Jesus can't be seen in the life of many 'Christians' these days. We've become people who fudge the facts or stretch the truth on our tax returns; we overindulge in food and alcohol, we pursue selfish career ambitions and covet money like the next Judas! Never mind the damage caused to our moral compass. Even worse, what about the inability to distinguish between Christian and sinner? We have begun to look an awful lot like the world.
Jesus told us we were to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth! In other words, we were created to stand out amongst the crowd, our lives pointing those who see us and know us towards Christ. Our presence here on earth is to not only be a beacon of hopeâthe hope found in Christâbut it is also to add the kind of saltiness that leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of those who revel in their sin. The Church is looking far less like the Bride of Christ these days, far less like this salty light, and more like she is married to the world!
I've come to know three kinds of Christians who help spread this virus of unredeemed culture. I am aware this is not an exhaustive list, but I can't help but wonder if we are able to find ourselves in amongst them.
Those who fear man
A fascinating phenomenon I have seen in the Church today is the multitude of Christians who seem all too eager to cash in on the promises of love and power and freedom that Christ offers. Yet they brush aside the more uncomfortable challenges of following Christ.
Jesus made it a point to communicate the difficulties of following him, and the sacrifices that would need to be made. He demonstrated a life walked out in the opposite direction to the worldâa contrast meant to challenge those around us and rigorously refine our own hearts minds and souls. Take these words, for example. What do they mean to you?
"What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" or,
"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is you do not belong to the world..."
Let that sink in. What does it say about who we are when the world loves us as its own?
The Apostle Paul even tells us that anyoneâwithout exceptionâwho wants to live the way Jesus lived, will not escape persecution. The so-called Christian who allows the fear of man to rule him will find himself making compromises with Jesus. He will find himself belonging to the world. He will surely compromise to the point where he allows sin to reign, just so that he fits in with everybody else.
The podcast consumer Christian
Then there are those, who to be quite frank, have no time to spend in the word of God themselves. No desire to soak in eternal truths through the pages breathed on by our God, the consuming fire. They have no desire to ask the Spirit of God for revelation that brings life through these inspired words. Nothing.
These Christians enjoy the occasional podcast, and will begrudgingly sit through a weekly sermon. They parrot second-hand revelations and philosophies yet never really exercise an ounce of individual, critical thought. The result? An unredeemed sinner who can quote John chapter 3, verse 16, and believes Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 11 is their personal promise received from God, free from any burdens.
No self-denial, no concept of carrying one's cross, and absolutely no desire to walk in obedience to our King. These so-called Christians will find themselves participating in the rebellion the world finds itself in without any framework to help them discern good from evil.
The sinner who thinks he is a disciple
Ah, this guy always irks me. Sure he goes to church and he might even be involved in some kind of ministryâsmall scale, nothing too costly. He even reads his bible! But you see, his bible was intended to be interpreted according to what his flesh desires. If something in the word doesn't make him feel comfy, he writes it off as 'cultural' and therefore irrelevant.
Of these 'Christians' and others like them, it might be said, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John chapter 8, verse 44)
Our behaviour affects those around us. Remember "a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." I'd hate to discover I was responsible for corrupting weaker brothers or sisters in my church by my own rebellion.
The Old and New Testaments of the bible demonstrate our need to make every effort to be holy, as Christ is holy! Granted this is not something we can accomplish apart from Christ, but neither can it be accomplished unless we are willing to relinquish what little control we think we have. It cannot be accomplished if we refuse to follow Christ down a path that runs against the grain.
If our aim is to be made holy, we have strayed dreadfully far from the mark. If our aim is to be made more righteous, we have failed dismally. If our aim is to know Christ completely, to become more like himâbeing transformed from glory to gloryâwe have lost it before we had it.
Ezekiel's prophecy to Israel in the Old Testament might be applied to today's Church. If this word is as relevant now as it was then, may we kneel in surrender before Christ and receive this new heart of flesh.
"Therefore say to the Israelites, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.I will save you from all your uncleanness..."
Do you need a new heart?
Benjamin James' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/benjamin-james.html