Culture And Its Influence #1

13 Nov

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 Living what we claim to believe James

In Paul’s letter to Titus, we learn that Cretan culture was very bad. In Titus 1:12-13, Paul wrote: “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

We can be sure that Paul was not just being uncouth. Neither was he addressing the integrity of every single Cretan. He was, instead, reminding Titus of the persuasive influence of culture.

In Cretan society, there was a general lack of integrity among the people. By and large, they were a cruel and savage people who would selfishly push everyone out of their way in order to gain an advantage for themselves.

In addition, they were pleasure-loving (viz., they loved to eat) and lazy. “Cretism” or “Cretan behavior,” in the ancient world meant “lying.”

According to the ancient writers, the Cretans were experts at lying, cheating, and stealing. To them, “no profit is ever disgraceful” (The Histories VI, 46). Their forte, according to Titus 1:11, was “dishonest gain.”

This is why Paul cautions Titus to warn the Cretan brethren of the terrible influence of their culture (Titus 1:13). If they were going to be “sound in the faith,” they were going to have to be “rebuked sharply.”

  1. We can almost be certain that some were more than willing to misunderstand Titus’ “sharpness” (cf. II Corinthians 13:10).
  2. Nevertheless, we are sure Paul did not prescribe this remedy for the destruction of the Cretan brethren. Instead, he imposed it for their edification.
  3. For the Christians at Crete, as it is for Christians everywhere, the New Testament, not their culture, was to be the benchmark of their behavior.

Corruption is everywhere! Almost everyone wants kitu kidogo (“a little something” in Africa) for doing what they do, from the common clerk to the government offical. The most mundane transaction needs kitu kidogo. If there is no kitu kidogo, then there is no service, no license, no nothing! On the other hand, if you are willing to pay, the sky seems to be the limit!

Now, with all this firmly entrenched in our minds, maybe we all have a little better appreciation of Paul’s admonition to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).

Did he not go on to say: “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (verse 15)? How long would any of us live in such a culture before we became defiled in mind and conscience?

The Barna Institute conducted a survey in early 1999:

  • The survey had 66 religious-oriented questions (9 different answers)
  • It had 65 non-religious questions (had ZERO different answers)
  • Conclusion: religion made no difference in our culture!

Deuteronomy 18:9-16“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. {10} Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, {11} or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. {12} Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. {13} You must be blameless before the LORD your God. {14} The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. {15} The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. {16} For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.””

Israel eventually did these things! The longer they were in the land the more they looked like the people in the land.

Romans 12:2(NAS) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message): So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Amish people in Ohio-Pennsylvania: no electricity, but many workers would use electricity of their clients to build garages, etc. Terry and I could easily develop the Amish culture (not religious).

They don’t want to ‘blend in.’ Black clothes…no buttons (too flashy)…they see culture as evil…no lights on their horse-drawn buggies (not unusual to have accidents with cars at evening).

Their desire: Family, Neighbors, Church.

1 Peter 2:11-12: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. {12} Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-11“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– {10} not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. {11} But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”

We expect and demand more from each other than we do with the world! And we hold this high standard among ourselves in the midst of a sinful world.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? {13} God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.””


But what does this all have to say to those of us who are Americans. Simply this: As our own culture becomes more and more pagan, we need to be very careful that it does not exercise an undue influence upon us.

Unfortunately, many churches in America have begun to blend in. Instead of acting like strangers and pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11) whose citizenships are in heaven (Philippians 3:20), many of us have become much too comfortable in our society.

Many of us are failing to live out the “in the world, but not of the world” mandate of John 17. Like the church at Laodicia, many of us, indulging ourselves in the material riches of our society (cf. Revelation 3:17), have become “neither hot nor cold” (verse 15). Consequently, if we do not repent, the Lord will eventually spew us out of His mouth.

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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in Article


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