Sharing by: Pam Crawford
"Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness;
instead, rebuke and expose them."
ENLIGHTENEDIt is my personal belief that a church is not the fancy building we step into each week. It's not about the Pastor's style or the Priests standing. It's not about the type of music we prefer or the many wonderful programs offered within the many buildings. No, I believe the church is so much more than that. Biblically I understand it to be about a body of believers who are passionate about knowing and growing close to God through His Holy Word. It's about learning all we can about God in His triune form and aligning our lives to His. It's about discovering His character, His attributes and the directives He gave to the body of believers so that we can effectively live in His light. If we want to be a part of a church that experiences blessings; I would encourage a look at Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount found in the Book of Matthew Chapter 5. Here we are introduced to the Beatitudes.
According to the Life's Application Commentary "there are at least four ways to understand the Beatitudes: (1) They are a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers. (2) They contrast Kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary). (3) They contrast the superficial "faith" of the Pharisees with the real faith that Christ demands. (4) They show how the Old Testament expectations will be fulfilled in the new Kingdom. These Beatitudes are not multiple choice - pick what you like and leave the rest. They must be taken as a whole. They describe what we should be like as Christ-followers."
Christ-followers are the church! So why do we have such a difficult time being the church? Could it be we really don't fully grasp what the church is? Way too often we go through the motions of church without really living as people who are the church. This is evident in modern day Christianity. Could it be we are so focused on our individual denominations, traditions, rituals, doctrines, programs, etc. that we are missing the central theme of the Gospel?
I have often wondered what the church would look like if we collectively lived as "Children of the Light." How might we live differently if we truly understood that God really does care about how we conduct ourselves beyond our Sunday morning services? The Apostle Paul was trying to get this very point across to the people of Ephesus long ago when he said "Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children." (Eph. 5:1 NLT)
The Bible goes to great length to spell out how we are to live as "Children of Light." Paul goes on to say "Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him." (Eph. 5:2 NLT)
I do life everyday with people who profess Christ and live very differently than His example. When you attempt to point out something that doesn't align to His Word, you are accused of judging. Frankly I have been that professed Christian and have used that same "judging" excuse so I'm not pointing fingers, I am illustrating a point. I would sit in my church on Sunday mornings and hear about God and what He expected. But, when it came down to living it out I continued to do what I wanted to do and be what I was accustomed to in my environment, until one day I stumbled upon this Scripture. "With the Lord's authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don't care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed. But that isn't what you were taught when you learned about Christ." - Ephesians 4:17-20
God had my attention. I had been taught so I read on. "Since you have heard all about Him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness - righteous, holy, and true." - Eph. 4:21-24
That new nature as part of the body of Christ will look very different than that of this world. Paul finishes chapter 4 by telling these believers in a sense to walk away from their old ways and begin to allow God to change them from the inside out. "So put away all falsehood and tell your neighbor the truth because we belong to each other. And don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil." - Eph. 4:25-27
Change is a process and it doesn't happen overnight. As we determine to become obedient to what we discover in the Word of God, our light will begin to become brighter before God. We will be better representatives of God's church, His people set apart for His glory. The devil will have less and less of our heart as we give ourselves over to Christ.
Let's end with some specific examples that Paul gives us to strive for as the church. "If you are a thief, stop stealing. Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need. Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you." - Eph. 4:28-31
Friends, God's Word has much to say about our actions. If you jump down to chapter 5 of Ephesians you will read the following. "Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes - these are not for you. Instead, let there be a thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships things of this world. Don't be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him. Don't participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord." - Eph. 5:3-10
Now we make a decision. There is no more "this is how I am" statements. Or "I don't believe ..." The first step in a unified body is determining what you do believe. Probably one of the most important questions to wrestle with is "do you really believe that the Bible is God's Holy instructions (2 Timothy 3:16) to His church," which is you and me? If you do not believe the Bible is God's truth it will not be your plumbline for physical, emotional or spiritual morality and thus you will continue to find all kinds of excuses for not adhering to it and darkness will remain. So, do we continue to do it our way? Or, as part of God's holy church, will we allow Him to help us transform from darkness to light? Will we do it His way? Be blessed.
In Christ by grace,
"As people filled with light, our actions should reflect our faith. We should live above reproach morally so that we will reflect God's goodness to others. Jesus stressed this truth in the Sermon on the Mount." - Life's Application Commentary.