“You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” Leviticus 20:26
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Do we look like God’s people, set apart and transformed, or do we look like everyone else?
God has called His people out. We are to be separate, different, holy, and righteous, set apart for love and good works (Eph. 2:10, 1 Thess. 1:3). While listening to the radio this morning, I heard a pastor teaching about how Christians are seen and scrutinized by how they live their lives. He stated that non-believers are more likely to look at how we live our lives than to read the Gospel for themselves. Think about that for a minute. How we live our lives, may be the only experience of the Gospel that people see. What are we showing them. What Gospel story are our lives telling?
Are we showing them love, peace, truth, patience, kindness, grace, and forgiveness? Or, are we showing them that we are as divided as the rest of the world; taking sides, calling names, judging, condemning and convicting people we don’t know based on ideas and opinions that other people espouse? I have seen my brothers and sisters in Christ, and found myself being pulled into the finite and temporary arguments of the world as if they were the meaning of eternity itself. We’ve shown ourselves to be as angry, prideful, bitter, jealous, deceitful, and self serving as the rest of the world. How can we claim to be set apart, a royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) for God when we can no longer be distinguished from the crowd?
If our lives are to be the living example of the Gospel for those who don’t know Christ, how are we living, how are we looking, how are we loving?
Jesus says the world will know we belong to Him by how we love others. Are our words and actions such that it’s obvious that the love of Christ lives in us? Do our words reflect a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit or do they look and sound just like the words of any other person in the world today. How are people going to interpret the Gospel of Christ through the way we live, if we live like the world?
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-13
I know, believe me I know, how difficult it is to live a life set apart. We are surrounded and inundated day in and day out like a sensory extravaganza, a worldly smorgasbord of all kinds of things that might seem good, feel good, sound good, at the time, but are not Godly. If we proclaim that Jesus can set us free from the bondage and slavery of sin, can transform us into new creations and help us to live lives of righteousness and goodness, who will believe us if we aren’t living that out? Our words must mirror our actions which are a direct reflection of our hearts. Let me say that another way. Our hearts must be transformed by the Holy Spirit, which will be evidenced by the fruit of our lives and then, only then spoken aloud to the world. (James 1:19-27)
I would like to encourage all of us to follow James’s advice and be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Filter our words and our actions through the love of God which has provided for us abundantly through the Holy Spirit the ability to love, be grace filled, accepting, honest, discerning.
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11