I find myself unable to sleep tonight, something I’ve grown quite unaccustomed to as of late; I’ve certainly worked out quite a sound sleep schedule! Tonight, however, is different. I don’t find myself struggling with anything, so that isn’t it. I am, rather, chewing on the metaphorical cud of a question that was brought to my attention earlier in the day.
The question was brought up by my cousin, a wonderful young man of God who is full of potential, and was asked by one of his Professors at the college he attends. It’s a question I have asked myself a million times since I first really came to know the Lord and, without trying to be cryptic, there is much wisdom to be found in asking ourselves questions like this!
After having quite an exciting discussion with him, I left to attend a Youth Leadership Team meeting for Youth Leaders at my church and was having a conversation with another brother in Christ; one whom I love dearly, and might I add is arguably my best friend! In this conversation I was presented with the very same question, only asked in a different manner.
Curious yet as to what it was? The question that my cousin brought up was this, “How do we go through our lives living ‘Christianly,’ even in the simple things like walking and sports, etc?” and the question that my friend presented was this, “How much of my life do I give to Christ?”
Neither of these questions were directed at me, both were more directed at themselves, but I have to admit that I was hit harder by these questions today than when I first asked myself the very same thing! Father had been putting something on my heart lately and this was the “icing on the cake” so to speak that set off a fire in me! (Perhaps candles on the cake would be a more accurate statement, seeing as candles would start a fire more quickly than icing? But I digress) Needless to say, I have been dwelling on these questions nonstop for the entire day and most of tonight.
When it comes to seeking the Lord, serving Him, loving Him, and living for Him— however you like to say it, they’re all synonymous one to the other— it certainly does take the absence of ourselves. If this weren’t the case Christ would not have said “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me,” quite literally telling us to get rid of ourselves and to look to Him. This is given further urgency when we are told to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.” (Matthew 16:24, Ephesians 4:22)
There are a multitude of scriptures in the bible that strongly support this urging of Christ and the Spirit to be absent of ourselves and filled with Him; whether literally saying the words, or implying them. A few of those being:
“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:6
“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” -Ephesians 5:1
It doesn’t take much to begin to see the point. Anyone who has genuinely sought God, meditated on His Word, and heard from the Spirit knows that it requires the strategic and effectual removal of ourselves. If not, then we are otherwise righteous on our own and there was no need for Christ’s sacrifice. What does this mean to the newly saved, though? Is this a question that we are posing to them, or are we leaving them to the wolves to find it out on their own; whether through trial and failure, essentially becoming a stumbling block to them in our lack of action?
I have to admit that lately, in the past few months, the Spirit has put it on my heart to be active with the Youth. These are young men and women who are in some of the most influential years of their lives and, from what I have seen, it isn’t a question that very many of them are asking themselves. I wonder how many of them are even aware that they should. The same can be said for many adults who seek the Lord, certainly for all who have just come to know Him; regardless of age.
How many of them know that He said, “If you love Me, obey My commandments” and that “if we claim to know him and don’t obey him, we are lying and the truth isn’t in our hearts.” (John 14:15, 1 John 2:4)
Of course it is an amazing thing to see people come to the Lord, to accept Him into their hearts and strive for a better life, but for the most part we treat it as a momentary celebration and move along. We may as well be slapping a sticker on their chest, “Here’s a star,” and throwing them into a pit of wolves. You don’t teach a child to walk by merely standing them up! It takes time, attention, devotion, and effort.
We are born again into Him and His unity! This is a unity that extends beyond ourselves, because it is absent of us and reliant entirely upon Him! We act as though it is something that we do to get into heaven— fire insurance is a common and foolish term— when in reality it is an absolute altering of ourselves; one can understand this better when comparing it to changing clothes, which is perhaps why Paul used that exact example when speaking to the Galatians, saying “All who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.” (Galatians 3:27)
Are we explaining to them that a Christ-like life is one that is lived in love, not the frail and faulty human idea of love but God’s perfect love? Are we even explaining to them what God’s love looks like?
How do we live a life that is Christ-like, even in the simple things? How much of our lives are we giving to Him? These should be things that we are bringing up, discussing, challenging other believers with for the sake of edification and exhortation— make no mistake edification and exhortation are not only essential, but are a vital part of the Christian life— in hopes that they will not only grow in the faith but prosper in it!
Are we making them aware of the fact that it looks like sacrifice, absolute selflessness, and unconditional love? Are we teaching them how to live “Christianly” even in the small things?
If not, then we are sorely unprepared to take on new believers in our churches and are better off not having altar calls at all! The military doesn’t train soldiers and then not give them what they need to perform the tasks that are set before them; even the world has a firm grasp on this, therefore the church should have an even firmer one!
I digress! This isn’t an article meant to shoot down the church, rather to give the very thing that those new to the faith need!
If you are new to the faith and you find yourself asking this question, feeling that you should, or not knowing where to go with it, then this is directed at you and not the church! The body of Christ cares for its members, embraces them, upholds them, corrects them when they are in need of it, and cherishes them! If you are not in a place where you are receiving that then you are in a place that is plagued with illness and some limbs may need amputation. “And if your hand–even your stronger hand–causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Matthew 5:30, just saying.. As a man who was born with only one hand I feel that I have a very great understanding of the intensity of this verse. It takes a lot to be willing to remove a limb, and trust me it is not easy lacking one! A lot can be said about the willingness to remove it!
That verse isn’t really talking about this particular subject, but I think it provides some fairly good meat for the brain to chew on when giving an example of the severity of being in a place that does not care enough for your spiritual well-being to feed you. If my hand wouldn’t raise the fork to my mouth I would become tired of it and have no need for a limb that won’t sustain me. Hopefully you get my point! If not ask for clarification in the comments section below and I’d be glad to explain, but for now I’m moving on!
So, how do you live a “Christianly” life in the small things?
It is simple, really! Every day we make a conscious decision to either obey or disobey God; we will either do as His Word says, or we will not. People love to think that there is a grey area but, in reality, it is very black and white. Christ gave us the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Not forgetting to reassure us that “is the first and greatest commandment,” and then He gave another saying, “the second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Living for God in every day life looks a lot less like gossiping about those people who irritate us, and praying for them instead! It looks a lot less like reacting in anger when something doesn’t go our way, and trusting Him rather than ourselves to produce the outcome. It looks a lot less like speaking foully, and a lot more like speaking with grace and kindness.
There are so many examples that I could give, but admittedly all of those seem so cryptic! I have noticed, however, that that is quite often how these things are presented to people who have just come to know the Lord and are too young in the Spirit to understand them. To simplify these I will give an example of what that looks like in everyday life, “even in the little things,” if you will.
Here goes: You’re in line at your favorite fast food/coffee place (Tim Horton’s for me) and the person in front of you is taking forever to order. Generally, in this type of situation, your first reaction is to aggravatingly question the person, “What in the world is taking so long, are they ordering for 40 people?!?!” and allow yourself to become upset. What has really just happened is that you have not spoken the love of God, rather you have spoken negatively to a person who may not be able to help it. Perhaps they are ordering for 40 people, maybe those people are homeless and they weren’t able to go inside to place the order for some reason. Maybe that isn’t the case; perhaps they are deaf and are having to sign their order over the screen. No screen? Well then maybe it is a mother with screaming children in the back seat, who has had a long day at work and is now going to have to go home with a car full of screaming kids and perform a dozen or more household chores. Maybe, just maybe, it is someone who is having a really hard time, doing their best just to get by, and are counting change to see what they can afford to eat.
In truth, it could be any number of scenarios playing out right in front of you and you would be none the wiser; however you have still spoken negatively about that person. The love of God, living Christianly, in this scenario would be to set that aggravation aside and pray a blessing over their meal and the rest of their day! “But what if it is really someone who is taking so long on purpose, or doing one of those ridiculous drive-thru prank videos?” That is a valid question, seeing as it could actually be the case. If that is the case, pray a blessing over their meal and the rest of their day!
Whether you are at work, a ball game or some other type of outing, sitting at home, going through a drive-thru, at a restaurant with family or friends, shopping, taking a walk in a public place, or skipping through a field of wildflowers you are still responsible for maintaining the love of God in your life and in a very active way!
It can be something simple like giving someone a stick of gum if they’re having trouble concentrating on a test, training yourself to say positive things about others even when they’re being annoying, or giving up your seat on the bus or train to the person standing next to you whether they need it or not. The kindness and affection of Christ doesn’t need a reason to be kind or affectionate, it simply is. After all He did say that we should “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people,” and again “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 6:7) Loving your neighbor as yourself requires being much kinder to your neighbor than our society has become accustomed to, even if they’re “really really annoying.”
I would answer the question of “how to live a Christianly life, even in the small things,” by saying that in every situation and circumstance that I encounter I react with less and less of myself and more of Christ, because as He said “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!” (Matthew 25:40) Everything that I do, say, or think toward other people I am doing it to Christ! If that doesn’t throw some perspective in our faces, I don’t know what will!
This brings us now to the second question: “How much of my life do I give to Christ?”
Does Christ have all of your life, or just some of it? Do you give Him the parts that are left over after you decide what you want to keep? Indeed, we are told to “live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then,” and to do so because we are crucified with Him, meaning we are dead to our old way of life; a truth that He emphasizes in this “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace?Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in His death?” This speaks to the importance of forgetting our old ways and looking to His, a thing that we cannot do if we are full of ourselves or only giving Him the parts that we want to and keeping others because we want to think that He will be okay with us doing so. (1 Peter 1:14, Romans 6:1-3)
I will end this post here and continue it in another, because I don’t want to throw too much on you at once; there is value to be found in moderation and prudence. Until then, think on these things, run them through your mind over and over and pray for understanding! He will give it if you ask for it, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Don’t be afraid to be corrected, certainly do not despise it, because correction is necessary to proper growth! Train yourself to begin to think more like Him, and less like yourself because He said to and because our own understanding is faulty; His is flawless! (Matthew 21:22)
I look forward to continuing this in another post, and I pray that you look to Him concerning this! Don’t just take my word for it, go to your Father because He cares for you and wants to see you grow; both in His truth and in His love, and ever closer to Him!
Bless each of you, and may the Spirit impart you with understanding and love beyond yourself! Goodnight!