Everyone has an opinion of you. You are talked about, thought of, labeled, inadvertently ranked, grouped, and placed in a particular portion of humanity and society by other people you come into contact with. This placement is rarely spoken of but the implications are staggering. Most of us are just trying to fit in, be part of something, or simply fly under the radar….making as little waves as possible along the way of life. We who identify ourselves as Christians, are not living for blissful assimilation or the kudos of other people. If we are truly walking in Jesus’ footsteps, we are radically different than the guy next door, the world, and even many people who profess religion or even Christianity. The Apostle Peter says we are: strangers and aliens.
1 Peter 2:11-12 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Why does Peter refer to believers as strangers and aliens? Looking at the verse in it’s context shows us the answer. Peter is describing the Christian’s place in God’s economy and how we are to conduct ourselves as His children while in this world. He calls us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. As the body of Christ, we are a holy people. A few verses back, Peter writes an instruction from the Lord to us, His people, ” Be holy because I am holy.” So what does holy mean? Hagios in the Greek means: set apart…..sacred, and different.
There are so many references to this distinctive mark of the Christian’s life in the New Testament. Thinking of living set apart as a believer we are exhorted to: Be in the world, but not of the world. We are to let our light shine among this world, so that people will praise God as a result of our life. The Bible tells us to, come out from among them (the world) and be separate. What should be our motive and what is the ultimate end result of our holy, separate, set apart, different life? It is simply to bring glory to the name of the Lord Jesus and the Father.
The Bible has plenty to say about the (how) part of being holy. Reading all of 1st & 2nd Peter shows us what this set apart life looks like. As Christians, at conversion…the Holy Spirit came to dwell inside of us and equips us to live a holy life before God. My purpose for us here is to ponder how this holy life plays itself out before the world and even before people who just want comfortable religion as usual. I don’t know about you, but what made me desire the things of God wasn’t a dull, watered down ‘religious’ type person with a passive kind of pleasant way about them. That wasn’t what I wanted. I wasn’t attracted to the person who was into a program, particular church, youth group, or preacher. I became very hungry for God when I came into contact with people who were completely off the chart, fired up about Jesus!
I wanted what they had and I dove in the deep end head first. These people who were on fire for Jesus had everything in their lives line up with that passion. Jesus gave them love for church, for ministry & outreach, for good pastors-teachers, and for living the Christian life. Their holiness was a direct result of Jesus being in the very center of their life. That is why we are different. It’s not a movement, religion, particular church, cause, or event that distinguishes us……..it’s the Lord Jesus living inside of us through the person of His Holy Spirit that differentiates us from this dark world.
What does being holy have to do with the last days and end times? It has everything to do with them. There is a parallel pseudo christianity (small c) that many people are buying into. Don’t just take my word for it….listen to the Apostle Paul:
2 Timothy 3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Friends, Paul is writing to Timothy and the believers about others who are playing a game. It’s a have your cake and eat it too game. It’s the mark of a lukewarm apathetic church and people who for whatever reason are moving in and out among us. This warning needs to be heeded now because it doesn’t take long to distinguish that there is a real problem in the evangelical church today. I’m not being legalistic and referring to music, apparel, decor, or function. I’m referencing the fact that many professing born again Christians look, act, talk, spend, pray, devote, work, and live just like the fallen dark world all around us. This pseudo-Christian existed in the early church and it is no different now. The problem and the difference now is that is’s so pervasive and common, we as true believers need to distinguish ourselves from the soft (churchianity) that’s defining this generation. How do we do this?
As true, blood bought, changed from the inside out believers in the Lord Jesus….we are to live as such. There is a marked distinction and change from the way we act, respond, and think. Our lives and how we conduct them are so different, so diametrically opposed to the way the world and unsaved people live, it should be like a glaring neon sign proclaiming: I am a Christian! It doesn’t take a t-shirt, bumper sticker, loud public prayer, political affiliation, or denominational preference to do that. It takes a sold out believer walking in humility, being a conduit of mercy, and loving as Jesus loves. It means walking against the flow of both worldly and (christianese) culture.
I love what a well known and God honoring pastor says and I’ll paraphrase: If you are flying Jesus at the top of the flagpole of your life, you are bound to hear about it. If everyone is alright with you and you are un-offensive…….you are not living fired up about Jesus!”
It’s time to put off the luke warm, touchy feely, attitude we have toward the gospel and living the Christian life. It’s time to cast off the apathetic comforts of self contained cloistered Christianity and live radically different before this dark and dying world. We need to love other believers and people in our own local church the way Jesus loves them. We need to set aside agenda, program, ego, and our affections for Jesus alone. We are called to live holy set apart lives among a hurting world who sometimes can’t distinguish the real Christians from the ones playing church. Some translations refer to us as: sojourners, exiles, and foreigners.
As Christians, we realize we are just passing through. Everything we do, accomplish, and accumulate in this life is wood, hay, and stubble…unless it’s for the glory of God. The time is short and Jesus said He is coming back soon. We need to be in this world making a difference and touching broken people wherever our days take us. After all we are: strangers and aliens living each day with our sole purpose of bringing glory to God, and telling everyone there is new life in Jesus.
All for Him,