Today’s word is not to be found in Scripture, yet it is very attractive to the Christian especially those who do not wish to be soiled by this world. However it is spoken against at least in principle by the Scriptures and lies in direct opposition to how God has ordained we live until He shall appear. Asceticism is not spoken of much today yet its subtleties are nonetheless present with us all. So let’s begin.
Webster’s 1828 states that an ascetic is one who:
– One who retires from the customary business of life, and devotes himself to the duties of piety and devotion; a hermit; a recluse.
Now one might say “oh a retiree who has worked out their life and now gets to sit back take it easy and see the world.” But not so fast, don’t miss the end “a hermit, a recluse” not to mention that retiring from toil is not a biblical principle but one to which I look forward to anyway, but I digress.
An ascetic is someone who withdraws from the world and basically lives like a monk or some guru on a mountain top contemplating his belly button trying to get to his inner self. For the Christian though we are commanded to live in this world in order that He through us might accomplish His purpose i.e. save His chosen in the world. The phrase “Be in the world but not of the world” is very apropos because it at once demonstrates the believer’s condition as well as his struggle. In other words our condition is as aliens in this world (Heb 11:13; 1 Pet 1:17) and at the same time not to be tainted or stained through the contact we have of the world.
As Christ was praying in the garden you will notice He did not ask the Father to remove all who believe. Instead He asked only that we be kept from the evil one (John 17:15). And if you wont’ ask why I will “why.” Well … I don’t know. But, He has ordained that man be saved through the preaching of the Gospel (1 Cor 1:21) and that preaching be accomplished through man (Rom 10:14-15) and He has commissioned every believer to be His witness so that one can see how hard all of this becomes if we withdraw from the world.
But many of us do just that, we only associate with other believers (or professors), we only listen to “Christian” radio (don’t get me started on that one), we have Christian dentists, use Christian dry cleaners, and all the while become offended that an unbeliever actually has the gall to use profanity in our presence. Oh the outrage.
No. No. we are told to go out and mingle with these “undesirables,” actually rub elbows with them, yes even buy them lunch (none of this “you pay I’ll pray” business). Actually meet our neighbors, however strange they may seem, for you will never know how strange you look till you get on their side of the fence. And while we’re at it don’t beat them with your bible. It’s not the beating of the Word that wins souls its gentle correcting (2 Tim 2:25) with the Word that perhaps God may grant them repentance. So get out there, get in the field, it is already “white for harvest.”