Is Your Lifestyle Important?
“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” – Brennan Manning
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Sometimes we get into the belief that our life is just that: our life. What we do, as long as it’s not “hurting someone else” (in the context of murder, theft, etc.) we think only affects us. Sometimes we get into the attitude that we don’t have to be “good” all the time – we can slip up here and there, don’t have to follow the Bible every time. I’m telling you, both of these are dangerous not only to yourself but to others around you.
If we are really “Christians”, it means we’ve accepted Jesus as our savior and He’s now living inside of us. Jesus is no longer in His physical body down here, He’s sitting at the right hand of Father God. So we’re His ambassadors – He’s commissioned us to tell the world about Him, and to bring as many people as we can to Him. We’re supposed to be bringing the Kingdom of God here to this world. How do we do that? Well, think about ambassadors. They represent the interests of the country they originate from, and deliver messages from that country. But they also inherently represent the character of that country. Who the country chooses to represent them shows a lot to the other nation. Why do we think it’s different in the spiritual aspect?
I’m not saying we need to constantly do good works to appease God, or if we screw up it will ruin everything. God knows what we can and can’t do, and He still entrusted the Gospel of Jesus to us to deliver to the rest of the world. But if we are truly in a relationship with Jesus, we will want to do our best for Him. We will want to represent Him as well as possible, and show others what He has done in our life through His forgiveness, grace and love.
How do we represent Jesus to a lost world? Well, it’s both easier and harder than it sounds. Much of your “representing” will happen when you don’t know it. People generally watch Christians very closely – unfortunately, most are looking for hypocrisy. So what can we do?
1) Act with integrity in all situations. Talk to your friends like you do with your pastor. Obviously the subjects may be different, but if you’re swearing up a storm around them and not when you’re ‘supposed to look good’, they’ll catch that and blame it on Christianity. Avoid the appearance of evil. Do what is right, even when it is very inconvenient to you. Show respect to everyone, regardless of your opinion on if they deserve it or not. Respect the authority above you, even if they themselves are wrong. Jesus didn’t defy his death sentence, but He could have, literally calling in all of Heaven’s Army. He knew that God works through authority, and can even work through crooked governments.
2) Don’t take on a “hush” attitude about it. If you tell others about the great golf clubs you just got, or the awesome carburetor you put on your hot rod, or the great deal you got on a dress (kinda cliché examples, but take the point anyways) but don’t say anything about Jesus, what are they supposed to think? They don’t see it as something of true importance to you, they see it as just something you feel obligated to do. I’m not saying every conversation around non-Christians needs to be about Jesus – that would most likely turn them away. But apply the Word of God to their situations. If someone is talking about how their wife just filed for divorce, tell them how God transformed your marriage, and how unconditionally loving your wife can win her back. If someone is telling you about their plans for prom and it includes their boyfriend and a hotel room, remind them of the benefits of waiting until marriage for sex, and how God doesn’t want us to have premarital sex because it emotionally and spiritually hurts both people. In any case, apply the Word of God, especially what Jesus taught. If they try your advice, they will see that you are full of wisdom, and you can direct them to the source of that wisdom.
3) Go weekly to a Bible-teaching church. This is not a requirement, and certainly not relating to your salvation. I don’t know where modern society got that idea, but it’s way off. However, you can get a lot in a church that you can’t really get elsewhere. First of all, it’s a great place to learn. We should try to take in positive / teaching media everyday (Christian talk radio, Christian books, cd’s of previous sermons, devotionals would all be good examples), but we generally learn the most, at least at first, at church. The teachings of the Bible are broken down in easily-understood ways, and if we have questions, we can ask them there! It puts you with other believers who can become accountability partners, and help you out when you need encouragement or support. You have chances to serve and apply what you’ve learned, and you’re under the care of a pastor who can help you avoid snares. You really can’t get all that at the same time anywhere else. So find a local church that teaches straight from the Bible – not just a church that picks and chooses from “happy verses” and considers Jesus to be merely a “good teacher”. A good litmus test: if they have Bibles for use in the sanctuary, if some of their teachings convicts you (you see things in yourself that should change), and if they have an altar-call, there’s a good chance it’s a good church to go to. Don’t be afraid of conviction though – it’s the Holy Spirit working in your heart, molding you into the image of Jesus. However, if the people are convicting and judging you, that church probably is not a good one. Please don’t mistake cautious and lovingly-motivated confrontation as judging though – you can usually tell them apart, but generally your pride will fight them either way. [note: that was all pretty confusing but I should end this post soon, so if you need clarification go ahead and comment and we’ll sort it out] This next point is not a reason to go to church, but is a positive result of going: it shows your walk with Christ is important to you. Think about it: would you trust someone who is a registered democrat or republican who doesn’t vote? It doesn’t make sense. A person who is trying to follow Christ but remains all alone doesn’t make sense – it leaves you vulnerable to satan’s attacks and deception, much like a baby zebra that has strayed away from the pack.
Show people the Christ living in you in everything you do. Act consistently, and show how Jesus has changed your life. That will speak to people when your words can’t. Others will see something different in you, and they will want it.
The BOTTOM LINE: We are supposed to represent Christ – pray that the Holy Spirit will start working through you and your lifestyle to reach others.