Cultures in Conflict

People do what they know to do. They would do otherwise if they knew another way. In obedience to Romans 12: 1-2 most believers in Christ want to present themselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. They don’t want to be conformed to this world but find it difficult to fulfill this command even though they are willing. They struggle with the person they want to be and the person they actually are. I have counseled many individuals and have mentored countless others that love God but find it difficult to love Christ. In my personal struggle to look more like Christ than “the world” I have come to realize that until a person becomes aware of the two cultures surrounding them and understand the differences in each culture and how each culture impacts everything they believe, they will struggle greatly. I want to share with you what I’ve discovered and the impact it has made on my personal relationship with God and the freedom I’ve experienced because of this knowledge. Jesus said, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.” How very, very true. Let’s first define the source by which we are “in conflict”.

Culture Definitions

The definition of the world “culture” is the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; Also, culture is the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of live) shared by people in a place or time such as the southern culture. Culture is also the set of values, conventions, or social practices.

Within a culture you have a society. The definition of the word “society” says a society is an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another or a community, nation or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.

Human Programing

Therefore, it is safe to say that we are “programmed” from birth to adult within our culture or society in our understanding of how one relates to others, our beliefs, communication, what behavior is acceptable and what is not acceptable, what treatment we deserve, what we don’t deserve, what is valued and what is not valued, etc. Each society and culture have rules of behavior unique to them. Again, I say, we’ve been programmed!

Our brain is like a computer. It is our hard drive and created to work in a certain way. Also, our mind is like the software. Our software reflects our belief systems and how to survive here on planet earth. Learning how to make life work involves being aware and agreeing with Roman 12: 1-2 that we are to challenge our programming and delete the beliefs that reflect “the kingdom of this world” and replace our beliefs with those that are in accord with the good news of the Gospel! The good news is that you are unconditionally loved and accepted and forgiven by God. That through Jesus Christ your debt has been paid. If you accept that Jesus is the way to God, you become adopted into God’s family and given a new identity, position and authority. Through the Holy Spirit we have everything to undo all the works of the enemy.

Once we realize the distinct and opposite systems that are competing for our allegiance, we are well on our way to identifying our lie-based beliefs. Awareness is the beginning of change and choice. We cannot change anything that we are unaware.

Influence of Culture

I was raised in the state of Nebraska, USA. My husband was raised in Louisiana, USA. Same country, but what a culture shock when I first visited the state of Louisiana. The food they ate, the way they brewed coffee, the accent of their peach, their recreation preferences, was very different from the farmland, hard-work culture of Nebraska. My ancestors immigrated to the United States from Demark (father and Wales & Scotland (mother). My husband’s family were descendants from France, Quebec, and the native Indians. I’m sure how you can see how the customs and traditions of their culture and social norms affect how they functioned in life. 

In a lengthy discussion with a precious man from Ireland, he told me as recent as three years ago, you could be killed if you were a Catholic in a Protestant dominated environment or location or visa versa. Our culture and society have a profound effect on what we believe about ourselves and others.

As individuals move from childhood into adulthood and are exposed to other cultures, they hopefully retain their ways and traditions that are life giving and let go of the things that do not fit into their broader view. We are looking at the things that make life work and the things that do not. We do this all the time on our computer. For example, as I type this document, I change words or delete words that are not communicating what I want to say. A person who is continually developing into a self-actualized adult is continually challenging and updating their belief system. A believer in Christ should be continually challenging and updating their belief system to agree with God’s Word, which is our blueprint to truth and life. Jesus told us that if we “know (experientially) the truth” we will find freedom.

Let’s look at what the Word of God, The Bible, says about the culture or society (world) in which we live. The Bible uses the words “kingdom” and “world” to describe the culture and social influence surrounding us.

Romans 12 New King James Version (NKJV)

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

1 John 2 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

See “the world” for what it is

15-17 Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die.

1 John 2 New International Version (NIV)

On Not Loving the World

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

2 Corinthians 10 Amplified Bible (AMP)

12 We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who [supply testimonials to] commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools. 

2 Corinthians 11 New King James Version (NKJV)

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Ephesians 4 Amplified Bible (AMP)

The Christian’s Walk

17 So this I say, and solemnly affirm together with the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the [unbelieving] Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds [and in the foolishness and emptiness of their souls], 18 for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded; [they are] alienated and self-banished from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the [willful] ignorance and spiritual blindness that is [deep-seated] within them, because of the hardness and insensitivity of their heart. 19 And they, [the ungodly in their spiritual apathy], having become callous and unfeeling, have given themselves over [as prey] to unbridled sensuality, eagerly craving the practice of every kind of impurity [that their desires may demand]. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way! 21 If in fact you have [really] heard Him and have been taught by Him, just as truth is in Jesus [revealed in His life and personified in Him], 22 that, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, 23 and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], 24 and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].

Why is it so important to look at the influence of our culture? Why do I find it hard to believe, trust and live out as true, the new identify that God has given me? Why do I let other people tell me whether I’m acceptable or of value? Why am I afraid to experience disapproval from those I care about? What compels me to “be like” everyone else instead of discovering the “me” God created?

Counter-culture

The culture of the kingdom of “the world” is counter-culture to the Kingdom of God. It is opposite the teachings of culture of the Kingdom of God that Christ taught while on earth. The world’s culture says that your worth or value depends on what you do (performance) and what other people think about what you do (performance). This culture also believes that love should be withheld from you when you fail as a form of punishment. Failure can also be interpreted as “different”. To put into other words, the message of the world is that if you just meet the standards of the culture well enough you can become perfect (acceptable). Therefore, if you fail at becoming perfect (acceptable) if is because you are flawed. If you cannot perfect your “flaws” you should be ashamed of yourself. If you are flawed, you are helpless and powerless to change, and society has the right to withhold love and acceptance.

Guess what? As a human being created in the image of God, you are created an imperfect human being. There is only one person who is perfect, and it is God Himself. Can you see the great deception operating through the world system? If I am trying to become acceptable to the world culture, I will have to hide who God created me to be. Isn’t that Satan’s objective? Spending our lives hiding and protecting ourselves from others seeing our imperfections. Surviving instead of thriving.

Imagine the world of perfect people. No one would need anyone. We’d live loveless lives apart from one another. I could not live in a world of perfect people because my very imperfect presence would make it an imperfect world!

The Culture of the Kindgom of God

So, what is the culture of the Kingdom of God? God says even though you are imperfect in your humanity you are worthy of love and belonging. He says you are loved, accepted and secure in Christ. You have great significance to Him and are highly valued. Your value (worth) is based on the life of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, not your performance. So, when shame says you are inadequate you need to agree with 2 Corinthians 10:12 (listed above) and stop comparing yourself to others and start comparing yourself to Christ. We are inadequate to Christ’s power and ability.

The message of the Cross in this – there was performance required by God, sinless performance. But God know that imperfect man could never obtain perfection, therefore, He became a man, in Christ and did the performing for us. Christ’s performance was perfect, and it satisfied God as payment for the sins of mankind, thereby offering reconciliation to God to the entire world. We must admit that we were helpless to save ourselves and Christ did it for us. That is why Christ can say, “No one comes to the Father but by Me. I am the way, the truth and the life.” But praise God, the way is easy for us. Excruciatingly painful for Christ. God so loved the whole world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Christ can inherit eternal life. This is the good news of the gospel.

You are acceptable because you accept the performance of Christ as payment for your sins. You are loved because God is perfect love. You are secure in Christ because God is sealed in you and will never leave or forsake you. Your relationship with God is not based on your performance. It is based on grace (unmerited favor) of God. It is a gift. You have done nothing to deserve or merit God’s grace. Salvation is God’s gift to you.

Learning how to recognize the lie-based beliefs that have been imprinted by the culture of this world that you have lived in since birth is the basis of intimacy with God and our relationships with others. Life is not going to work unless it is according to the culture of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of life and love. A kingdom that is counter culture to the kingdom of the world. We become aware of the difference in the two cultures and start to conform to the Kingdom of God culture. It’s our job. No one can do it but us. It is a wonderful journey to take, with liberty and freedom given whenever you exchange the world’s ways for God’s ways.

Only God knows how to make life work and He very much wants you to know and understand His truth. Didn’t Jesus say, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” Each of us is unique, unlike anyone else on planet earth. We each have a specific destiny and purpose we are to fulfill in partnership with God. To be fulfilled is to be in our place of purpose. Just as God purposed for Adam and Eve, He has purposed for mankind to trust and surrender our lives to Him. He wants to live His life in and through us. This is the way to make life work!

Below is a chart I created to show you the “opposites” of each kingdom.

THE KINGDOM OF THIS
WORLD
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
I can and must be perfect Comfortable with imperfection
Fear of man Fear of God
Fear of failure Willing to risk failure
Trust in man & flesh Trust in God
Independence Dependent on God
Shaming and blaming Vulnerability and transparency
Survival Thriving
Self-protection Vulnerability and transparency
Unforgiveness, conditional love Forgiveness
Hide imperfections/create false self Transparency
Denial and secrets Committed to truth
Disrespect when you fail Empathy “me too” mutuality
Socially isolating Healthy relationships priority
Lie to avoid exposure Honesty and accountability
Unrealistic expectations Realistic expectations (at peace with self)
Powerless/helpless Shared power
Controlling or victim Healthy boundaries
Power over and control Choices and consequences

One of my very favorite scriptures, Jeremiah 17:5-8 illustrates the contrast in our lives based on who it is we look to as our source.

Jeremiah 17 New King James Version (NKJV)

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

This scripture is illustrating the difference when you see ourselves or others as the SOURCE of life, rather than relying upon God to be our SOURCE of life. In the world culture, we are taught to rely upon ourselves, be independent and don’t trust anyone but yourself to survive. However, God is the One in whom we put our faith and trust. Man is limited. God is an unending SOURCE of life. He is far more intelligent than we are. After all, He was the one who created all things. When you look at it this way, it seems obvious who we should draw upon as our source but remember — we’ve been programmed to trust in man. It will take awareness and commitment to change our subconscious responses. Be encouraged! You must learn a new way of thinking and doing.

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