I’ve been thinking and studying for a long time on the issue of sanctification in my own life and in the lives of professing Christians. We are not only to set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord over our will, emotions, and intellect, but we are supposed to be set apart from the rest of the unbelieving world; living as strangers and aliens within our own cultures. What does that even mean!? I’ve taken it upon myself to find that out.
I have come to believe that the biggest problems in Christianity are that of fear, complacency, apathy, pride, and control. I’ll be referencing the book of 2 Timothy a lot in this post, so if you feel so led, grab a Bible (NKJV or HCSB are my preferred translations) and please, read for yourself. Side note: Free thinking is a gift from God and as the saying goes, the mind is a terrible thing to waste; Don’t believe what you are told without appropriately seeking, searching, studying and finding things out for yourself. My word is not the Gospel; God’s is.
Christians today lack a certain boldness when it comes to publicly living out and sharing our faith. We have hidden behind this idea that we’re to be harmless rather than helpful, or that our actions speak louder than words. What if I offend someone? I have to face that person at work, and I don’t want to damage a relationship…As a Christian, of course your actions will speak loudly of your professed faith in Christ. But if you never profess faith in Christ, who cares what your actions are? The obvious answer is God. But to society, what is it to them if you decline to order a margarita at dinner in favor of being clear and sober minded? But seriously, to paraphrase Pastor Matt Chandler, what non-believing person has ever seen you NOT order a glass of wine at dinner and think, wow, they’re not drinking- I need Jesus… The answer? Not many…if any at all. The truth is, we are to boldly proclaim Christ until his second coming. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that we have been given a spirit of boldness and in verse 8 goes on to say that we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel for ANY reason. My pastor recently said in a sermon, “Don’t worry if Jesus offends people… because he will. It’s not our job to make the Gospel palatable.” Watered down PC versions of Jesus and the Gospel lead either to weak faith, or complete disinterest. The world has plenty of “good people” it has only one Savior.
I attempt to point to Jesus at any and every opportunity I can- my dog ran away once and the lady that found her asked me, “Two dogs, and a baby, how do you do it?” to which I replied, “Only by the grace of God.” And the purpose of this blog is to reach those within a unique context of online readers. Thank God I still have the freedom of speech and the written word!
In a post a while ago, I referenced a quote made by Penn of Penn and Teller. In summation, how is it that Christians can believe we have the truth and the only way to salvation from eternal hell and NOT share that with people? Complacency. We’re comfortable in our American Christian lifestyle.
It becomes increasingly more difficult to make friends as you enter in to adulthood; personal preferences, prejudices, biases, whether positive or negative have all been formed and we develop a desire to stay within our comfort zones; Just hand me my cup of coffee, smile politely, and let me do my own thing.
Rarely do we act like the apostle Peter- He boldly stepped out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus… then, foolishly letting his circumstances win out and taking his eyes off Christ, he began to sink. Too many times, we sink before we ever venture out of the boat. I often think of the impact that event had on the other disciples, to see Peter’s faith and trust in Jesus, and ultimately what would happen when Jesus wasn’t central to their lives… Interesting to ponder what our unique context has to say about our witness of faith to those around us.
Discarding the directions of 2 Timothy 4:2, I believe that we have given up personal sacrifice in favor of comfortable complacency.
As a naturally introverted person, I find it difficult to reach out to other people without judgment or distrust. I tend to be very selective in terms of who I let in to my “inner circle” because I’m a private person.
One thing the Gospel is not is private. It is absolutely exclusive; in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father but through me.” But the Gospel is for all people of all races, nations, creeds and gender.
We are supposed to be imitations of Christ and reflections of His love and compassion. Not once in the Gospel did Jesus look on someone who was lost and say, “Eh… I’m kinda busy with other stuff I already have going on, maybe I can send you to someone else…?” Jesus never showed apathy- Even when he was turning over tables in the temple complex it was out of righteous indignation at the abomination the Temple had become- Jesus was moved with compassion for people. Not pity, not sympathy, not only empathy… Compassion. He knew he could do for them what they couldn’t do for themselves. And then he acted on it.
The reason I think we can be apathetic toward an unbelieving world is 2 fold: 1) We are oversaturated in hopelessness and despair from mainstream and social media outlets, and we think there’s nothing we can do, so we give up. 2) Our faith in Christ doesn’t cost us much.
Have you ever re-gifted something that was given to you? You realize someone’s birthday is coming up and you need a quick gift- OH! yeah! that toaster oven Aunt Marjorie got you last Christmas that you never used. You re-wrap it and give it to the other person. Somehow, they’re thrilled by the gift, and you become confused because it’s just a toaster oven… that technology has been obsolete for a seeming lifetime! You smile politely, and say you’re welcome, but truly, you don’t understand the big deal; you’re just glad they seemed to like it. That gift cost you nothing to give. What consequence is it to you whether they liked it or not? It’s not like you spent any of your hard earned cash on it. Heck, all you did was avoid embarrassment by not being the only one who didn’t show up to the party without a gift.
When our faith costs us nothing, we have little invested in it’s outcome. I wonder as I read 2 Timothy 3:12, if we aren’t being persecuted for our faith in Christ, (aside from the fact that in the United States, we have the freedom to practice our religion…for now…) how much are we truly reflecting our Lord and Savior? We don’t get the luxury of not caring. All Christians, not just ministers, or pastors, or those trained in seminary, but ALL Christians have the responsibility of sharing the Gospel; sharing God’s faithfulness; Making famous and lifting high the name of Jesus Christ until he comes again.
My sister-in-law and I were discussing confrontation and anger the other day. She said, “I don’t stay angry long. Maybe 20 minutes tops. After that, it’s all just pride.” She went on to say that pride kept her from apologizing, even if she knew she was in the wrong because she couldn’t make herself face the other person.
I think pride often keeps us from sharing the Gospel; Pride in our own free-time causes a reluctance to build relationships that are out of our comfort zone. Pride in our own convictions keeps us from listening to those of others who may have different opinions than we do.
I am perplexed by the prevalent “social justice warrior” culture that has been established in which a differing opinion, no matter how politely, gently, or eloquently phrased constitutes a “trigger” or “hate speech” if there’s someone in the general vicinity who disagrees. It’s all pride in one’s own lifestyle that inhibits our receptiveness to other human beings, however lost or broken they may be. A refusal to admit or acknowledge fault in ourselves is absolutely unbiblical! “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) and “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
We can stop being so proud of our own righteousness because it doesn’t exist. Then we can reach out to a lost and dying world with compassion free of any sort of boasting or pride because Jesus Christ is the only reason we still have breath in our lungs.
We have this culture in which we label everything, right down to illness and disease. My cancer, my diabetes, my depression, my body, my life, my family, my church, my friends, my my my my… You get the general idea. We slap ownership on everything as if we have any control over the next five minutes in time! Sobering as it is, the truth remains that at any second, we could die- our heart could give out, a blood clot could cause a stroke, you could get hit by a cliche bus. Our lives are no more within our ability to control than your next door neighbor’s cat who ravages your garbage cans each night.
I believe 2 Timothy 4:3-4 speaks to this end; it says that people will favor myths and legends to the truths of scripture or religion at all. Why is that? I asked myself, as a fan of mythology and fiction novels, “Why are myths so much more appealing?” The answer is because they require nothing of me. With new age spirituality, or many of the eastern philosophies, there is no accountability to any one or anything other than oneself, and perhaps society. They don’t require any sort of personal responsibility and instead favor determinism, and they don’t require any commitment or sacrifice.
This affects the Christian in one of two ways: 1) Either you don’t relinquish full control of intellect, emotion, and will to God and attempt to maintain control while hypocritically simultaneously saying Jesus is Lord of your life… or 2) You let an inability to control the response of the person with whom you share the Gospel keep you from witnessing at all.
All of this culminates in a worldliness that is contrary to our call to be sanctified and set apart from the world in which we live. In respect to 1 John 2:15-17, Billy Graham had this to say in his devotional Day by Day with Billy Graham, “Worldliness is actually a spirit, an atmosphere, an influence permeating the whole of life and society and it needs to be guarded against constantly and strenuously.” (Day 68, Day by Day)
We are supposed to be different from our culture in every regard; how we think, act, dress, drive, speak, live, work, interact. The love and grace of Jesus Christ should permeate our lives to the very core of our being. There is no such thing as privatization of the Christian faith. Every aspect of our faith should manifest in our public and private lives. That’s called living with integrity- doing what is right regardless of whether or not you have an audience. Our behavior is to be righteous as defined by Christ- turning away from unrighteousness. The results of sharing the Gospel are not our responsibility. How freeing!?!? The Holy Spirit takes over at that point- all we have to do is scatter seed and someone else is responsible for what takes root or what doesn’t. But we are responsible for sharing the Gospel at any and every opportunity, in our speech, as well as our actions.
I’ve had enough of the weak-sauce Christianity and I have a feeling, so has the rest of the world.