Yet it is essential for people claiming to follow Jesus to live differently from the world. The Apostle Paul tells us:
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 and true (Ephesians 5:7-9; NLT).
Christ-Followers need to live differently from the people of this world. So how do we do this? How do we prevent ourselves from being influenced by this culture in which we live? I believe the writer of Hebrews have provided us with some answers to these questions:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 12:1-2; NLT).
In these two verses we find four actions we must do if we are going to live differently from the world.
First we must remember the witnesses. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith...
Hebrews 11 is filled with the examples of faith. Men and women who trusted God through the ups and downs of life. The writer of Hebrews then tells us: be encouraged by these people. The examples of Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Daniel, and Peter should give us encouragement as we attempt to live faithfully in our culture. Remember there is a reason God preserved their lives on the pages of Scripture so lets learn from them.
It is also important to remember that through the past two thousand years more and more people have been added to this great cloud of witnesses. People like Jim Elliot, C. S. Lewis, Lillian Trasher, Dawson Trotman, and Si Steele (my grandfather). On the pages of history and in the years of our lives are more men and women who can serve as examples of what it means to live faithful lives and be a source of encouragement as we seek to live differently in the culture in which we live.
The second action we need to do is remove the hindrances. let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.
Change is difficult. One reason it is difficult is because it means that we were wrong. If things were right then a change wouldn’t need to happen. A second reason why change is hard is because of habits. It is hard to break a habit, no matter how much we may want to be rid of it.
There are things in our lives that need to be changed. We all have junk in our our lives, and none of us are carrying around the same set of baggage. Some of us have self-image issues that need to be dealt with. Others of us have relationship problems that need to be worked through. Still others of us have emotional problems (depression, anxiety, perfectionism, guilt, etc.) that need to be dealt with. All these things are hindering us from become the people God created us to be, and so we need to face them and deal with them, even if that means going to a professional for help.
The universal weight is sin. Yes the weight of sin maybe different, but each of us has sin in our lives. We need to attack it, struggle with it, confess it to God, and continually turn our hearts over to God. We cannot go with God and allow sin to remain in our live unchecked. If we are not struggling to rid our lives of sin then we are not living a life of faith.
The third action we must do is run the race. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.
I like what Erwin McManus wrote in Seizing Your Divine Moment:
“God has created you to do something. It is not enough to stop the wrong and then be paralyzed when it comes to the right. God created you to do good. And doing this requires initiative. There is a subtle danger of hiding apathy behind piety. Getting rid of the sin in your life? Great. Now it’s time to do something” (pg. 35).
God has created us to do good. That means we are to bring good into the lives of other people. I like to say that we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing. Running the race that God has given to us is about doing the good works that God has planned for us (Ephesians 2:10). When we use the blessings God has given us to bring good into this world then we are running the race of faith.
The final action is to reflect on Jesus. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.
Jesus is our ultimate example on how we are to live. He showed us how to love, how to serve, and how to forgive. We must model our lives after his life.
The sacrifice of Jesus is the ultimate encouragement as we strive to live a life of faith. Knowing that Jesus went through brutal times, for the purpose of saving us from sin, should encourage us when we are going through those dark times of life and motivate us to whatever it takes to remain faithful.
We can only keep our eyes on Jesus and reflect on his life by learning about his life. I think one of the reasons fall is because we have created an image of Jesus that appeals to us rather than discovering who Jesus really is. This means we have to spend time in God’s Word and reading the Gospels so we can have a better understanding and appreciation of who Jesus is and what he did for us.
The Followers of Jesus Christ need to be different from the rest of the world. It is easy to participate in the activities of this world and to go along with our culture, but we must fight the hard fight to be different. Are you willing to do what it takes to change your life and be different?