While driving through the heartland, I saw acres of 8’-10’ high stands of corn having one or two one-foot long ears of ripening corn on every stalk. To ensure maximum yield, the farmer diligently tends the corn to keep insects at bay while ensuring the water and fertilizer is applied at the correct time. I saw no stunted, emaciated or otherwise defective stalks in the field. The ears were destined to produce 400-600 hundred kernels, which in turn will feed the needy and guarantee future generations of corn.
Next to the corn fields were equally high-yielding, heavily-laden soybean plants producing a great harvest. The fields were impressive; but occasionally I saw a few straggly, half-matured corn stalks intermixed in the soybean plants. The corn was obvious strays that ended up outside their appropriate place of growth. Each of the isolated corn stalks was markedly shorter, malnourished, and obviously developmentally stunted -- destined not to mature before the end of the growing season. The soybean plants were diverting the corn’s nutrients for growth. It was obvious to me that the corn in the soybeans would never ripen nor bear the bounty originally intended. The corn in the soybeans stood out, but it would never be outstanding. But those stalks did get me thinking!
Application: These stifled plants remind me of believers who firmly planted themselves into the lifestyle of the non-believing world. They allowed the world's influence to stunt their spiritual growth, resulting in the believers failing to thrive and produce a harvest. They missed the blessings of a Spirit-filled life. The reason was that their inner Christian life conflicted with their outer surroundings.
Examples of this conflicted lifestyle are when young people get overly involved with good things like gymnastics, karate, sports teams, electronic games, texting, and the internet -- which overwhelm their schedules and resources. The “good” has forced out the “best!” Many adults find themselves in a business partnerships with non-believers with opposing interests, or they become avid sports fans to the point where the team’s schedule shapes the believers’ time and financial investments in Christian activities. Stopping at the local lounge to unwind after work steals limited family and ministry outreach time, and these stops rarely end up with a coworker’s conversion to Christ.
Believers planted in a non-believer’s lifestyle discovers, though often after a time living in self-denial, that they are operating like fish out of water and are choking off the very life-giving sources available to them. Reaching out to non-believers is our mandated Christian mission; yet to be yoked with a non-believer’s lifestyle is sin. We are called to be “in the world but not of the world,” as stated in 2 Corinthians 6.
The “world” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “cosmos,” most often referring to the earth and the people who live on the earth, which function apart from God. Satan is the ruler of this “cosmos” (John 12:31; 16:11; 1 John 5:19). The word “world” refers to a world system ruled by Satan. Christ’s claim is that believers are no longer of the “world,” are no longer ruled by sin, and are not bound by the principles of the “world.” Additionally, we are being changed into the image of Christ, causing our interest in the things of the world to become less and less as we mature in Christ. Being “in” the world also means we can enjoy the things of the world, such as the beautiful creation God has given us. However, we are not to immerse ourselves in what the world values; nor are we to chase after worldly pleasures. Pleasure is no longer our calling in life, as it once was, but it is rather the worship of God.
We as believers are simply physically present “in” the world, but we are not “of” this world nor its values (John 17:14-15). As believers, we must be set apart from the world. This is the meaning of being holy and living a holy, righteous life. We are not to engage in the sinful activities the world promotes, nor are we to retain the same mindset that the world creates. We are to conform ourselves, and our minds, to that of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2). This takes daily activity and commitment.
Some reasons for this “intermingling of corn in the soybeans mentality” are noble at first glance, but they are deadly.
• I want to impact my world so I travel in their circles then they'll see by my silent witness and life that I am different.
• My difference will attract them to Christ.
My question is, “Who is influencing whom the most?” It is better to be outstanding than just to stand out. In short, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (excerpts): “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? For we are the temple of the living God, of salvation!” I recommend you choose the location for intermingling that best fosters the ability to share the Christian message. Invite the non-believer to your house, go to a wholesome event, or befriend them apart from the negative influences of the non-believer's culture.
My goal is to be that fork in the road where one chooses Christ versus the continuation in non-belief. Many times 2 Corinthians 6 is thought of as a marriage passage but it is equally applicable to work place entanglements, social settings, events scheduled during your worship time, and places of entertainment. Associate with non-believers but do not adopt their lifestyles. Here’s a little jingle once that had a profound influence on prioritizing my lifestyle choices:
“To know Him is to love Him, to love Him is to serve Him. If you do not serve Him, you must not love Him; and If you do not love Him, you just must not know Him.” (author unknown).
Remember, spiritual nourishment is essential, just as physical nourishment is for a bountiful corn harvest. Some people say, “I don’t need to attend church to be a believer and have a relationship with God.” Every believer must strike the balance between being in this world while not being of it. To do this, we all need the help and encouragement of other believers. That’s why God established the Church. We must ask ourselves, “Who is influencing whom? Do I exert more influence on the world or does the world exert more of its influence on me?”
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
MEMORY HOOK EDUCATION uses everyday items as well as awesome ventriloquist puppetry and mind boggling interactive sleight of hand magic to share biblical and life skill lessons. Due to space limitations, check out MandMTeam.com and MemoryHookEducation.com web sites for more information on this and other trainings. Your comments, added illustrations and applications would be appreciated as well!