14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matt 5:14-16
As Christians, one of the greatest methods we have for teaching others is our example. When people see us, they should see something different, they should see something more substantial than just an average person. When friends think of people that embody honesty, integrity, uprightness, love, etc, they should think of us.
At the same time though, we don’t want to beat people over the head with our Christianity; that usually just turns people off anyway. But as people get to know us and see those differences in our lives, they should come to realize that our relationship with Christ is what makes us different. It should be a gradual thing, in most cases, and it will make a much greater impact than if we proclaim our faith with bumperstickers and T-shirts. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but actions speak louder than words. My dad has said, “when somebody starts going on and on about how good they are at this or that, I usually put one hand on my wallet, both eyes on them, and back away.” In other words, if people are good, they shouldn’t have to tell you, you should be able to see it for yourself.
Now that’s not to say we should be perfect; we couldn’t be even if we tried (and by the way, we should be trying). Christ lived a perfect life so that we don’t have to. But I think that fact often becomes a copout for us.
How many times have you seen “Christians” use vulgar language? How many times do they skip out on worshipping with other Christians when they’re out of town or on vacation? How often do they laugh about the times they’ve gotten sloppy drunk at some party? Or even if they don’t involve themselves in out-and-out sinful behavior, how close do they try to get?
It can be easy for us to fall into this kind of attitude, but there are some people who don’t see living this way as a problem. Some view the idea of God’s grace as a get out of jail free card. They feel like they don’t have to worry about living right, because God’s grace will cover whatever they do. Why should they worry about their language? It’s not like they killed somebody! Why should they worry about skipping out on church services? What’s the big deal?
Some might even be inclined to use a passage like the one below to justify their actions:
20 Therefore,[e] if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. – Colossians 2:20-23
Here’s a passage that says adhering to a bunch of physical commands doesn’t profit you anything. Why follow them? But this passage doesn’t mean that we should do whatever we want and expect God to clean up the mess (for one thing, this passage is specifically talking about the Old Law that Moses handed down – Christians aren’t under that law). That’s not how grace works. Instead, this passage is telling us that we can transcend the physical things of this life and look to spiritual things.
Did you read verse 20? If you died with Christ (which is what you do when you’re saved; the act of baptism is where this occurs – Romans 6:3-14) then why act like you’re still living in the world? We are, or should be, above that. We should be focused on heavenly things.
Sin is not something that we should be practicing. Sure, we’re going to do it from time to time, but that’s much different than just living however you like and never trying to improve. Paul makes it clear in this passage:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? – Romans 6:1-2
When we become Christians, we have an obligation to live life for Christ. We are his followers; we should be striving to become “Christ-like.”
20 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. – Galatians 2:20
That passage sums it up perfectly. When we’re saved, it’s not about us anymore, it’s about Jesus. It’s about living our lives for him, because he gave his life for us. And how do we do that? 1 John 5:2-3 tells us that loving God is doing his commandments. It’s not continuing in sin, expecting God’s grace to cover it all. Yes, God’s grace (and Jesus’s sacrifice) can cover any multitude of sin, but when we give no real thought to serving him, but continue to serve ourselves, then we aren’t loving God, we’re abusing him.
The grace he’s given us – this freedom from the physical commands of the Old Law – is meant to help us focus on serving him more completely. Notice this next verse:
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Gal 5:13
That’s why we’ve been set free from that “handwriting of requirements that was against us” (Col 2:14). It’s to serve one another, and to serve him.
Christianity is not like joining the “smart shoppers” club at your local grocery store, where you simply fill out some generic form and receive a card that will save you a couple percentage points on your next purchase. That requires nothing of you but showing up at their store for your groceries – something you probably would have done anyway.
Becoming a Christian is a life-long commitment. And it requires the same kind of dedication and effort that goes into running a marathon or waging a war. Time and pain are required. You must give yourself over completely. You can’t be number one anymore. But trust me, the reward is worth it.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matt 16:25
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Cor 4:16-18