It would be nice to think that the peoples of this world thought well of us as Christians, but in general they don't.
Sometimes that's for good reasons of course, because our Godly Kingdom walk of integrity in the Light exposes their sinful walk in the dominion of darkness, and who would be comfortable with that?
Mostly I suspect its because we are seen as hypocrites. We don't walk the talk.
Some of Mahatma Ghandi's statements are amazingly Christ like and humbling. Sadly, following unfortunate experiences while trying to attend a Christian church, Mahatma Ghandi was turned away from Christianity and remained Hindu. He said..
He also claimed that..
French philosopher and writer Voltaire said
Many people in this dying world, after meeting one of Christ's living letters (us) are deciding that there's not a great deal of difference between them and us, and instinctively I suspect, they know that if what we proclaim is true, there really should be a difference.
And that's sad.
Because God has always called His people to be separated from the peoples of this world
He does this so that His people might be be His, and His alone.
Amazingly He sees His chosen people as a special treasure!
God has always intended that His special people would obey Him and thus He can set them clear and above the other peoples who do not obey Him.
How often at an airport lounge have we stared over our newspaper at an orthodox Jew with his black hat and side ringlets and 'weird clothes' We observe that they stand out from all the peoples around them physically.
One important facet of the Old Testament is that it is a physical or 'natural' image to help us understand the spiritual. Remember Paul's words in 1st Corinthians 15 : 46
Today, in the days of the New Covenant, as God's people, we are called to stand out from all the peoples around us spiritually.
Here's something to ponder.
The noun for disciple is used 265 times in the New Testament. (72 times in Matthew, 46 times in Mark, 38 times in Luke, 79 times in John and 30 times in Acts)
The noun for believer is used twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:4 and 1st Timothy 4:12)
I think it is clear what Jesus was and is still looking for. Not lukewarm believers but radically committed followers. Disciples.
That's why His last command, given in Matthew to His first disciples was..
I think as a church we may have tried to make believers and stopped there. How do I know' On my journeys I meet many believers, and so few disciples. (Luke 14)
It's challenging to read Acts 11 verse 26 and see where the word 'Christian' came from.
Here's something else worth pondering..
When a covenant was made between two people (or peoples) one part of it would include an exchange of robes between the two representatives who were 'cutting the covenant. It was saying 'what is mine is now yours'. When Jonathan and David made a covenant vow the first thing Jonathan did was give his robe to David (1 Samuel 18:4)
In the divine exchange that took place at Calvary where the New Covenant was established between God and man through our joint representative Jesus (Son of God and son of man) we got Jesus' glorious Robes of Righteousness, whereas He got our filthy sinful rags. (Isaiah 64:6)
So though you and I see what each other is wearing in the physical realm, God sees us through Jesus in the spiritual realm as being robed in the beautifully white robes of His Son's righteousness.
The Family Bible Notes commentary on this beautiful verse says..
Just how white are the spiritual robes (clothes) of Christ's Righteousness'
We get just a glimpse from the Mount of Transfiguration when for but a moment Peter James and John saw His Robes of Righteousness in all their glory. The Apostle Mark records in chapter 9..
When we stand with Jesus in Heaven, not only will we see the twenty four elders in their white robes (Revelation 4:4) but we will also see each other in those beautiful white robes.
Knowing that, even now, in this dark and ever darkening world we are so radiantly clothed in Christ's Righteousness should inspire us to live differently.
He told us His followers that like Him, we were to be in the world, but not of the world.
In other words as Christians we are not to sucked along societies broad (and often attractive) way. The world's way is 'broad' because it has self made boundaries as to what is permissible and what is not, and those boundaries are ever changing and getting broader by the year.
We can sense the Apostle Paul's sadness as he wrote
Demas had started out so well, being mentioned in the same dispatches with Luke
So many of us have started out well and then been drawn slowly but steadily back into the world's ways from whence we came. God or mammon, we must choose, day by day.
As Christians we are called to walk on a completely different track from the whole of the rest of the world. Our boundaries are set by the Living God whom we serve and they do not change with cultural fashion or political correctness, because the God who set them does not change. The Road is called the Road of Holiness.
Anyone can enter the world's broad road which leads to eternal separation from God, since that gate is broad, but the road which leads to life is different.
At this gate one is called to lay down one's rebellion against God. At this gate one is to accept that what God calls good is good, and to accept what God calls evil is evil. That's a narrow gate and most of the world refuses to enter.
Jesus of course is that Gate, and He is that Way and He is that Life here spoken of.
The apostle John summed up the separation that exists between us as God's people and the ways of the world when he said
It is TOUGH swimming upstream, rather than going with the flow.
Malcolm Muggeridge said..
Paul called the true church to behave in such a way that we would be lights in the moral and spiritual darkness of this fallen world.
That's a tall order, but interestingly I think that the world knows when a person is genuinely trying to walk the walk, even if from time to time they fall, or have a blind spot. God certainly knows.
Paul literally pleads with the church to separate itself from all spiritual and moral darkness. He doesn't ask that we do not mix with those around us, because like Jesus we are called to be a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19) But we are to do that without being 'yoked' to them or 'yoked' to their ways and belief systems. We are called to be His 'sons and daughters', not to remain infants and babes and children all our days!
He pleads with the church not to conform to the world's ways..
There is no neutral ground. The Bible talks of two different kingdoms, with two different masters, with two different destinations. We used to be in the dominion of darkness, under its awful power, but now we have been transferred through the forgiveness of our sins into the Kingdom of His Son.
We ARE different in position, and so we should behave differently in experience.
This difference is not outworked for us automatically. That's why we have the epistles in the New Testament. They show us how we should walk because we are saved.
The apostle John, speaking of our separation, wrote this stern warning to us as Christ's disciples..
This is a challenging instruction because the 'things of this world' are imparted to us throughout the whole flow of society all around us. Through media we are soaked in evolution, immorality, blasphemy, deception. It's like living in permanent dirty flood waters.
There is hardly a film that is not guilty at some stage of using the Lord's Name in vain, either as a swear word or an exclamation of surprise or shock. Hardly a film that does not treat immorality as 'the norm' To not be a sponge or blotting paper to the world's ways takes high levels of alertness, determination, making right choices and self discipline!
The discipline of a disciple.
The point must be made by now. We know we serve a different master. We know that He calls us to follow Him. We know that He asks that we display our love for Him by just obeying Him. (John 14:15 &21 & 23)
If we could only grasp the reality of our position - not just in a head knowledge learning of scripture that can be repeated parrot fashion - then we would live out our true position.
I have found that when Christians compromise their spiritual integrity they loose their sharp spiritual discernment. One need look no further than the big welcome Harry Potter and his witchcraft ways received from the church in general. One need only listen to church leaders implying that God has little problem with sexual perversions. Human mercy towards sin as well as the sinner is the cry of today, not divine mercy which loves man the sinner, but which detests and exposes sin in man with a view to saving him from it.
Imagine this for a moment...
Tomorrow you receive a gilded letter from the United Kingdom's Royal family stating that research had shown that you were a member of the Royal family. If after checking the source and their research and establishing that this was indeed true, I suspect that your life would change! You would begin to behave like a member of the Royal family.
The real truth - which you and I do not have to imagine - is that we are members of THE Royal Family. Forever.
Yes, despite our weakness, our sinful background, we are DIFFERENT.
And we are called to walk out, to display that glorious difference to a dying world. The Door of grace is still open. None will be turned away.
Deep spiritual and moral darkness is covering the whole earth and in that darkness we are called to shine as lights because we are DIFFERENT in Christ. His Light is within us so that His glory can be seen by all.
In other words as things go from bad to worse all around us we are called to be good, no make that 'glowing' advertisements for our God and King.
And it starts at home. Are we a good Kingdom advertisement to our spouse, our children, our neighbours' Then at work. Are we a good Kingdom advertisement to our bosses and workmates. Then on the road. Are we a good Kingdom advertisement for other drivers'
Or are we just like everyone else around us'
Rest assured that I am talking to myself as well.
Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth saying..
He didn't say test others.
I must regularly examine my own walk to ensure that I genuinely try to walk the talk.
The Apostle James said..
I am so aware that the master in one of Jesus' parables did not say "Well said, good and faithful servant" but "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21)
We'll let the Apostle Peter have the final word.