by Duane Maust
Part of “7 Core Convictions Mennonites Share”
February 6, 2005
I will be looking at the seventh core conviction today. I decided to divide this into four points.
“We seek to live in the world (1) without conforming to the powers of evil, (2) witnessing to God’s grace by serving others, (3) caring for creation (4) and inviting all people to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.”
The key verse for today is Romans 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”
What does that mean for us to not conform to this world? What are ways we are conforming to the powers of evil? These are very personal questions and hard to detect how we are being affected by the world.
I read a story that helped me see how we may be getting trapped without realizing.
I read about how they catch a monkey. The Native hunters in the jungles of Africa have a clever way of trapping monkeys. They slice a coconut in two pieces, hollow it out, and in one half of the shell they cut a hole just big enough for a monkey’s hand to pass through the hole. Then they place an orange in the other coconut half before fastening together the two halves of the coconut shell back together. They fasten the coconut to a tree with a rope, then they hide in the jungle and wait. Sooner or later, an unsuspecting monkey swings by, smells the delicious orange, and discovers it is inside the coconut. The monkey slips his hand through the small hole, he grabs the orange, and tries to pull the orange through the small hole, grabbing the orange, he tries to pull it though the hole. He can’t get it through, it is to big for the hole. The persistent monkey continues to pull and pull. He doesn’t realize the danger he is in. While the monkey is struggling with the orange, the hunters come out and just throw a net over the monkey. He is caught. As long as the monkey keeps his fist wrapped around the orange, the monkey is trapped. It is foolish of the monkey. All he had to do was let go of the orange and he would be free. It doesn’t occur to a monkey that it can’t have both the orange and its freedom. That delicious orange becomes a trap for him.
The world sets traps for you that may be somewhat like that orange inside that coconut. We hear constantly that if you have enough money, enough stuff, enough power, then we’ll be happy. Under that illusion people spend their time grabbing onto things that trap them. There are all kinds of things that lure us.
Mark 7: 20-23 has some thoughts from Jesus. I am reading this from the Message. It is a contemporary version by Eugene Peterson.
“Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you see that what you swallow can’t contaminate you? It doesn’t enter your heart but your stomach, works its way through the intestines, and is finally flushed.” He want on to say; “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness-all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”
So let’s not be tricked into holding onto sin, and getting caught. We must let go of sin.
Like Romans 12:2 says, we are to be transformed. Jesus can bring that to our hearts and minds.
The Greek word for transform is: Metamorpho. That is where we get our English word “metamorphosis.” It describes a change from within.
Read Romans 12: 1-2 again.
When I read the phrase from our core convictions, “witnessing to God’s grace by serving,” my mind goes to Matthew 25: 34-36.
Jesus expects us to keep helping the people that are in need. There are many ways that I see you all doing this. Mennonite Disaster Service, Community of Hope, Pine Lake Camp, visiting the sick, visiting in jail, helping people in need. We need to keep focused on helping people. These are all good ways to show God’s love to unsaved people and people of need.
While I was thinking about this theme today, my mind kept going to Matthew 5:14-16. We are not to put on Camouflage clothing and Blend into the world or the communities that we live in. We are the lights, we are the bright spots in our neighborhoods. We don’t need to be Camouflaged Christians! When I hunt deer, I may wear Camouflaged clothing because I don’t want to be seen. When we live our life with other people, we need to show up.
Caring for creation—this is my 3rd point. It seems sort of stuck here in the middle of this but it is an important reminder for us. We are here to respect this creation and take care of it.
1 Timothy 4:4 “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Let’s leave it better than we found it.
Invite all people to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. There are a lot of verses that support this thought.
Let’s start spreading the Good news in Quitman, Meridian, or Lost Gap, Mississippi, US, and the World.
In the “Confession of Faith,” I feel it sums it up pretty good. “We believe that the church is called to proclaim and to be a sign of the kingdom of God. Christ has commissioned the church to be his witnesses, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things he has commanded.”
In his mission of preaching, teaching, and healing, Jesus announced, “The kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” After his death and resurrection, Jesus commissioned his disciples, saying “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit.” Empowered by that Spirit, we continue Jesus’ ministry of gathering the new people of God, who acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior.”
Inviting people to know God is for all of us to be involved in. We are to all be witnessing God’s grace.
Let’s be careful that we don’t let the world trick us and we get caught in some evil kind of thing and then your light goes out. Let us be sure we don’t grab something and hold on and get caught. We are here in the world to share God’s love and what Jesus has done for us to the world.
We repeat together: We seek to live in the world without conforming to the powers of evil, witnessing to God’s grace by serving others, caring for creation and inviting all people to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.