Be holy, for I am holy, God says (Leviticus 20:26; 1 Peter 1:16).
If you say that you abide in Jesus, then you ought to walk just as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).
There are many other Bible verses that could be used for this topic, but the point here is that God’s Word should be our standard; Jesus should be our example. When we want to know what to do or say or how to live, we should begin with God’s Word. Sadly, though, many Christians begin with their culture. I have even been in church meetings where a topic is discussed based upon what we want, and we never get around (and likely we do not want to) to looking at the Bible and asking God what He wants.
We often seem to lower our standards because we base our actions upon our culture and society instead of upon God’s Word and Jesus’ example. This happens in the world in things as simple as proper grammar. Certainly language use changes and people do not speak exactly the same as they did hundreds of years ago, and words might even change meaning over time. However, for publishers and editors to base the proper use of grammar upon culture and society rather than upon logic, reason, and rules of grammar that are based upon logic and reason, only lowers the standards. If our attitude is that culture does it this way, so we must approve of it, leads to having no standards and leads to the acceptance of things that are wrong. If publishers and editors kept the rules of grammar in books based upon a higher standard than how the majority of the people speak or write, this might actually lead to people raising their level of speaking and writing. Instead, many publishers and editors say that a certain thing is becoming accepted, and so they soon accept it. Then, people see that lower standard approved and used in books and other publications, and soon see it as proper.
This happens, too, with our government. People no longer read the Constitution and the writings of our Founders, and so they do not understand the meaning and intent of what was written or why it was written. Instead, they begin to say that the Constitution is a “living document” that can be interpreted however the majority of people want and based upon whatever the society does. That is how some view grammar, too – they say that grammar changes and evolves and so whatever society wants and accepts is fine. Have we not learned that the majority of people can be wrong? The majority of the people do not follow Jesus. The Founders explained that we are a republic rather than a democracy precisely because the majority of people can be and often are wrong.
The same ideas, though, are accepted by many Christians. Rather than beginning with God’s Word and taking our standards by the Scriptures, we begin with our society and then change the meaning of the Bible (viewed by some as a “living document” that can be interpreted however one chooses based upon the current feelings of society) to fit what we want to do.
For example, styles of clothing change. People certainly do not dress the same today as they did a thousand years ago or two hundred years ago or even twenty years ago. However, God’s standard and principles remain. We are to dress modestly. Whatever the current style of clothing is, we ought to dress modestly. God’s standard does not changed based upon society. It is possible to dress modestly, even in our current culture. We do not have to wear skin-tight- pants to go for a walk. We do not have to wear tiny tight shorts to run track or play volleyball. Women do not have to wear short skirts and dresses simply because others might think they are cute. Will Christians base their clothing upon God’s Word or upon the world? Will Christian parents inform the coaches that their daughters will not be running track, playing tennis or volleyball, or cheerleading while wearing clothing that is immodest?
Have we lowered our standards based upon culture? This can be applied to many areas of our lives. Consider the Lord’s day. If we begin with sincerely looking at God’s Word, we might well conclude that the Lord’s day is special and we ought to keep it holy. (Notice, too, that it is the Lord’s day, and not just the Lord’s morning. It is about God, not about a church attendance ritual. We may well conclude that it might be best if we did not sign our children up for sports’ teams that play or practice on Sunday. We might realize that it might be best if we did not go out to eat on Sunday and cause others to work. Until recently, pastors throughout history used to preach against lowering our standards regarding Sunday, preaching against playing sports and shopping and the theater on Sundays. Now, however, the Christian mantra is “Don’t judge me. I have freedom in Christ.” We no longer care about God’s standards (which still apply no matter what our culture says or how free we are), but do whatever is right in our own eyes. Not only have I seen Christians regularly skip church to attend sporting events, to play in sporting events, to take their children to sports practice, but I have even seen and heard pastors defend and promote their own habits or running in marathons on Sunday mornings, entering bike races on Sunday mornings, mowing the church lawn on Sunday afternoon, or even having sport tournaments at church on Sunday afternoon. Certainly we can be legalistic if we come up with an extra-biblical lists of things that we can and cannot do on the Lord’s day, but if we do whatever we want without seriously seeking God and His Word, then we have lowered our standards based upon culture (You might like reading the post about if sports has become an idol to many Christians).
So, whether in entertainment or the Lord’s day or modesty or our speech or whatever it is, let us go first to the Word of God and see what God says. Let us take Him seriously. Let us then, as D. L. Moody said, be willing to err by trying to follow Jesus too closely than to sin by not following God’s Word closely enough. We are indeed free in Christ, and so let us choose freely to keep the Lord’s day holy, to dress modestly, to set a better example for other Christians and for the world than to be content with merely having our standards just a little higher than the world’s. Let us show the world that we follow a holy God, and the world will see by our lives, actions, and example that God is holy, that we love Him and fear Him and take Him seriously, and that God’s standards are different and better than those of our sinful society.
May the world say of Christians as Moses expected the world to say of the Israelites if they had faithfully followed God:
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
“For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren (Deuteronomy 4:5-9).