What’s different? And, does it matter?
Decades ago, Dr. Bill Bright – the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ – compressed the essence of the Gospel into a pocket-sized pamphlet called the Four Spiritual Laws. It wasn’t wordy, but it was sufficient: everything necessary to embrace saving faith was there. Millions trace their conversion to the Four Laws booklet.
So… accept God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life, with the assurance that He’ll take you the distance; you cannot lose your salvation. Great! But, what now: is it just back to normal?
Paul was speaking for God when he wrote to the Ephesian believers: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:17-24).
What’s supposed to be different, for the followers of Jesus? Everything.
Futility. Darkened. Separated. Ignorant. Hardened. Sensual. Impure. Greedy. Those search-terms expose the tendencies of people who live apart from a saving faith. The alternative is God’s intent for His sons and daughters: be different.
When Paul signed-off with the folks who were in the church he planted in Thessalonica, he compressed their continuing assignments into three critical dimensions (in 1 Thessalonians 5). These represent timeless wisdom for us, as well.
In relationship to the spiritual leaders above us: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (v. 12-13). The modus operandi for unbelievers is to contest and conflict with their overseers; the way of the Kingdom is to regard them with great affection because of their servant leadership.
In relationship to other believers – who, in God’s eyes are, with us, part of His family – we are to: “Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (vs. 13-15). The Community of Faith – what we call the church – has behavioral standards that allow healthy and productive relationships to thrive. The standards are high, but the forgiveness runs deep. It’s the best club to join, this side of Heaven.
And, the disciplines that make us better as people are clearly valuable: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (vs. 16-22). You could put that to-do list on a Post-It note: rinse and repeat every day, for the rest of your life… and you’ll rise to the top of your relational peer group.
‘Nuff said. How different are we? How different are you?