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February 16, 2020 | Doug Sauder
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Fact: Sometimes, the Christian life is hard.
For the Christian, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in our post-modern world to a) live as a Christian in a world that’s growing more and more hostile towards believers, and to b) live above reproach in a culture that celebrates sin and declares the truth of God to be ignorant and irrelevant.
As we walk in this tumultuous time, we may feel alone, like no one understands what we’re going through. But here’s the thing: We’re not alone, and we’re not unique. This same struggle we’re now really beginning to experience has been the struggle of God’s people since the beginning. We see it in Genesis during the days of Noah and the time of Daniel. We see in within the nation of Israel, who often mistreated and persecuted the prophets of God for speaking His truth. We also see it in the New Testament as the Church grew and took ground within the culture of the Roman Empire, which was eerily similar to ours today in more ways than we often realize—both morally and in its hostility towards believers.
This is not new, and thank God for that! Why? Because within the Bible, we have amazing example of what it looks like to walk faithfully and live above the fray in a hostile and turbulent world. And personally, I’ve found Titus 2 and 3 to provide the perfect blueprint for this kind of living. Here are two principles we learn from that blueprint:
On our own, in our power, we cannot walk faithfully. On our own, we can only produce the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21). But the gospel tells us we don’t have to do this on our own. The grace of God that has saved us also sanctifies us and through the Holy Spirit, teaches us to live above reproach, to reject sin and walk faithfully. Through Him, we can live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
In this present age? It’s like saying “in today’s world.” So, the gospel teaches us to live like Jesus in a sinful society and produce good, healthy, vibrant fruit in our world and culture until He comes back for us!
This is what we see in Daniel 1. There, Daniel could have given in and sinned against the Lord, but by the power of the living God, it says, “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” And he didn’t, and listen to this: His life and behavior brought about change in the world around him. He was able to honor God with his life and produce good fruit that led to life-change in the people around him.
Distinct from what? The world! Our lives must be different; they must demonstrate the power of the gospel and be a tangible expression of the grace of God so that others can experience for themselves what Ephesians 3:8 (CSB) rightfully calls “the incalculable riches of the Messiah.”
Have you ever looked at someone and said, “I want what they have; I want to be like them; I want to be them!” If you were to ask my son, he’d say he wants to be just like me. I don’t make a lot of money, drive an expensive car, or have a fancy title, but when my boy looks at me, his eyes light up with admiration and love and he wants nothing more than to be just like his dad.
This is how the world should look at Christians. This is how the people around us should think about us. Not because we’re anything special. We could nothing that the world deems as valuable and yet people should still want what we have, because what we have is Jesus!
So, what does distinct look like? In Titus 3, Paul uses words like “respectful,” “obedient,” “peaceable and considerate,” and “gentle.” He says to be “ready to do whatever is good,” “to slander no one,” to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law.”
In this way, we make the gospel attractive to the watching world. Practically speaking, one way I we must do today is to be mindful of the way we use social media. If Paul were writing these instructions in 2019, he’d probably write an entire epistle to churches about our online conduct and our treatment of people whose beliefs, affiliations, or lifestyle don’t line up with ours. Friends, when we do this, we’re not advancing the kingdom of God or winning souls for Christ.
This behavior doesn’t make the gospel attractive. In fact, it makes the gospel unattainable and unapproachable. What does make the gospel attractive? Christians who live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, who are peaceable, respectful, and gentle, eager to do what is good, who walk in love and good works.
If you were to ask me, I’d say that Christians should be the absolute best, most productive, influential, well respected, most contentious, considerate, and generous members of any society or civilization. We should be the kinds of citizens that everyone around us strive to imitate.
Why? Because God ordained us to be agents of transformation in our world. Not in isolation or seclusion, away from the world, but in the places and spaces He has us. Not by fighting a war against culture, but by shining the light of Jesus into our culture!
When we do this, when we as disciples live above reproach in our churches, homes, and in the world, when we walk in devotion to God and unity with one another and stand together in love as the body of Christ . . . together, side-by-side, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can make an impact and a difference, we can change the lives, we can see revival happen in this present age!