June 13, 2020

Syncretism – Growing like ivy on the tree of our faith; and threatening our health, just the same!

Syncretism defined; noun – the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.

Did you know that ivy has a very negative affect on trees? In fact, if left unchecked, ivy has been known to kill full grown, adult trees! Go ahead, check me out – I’ve seen it more than once. I’ve also seen ivy destroy the wood siding and soffits of a house. Ivy is beautiful, but destructive; left unchecked. Consider this…

What effect does Ivy have on trees?

A negative effect that ivy can have on a healthy tree is reducing the tree’s capacity to produce energy. If ivy climbs through a tree’s canopy, it can smother the leafing branches, which would limit the tree’s ability to photosynthesize. This alone isn’t enough to kill a tree, but ivy may target weakened trees.(www.bbc.com › story › 20141008-why-should-i-love-ivy Oct 16, 2014)

Will Ivy vines kill a tree?

Although the ivy itself does not kill a tree, the resulting actions after the ivy has started growing can. (Ivy damages trees)by creating competition for nutrients, water and sunlight, ivy makes a tree weaker and more prone to disease and branch dieback. Homeguides.sfgate.com>English-ivy-circling-tree-kill-tree

Should I remove ivy from trees?

It is best to always remove the ivy from the tree and keep it away from the trunk of the tree, at least 3 to 4 feet, to prevent it from climbing up the tree again. When removing ivy from trees, do not simply rip the ivy off the tree. (Apr 12, 2019. wwwgardenknowhow.com)

So who cares and why, Jim, are you beginning this devotional with this odd information?

Because, whenever you amalgamate your biblical faith with any other extra biblical belief, you are performing a syncretistic religious act. And that act, just like beautiful but harmful, ivy, will ultimately sap the vitality of your faith. It may not kill your faith, but it does vie for dominance and will deplete the vigor and vitality of your faith, stunting your growth and negatively affecting your beneficial usefulness to the environment around you. Ultimately, if left unchecked, “syncretism” will shroud out the “witness” of your faith, just as the malevolent vines of Kudzu*..

*Kudzu is extremely bad for the ecosystems that it invades because it smothers other plants and trees under a blanket of leaves, hogging all the sunlight and keeping other species in its shade.

What, then, are examples of syncretism in the Christian realm? Well, I can think of three, real quick; and they are bound to hack someone off. Here they are;

  1. The first is – including Mary, Jesus mother, as a factor in your salvation.

She conceived, carried, birthed and raised Jesus, but she has no spiritual connection to His Atonement or your redemption. Plus, she offers no intercessory help in prayer!

No Salvation: And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

No Prayer: 22”Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant…24” … Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:24-25

  1. The second is – believing the “Church” is a building or a meeting. The Church is the “assembly” of God’s people, otherwise known as the “body of Christ”. Getting together in a facility is a convenience, not “The Church”, nor “going to church”.

No Building: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

“…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another”. Romans 12:5

No Meeting: “Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:17-18

  1. Third, and most painful for me, since I grew up in a very patriotic home, is this; Christianity and America are not synonymous. In fact, their interests collide from time to time. Every citizen of a secular nation, who is also a citizen of heaven, will confront the conflict of ultimate allegiance at some point – it’s inevitable.

Allegiance – “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. Philippians 3:1-6

Commitment –But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11

Citizenship – Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Philippians 3:13-20

Choices: Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they *sent their disciples to Him … saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He *said to them,Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.Then He *said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:15-21

Why is this important? There are at least two reasons.

First, if you find any syncretism in your faith, I suggest you trim it back to where it belongs, so that it doesn’t grow out of control, and begin to shield the life of the Son, from your “tree”; your spiritual growth in Christ, Jesus.

  1. Nothing wrong with respecting Mary’s role in the life of Christ – just don’t elevate her to deity
  2. Nothing wrong with meetings (we are instructed to assemble – Hebrew 10:25) just don’t diminish the concept of Christ’s redeemed (believers) to a facility or mere fellowship – its Him in us (Colossians 2:27)
  3. Nothing wrong with appreciating your country and serving ‘Her’ with honor, just don’t think that the Country is equal to the Church (Christ’s body) and that God has everlasting favor on US citizens, as He does on His “saints” (Phil 3:20). Paul used his citizenship in Rome, to keep him free to pursue the gospel ministry. We can do the same too. But if your veneration of any nation is greater than your veneration of Jesus, you have ivy crawling up your tree and it needs to be trimmed back.

Second, because tough days lie ahead for Christians.

In My Opinion – Our allegiances, our commitments, our faith is going to be challenged like you’ve never seen it before, nor even imagined. Most everything related to humans and human institutions, including governments, business, medical applications, education, travel, recreation, assemblies and entertainment, and yes, assemblies of worship, are going to be reconstructed, by government fiat; because of the recent “medial emergency” – no different than the Patriot Act, changed American culture after 9/11. Only this will be vastly different. It will be Global. It will be globally coordinated and contain influences from all the major thinkers and leaders of the world.

If you are paying attention to global trends and consider them in view of the inerrant prophetic writing of the biblical prophets and apostles, you will see that the trend lines are beginning to merge. And the confluence of those trend lines supports this perspective and demands my warning.

Right around the corner of this world, the one you and I are in today, a new world system is coming and its coming now…

It will have a common currency. Also, our U.S. Constitutional rights will be challenged and probably diminished, particularly the first amendment. Furthermore, the trend reveals that the surveillance state is coming and with it a wholesale reconstruction of our allowable movements will be forced on us – how we meet, recreate, shop, holiday, travel; etc. Obviously, with a new currency, how we conduct business and finances will change remarkably, too.

Furthermore, the pandemic will usher in a whole new set of medical protocols – rules and controls – for medical system delivery. Doctors and the host of providers involved in our health care system will fall under this new order, as well as us patients. Documents and information security will be reformatted and, no doubt, advances in electronic technology will be used (mandated) to upgrade the security and identification of medical staff, delivery systems and patients – some are calling for a “Universal medical and ID microchip implants” to ensure compliance and authenticity – (such a patent as this is pending, as I write, in the UK, by Derek Arnott).

Yes, change is coming and the velocity is stunning. We may all be under house containment now, and bored, because of COVID-19 but believe me, the thinkers and leaders of this world are busy getting ready to roll out the next new system of how they want the world to run. Are you ready?

GOOD NEWS: Christianity has been confronted by wholesale change every few generations or so. The key isn’t to be prepared for the natural, the key is to be in fellowship with the Supernatural; with God who redeemed us and wants intimate, honest, fellowship with His people.

Therefore, two things must happen for all believers. First, we must get back, repentantly and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and drop the ivy of syncretic, false, religious thinking.

Second, we must recognize that the church ALWAYS grows as a result of persecutions and massive change. As the first century believers of the early church adjusted to change, so must we. But, beware, syncretistic American Christian; our role is not to join the opposing force (Caesars world) or cower in fear, we are to rededicate to “Christ alone” then learn to innovate and utilize change to keep reaching those who Christ died for and keep our faith strong by the basics of the Christian life; including the “apostles” teaching, and fellowship and the breaking of bread and to prayer.” we don’t have to have buildings for that; nor nonprofit organizations.

As I close, I ask you to think of this; then steel your heart for change – God’s way…

After the death of Christ, the Church hid in an upper room – but they prayed.

Then The Supernatural sent the Holy Spirit, so they preached, and through mass conversion the “Church” grew into multiple thousands, despite the persecution of the apostles by the hands of the Pharisees. (Ac 3-7).

Then a pharisaical zealot by the name of Saul, of Tarsus, instigated a persecution that led to Stephens’s death. So Saul intensified his persecution. As a result, the Church (people of Jesus) vacated Jerusalem, taking the gospel with them and converting whoever would listen to the gospel – and there were many more converted. (Ac 8)

So Saul began to chase the believers to other cities. But God stopped the madness by converting the persecutor, who became the best defender of the faith that the world would ever see (Ac 9)! Plus, he ended up writing much of the New Testament and most of the Churches’ holy doctrine – 13 books; see Romans – Philemon!

So hear me men – please listen…

God will NEVER let the Church lose the war She’s in; we’re in! He’s already proclaimed its/His victory. He will use the madness to move us, not allow it to destroy us. (Mt 16:18)

He will allow the mad men to siege us, but only to showcase His eternal plan, as we depend upon Him and keep moving forward, with our faith. As a result, they, the world, will notice, that through Jesus, we prevail again!

We prevail not, for ease or comfort or for the acclaim of ourselves, our families, or businesses, or country, nor even the organization we support as our home of worship. No, our glory is Only Jesus. We prevail because of Him and for Him, All else is a test of faith and an opportunity for triumph, in His Cross and saving ways…

So get ready for change, persecution, disruption and shocking reconstruction as we seek prayer, the apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and making the most of this time, while we have the time, for Jesus.

Nothing else, really, matters.