There is an old saying that goes: Life your life in such a way so that when you die and people gossip about you no one will believe them. I want to live that kind of life! In my daily devotions, I have been reading through 1 and 2 Corinthians; and I see that same message repeated time and time again by Paul to the church at Corinth. He urges them on so many occasions to live lives that are pure, holy and upright. He urges them to put others before themselves and separate themselves from the practices of the world so that all will know they believe in the one true Messiah – Jesus Christ.
As Paul closes 2 Corinthians, he challenges the church to “examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you it means you have failed the test.”
I wonder if the church would pass that test today? In all honesty, I don’t know that we would, and here’s why:
According to a fairly recent Barna survey (December 3, 2007) fewer adults, and many fewer teens are identifying themselves as Christians. In addition to this, the Christian faith has taken a severe beating as a result of harsh media criticism, “unchristian” behavior by church people, bad personal experiences with churches, and ineffective Christian leadership amid social crises. Because of these factors, those who still categorize themselves as “Christian” (however they define it) have begun changing the face of Christianity in such a way that the Christian faith will have broad-based consequences. Some of the major areas of change have to do with recognizing the authority of the Bible, pursuing and emphasizing spiritual diversity within the church, placing a higher value on interpersonal relationships over spiritual education and development, and discouraging discipline and regimen in personal faith development. It was also documented that young people strongly believe rigidity of belief, including the notion of absolutes in morality and spiritual truths are outdated and closed-minded.
Based on this kind of report, I’d say that as a church we’ve failed. As a believer, I am deeply offended that non-Christians and Christians alike feel that morality and spirituality are relative, which includes discounting the authority of the Bible; God’s written word to us.
As a church, we need to recognize we’ve failed, and as believers, we need to be challenged to action by these findings. We need to reach out to the world as Jesus did – in love and truth. We have to stop watering down the Gospel just to get people in the doors, and we need to start proclaiming Christ’s authority. We need to follow Paul’s advice to the Corinthians and “prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, our sincere love, and the power of the Holy Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 6:6 We need to make sure we are salt and light in a dark and dying world and not just an hour’s worth of weekly socialization and entertainment. This also includes living our daily lives as if Jesus were walking right beside us.
“Dear Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to die on a cross for us. Thank you for your apostles who spent their lives spreading the Good News of salvation to all regions of the known world, and for leaving letters of instruction behind for us. Help us to test ourselves in our faith so that we may be found approved. Help us to be bold in our spreading of the gospel as well as righteous in our daily living. We want to be your examples in a world that is lost. In all that we do, help us to act in purity, with understanding, in patience and kindness, with sincere love and in the power of the Holy Spirit, so the world may know that we truly love you and have become your children. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.”