Spiritual-But-Not-Religious (SBNR)

My friends at “Prepared to Answer” have helped me enormously by identifying a great danger to my faith. “There is an emerging trend in spirituality captivating our culture that stands in direct opposition to Gospel truth.  Despite the plurality of religions represented across Canada, the spiritual and religious perspective quickly gaining dominance is identifying as “spiritual-but-not-religious” (SBNR), also known as ‘SBNA’ (spiritual-but-not-affiliated).  This broad and vague religious attitude sees spirituality as an entirely internal and privatized experience.  The prime objective for SBNR is self- actualization.  Christians must safeguard their faith against the trappings of SBNR spirituality.  Biblical faith stands directly opposed to contemporary trends in spirituality.” (S. Stein) 

The truth is that this trend is nothing new.  It’s a well-established fact that most of the people coming to faith in Jesus in the first century were coming from idolatrous, pagan religions that were fraught with corrupt practices.  Very often newly converted believers had a difficult time breaking free from the forces that enslaved them.  Pagan practices were so prevalent that it was customary for a new believer to renounce Satan at the time of their baptism to ensure a clean break from their old ways.  Not only did the baptism candidate renounce the devil, but the baptizer would command all evil spirits to depart far from the new Christian.  Pagan religious culture was so dominant in ancient Corinth that it was sometimes hard for them to draw a line of separation.  It was much less gruelling to blend the old way with the new.  So, the Corinthians were trying to live in the two worlds at once. 

That’s why Paul wrote to them in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 6 and said, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

For the Christian there is only one option: love, worship and serve the one true God.  Period! There can be no unequal yokes, partnerships, fellowships, deals or agreements that contaminates our worship, relationship and service to the one true and only God.  As soon as we touch the unclean thing, we have jeopardized our friendship and fellowship with the Lord.  Next to the sinner being justified by faith alone (Romans 5:1), walking in true holiness is the greatest emphasis of the Bible.  The believer is commanded to “cleanse themselves from every defilement of body and spirit” in order to advance and mature personal “holiness in the fear of God.” 

Join me on Sunday morning at one of our two services when we will dive into this great text. 


Pastor Deric

P.S.  Just a reminder that this is our last study in our Gospel and Culture series.  Next Sunday I’ll be returning to the Gospel of Mark where we will begin studying the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life.  It’s a gentle reminder that we are already turning our hearts toward the Cross and the Resurrection.

Athens, Pluralism & Paul

I would hardly call myself a “world-traveler,” but I have experienced a few exotic destinations in my lifetime.  London, Rio, Sao Paulo, Chennai, and Jerusalem have greatly enhanced my human experience.  Travel is a way for God to broaden one’s international pallet.  And that’s a good thing.  One city I have not visited, but is on my bucket list, is Athens, Greece.  The Greeks are among the most fascinating and inspiring people on earth.  I’ve had a few church members through the years who were Greek.  To the person they were strong and faithful Christians.

All that to say that one of the greatest examples of sharing the Gospel in a pluralistic culture took place in Athens, Greece.  It’s recorded in the missionary journeys of Paul in Acts 17.  Paul was in Athens awaiting his co-workers, and as was his custom; he made “the best use of his time” by heading straight to the “city centre,” where he was prepared to share the Gospel.  The ensuing interaction lays the foundation for one of the most telling examples of evangelism in the entire Bible. 

Paul modeled his own teaching in Colossians 4:5-6.  “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

This passage of Scripture is perfect for Canadian Christians living in the most pluralistic period in our nation’s history.  The religious pluralism of Canadian culture views all religions as pathways to the same ultimate truth.  The central creed of pluralism is that the only thing that is forbidden is to convert anyone to your religious views, believing that all religions are created equal.  They are all paths that lead to eternal life.  It’s challenging for us to know how we ought to engage our neighbours and friends given the fact that Jesus said there is only one way to God.  Being effective ambassadors for Christ means learning to understand and engage the mindset of those we’re witnessing to.

You can’t help but notice how prepared Paul was for such an encounter.  Paul was prepared and versatile.  He effectively maneuvered the rapidly unfolding opportunity.  He did not work from a one size fits all approach.  Many of us have learned a formulaic approach to sharing Jesus with others.  Paul, on the other hand, was ready to answer every situation as the opportunity presented itself.  Evangelism can’t be scripted like a call center dialogue.  Evangelism is fluid. 

How could we miss Paul’s compassion for the Athenians?  He did not come with guns blazing.  He carefully and genuinely crafted a response based on their own local culture.  He sought to build bridges.  There is no doubt that Paul got into “hot water” in most situations but what is perfectly clear from this passage is that it was never because of bad behaviour on Paul’s part.  His trouble erupted for the opposite reason.  He was faithful to the Gospel.

What makes Paul appealing to me in this encounter is how adept he is in telling the story of the Gospel in a pluralistic world.  He is fluent in the narrative of the Bible and in connecting the dots in the world of first century Greece.  If you haven’t fully imbibed the details of the Gospel into your own soul, it’s doubtful if you will ever be able to share Jesus confidently. 

Mississauga is no Athens, Greece.  We are barely 40 years old as a Canadian city.  But we are one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.  World-class for sure.  So, you can imagine how enticing it is for Christians to awaken to the reality that we too are called to share Jesus as effectively as Paul was able to do.  Paul wasn’t confident in himself.  He was confident in the Gospel.

I can’t wait to study this great event with you this coming Sunday morning.  See you at the 9 or 11 AM service.  Please register online.

Go saints, Go!
Pastor Deric