I often wonder how radically different our views about what the Christian life should look like would be if we looked through the lens of historic Christianity instead of modern-day Christianity–especially in America. Jeremiah 6:16 says, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand in the ways, and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls'” (NASB). I believe this is what all of us need to do today, both individually and corporately.
The bible makes it clear that over time there will be a continual degeneration of things physical and spiritual right up until the Second Coming. This is to be expected. However, what we must be on guard against as Christians who live in the midst of it is being conformed to this world and its way of doing things…even if it is in the professing church.
Who is influencing who? Are we influencing the world or is the world influencing us? Times and cultures change, but God and His Word never do. If the modern church considers things to be normal that would have appalled the early church, why is that? If we say and do and wear and spend and focus and flaunt in ways historic Christians didn’t, why is that?
As soon as we dare to start asking these types of questions the world and often the church starts crying out “legalist” or they accuse you of wanting to live in the backwoods without electricity or running water. But these things really have nothing to do with it. The ancient paths are all about the heart of the matter. It’s about doing things God’s way instead of man’s way.
The look and feel of money changes, but the godly principles of how to use it don’t. The style of clothes change, but the godly principles about modesty don’t. The types of houses families live in change, but the godly principles on marriage and parenting don’t. The things people do for fun change, but the godly principles for conduct don’t. The methods of communicating change with the latest technology, but the godly principles that govern our speech don’t.
To find the ancient paths, you must first drop the lens of what you see and hear all around you and be willing to consider that you may be on the wrong road. Most of us are inundated with a sensory overload of just what we are currently surrounded with. If the majority of our friends, family, pastors, teachers, authors, etc. all pretty much do and say the same thing, you start to assume that their way is the way it should be. But where did they get their understanding of the way things should be? Often from the same people, places, cultures and things you did! We could all be on the right path, or it could just as easily be a bad case of the blind leading the blind.
I cannot definitively tell you whether you are on the ancient paths or not, but here is a recipe for finding out: Do your own research and learn the history of the Christian church. Read the writings of the early church fathers and the classic books throughout our history as opposed to just the modern-day ones. Come to the bible without any preconceived, denominational, or modern-day notions and take it for what it says. Read through it, all of it, and pray that God will help you understand and apply it. May the Holy Spirit be your Guide.