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Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Where Does Your Path Lead?
BELIEF OR PRACTICE?
I was reading my daily devotional the other day, and the scripture passage was one of many in which the appearance or action of God resulted in great fear and wonder by the individuals in the story. What really struck me was the incredible difference between the reaction of biblical individuals like the ones in the story I read, and the kind of attitude I perceive in people who claim to be believers now.
What I often see now is a rather lackadaisical approach to righteous living, as if it doesn’t really matter. It is as if modern day American Christians have decided that the Christian faith is about what you believe, and not about how you live. But such an understanding is opposed to the clear teachings of scripture.
Perhaps this attitude has arisen in reaction to people who act “holier than thou,” earning the church the reputation of hypocrites over the last half century.
Perhaps it is that our churches have so focused on the grace of God and forgiveness through Christ.
Whatever the reason, the result is that it would appear many Christians answer yes to Paul’s question in Romans 6:1 “Should we continue to sin that grace may abound?” They fail to read on to verse two that begins, “by no means!”
What do I mean? Well, for instance, the ubiquitous OMG, spouted from the mouths of even Christians with no sense of fear or reverence for the God whose name is being invoked. Many, and maybe you are one, think that even raising this issue is picayunish and ridiculous. But when God’s name is to be hallowed, such usage simply is out of line. In one youth group we used to work with, we had a policy that whenever anyone said, “Oh my God,” we required them to finish the prayer! It served to remind them of the meaning of the words they had used.
But that is only one small instance. There are far too many Christians whose behavior cannot be distinguished from the actions of non-believers, in terms not only of language, but even topics of discussion, use of alcohol, sexual practices, handling of finances, and attitudes about almost everything. One example that bothered me was when I heard a famous Christian teacher claim she believed God has blessed her, and so she has no problem living an extravagant lifestyle, including her $500 suits. This lies in contrast to the scripture’s teachings, such as having our hearts set on our treasure in heaven, not on earth. Whatever happened to being light and salt for the world?
In the New Testament, the scripture says that the kinds of things non-Christians do shouldn’t even be mentioned among Christians and our speech is never to include immorality or impurity or coarse jesting, for example. That though we once were children of darkness, we now are to walk as children of light. Every deed we do and every word we utter demonstrates to the world the truth or untruth of what we say we believe.
This distinction also applies to the world of marriage and divorce. We are to take our marriage vows as a sacred covenant, and do everything we can to uphold them as such. We simply are not to be turning to divorce for the kinds of trivial reasons that often occur. We are to see divorce truly as a last resort that God has allowed only because of the fallen state of the world and our sinful condition. Even then, the way a Christian goes through a divorce ought to be clearly distinct from the behavior of non-believers, most visible, perhaps, in the realm of honesty about finances and the honoring of one’s obligations in terms of visitation or child support.
Now I will grant that in our quest for righteous living, it is important to avoid the traps of legalism, salvation by works and of self-righteousness. But avoiding those traps does not relieve us of the responsibility to pursue the holiness that God requires and the recognition that we, too, will give account for our careless words and thoughtless deeds.
The call of Christianity is not merely to believe the appropriate list of doctrines.
The call of Christianity is to follow Christ in a life transformed that reflects the very holiness of God.
The sin in our lives should break our hearts and be wrestled against, not treated lightly as if nobody cares. God does care, for our words and our actions reflect on the reputation of God.
Whatever your station in life, I want to encourage you to consider how well the way you live your life reflects the Christ you say you believe in.
If you are in a position of teaching others, does your teaching appropriately challenge those who hear you to pursue godliness and not excuse sinful behavior in their lives?
Do your words honor God, or embarrass him?
Do your actions draw others closer to Christ, or cast stumbling blocks that hinder them?
Do you live life with a healthy fear of God?
Would you change anything about your life if Jesus were standing right beside you?
If what you believe as a Christian does not impact how you behave, then either you don’t truly believe, or you have never learned enough to even understand what it means to believe in Christ. In either case, that is a dangerous place to live.
For those of us who are believers in Christ, our very lives are the witness that convinces others of the truths we believe and the reality of our faith. I want to encourage you today to do your best to make sure that in all you undertake, God will be glorified because of YOU.