The United States has new leadership in the White House and the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. Each change came after serious disagreements and with strong words. Many people on both sides of the pond are pleased by these changes, while many others are dismayed. What now?
We are looking for answers through the lens of Christianity – how Jesus Christ sees life and its challenges. In the first part of this series, we looked at the Christian response to modern challenges from a positional perspective. In the second part, we will look at the Christian response from a practical perspective. How should Christians live out Christianity in a changing world?
Think for a moment about how hundreds of millions of Christians have lived through every imaginable political, governmental and social system around the world since the early part of the 1st century AD. So many suffered and died at the hands of their enemies solely because of their Christian testimony. How did they do it? How do Christians today live through severe persecution?
Christians have done what they have done through the ancient process of “trusting” God, taking God at His Word, living “by faith.” Isn’t that what God’s Word tells us about living as His children?
“ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
“So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-7
“For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:19-21
Standing, walking and living “by faith” does not mean what atheists, agnostics and other non-believers think it means. The Christian “faith” is not blind. We stand, walk and live with our spiritual eyes wide open. Faith is both “substance” and “evidence” for God’s people –
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:1-3
The Apostle Paul knew that the “faith” of Christians would keep them on solid spiritual ground and guide them through every challenge they would face on earth. Paul knew that Christians would face enemies on the earth and above the earth and that their “faith” in Christ would guard them. He was so concerned about the Christians in Thessalonica that he wrote these words to them –
“For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you— therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.” 1 Thessalonians 3:4-7
The Apostle Peter knew well how to fight against the greatest adversary of Christians and standing “steadfast in the faith” was at the core of his resistance –
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:8-10
Peter’s promise then and now is that the God “of all grace” will perfect us, establish us, strengthen us, and settle us. Praise God!
What About Believers?
A Christian’s life in some parts of the world is not unlike their non-Christian neighbors. We all eat, sleep, work, play, love, raise families, participate in community and generally enjoy the amazing world God has created for everyone. That can be a positive and a negative. Being Christian in a country that allows freedom of religion and speech is a wonderful thing “if” we use that freedom wisely. If we allow ourselves to be distracted by the “things” of the world and say “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” then we have wasted our freedom. The remedy for that? “… be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:14-19)
Practical Christianity is believing and living everything Jesus Christ has commanded us (e.g. Matthew 28:20; John 14:23-24; 1 John 2:4-6). The Apostle Paul went so far to write – “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14) An important point to note here is what Paul wrote next – “Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (vs. 15) Practical Christianity is based on relationships that are directed by God’s Word and Spirit.
Because of what Jesus did on the Cross, we have –
- redemption through His blood
- forgiveness of sins
- been saved by grace through faith
- eternal life
- received the riches of His grace
- received His wisdom
- experienced the good pleasure of His purpose
- obtained a spiritual inheritance
- been sealed with the Holy Spirit
Christians have far more than they (we) deserve. That is the blessing of God’s grace. He gives us what we do not deserve and does not give us what we do deserve. Our high praise to God for His great gift will last forever –
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
Christians are equal in God’s eyes. We were all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:8-9). As Paul wrote the Christians in Rome – “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12). Again, a statement of “equality.” No one is righteous in God’s eyes – “not one.” No one understands. No one seeks after God. “All” have turned aside and have “together” become unprofitable.
The equality of all sinners in God’s eyes is vital for Christians to comprehend because it lays out the truth about how we move forward in living out this life known as Christianity. Everybody is a sinner. Everybody is dead in trespasses and sins. Everybody needs salvation. God offers salvation to undeserving sinners by His grace through faith. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, salvation is not of works – “lest anyone should boast.” God gets all the credit for salvation –
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:21-28
Every saved person came to salvation by the same path – “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). God has prescribed the method through which He saves. Sinners come to God the same way.
That “equality” is the great “equalizer.” One of the most important things Christians can do practically is to understand that their position in Christ is the same for all Christians. That means every Christian you know and every Christian you will know in the future. This is our Lord’s command without exception. Tall order you say? Yes, it is a tall order and one we cannot do in our flesh. The way Jesus Christ wants us to treat other Christians can come only from the supernatural relationship we have with Him through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Our Lord and Savior calls on Christians to do something special for Him. He wants His followers to –
- Love one another (John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 3:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; 2 John 1:5)
- Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love (Romans 12:10)
- Serve one another through love (Galatians 5:13)
- Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- Be tenderhearted toward one another (1 Peter 3:8)
- Be hospitable to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9)
- Be courteous to one another (1 Peter 3:8)
- Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)
- Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
- Give preference to one another (Romans 12:10)
- Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25 – note context)
- Have compassion for one another (1 Peter 3:8)
- Be of the same mind toward one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
- Pray for one another (James 5:16)
- Confess your faults to one another (James 5:16)
- Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
- Exhort [encourage] one another (Hebrews 10:25)
- Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
- Stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
- Build up [edify] one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)
- Submit to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21)
- Wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33 – note context)
- Greet one another with holy kiss (1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14) – note context)
- Do not speak evil of one another (James 4:11)
- Do not grumble against one another (James 5:9)
- Do not lie to your brothers and sisters in Christ because we are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25)
The great insight we have from our Lord is that one of the great things He accomplished through His death on the Cross was making His followers “members of one another” –
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Romans 12:4-5
Paul summed up the Lord’s desire for His followers beautifully in this letter to the Philippian Church –
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4
This includes how husbands treat their wives and wives their husbands – how children treat their parents and how parents treat their children – how servants treat their masters and how masters treat their servants – how employees treat their employers and employers treat their employees – how church members treat church leaders and how church leaders treat church members (e.g. Ephesians 5 & 6; Colossians 3 & 4; 1 Timothy 1 – 6; 2 Timothy 1; Titus 1 – 2).
What About Unbelievers?
Our Lord and His apostles were clear how Christians should treat one another, but what about unbelievers? Jesus certainly doesn’t expect Christians to treat non-Christians the same way they treat each other – right? Let’s see –
Jesus demonstrated a deep love for lost people and expects us to share in that love –
“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:10-13
Zacchaeus was a sinner. How did Jesus treat him?
“And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house. So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:5-10
I might add here that God demonstrated His own love toward us “while we were still sinners.” How did He do that? “Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Let us never forget who we were and why we are now who we are. We did not deserve or earn our salvation. Christ died for us when we were ungodly and without strength (Romans 5:6).
The way we treat everyone, including unbelievers, is very important to our Lord –
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ ‘Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:31-40
Jesus told His disciples how to respond to their enemies, then lived His life as a real demonstration of the power of that truth –
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.” Luke 23:33-34
The Apostle Peter used the Lord’s demonstration of love for unbelievers as an example for Christians to follow –
“But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:20-25
The Apostle Paul also addressed the question about how believers should treat unbelievers –
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5-6
“But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
The Apostle Peter wrote –
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
Our Lord’s criteria for church leadership addresses how leaders who oversee (επισκοπης) God’s people live their lives before unbelievers (απο των εξωθεν) –
“Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:7
Paul and Peter also shared how God wants Christians to respond to government and political leaders –
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” Romans 13:1-7
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” Titus 3:1-3
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:13-17
Living In An UnChristian World
Most Christians I know would agree with this statement: Christians live in an “unChristian” world. Given what we read in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we shouldn’t be surprised by that statement. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them, persecute them, arrest them, imprison them and kill them. He told them the truth about what their life would be like as His followers so they wouldn’t stumble –
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” John 16:1-4
It is apparent that Jesus does not call people to follow Him so they will be “comfortable” on earth. What Jesus does is call His followers to “be comfortable being uncomfortable” –
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Living as a Christian in an unChristian world has many challenges. In addition to loving God, loving one another, loving our neighbor, and loving our enemy, we are also called on to live holy lives in this world. The way we conduct our lives in this world has consequences –
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Christians must not confuse love for unbelievers with living like unbelievers. God calls on us to live godly lives among the ungodly – remembering that we too were ungodly and lived ungodly lives before God generously saved us. May we be able to say with Paul –
“For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.” 2 Corinthians 1:12
Let us remember the importance of walking as godly in an ungodly world. May we not forget what God saved us from and what He saved us to –
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24
As we face adversity and those who will oppose us in this life, may we remember that our lives are forever connected to the Name of Jesus Christ and His Gospel –
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Philippians 1:27-28
Amen and Amen!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.