I read an article earlier today about the many cultural and theological misrepresentations that Christians make to the outside world. We can all think of things done in the name of Jesus that have nothing to do with the Jesus of the Old and New Testaments. It seems like the crazy ones among us always grab the headlines. It is the Christians who should never be interviewed by the press that are always given their 15 minutes of fame.
I don’t want to go into examples of hypocrisy, heresy, false doctrine, immorality, etc. among the so-called “believers”. There will always be goats mixed in with the sheep; my goal has always been to be a good sheep following the Good Shepherd.
This article did get me to thinking though. The bible has much to say about actions revealing our faith. God places priority on substance over ceremony and righteous action over righteous appearances. Over and over throughout scripture we read about doing what is right, loving God with all of our being and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Jesus said people are known by their fruit (Matthew 7:20). What do people know about us based on the things that we do or the things that our life is producing? Are we bearing the fruit that shows that our hearts belong to Jesus? Do our deeds accurately represent our faith?
I am not on a condemnation crusade writing this. I am not nitpicking about your sanctification (but if the shoe fits, put it on). I want to examine our lives. Are we a force on the earth today for the kingdom of God? If so, what does that mean to us?
Let’s look at the main ingredients of the Kingdom of God:
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)
The Kingdom of God is about God’s relationship with us and our relationship with people.
- We have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ
- We are to treat others righteously
- We have been made at peace with God because our sins have been forgiven
- We are to live at peace with others
- Jesus has made our joy full by making His home inside of us
- We are to spread the joy of salvation throughout the earth
It sounds simple when you read it from a page – the challenge comes when we try to live. A professor of mine said that Christian ministry would be perfect if it weren’t for the people. My church would be perfect – except that it is filled with people like me and people like you.
The challenge of Christianity is to love those who do not love us. The challenge of Christianity is to give to those who can never repay. The challenge of Christianity is to share the gospel with everyone even if they reject it.
Our faith must be a living faith. Christianity is not lived through prayer, bible study and meditation alone. These are elements of our faith, but Christianity comes with marching orders. Jesus gave us a divine commission and has sent us into the world to be His ambassadors; spreading the love, life and message of the Gospel.
- Feeding the hungry is as important as singing the worship song that brings tears to your eyes
- Loving our co-workers and classmates by treating them with dignity, respect and honor is as important as our tithe.
- Sharing our faith with those who do not know Jesus is as important as obeying the 10 Commandments
We cannot separate faith from action. We cannot separate loving Jesus from living for Jesus. We cannot relegate Christian activity to that which takes place during a church service; we must come to the place where our life is a Christian activity.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2)
I have pulled together several passages of scripture below. The emphasis on all of these scriptures is actions over religious activity.
Please take the time to read these. Everything that you and I do is done in the Kingdom of God. Everything you and I say is done as a Christian. Everywhere we go we take the Holy Spirit with us. Each day presents us with the opportunity to show the world who Jesus is through our lives.
Paul told the Corinthians that they were living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:2). Nothing has changed. We remain the city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). To quote the Gladiator, “What we do in this life echoes in eternity.”
The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. (Proverbs 21:3)
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 1:10-20)
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. (Isaiah 58:1-12)
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
Being part of the church is more that showing up for worship services; we have to live our faith. Love God with everything that you are and love people as much as you love yourself. Just a reminder; love is a verb.