What is our role as Christians? In John 17, Jesus said that His followers had been called “out of the world,” yet were still “in the world” (John 17:6 & 11). The old Puritan Thomas Watson used a good analogy when he said that a Christian in the world is like a ship in the ocean. It’s one thing for the ship to be in the water, but when the water gets into the ship, it tends to sink.
God’s grace teaches us to keep ungodliness and worldly lusts from seeping into our lives (Titus 2:11-12). When we understand what Jesus has done for us, we begin to say, “I’m going to disown some things. I’m going to deny that. I’m not going to live like that anymore.”
I’ve told people over the years that when we become Christians, God installs something in our souls called “The Automatic Sin Alarm System.” It’s like a buzzer that rings in our conscience. The attitudes and habits that once pleased us now make us uncomfortable. We have to learn to make strategic, but hopefully graceful, exits from certain relationships, environments, situations, or invitations. It takes wisdom to know how to be part of the world, yet not of it; but there are areas we can clearly see easily.
One area is our activities. In coming to Christ, we have to unlearn our former way of life and develop new choices. This was a constant refrain of the New Testament authors. Peter, for example, told his readers: “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” “Of course,” he added, “your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:3-5).
This is why Christians must understand the secret of gracefully, but firmly saying No when our friends encourage us to do things, go places, think thoughts, say words, plan deeds, or engage in activities that would damage our testimony and displease our Lord. It takes a lot of courage to resist the temptations, but through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, we are empowered to deny those temptations and to live for Him.
The greatest role-reversal occurs in the area of our attitudes. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Before knowing Christ we were hateful, unloving, and alienated in our minds from God. Now we are developing love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
As Christians, you and I sometimes have to withdraw from a situation that isn’t healthy or holy. When grace makes its entrance into our lives, it teaches us how to make a graceful exit—leaving behind our former way of life. There are ways of doing it without being angry or ugly. Or, if all else fails, just say: No!
(DR DAVID JEREMIAH)