In the fifth century, Simon Stylites spent many years of his life living in the middle of the wilderness on top of a pillar 60 ft high, 3 ft wide. The basic necessities of life were passed up in a bucket on a long rope. He had previously withdrawn to live a solitary life in a cave, but he had gained such a reputation as an ascetic, that the crowds came out to see him. To escape the crowd he mounted the pillar believing his aloof isolation from the world was a mark of spirituality.
You do not have to live on a pillar to be a hermit, or in a monastery to be monastic. The monastic movement may have been predominantly part of the Roman Catholic church, but modern Protestants have been equally pietistic. The church has withdrawn from the world.
Pietism emphasizes the purely personal aspect of religious experience. In a world that is largely wicked, the ethos of pietism is that of retreat. It views the world as nothing more than an environment from which souls must be saved. The righteous have no real place in it. People are called out of it, into the kind of personal spiritual experience that we enjoy.
But the mission of the church must reflect the mission of Jesus. He was not “of the world” (either in terms of his origins or his lifestyle); but he was very much “in the world” (not aloof from it on a pillar in the desert). Rather than fleeing from the world, we read that we are to inherit the earth. Possessors, not pietists.
So, as John Stott puts it, we are called to involvement in the world as well as separation from it; to “worldliness” (which is not unholy) as well as to “holiness” (which is not unworldly). How are we to understand genuine separation to God (holiness) which is lived out in the world?
So in this, the thirteenth chapter of The Treasure in the Field, we will think about “Pietists or Possessors?” Here’s what we will see:
- Possessing our Inheritance: taking cities
- Model Citizens: Joseph and Daniel
Treasure in the Field is now available as an e-book from major outlets for all kinds of readers.Click here to access it in any format, or as a free pdf. Or, you can listen to chapter 13 as audio files: Part 1 and Part 2 .