Thursday, May 22, 2014

Making Christ Known: Godliness

We are here to know God and make him known. Making him known properly requires a few things of us. The first is both simpler and more complicated than we'd like.

In John 14:15 Jesus said, If you love me you will sing really loud in church. No? Maybe it was, If you love me you will put a fish on your car. No? “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Godliness is how we show our gratitude to Christ, but it does more than that as well.

1 Peter 2:11-12 says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Titus 2:9-10 says, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

We have the power to make the Gospel more or less attractive by how we live our lives. It is a terrible power – one that most of us would rather not have – but we have it no less. When we sin, we not only damage ourselves, but we do harm to everyone who sees us as an ambassador of Christ. That’s why, as Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Not every believer is called to full-time Christian service, but every believer is called to full-time Christian living.”

Without living a godly life out before unbelievers, we cannot make Christ known — nothing else we might do will matter. Not only that, we interfere with other believers’ ability to make Christ known to those people. We probably all know folks who have no interest in Christ because of the Christians they have known. That is a terrible crime against those people — one for which the perpetrators will have to answer one day. We have to remember two important truths about lost people — they desperately need Christ, and they are looking for any excuse to reject Him. Don’t be that excuse.

So what exactly do I mean by “godly?” Perhaps Christlike is a better term. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:29, the Father’s goal is for every believer to be conformed to the image of Christ. We will never achieve that perfectly in this life, but we should be ever striving toward that goal.

Christlike is simply like Christ – doing what he would do, not doing what he wouldn't do. It is love and holiness. It’s being loving, patient, kind, and gentle; it’s not lying or cursing, not being selfish, rude, or mean. It’s loving justice and showing mercy. It is being different from the world in all the right ways. It is being attractive as a person so as to make the Gospel attractive.

Here are some things that are not being Christlike. It is not godliness to be a sourpuss. We are allowed and even expected to enjoy life; if you read the gospels carefully you can see that Jesus had fun. Being holy does not mean being completely cut off from the lost — Jesus certainly wasn't. Christlikeness certainly does not look like legalism; cold adherence to a set of rules is part of what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees.

So how do we become more Christlike? First, by knowing him more. You become like the people you hang out with. If you spend more time exposing yourself to Christ, you will start to be more like him.

Second, carefully cultivate better attitudes toward things and people. Peter’s advice regarding suffering in this life was “in your heart set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet 3:15a) — i.e., as sovereign over all things. The result would be that people would see something that they wanted in your response to suffering and ask you where it came from, and so you would need to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet 3:15b).

A way you can change you attitude toward people is by choosing to see them as they really are. C.S. Lewis pointed out that you have never met a “mere mortal.” Everyone you have ever met is an immortal, and one day they will be one of two things — a being so glorious that, if you saw them right now, you would be tempted to worship them; or a being so terrible that to see them now would give you unending nightmares. Keep that in mind when you deal with the guy who barely speaks English at Wal-Mart, and you may respond to him differently.

Finally, to become more like Christ, remember the words of the philosopher who said, “Just do it.” In the end, your godliness is a conscious decision on your part. Choose to do what you know is right – it won’t always be easy, it certainly won’t always be popular, but you can do it. As Croft Pentz said, “He who lives like Christ wins men to Christ.”

Remember Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We are only given two options – we will be conformed to this world, or we will be transformed. Choose transformation.