SIMPLE TRUTHS ◽ ENCOURAGEMENT
What an amazing night we had in our women’s discipleship class. We read Romans 12:1-2 (MSG) and the words, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” As we were having our discussion, conversation came up about how those in the world point to our behavior sometimes and try to shame us because it doesn’t fit their definition of Christianity. There is this song we used to sing at our church when I was growing up called “This Joy I Have.” The main lyrics say that this joy that I have the world didn’t give and the world can’t take it away.
The world doesn’t get to set the parameters for a life provided to us through our Savior’s death on the cross. Don’t let them paint us into their image of a Christian life. We will fail, because their criticism is not coming from love - it is coming from the enemy. If he can get us to run around trying to meet the world’s view of us, we will miss out on becoming what God wants us to become.
Let me explain. What I am NOT saying is that those who are not Christians can’t call Christians out on their sinful behavior. If we are sinning against God and ANYONE calls us out on it, we best hit our knees and repent.
What I AM saying and want to focus on is that throughout history various religions have created images of legalistic Christianity. Those beliefs are still the center of a lot of people’s thinking, but as we mature as Christians, God takes those things out of us and replaces them with truth. Because non-believers, and even some Christians, are not truly on the journey of living their life FOR Christ, they don’t ever get to come into the true knowledge of our God and Savior. This has left many with a false image of a Christian life that they hold up to the lives of Christians, to compare. We can’t control what they do, but we can take the time to share the truth with them. And most importantly, we cannot let their image of the Christian life be the blueprint for our life with Christ.
Christianity is under attack more than ever in our country. Prominent Christian leaders are receiving more and more, bad press: Joel Olsteen not opening up his Houston church during hurricane Harvey, leaders’ wealth and how they use it, as well as belief in same sex marriage and so much more. In all of this the truth about God, who He is, gets mangled and becomes a filter that gets applied to all Christians. In the midst of this chaos, it is it is critical that we know the truth and be able to withstand the stereotypes of what the world things about Christianity.
“How can we do that?” you ask. Here are a few tried and true ways:
First, is simply KNOW the word of God and more today than we did yesterday and more tomorrow than we do today. I recently ordered a new storage unit for the boys’ bathroom. It required assembly. Over the years, I have put together many things and more often than not I have had to do assembly X2. In those times, the second assembly was made easier because of my experience with putting the first one together. So because of my history of putting things that needed to be assembled, I knew I could put this together this new item without a problem. I just had to learn the specific way this cabinet needed to be assembled and now I have more experience than I had, prior. The new experience grew me and I have more knowledge now than I did before. That is the way we can look our experiences with God. The more we experience we have with Him the more we learn about Him.
Which is critical in my next point…
The more we know God’s word the better we will be able to LIVE God’s word. I cringe at the things I did said and believed out of ignorance to God’s word. Not that it is okay, but we all have to start with where we are and grow from there. Recently at work, I attended a professional development class on communication. One of the elements they focused on was empathy. To demonstrate this to the class they showed a video of a church that found out that a Muslim mosque was being built across the street from their church. There is this moving scene when one of the member shares how he went to the pastor of the church and told him that he did not think he could continue to go to church there because of the development. The pastor told him he needed to read his bible. The member, holding back tears, confessed how the problem was with him and not just in regard to this, but to many of the issues we face today. WOW, I was emotionally moved sitting there in the class. Lack of knowledge of God’s word leads to poor behavior on our part. I often share with my kids the mantra that their behavior is either tearing down or reaffirming the beliefs someone has about African Americans. That mantra applies here as well. As Christians, we are either tearing down or reaffirming others’ beliefs about Christianity. Pressing into God’s word helps to ensure that we do both in the positive, tearing down the negative views of Christianity and supporting the positive views. Sometimes behavior may not be enough…
Which brings me to my third point…
We have to SPEAK the truth of God’s word. We will encounter people who may scoff at the way we live our lives. It is in these moments we need to be able to clearly speak and share the truth of God’s word. I have a co-worker that I have had the honor of working with more closely over the last several months. The inevitable is that as we get closer to someone we learn and share more of ourselves with them. As frustrations with a fellow co-worker mounted, I fell into the habit of venting to her. I started to be convicted by the Holy Spirit of how I was reflecting God in these situations. We were in the car on the way back from a meeting where this co-worker had been present. I started to vent, but then stopped myself. She became frustrated and said I was living up to some invisible standard. I turned to her and simply said, “Yes I am, but it is a standard that I choose to live by and that it is important to me.” You see, it is not a burden but a joy for me to live my life for something greater than myself. We need to be passionate about our life of service to God. No one wants to commit their life to something they see as a burden. This is yet another misconception that the world has about a life serving and following Christ, and it is up to us to tear down that false belief. We need to live our life with joy and passion for the One who sacrificed everything for us.
You see, knowing God’s word, living God’s word with our lives, and sharing the truth about God’s word is the only way we will live the life God sent His son to the cross to die for and give us. Don’t let the world take that away.