For the vast majority of those who follow Jesus, their lives are lived predominantly among unbelievers. This is not a criticism of lifestyle or a rally for increased holiness and sanctification (though if the Spirit moves you). This is a fact. We live our lives surrounded by those who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus Christ. We learn with them, we work with them, we shop with them, we vote with them (maybe not the same way they do) and for many Christians we also live with them.
This fact of life definitely provides the believer with a substantial mission field everywhere they go. Everywhere we go those who have not yet come to Christ surround us. We are readily presented with the opportunity to live and communicate the gospel in word, deed, lifestyle, character and every other observable method. People see us. People hear us. People know us.
Are our lives a shining for the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The first places many of our thoughts travel towards when we hear a statement like this fall into categories like Ministry, Holiness & Charity. Are we sharing the gospel? Are we living the gospel? Are we supporting the cause of the gospel locally and globally?
Each of these areas are vital to our faith and to fulfilling the Great Commission. We hear about these subjects frequently from ministers, authors, missionaries and relief agencies and almost every source involved in Christian ministry. It could be reduced to a statement like this, “Live the gospel, share the gospel and support the gospel.”
In this message I want to focus is on “living the gospel”. Many preachers have used this statement and I believe it bears consistent repetition, “People will listen to what they hear but they will believe what they see.” My goal in sharing this message is to provoke each of us to truly shine the light of Christ from every area of our life so that an unbelieving world can see the power of the gospel alive in you and me.
God’s call to our lives in the area of holiness, sanctification and maintaining separation from the world is very clear in the Old and New Testaments. One of the most common passages of scripture speaking to this subject is found in 1 Peter:
So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:14-16 NLT)
There are literally dozens of scriptures we could quote. Holiness is one of the divine attributes of God and it is one of the commands from God to His people in both the Old and New Testaments. It is biblically clear that God‘s desire for believers is that their lives reflect His holiness, manifesting the character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We received a new nature when Christ came into our lives and caused us to be born again (Romans 8:9-16). Throughout the scripture we are encouraged and provoked to let the Spirit of God rule in our hearts and minds. We are no longer to serve the sinful desires of our former nature.
One of the greatest testimonies we can put forth concerning our faith is to live the gospel we preach. This message is not a demand for legalistic holiness that denies a believer access to the grace of Christ for sin in their lives. On the contrary this message is a call to the believer to recognize the power of grace given to them by Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has come into our lives to empower us to be the people God’s Word has called us to be (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Holy living definitely involves abstaining from sinful thoughts and actions but it also involves our active engagement in Christ-like thoughts and actions. We are not only separated from this world when Jesus comes into our lives. We are also separated unto God. We have not only come out of a life of sin but we have also come into a new life through Christ.
For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 NLT)
Many believers think of holiness in a very one-sided way; heavily focused on what the bible teaches they should not be doing. Holiness is equated to a living a life that is free from sin and the appearance of sin. The most frequent sins focused on are things like:
These are definitely sins that do not belong in the life of a believer. These sins and the many others that exist are the cause for our current human condition and are the reason Jesus Christ died upon the cross. Jesus died to bear the penalty of our sins so that we might be forgiven and set free from the power of sin.
Holiness does not end with the sins that should be absent from our lives. Holiness must include the righteous things that are present in our lives. Holy living 100% is about being separate from sin but it is also 100% about living a Christ-like life.
Loving your spouse, honoring them and placing their needs above your needs is a part of holy living. Honoring your father and mother is a part of holy living. Caring for your children and raising them in a godly way is part of holy living. Forgiving those who have wronged you or sinned against you is part of holy living. Caring for the needs of widows and orphans is a part of holy living. Manifesting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (the fruits of the Spirit) are a part of holy living.
Shining as a light in a world of darkness involves manifesting the goodness of God in every area of our lives. We are all at different levels of spiritual maturity and we are being changed each day. A Christian is more that a person who has decided to believe Christian Doctrines. A Christian definitely believes the gospel but has been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit as a result of believing the gospel. This change is both instantaneous and ongoing. We literally become new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We cannot come into contact and then covenant with God and remain the same. The change that grace produces in our lives is significant and it is noticeable. The power of the gospel is found not only in the message of grace but also in the manifestation of grace. Our lives need to shine forth both the message and the manifestation of God’s grace.
We have to be focused on our own sanctification but we cannot stop there. We have to be focused on doing the right thing because it is the right thing regardless of who is watching but we cannot stop there. We have to be focused on loving others, but we cannot stop there. We have to be focused out being fruitful Christians who display the character of Christ but we cannot stop there. Holy living includes all of the above and this is the precise reason that the Holy Spirit has come to live inside of every believer.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
“Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV)
Holy living opens the ears of unbelievers
There are many people who reject the message of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. These people come from all walks of life and a multitude of spiritual experiences, backgrounds and beliefs. Their disagreement with or rejection of the gospel comes from many reasons. Many of the reasons for unbelief that are given are cultural, experiential, philosophical, theological and some even from bad experiences with the church. A “shining” believer can open a dialogue to share Christ, His message and His love.
The manifestation of grace in our lives (holy living) is a powerful tool for the Holy Spirit to use to open the hearts of unbelievers to the message of grace.
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT)
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. (Philippians 2:14-15 NLT)
My prayer for each of us is that we will allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and that we will renew our minds with the Word of God so that when we open our mouth to proclaim the message of His grace it will have been preceded with the manifestation of His grace that causes our lives to shine brightly to an unbelieving world.