Syncretism in the Church
(a summary of the sermon with the same title delivered on Aug 6, 2017 at Kettering Assembly of God)
We are living in difficult times. All around us, we see the signs of the end times occurring. There is a spiritual atmosphere that is increasingly difficult to navigate through. I believe that, in our day, we are experiencing perhaps the greatest spiritual resistance as followers of Christ. In Daniel 7:25, he talks about an end times ruler who will “wear down” or “oppress” the saints of God. That antichrist spirit is already at work in the spiritual realm trying to get Christians to water down, give up and take it easy.
One of the most effective tools that the enemy seems to be using in the Western church today is the spirit of the world. As I pondered the modern church culture and what we see happening all around us, a revelation came to me that the church has become syncretized with the world system.
If you haven’t studied Old Testament history or lived overseas, the term “syncretism” might be foreign to you. The easiest way to define it is to look at the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt. You will recall God giving Moses the Law in Exodus 20. The first two of the 10 commandments involved worship of other gods and idols.
EXODUS 20:1-5 “And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”
I don’t think anyone can accuse the Lord of being too vague or giving commands that were hard to understand. He tells them plainly, “Do not worship any god but me and do not make or worship idols.” Pretty simple, right? But when you study the remainder of the Old Testament, you see the Israelites continually breaking these two commandments.
It makes you wonder, “Why were these commandments so hard for them to keep?” The answer is that they believed that the false gods could provide blessings for them, such as rain, good harvest, etc. Jehovah also promised these things if they would obey. But that is the kicker. The Lord required obedience from them. The Israelites wanted the blessings without the spiritual discipline.
Something important to notice, however, is that the Israelites did not fully abandon their worship of Jehovah. Instead, they tried to blend in the religions of the surrounding nations, but still maintain some kind of devotion to the Lord. They wanted the best of both worlds. And this blending of religious belief systems is called syncretism.
I began to see a parallel to the Old Testament Israelites and the current church culture. I realize that syncretism in the church is not as overt as it was with the Israelites. I am not suggesting that Christians are secretly hiding statues of Buddha or some Hindu god in their homes. But we have syncretized in a different way, with the world system.
James 4:4- You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
1 John 2:15- Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them
Most of us read these Scriptures and brush them off by saying something like, “I don’t hang out at bars or nightclubs and I’m a decent Christian, so I don’t love the world.” If you do a word study on the word for “world” used in both of these passages, you will find the Greek word “kosmos.” In the context of these Scriptures, the definition is as follows:
KOSMOS DEFINED: Ethically, morally, or spiritually, the present world-order or system of life in its condition of self-reliance and independence from God…Kosmos as such is concerned with the PRESENT, TRANSITORY dimension of life, ignoring or denying eternity, gauging existence by material standards and defining achievement in terms of human esteem…it reflects the man-centered spirit of this world. (taken from the word study of kosmos in the NIV Key-Word Study Bible)
As you can see from reading this definition, worldliness involves much more than blatant sin. Kosmos is the world system that exists apart from God. It can be seen all around us, such as in the entertainment and music industries, the advertising industry, government systems, social media, etc. Kosmos has no concern about Jesus and no concern about eternity. It is all about the here and now. These industries are mainly dominated with human philosophies such as atheism (the belief that there is no God and no afterlife), humanism (the system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters), and hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence.)
Think about most of modern entertainment and music and the spirit behind it. The entire industry is presenting to us a life that has no need of Jesus. Even innocent shows that aired when television first became a household item still presented a good life where everything always had a happy ending. And yet, without Jesus Christ in the picture, there are no happy endings in life! It is all a façade.
Through various channels, the kosmos world system has gained access into the homes, minds and lives of countless Christians in our day. So much so, that worldliness has become the norm. We look around and everyone else seems to be living the same way, so we consider it acceptable. But is it acceptable according to the Word of God?
I believe the Lord is calling the church to new levels of separation from the world system. Of course, I am not talking about separating from worldly people. We are called to be a light in the darkness and Jesus displayed for us that we are to also be “friends of sinners.” However, when it comes to the things we read, watch and listen to, I believe the Lord is calling His bride back to separation from the world.
The first thing that happens before a man or woman has an affair is flirting. If you are married, can I tell you that there is no such thing as “innocent flirting”? You belong to your spouse and your spouse belongs to you. Any attempt to have inappropriate conversation with someone other than your spouse is forbidden. And yet, the Bible says we are the bride of Christ. How many Christians in our day are attempting to allow the world system into their lives, but call it innocent. They say, “those shows don’t really affect me.” They tell themselves, “I can handle a little bit of sin, it’s no big deal.” But our hearts should be to honor the Lord in every area of our lives and stay faithful to our Bridegroom.
Let me close with two principles that have helped me tremendously in deciding what things of the world I allow into my life through my eyes and ears.
The Philippians Test
The Apostle Paul gives us a filter for what is appropriate in the life of a believer. He writes:
Philippians 4:8- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
If the things I’m reading, watching or listening to do not line up with these filters, they have no place in my life or home.
“Did Jesus have to die for this?”
When deciding what you will allow into your life, ask yourself, “Does anything in this movie, TV show, song, book, magazine, etc. portray something that Jesus had to die for but has no connection to redemption?” So many people are allowing themselves to meditate on things that forced our Savior to go to the cross to in order that we might be forgiven, yet we brush it off as “entertainment.”
We need to examine our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to help us. This is not to make legalistic rules that keep people in bondage. The question is, “How much of Jesus do you want in your life? Is He worth more time and attention than you are giving Him?”
I believe in spite of the syncretism in the church, the Lord is calling out to a generation:
It’s time for a generation to rise up in RADICAL SEPARATION from the world system and begin to live only for HEAVEN’s SYSTEM!
It’s time for the church to REPENT OF FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD and learn to become passionate lovers of JESUS again!
Lord, have your way in the church. Purify us! Help us to break away from the world system and life sold-out lives for Jesus Christ! Let us become the pure and spotless bride that you deserve!