Cape Town Commitment Part 2 Section 5 [E] Units 1-5 Biblical Lifestyle- Humility, Integrity, Simplicity, Sexuality, Idolatry

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Section 2 Part 5 [E] Units 1-5 discuss biblical lifestyle. It calls for a distinctive walk reflecting position in the new humanity, avoiding the distorted sexuality in our world with humility, integrity and simplicity.

A distinctive lifestyle means not following the world in corruption, greed, distorted sexuality, divorce, racism, consumerism or social prejudice. Idolatry reflects itself in these distorted practices.

The honoring of marriage and sexual purity is an important part of the walk of the faithful. This means teaching about sexual fidelity and living in light of such teaching, avoiding the dangers of pornography and addressing frankly but with compassion, issues tied to homosexuality.

Issues of power and its abuse mean that a lifestyle of humility is the way forward. Here mutual submission and respect is important, especially in marriage. Christ’s example of love is the example to the husband. Physical or verbal abuse of a wife has no place in such a home.

Integrity and honesty with transparency is the lifestyle that commends itself to believers. Ministry has integrity in the representation of activity and in how support is raised.

Simplicity of lifestyle is to be pursued. This unit challenges a prosperity gospel and the distortions it introduces into the community’s life. The work of the Spirit and God’s power is to be believed but not in ways that have an automatic expectation or that manipulate. In making this point, all forms of greed are also rejected.

Here is Section 2 Part 5 [E] units 1-5:

IIE. Calling the Church of Christ back to humility, integrity and simplicity

Walking is the biblical metaphor for our way of life and daily conduct. Seven times in Ephesians Paul speaks of how Christians should, or should not, walk.[82]

1. Walk in distinctiveness, as God’s new humanity [83]

The people of God either walk in the way of the Lord, or walk in the ways of other gods. The Bible shows that God’s greatest problem is not just with the nations of the world, but with the people he has created and called to be the means of blessing the nations. And the biggest obstacle to fulfilling that mission is idolatry among God’s own people. For if we are called to bring the nations to worship the only true and living God, we fail miserably if we ourselves are running after the false gods of the people around us.

When there is no distinction in conduct between Christians and non-Christians - for example in the practice of corruption and greed, or sexual promiscuity, or rate of divorce, or relapse to pre-Christian religious practice, or attitudes towards people of other races, or consumerist lifestyles, or social prejudice - then the world is right to wonder if our Christianity makes any difference at all. Our message carries no authenticity to a watching world.

A)    We challenge one another, as God’s people in every culture, to face up to the extent to which, consciously or unconsciously, we are caught up in the idolatries of our surrounding culture. We pray for prophetic discernment to identify and expose such false gods and their presence within the Church itself, and for the courage to repent and renounce them in the name and authority of Jesus as Lord.

B)    Since there is no biblical mission without biblical living, we urgently re-commit ourselves, and challenge all those who profess the name of Christ, to live in radical distinctiveness from the ways of the world, to ‘put on the new humanity, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’

2. Walk in love, rejecting the idolatry of disordered sexuality [84]

God’s design in creation is that marriage is constituted by the committed, faithful relationship between one man and one woman, in which they become one flesh in a new social unity that is distinct from their birth families, and that sexual intercourse as the expression of that ‘one flesh’ is to be enjoyed exclusively within the bond of marriage. This loving sexual union within marriage, in which ‘two become one’, reflects both Christ’s relationship with the Church and also the unity of Jew and Gentile in the new humanity.[85]

Paul contrasts the purity of God’s love with the ugliness of counterfeit love that masquerades in disordered sexuality and all that goes along with it. Disordered sexuality of all kinds, in any practice of sexual intimacy before or outside marriage as biblically defined, is out of line with God’s will and blessing in creation and redemption. The abuse and idolatry that surrounds disordered sexuality contributes to wider social decline, including the breakdown of marriages and families and produces incalculable suffering of loneliness and exploitation. It is a serious issue within the Church itself, and it is a tragically common cause of leadership failure.

We recognize our need for deep humility and consciousness of failure in this area. We long to see Christians challenging our surrounding cultures by living according to the standards to which the Bible calls us.

A)    We strongly encourage all pastors:

  • To facilitate more open conversation about sexuality in our churches, declaring positively the good news of God's plan for healthy relationships and family life, but also addressing with pastoral honesty the areas where Christians share in the broken and dysfunctional realities of their surrounding culture;
  • To teach God’s standards clearly, but to do so with Christ’s pastoral compassion for sinners, recognising how vulnerable we all are to sexual temptation and sin;
  • To strive to set a positive example in living by biblical standards of sexual faithfulness;

B)    As members of the Church we commit ourselves:

  • To do all we can in the Church and in society to strengthen faithful marriages and healthy family life;
  • To recognize the presence and contribution of those who are single, widowed, or childless, to ensure the church is a welcoming and sustaining family in Christ, and to enable them to exercise their gifts in the full range of the church’s ministries;
  • To resist the multiple forms of disordered sexuality in our surrounding cultures, including pornography, adultery and promiscuity;
  • To seek to understand and address the deep heart issues of identity and experience which draw some people into homosexual practice; to reach out with the love, compassion and justice of Christ, and to reject and condemn all forms of hatred, verbal or physical abuse, and victimization of homosexual people;
  • To remember that by God’s redemptive grace no person or situation is beyond the possibility of change and restoration.

 

3. Walk in humility, rejecting the idolatry of power [86]

In our fallenness and sin, power is often exercised to abuse and exploit others. We exalt ourselves, claiming superiority of gender, race, or social status. Paul counters all these marks of the idolatry of pride and power with his requirement that those who are filled by God’s Spirit should submit to one another for Christ’s sake. Such mutual submission and reciprocal love is to be expressed in marriage, family, and socio-economic relations.

A)    We long to see all Christian husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, living out the Bible’s teaching about ‘submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ’.

B)    We encourage pastors to help believers understand, honestly discuss, and practise the mutual submission that God requires of his children towards one another. In a world of greed, power and abuse, God is calling his Church to be the place of gentle humility and selfless love among its members.

C)    We particularly and urgently call Christian husbands to observe the balance of responsibilities in Paul’s teaching about husbands and wives. Mutual submission means that a wife’s submission to her husband is to a man whose love and care for her is modelled on the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ for his Church. Any form of abuse of one’s wife – verbal, emotional or physical – is incompatible with the love of Christ, in every culture. We deny that any cultural custom or distorted biblical interpretation can justify the beating of a wife. We grieve that it is found among professing Christians, including pastors and leaders. We have no hesitation in denouncing it as a sin, and call for repentance and renunciation of it as a practice.

4. Walk in integrity, rejecting the idolatry of success[87]

We cannot build the kingdom of the God of truth on foundations of dishonesty. Yet in our craving for ‘success’ and ‘results’ we are tempted to sacrifice our integrity, with distorted or exaggerated claims that amount to lies. Walking in the light, however, ‘consists in …righteousness and truth’.[88]

A)    We call on all church and mission leaders to resist the temptation to be less than totally truthful in presenting our work. We are dishonest when we exaggerate our reports with unsubstantiated statistics, or twist the truth for the sake of gain. We pray for a cleansing wave of honesty and the end of such distortion, manipulation and exaggeration. We call on all who fund spiritual work not to make unrealistic demands for measurable and visible results, beyond the need for proper accountability.  Let us strive for a culture of full integrity and transparency. We will choose to walk in the light and truth of God, for the Lord tests the heart and is pleased with integrity.[89]

5. Walk in simplicity, rejecting the idolatry of greed [90]

The widespread preaching and teaching of ‘prosperity gospel’ around the world raises significant concerns. We define prosperity gospel as the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through financial or material gifts. Prosperity teaching is a phenomenon that cuts across many denominations in all continents.[91]

We affirm the miraculous grace and power of God, and we welcome the growth of churches and ministries that lead people to exercise expectant faith in the living God and his supernatural power. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, we deny that God’s miraculous power can be treated as automatic, or at the disposal of human techniques, or manipulated by human words, actions, gifts, objects, or rituals.

We affirm that there is a biblical vision of human prospering, and that the Bible includes material welfare (both health and wealth) within its teaching about the blessing of God. However, we deny as unbiblical the teaching that spiritual welfare can be measured in terms of material welfare, or that wealth is always a sign of God’s blessing. The Bible shows that wealth can often be obtained by oppression, deceit or corruption. We also deny that poverty, illness or early death are always a sign of God’s curse, or evidence of lack of faith, or the result of human curses, since the Bible rejects such simplistic explanations

We accept that it is good to exalt the power and victory of God. But we believe that the teachings of many who vigorously promote the prosperity gospel seriously distort the Bible; that their practices and lifestyle are often unethical and un-Christlike; that they commonly replace genuine evangelism with miracle-seeking, and replace the call to repentance with the call to give money to the preacher’s organization. We grieve that the impact of this teaching on many Churches is pastorally damaging and spiritually unhealthy. We gladly and strongly affirm every initiative in Christ’s name that seeks to bring healing to the sick, or lasting deliverance from poverty and suffering. The prosperity gospel offers no lasting solution to poverty, and can deflect people from the true message and means of eternal salvation. For these reasons it can be soberly described as a false gospel. We therefore reject the excesses of prosperity teaching as incompatible with balanced biblical Christianity.

  1. We urgently encourage church and mission leaders in contexts where the prosperity gospel is popular to test its teaching with careful attention to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Particularly, we all need to interpret and teach those Bible texts that are commonly used to support the prosperity gospel in their full biblical context and proper balance. Where prosperity teaching happens in the context of poverty, we must counter it with authentic compassion and action to bring justice and lasting transformation for the poor.
  2. Above all we must replace self-interest and greed with the biblical teaching on self-sacrifice and generous giving as the marks of true discipleship to Christ. We affirm Lausanne's historic call for simpler lifestyles.

 

 

[82]Though translated variously, the following texts all use the verb ‘to walk’: Ephesians 2:2; 2:10; 4:1; 4:17; 5:2; 5:8; 5:15

[83]Ephesians 4:16-31

[84]Ephesians 5:1-7

[85]Ephesians 5:31; 2:15

[86]Ephesians 5:15 – 6:4

[87]Ephesians 5:8-9

[88]Ephesians 5:10

[89]1 Chronicles 29:17

[90]Ephesians 5:5

[91]See also the full text of The Akropong Statement: A critique of the Prosperity Gospel produced by African theologians, convened by the Lausanne Theology Working Group, at: www.lausanne.org/akropong

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