Before we go any further.... I hope you know that everything I just said is NOT true! But I'm amazed at how many people think it is.
I believe it's so important for us as Christians to live our lives in a way that shows the way to Jesus. We don't want to be a stumbling block for others. We should be a light in a dark world. We can't be of this world, (we can't look like it.) We should be different, we should be an example for others so they can see joy and happiness because we belong to the Lord. We have eternal life and we have a peace that can only come from a Relationship with Jesus, our Savior. But the change in us is not of ourselves. The change in us comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within us. If we stop cussing, lying, cheating and sinning; etc. etc. etc. it's only because we are being obedient to the Holy Spirit within us.
We don't become perfect saints or sinless people now that we have given our life to Jesus. But what we do have is the ability to overcome those natural tendencies within us by the power of the Holy Spirit if we obey His leading.
Before I became a Christian, I thought that "those" people were somehow better than me. I mean, they were good enough to go to church! You see I thought you had to be living right before you went to church. So that meant that since I liked to drink a beer once in a while, well I couldn't go to church till I got that issue resolved and eliminated. I knew that occasionally I would slip out those cuss words that I knew I shouldn't say. Oh they weren't the really nasty words, but they were cuss words none the less, and before I could go to church, well I had to clean up my life. There is no way I could go to church every Sunday and pretend I was good when I knew I wasn't. Regrettably that was my understanding of Religion at the time, and I dare say, that it's the way many other people feel as well. As a person that didn't know the Lord or attend Church or know much of anything about the bible, I thought that somehow these Christians were better people. They must have it all together somehow and that's why they were in God's house.
But then I'd see them throughout the week while at work or at school and they would do the same things that I did, they would say the same bad words that I did, maybe not as often, but they slipped them out just like I would once in a while. They weren't perfect saints like I thought they were.
I remember the first time I really started taking my family to Church faithfully was at age 30. I had given my life to Christ as a teenager, but throughout my teenage years I really went my own way and eventually found myself not going to church or reading my bible anymore and my prayer life was non existent (unless of course I was in trouble, then I was a praying fanatic. You know the prayer.... "God if you get me out this one...I'll ...."). Well as I got older and had children I realized the need to get myself refocused on what I knew I needed. I needed to restore my relationship with Jesus. We started going to church as a family when our neighbors invited us to join them one Sunday. This one invitation was the beginning of many Sunday school classes and worship services that helped us to learn and grow in our faith. But you know, deep down inside me I still thought I wasn't good enough to be in church. I still struggled with sin, I'd still say those bad words once in a while. I did quit the beers, but that was really never an issue anyway, I rarely drank, and didn't even like the taste much anyway so it was an easy thing for me to give up. I guess I still thought I had to be better. I always wondered if there would be a day when I could be as good as the other Christians that I knew in church?
It wasn't until I started attending a Men's Ministry class on Sunday evenings that I finally realized that these Christians were no different than me or anyone else for that matter. During the beginning of the class we would always have prayer requests and we shared with each other our struggles with sin that we had in our lives. I was absolutely shocked and relieved to hear that most of the men in the class struggled with the same issues and sins that I struggled with. These men that I had held in my mind as very holy perfect saints, were not so perfect, they struggled just like me. What a relief! One of the men shared with me Romans 3:23 (NLT) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Wow! All this time I had it wrong. I was trying to measure up some how, and I never realized that it was impossible for me to do that. No matter how hard I tried, I always failed, and of course I always will.
I've learned that there is only one difference between a Christian and a person who is not a Christian. One admits they are a sinner and goes to church and God to get the help and encouragement they need to be able to overcome their sin. The other feels that because of their sin they can't go to church or to God for help, because they don't understand that really both people are exactly the same. They think one is somehow better than the other and they misunderstand and think it has something to do with who they are or what they've done, when in reality it's the work of the Holy Spirit that changes the person. All people fall short of God's glory. There is not one who is better or more worthy than the other. The bible says... we're all as filthy rags. In other words were all sinners.
So what can we learn from this experience?
- As Christians we need to reach out to those that are lost. They may be looking at us and thinking that we are something we're not. We shouldn't look like two different people. You know what I mean.... On Sunday were all happy and smiling, but on Monday it's back to work and life, well, it's the pits! Where's our joy now? We send mixed signals to those that are watching, and they are watching. Reach out and try to get to know someone that you've never seen in church. They may just have some really messed up ideas about religion and God like I did.
- Be real... Be who you are. Why do we as Christians pretend to be better than we are? I'll tell you why... it's because we know better. We know that we should behave differently because we belong to Christ. We know that we should be polite and friendly and courteous, so we act like we are and then when we let our guard down and the real us comes out. That's when we look like a hypocrite. We confuse others as they watch what we do and say. Now I said be real, be who you are. The reason I said this is because if we'll be real (not pretend were something else) then we'll realize our sin and our weaknesses and that's when we can go to God for help.
- We need to ask God to help us obey the Spirit within us. A battle rages on within us each minute of every day between our new Spirit and our old nature. It's simple....which are we going to listen to? The Holy Spirit or our old nature? We may not be listening at all! If we want to change, then we need to stop trying to change, and focus on Jesus and let the change happen to us as we obey Christ. It's that simple. By being obedient, our life will be transformed into His likeness. We'll act like Him, we'll talk like Him, We'll be more like Him. Then suddenly the things that we used to want to change about ourselves, has changed, and we didn't even realize it happened. That how the God changes us you know, He does it without us knowing it because were not watching ourselves, were watching Him and when we focus on Him, we are changed.
God bless you all. Remember, that we're all the same in the eyes of God. He loves us all equally, He created us all equally, the only differences in us are the different spiritual gifts He's given us and our willingness to be obedient to His will in our lives. Live for Him!