Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: A Questionable Life

Yesterday, we began a four-week series entitled "A Different Kind of Life."  If you have been a follower of Jesus for any significant length of time, or if you have been around a lot of people who follow Jesus, you have probably heard that Christians are supposed to be "different" from everybody else, and that's true.  Our Bible is full of passages calling us to a different sort of life.  In fact, the Scriptures have a word for this, and that word is "holy."

Now, when you ask someone to define "holiness" you get all sorts of answers.  Growing up in a conservative small town in the south, I was taught that this was always associated with certain activities that one should avoid.  In other words, in addition to following Jesus I should never use tobacco, drink alcohol, or vote for a Democrat. (no kidding!)

Of course, the problem with "lists" of forbidden behaviors is that they really don't produce the kind of life Jesus calls us to.  While there may be wisdom in avoiding activities that could be enslaving to the body and soul, even those who meet those standards often find themselves thinking the same way, having the same worries and concerns, and possessing the same aspirations as others.  In short, when others look at our lives, they often see little noticeable difference.

That raises a question:  What is this "different kind of life" that we are called to?  Well, that kind of life involves several things, and we began this series yesterday by emphasizing that this kind of life should be "questionable."  Our lives should be lived in such a manner as to cause others to ask, "who ARE you?!"

In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we get a glimpse of what this looks like.  When we looked at Chapter 4 yesterday, we saw a contrast between what he prayed for them as opposed to what he asked them to pray for him.

Be Vigilant.  Paul asked the church to be persistent in their prayers, and to pray fully aware of their circumstances.  When we read these requests, it should cause us to ask if we pray fully aware of what is transpiring in our neighborhood, our cul-de-sac, our community, and our world.

One of our staff values is "Prayer is our Primary Strategy."  In other words, prayer can't just be the "bookends" of a long meeting.  We try to look at our agenda, and if that agenda could be discussed anywhere outside of the church if we just removed "prayer" from the beginning and end, its probably not an agenda that deserves the attention of God's people or their leaders.

How about you?  Is prayer a regular and strategic part of your life?  Your family's life?  Vigilant prayer is informed, purposeful, personal, and as a result, far more powerful, and any truly "questionable" life starts with, ends with, and is permeated by it.

Be Bold.  Paul further asks the church as they pray to ask for boldness on his part.  It is obvious from this and other places in the Scripture that Paul was a gifted evangelist, and God tells us that He still gives the church those kinds of people today (Ephesians 4:11).  These people have an extraordinary ability to share the message of Jesus with clarity and compel others to turn from their sins and put their faith in Christ.

This doesn't mean that ONLY gifted evangelists should share their faith.  But it does mean that when it comes to these people, we should give them the room they need to exercise their gifts, encourage them, and pray for them often--that they would be BOLD!

But again, not everyone is gifted in this particular way.  Ever feel as though the church was "squeezing you into a mold" you didn't fit?  Some of the worst stories I've heard involving this were stories in which well-meaning church leaders suggested that everyone should be the bold, door-knocking, barrier-crossing evangelist.  Are you one of those people?  What if you aren't gifted in that way?  How should you take responsibility for sharing your own faith?

In other words, "what about the rest of us?

Be Intentional.  When Paul shifts his focus back to the church in verses 5 and 6, his tone changes.  Rather than ask for them the same thing he asks them for, he prays that they will "walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time."  Picture an airplane circling the airport--a regular stop in your routine.  Paul says to the church, "I want those moments to be spent in the presence of outsiders."

If he were alive today, Paul might express it this way; "Get out of the 'Christian bubble!'"  For too many followers of Jesus, we isolate ourselves from the very relationships Jesus intends that we establish.  Maybe its because we don't want to be uncomfortable.  Perhaps we think in doing so we are protecting our children from "corrupt influences."  But regardless of our reasons, the Apostle is telling us here "rubbing elbows with non-Christians should be a regular and intentional part of your life!"

In short, be strategic with your life!  And to be strategic and intentional, you have to walk among the world "in wisdom."  Think about how you spend your life.  Some of us have better health than others.  Some of us have more money than others.  But time is the great equalizer.  Every one of us is given the same 168 hours per week.  God expects us to use those hours strategically.

He also intends that we use that time in a way that is "questionable" to the world.  So while gifted evangelists should seize every opportunity to proclaim the Gospel with boldness, most in the church will share their faith via answering the questions unbelievers are asking who are in relationship with them.

That raises another question:  What are you doing, and how are you living that makes your life questionable?  If we worry about the same things as our non-Christian neighbors, spend our money in the same way, act the same way, react the same way to problems--if our life looks EXACTLY the same as theirs, what would they ask us about?

Paul's challenge here is to live a freakishly weird life--the kind of life that causes others to ask "who ARE you?!"

By the 4th century, the Roman Empire, which at one time saw Christianity as an undesirable faith to be eliminated, had begun to see thousands of people following Jesus.  That didn't happen because of mass evangelism, literature distribution, or a "hot band" on the stage.  It happened because followers of Jesus fed the hungry, showed hospitality to strangers, tended the graves of the dead who were not part of their faith treated women as equals in a male-dominated world, and treated household slaves as brothers.

Rome came to faith in Jesus because no one in Rome had ever seen a life quite like this!

How about you?  Are you living in a "questionable" marriage?  Are you running a "questionable" business?  That is our calling; living a questionable life to the glory of God!

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