Friday, August 17, 2012

Afraid to be Different

     While reading my Bible this morning, I came across one of the saddest passages in the book of John (chapter 12:42-43).  Here Jesus is preaching to the people of Jerusalem as well as His disciples after His triumphal entry.  John writes a description of some who heard Him speak.            " Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God."  This passage made me think, "Not much has changed in the 2,000 years since our Lord walked upon the earth."  Men and women still make professions of faith today, but they are afraid to be different than their pagan friends.
     When we hear someone proclaim they are a Christian but live in a manner contrary to God's Word, they defile the testimony of our holy God.  It is hard to win an unbeliever over to the faith if a person is living with their boyfriend/girlfriend without being married.  Maybe they cheat on taxes or steal from their boss.  They may justify this to themselves, but it does not demonstrate the call of Christ and their commitment to live for Him.  We are, then, no better off than the pagans who live without the Lord.  Our Lord has given to us several callings that will make a difference in our witness.
     First, Christ calls us to holy living.  In I Peter 1:14-16, the Apostle writes:  "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'"  We are to throw off old past behaviors and be a living contrast to the ways of this world.  That does not mean that we go off and become hermits, but we are to conduct ourselves according to the Bible.
     Secondly, Christ calls to us profess our faith before men.  Our Savior speaks these words in Matthew 10:32-33:  "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."  The men that John wrote about in his Gospel account believed in Jesus but were unwilling to proclaim it before others for the fear of men.  As that passage said, they were more interested in maintaining their relationship with the leaders of their day rather than honoring God with their lips.  We will face difficulties if we are living for Christ and professing His name.  The world and the sin nature do  not like to hear about God or the Bible.  Why?  Because it condemns their behavior and sinfulness.  It exposes them, and just as in the Garden, they want to hide from God.  So, when we proclaim the name of Christ, it brings conviction upon those outside of the faith.  In the case of the Jewish leaders who believed in the Lord, they could have been expelled from the synagogue.   However, Jesus calls upon believers to confess their faith in public.
     Third, Christ calls us to be salt and light.  He said:  "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.   You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).  These instructions to His disciples should set the tone for our lives.  This is our directive.  We are to be salt so we can preserve this world from further corruption.  Likewise, we are to be a light in the darkness of sin around us.  Our present culture needs both salt and light.  God has chosen us that we might bring these qualities to bear on our work place, our homes and communities.
     If we embrace the philosophy of the leaders that John spoke of in his Gospel, we are like salt that has become good for nothing.  They were afraid of men and not of God.  When we are called to accept God's gracious gift of salvation,  He does all the work in our lives so that we might live to bring Him glory.  His Kingdom, His fellowship is far more precious than the fleeting pleasures of this world. Therefore, we must, with God's help, live a different kind of lifestyle if we call ourselves Christian.
     Will this be an easy task to stand out from the unbelievers around us?  After 41 years of serving Christ, I can say a confident "no".  It may cost us relationships.  It may cost us a job, but it will be worth all we give up in this life to hear our Lord say to us one day, "Well, done thou good and faithful servant....enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23a,c).  May we have the courage to let our light so shine that men may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven!  Selah!

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