Search This Blog

Friday, March 23, 2012

So, You Want to Have a Strong, Positive, Christian Witness

We have all heard the stories of the hypocrites at the church. These are the people claiming self-righteousness  while condemning others. If there it is of any consolation, they make me sick too. I know that I am a sinner and have no right to judge those outside the Church. I must never proclaim my own righteousness.

The Apostle Paul claimed to be the chief of sinners yet also told other Christians to imitate his behavior. It is obvious that he did not use his "sinner" condition as an excuse for unrighteousness. He always wanted to know Christ in a deeper way. He always sought to walk in a manner pleasing the Lord. He also knew his weakness and was quick to admit it. Yet, he also had a strong, positive, Christian witness.

Christians cannot create a strong, positive, Christian witness by being honest or a good worker or simply proclaiming Christ. A Christian must be exceptional in order to have a strong, positive witness.

This means a Christian cannot be simply honest in his dealings. He must go the extra mile to be identified with honesty. There is no room for any innuendo or slighting of the truth. There is no room for misleading others by only telling what you want them to know. The Christian must always be above-board in dealing with others.

The Christian, then, must also know that he can't be a "good" worker. He has to strive to be the best. He can't be friendly alone. He must strive to love the most unlovely. He can't simply avoid gossip. He must be known as one who speaks well of others. He can't hold grudges, make his faith an act of preference nor toot his own horn. He must rejoice in the good things that happen to others no matter how undeserved. His tolerance level before becoming angry must be close to unreachable and he must be the first to apologize when he has hurt someone even if it was inadvertent.

If you really want to have a strong, positive Christian witness you will have to walk with Christ daily and continually be filled with the Spirit. It isn't easy but it will put those who try criticize your good behavior to shame.

I believe the world is looking for something to believe in. I believe Christ is that someone who can be believed in. I believe that Christians lead people away from Christ by their bad behavior.

But I also believe the opposite is true. The Christian who lives exceptionally will be admired by many of those who are not Christians.

Will you have a strong, positive Christian witness?

1 Peter 3:16 (NIV) 
16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


high-expressions said...

Usually v16 of 1 Pet 3, is read together with v15.

1 Pet 3:15-16 (NIV84)
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

And so, contextually, the Apostle Peter was referring to these:

1. We are to set apart Jesus as our Lord. Here, I want to add that, we are NOT to listen to some erroneous grace teaching that said that Salvation and Lordship are separate, that one can want salvation and NOT be subject to the Lordship of Jesus. This is a WRONG teaching. Jesus is your Savior and your Lord; you cannot just accept Him as your Savior and NOT acknowledge Him as your Lord.

2. The Christian life is about a hope. Many people, including Christians, down-play this key dimension of the faith. We are NOT to worry about tomorrow, but Christianity is NOT just “living in the present moment”, and Christians are also NOT to subscribe in any way, to ideas such as “live and let live”. The Apostle Paul correctly pointed that 3 things remain: faith, hope and love. “Tomorrow is worth living …. Just because He lives”, yes, we sing this, to drum it into our head and heart.

3. We must know, and be able to explain to people the reason for our hope. In other words, we must know well, the gospel and able to explain it to others. What is the reason for your hope? Yes, He died and He lives. Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, died for you, and He died on the Cross, and He was resurrected, and He has won the victory over Satan. Our hope is to share in that glory, in the FUTURE. That is why it is a hope, for it is about the FUTURE. It is in the future that we will share in God’s glory. A simplistic picture of sharing in the glory of God is simply to be able to come into and remain in the glorious presence of God in His dwelling place, Heaven. Yes, we can, at times, experience a “shadow” of that Heavenly kingdom dimension, but it is in the future, that we will experience the full measure of sharing in the glory of the Lord, to be dwelling with God, the Father.

4. We are to explain our reason with gentleness and respect. What is that? It is saying that we are to explain the Gospel with gentleness and respect. We should NOT force the Gospel on people!

5. On top of that (gentleness and respect), we are to be of clear conscience. In other words, the explanation of our good behavior is to be above board (all boards!); meaning our good behavior is NOT motivated by any impure motive or founded on any impure standard; but that our good behavior comes from the Gospel which is essentially we are loving God back because He loved us first. Our loving God back, means, we obey His commandments, and so, the good behavior; and one of His essential commandments is that we love our fellow men. Putting it in another way, our good behavior follows from our loving God back. No one can slight that!

Motivation for good behavior must be purely out of our love for God. It is when it is so, that our good behavior cannot be ill-spoken of; and if people do that, they would be ashamed of their slander.

Cont. on next page...

high-expressions said...

Cont from preceding page

At times, we get mocked for our good Christian behaviors; people even make fun of us, even assigning ulterior motives to our good behaviors. The Apostle Peter was saying that he knew that; and his exhortation was just that – that we set apart in our heart, Jesus as our Lord; be prepared to explain the reason for our behavior which is coming from our hope, and that reason, is that God has loved us, first, and so, we are just loving Him back, in a practical way - our good Christian behavior or whatever that we do in the name of the Lord. When we explain gently and with respect, and with clear conscience, we do NOT need to be “bothered” with people’s remark (Some even in their hearts, said that we are stupid, deserved to be “cheated” or taken advantage of, etc. etc). In fact, Peter was saying that when we have done our part, the mockers or accusers would be ashamed of their slander.

For example, I could be holding people’s hands in full view of a church service congregation when ministering prayer to women at the front of the sanctuary. Now, that can draw “some response” depending on where you are coming from. Now, I tell you I do that, all the time; I will hold a man’s hands, a woman’s hands, and I will hold the sick’s hands, even dying ones. Mockers might say, “He ‘qico’ for free”’ meaning I touch women for free. The fact is that it really “inconvenient” me, and speaking from the flesh, “I really do NOT like to touch people; I only want to touch those I love”. I mean we all have our own personal standard of hygiene and preference. Look, I attend multiple, back to back, services, and so, I have to go to the toilet in between the services, in a hurry often times (toilet packed, yes or no? yes), and I got to wash my hands first, every time before I do my business, when others head for the bowl direct; it is both hygiene and respect, that I wash my hands first. In that sense, it is a “sacrifice” I made for show of love on God’s behalf. My motive is clear and my conscience is clear, it is purely for the reason of my hope. Mockers and accusers ought to be ashamed of their ill or malicious talk (But I do ask for permission, if I would touch a woman at any part other than the hands). If you ask why I minister to women, and NOT leave it to the women to minister, I can only say, churches everywhere are filled with women, and many women, because they are present, they came forth, with their needs (for prayer). Where are you, men?

More specifically, v16 is NOT so much about we being found wanting in good behavior, but is about how we are to “handle” malicious “attack” on our good behavior (in the name of Jesus); or how our attitude should be (for v17 went on to say, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil). Of course, implicit, to start with, we are to be of good behavior; and so, we cannot use the name of Jesus in vain or load in, our other ulterior motives. There are people who do that, but we are to avoid that.

Ps Prentis is exhorting excellence, and there is definitely a place for excellence in Scripture, and in a way, serving with a right heart attitude and posture is excellence before the Lord. While it is definitely right to exhort excellence in Christian conduct, and I do that too; often times, we must also, in the back of our mind, remember that all of us are on a path of growth, of excellence. We are NOT yet excellent, and different ones, are on different stages, and the ones further ahead must also be accommodating towards those further back; it is part of love, to bear with one and other.

Cont. on next page...

high-expressions said...

Cont. from preceding page

There are those who teach that on becoming a Christian, one is excellent; in other words, all are excellent. It really is false teaching and it does not help God at all, in fact, it works against God’s work. On the other end, if we are NOT bearing with one another, the love atmosphere is destroyed, and when that happens, people will NOT be drawn into the body. If you are a perfect church, with a perfect bunch of people, I better NOT join your church, for then I will spoil it, for I am NOT so much as near perfect or excellent.

I have said it before, in writing a blog, we cannot say or talk about everything, be too comprehensive, which I have a tendency to, and so, I am NOT saying Ps Prentis is NOT aware of what I am saying here, it is that I saying there is always the subjective element of bearing with one another. Talking in general, which I am also doing now, at times, it is easy to be misunderstood; that is why a pastor or Senior Pastor’s role in the church is that he got to correctly discern the state of his flock, and tailor his preaching according to the needs of his flock; truths, NOT one truth of God, are applying; Senior Pastors are to balance out “over-dosages” or over-indulgence. The smaller the group and the more specific the group, of course, the easier it is to correct imbalances; our faith is both corporate as well as personal; and Jesus exemplified both approaches in His earthly ministry.

I am for, pursuing excellence (NOT perfection) in the faith. I am to improve in my own excellence for the Lord. I know I am on a journey, and what the Lord wants for me, is for me to be better, and it is for my own good. I will pursue the path of excellence as my love for the Lord. I pray the Lord bears with me as I move along.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions