Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Among Them but Not Like Them!

Genesis 21:34, “And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days.”

Everybody has to be somewhere. Everybody has to live among a people, a nationality, among individuals with customs and traditions, people with gods and idols, people with practices and predilections contrary to the word of God. Yes, it would be far simpler for there to be one Christian nation, to which we could all emigrate, wherein everyone served Jesus, lived righteousness, and worshipped God in unity and love.

Even the most optimistic and positive among us knows that’s never going to happen. Just as Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days, we also sojourn in someone’s land, but there is a vast difference between living among a people, and becoming like the people among which we live.

The congregation of God began its activity in Jerusalem. Officially, Jerusalem is the birthplace of Christianity, yet even among the most religious men of their generation the followers of Christ lived differently once Christ became Lord and King of their lives. They continued in prayer and supplication, and in the teachings of the Apostles, in Jerusalem but separate in conduct, purpose, and practice from those of Jerusalem, who had not received the Christ.

After a time, the church is scattered throughout the region due to persecution, and the Christians once of Jerusalem, reach Judea, Samaria, Antioch, Corinth, Rome, and scores of other cities, yet their daily lives do not begin to reflect the lives of those living in those cities, nor do they attempt to amalgamate themselves and blend in with the rest of the citizenry.

The people of the cities to which the followers of Christ fled saw the difference in their daily lives, they saw their Christ centeredness, and began to call them Christians.

As the Apostles began to go on missionary journeys, as they began to travel and preach the gospel of the risen Christ, their message was evidently similar, and almost identical, no matter where they went.

Those of Rome are told to live differently than the Romans. Those of Corinth are told to live differently than the Corinthians. Those of Galatia are told to live differently than the Galatians. Those of Crete are told to live differently than the Cretans. Are we starting to see the pattern yet or should I go on?

Peter writes to those who had scattered, and admonishes them to be holy and righteous. James writes to his fellow brothers in Christ and asks them to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the name Jesus. John writes to the churches and commands them not to love the world or the things of the world. Jude tells us to live differently, and contend for the faith.

The question isn’t where should we flee; the question is how should we live?

The church has been crippled as of late because we’ve bought into the notion that in order to affect the world, we must become more like the world. Not only have we discounted the word of God, we’ve proceeded to practice such things as are wholly contradictory to it.

We will always be among them; we will always be among those of the world regardless of the geographical location we happen to find ourselves, but no matter where we are the Bible commands us not to be like them.

Noah lived among a sinful generation, but he was not like them. Lot was in Sodom, yet he was not like its citizenry. The Jews were in Egypt, but they were not allowed to adopt Egyptian customs. Later, they would reach Canaan, and still they were commanded not to live as the Canaanites. When they would reach Assyria, the people of God were commanded not to live like the Assyrians. In Babylon, they would live different than the Babylonians.

Christ left us in the world, but told us both implicitly and explicitly that we ought not to live as the world lives, that we ought to be different, that we ought to be set apart.

If we are of Christ, and in Christ, then our nature, our convictions, and our hope must be different than those of the world. We can live anywhere on the face of the earth, but if we are called by His name there is a standard by which we must live.

Wherever we might be, wherever God might lead us to go, our duty is still to be the light in the darkness, the salt of the earth, the life among the dying, the honest among the corrupt, the humble among the proud, the hopeful among the hopeless, and the loyal among the traitorous.

It is our duty to be good among the evil, to be awake among the slumbering, to be watchful among the indifferent, to be faithful among the faithless, to be hot among the lukewarm, to bless among those who curse, and to do good to those who would do us evil.

We must pray, strive, and endeavor to be children of God among the devil’s brood, to be alive among those who are dead, to be meek among the arrogant, and to be holy among a sinful world that is headed toward its judgment on swift feet.

Until that blessed day when we will see our Lord descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, we will be living among those of the world, but if we are saved and sanctified we will not be living like those of the world.

1 Peter 1:13-16, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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