withdrawn community.  We have become aloof instead of alongside.”

This requires that we “know” two things.

1. We must know our identity in Christ – because we are “in Him” we are Different!

Scripture tells us that we are His Workmanship created in Christ Jesus.  It tells us to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  It commands us to not love the world or the things of the world…and so on.  Why, because we are identified with Christ, we are in Him, we are His possession.

2. We must seek to know our ministry for Christ – because we are “in Him” we are Involved in what He is doing!  Therefore, we go, we baptize, we teach.  We endeavor to be the salt and light – the flame of the Gospel.  We seek to love others and be known as a people who are eager to do good works.

So, because we are created by God and blessed with so many blessing in Christ Jesus, we should seek to live our lives for His glory by being “in the world” while at the same time being careful to not be “of the world”.  Therefore, we should pray that we let go of our ever plaguing selfishness.  We should seek every day to live as a Child of God.  We should not be so tied to this world that we are not willing to be submissive to Him.  Rather, we should be willing and learn to take risks for His glory.

In summary let me simply say that because we are “in Christ” we are different and we must accept that reality and at the same time seek to be involved in the world in such a way that truly honors God and brings a sweet aroma to those around us through our love, good deeds and humble living before our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Remember…

  • If we are too different – we run the risk of not having an audience
  • If we are too involved – we run the risk of assimilating and diluting our message

Darth Vader has spoken…may the force be with you bubble people!!

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Bubble Boy Meets Darth Vader – Part 1

It was July 4th about 10 years ago and we went with our family to watch fireworks at Groveland State Park near our home in Ortonville, Michigan.  I had felt strange most of the day, but that evening my head began to thump…and it wouldn’t stop.  So, I took my usual Ibuprofen and hoped that it would go away, but it didn’t.

I tossed and turned all night getting little sleep.  In t he morning the headache continued and I was now in quite some pain – so much so that my wife, Elia, demanded I go to the Hospital (You know us guys…only if it’s really bad will we even consider the hospital) When we arrived I waited for a while in the waiting room…I mean, really, I only had a headache.  Certainly the others in the Emergency room were there for much worse things.

So, I finally got in and was placed on a gurney.  Immediately I said to myself, “I have to buy one of these things, they are soooo comfortable.”

Well, finally someone came, an intern, and began to ask questions.  They left and another person came…another intern.  Questions, questions, questions.  “Can’t you just give me something for the pain?” I was thinking to myself.  Finally they did give me some Demerol, I believe.  It should have taken the edge off, but it didn’t, so more interns came in to see me.

After some time and discussion the head Doctor overseeing the Interns approved me for a CAT scan.  Now, I am thinking, “It’s a headache, why do I need a cat scan?  Well, they took one and found nothing (that’s a pun…or it is at least the only humor I found in the moment)

After a long wait I was finally told that they were going to keep me overnight for observation.  I was fine with that as it would give me an opportunity to rest and for people to bring me food and drink.  So, they took me up to a room and to my pleasant surprise I had a room all to myself.  I settled down and began to fall asleep.

Sometime, after about a half an hour at least I was awoken by the Nurse on duty.  My eyes were still closed when she entered the room, but when I opened them up I was looking at “Darth Nurse.”  From head to toe she was covered in light blue with a mask over her face, gloves over her hands and she began to speak…

In a Darth sound came the words…

“Hello, Mr. Phillips…I am your nurse.  You must listen to these instructions carefully.  We will bring you everything that you need.  You must not leave the room.  Only certain people can come into the room.  Mr. Phillips, you are under quarantine!!!!”

“What?” I thought to myself.  “I am under quarantine?”  “But why?”

The Nurse then responded timidly, “Mr. Phillips, we don’t want to alarm you (too late for that!), but we believe you may have Bacterial Meningitis.”

Now, I knew that Bacterial Meningitis wasn’t good and that epidemics of young people had broken out in various boarding schools, college dorms and scout camps.

Whatever it really was, I was forced to be in Isolation.  I was alone, free to move around in my room, but cut off from the rest of the world.  My head was still thumping and all the window blinds were down in the room to protect my eyes, but I was under quarantine, and my only contact to the outside world was Darth Vader!

The Bubble of Isolation

Now friends, the sad reality is that like me too much of what we do as God’s children is fleshed out in isolation.  We have deliberately quarantined ourselves off from much of the World.  We live, to some degree, in a Christian Bubble of sorts which has had an effect on us and our impact for the Kingdom.

Let me define what I am talking about…

From a positive perspective, the Christian Bubble is the environment that we create, nurture and maintain that provides for us some really good things that flow out of our faith:  safety, comfort, predictability, defined behavior and expectation…

We go to church where Christians gather for worship.  Some send their kids to a Christian School where other Christians students attend and where the teachers, coaches, janitors and lunch workers are Christians.  We go to work and seek out the Christians there, spend lunch with them.  We have Christian friends, Christian mechanics, Christian hairdressers and play on Christian softball teams.

Now, is there anything wrong with that?

Now, from a negative perspective, here is what Relevant Magazine – a post-modern Christian periodical – says in passing on their “What We Believe” page…

“Christians can’t be complacent living in a Christian bubble and never engaging the world they live in.”

Are they on to something?  Is their conclusion correct?  Let’s read their comment again…

“Christians can’t be complacent living in a Christian bubble and never engaging the world they live in.”

Well, some of what they are saying I agree with…but there is an underlying assumption that distorts their argument…

Let me ask you.  “Are Christians who live in a “Christian Bubble” complacent? The answer to that question is, “Some are and some aren’t.”  Complacency is a problem and should be avoided.  It is subtle and creeps up on you, so all Christians should be careful to not be complacent, but what about the Christian Bubble…is it bad?

I would suggest that it is both good and bad!

I have already mentioned some of the good – that God has established, promised and commanded that the Church be a place of Safety & Comfort, that it is predictable with defined behavior and expectations. Your family should be a Christian Bubble to some degree; Your Bible Study, etc.  The problem comes when we, because of all the blessings that come with being a church – or being in a Christian Bubble – we don’t want to engage in life outside the bubble.

So, we must be careful not to knock the Bubble that God has created in the Church and Family.  But we should remind ourselves how easy it is to settle with all the joys and benefits of being in Christ to the point that we become complacent and then neglect our responsibility to share our faith.

There are really two extremes that should be avoided.

  • Extreme #1 – Isolation from the World because we are so comfortable with our Christian Bubble
  • Extreme #2 – Abandoning the organized Church because we see it as an unhealthy Christian Bubble

So, what do we do?  How do we move ahead out of our Isolation?  We don’t want to be going out into the world like “Darth Vader” Christians putting our masks on.

Well, as we will see, the answer if found in the example of Christ…

Come back for Part 2 soon…