Followers of Jesus are expected to live differently from the rest of the world. We are to stand out from the crowd and influence the people around us. If we are attempting to blend in with the rest of the world we are not truly following Jesus.
Without a doubt there are areas in my life where being different seems like the natural thing to do. Yet, there are other areas when it is a huge struggle. I desire to be different, but the way of the world is very attractive.
I need to remember that when I don’t live differently from the world, not only am I saying don’t trust God to provide for my life, but I also hide the light God has placed in my heart.
I believe that it is through being different and standing apart from the world that we become beacons of light in the darkness. Therefore the apostle Paul wrote:
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).
The light of Jesus Christ is to lead us to live holy lives, and thus make us lights shining in the darkness. When we are different from the world we can become the agents of change that this world needs.
Since it is essential for followers of Christ Jesus to be different, then there is a question that we need to ask ourselves: How do we prevent ourselves from being influenced by this culture in which we live?
I believe the writer of Hebrews provided us with at least part of the answer to this question:
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 discover four actions we must do if we are going to live differently from the world.
The first action is to remember the people of faith who have gone before us.
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. Here at the start of chapter 12 the writer of Hebrews says we should focus on these people. The examples of faithful people we discover on the pages of Scripture should encourage us.
It is also important to remember that through the past two thousand years even more people have been added to this huge crowd of witnesses. People like Martin Lurther, John Calvin, Alexander Campbell, Jim Elliot, C. S. Lewis, Lillian Trasher, Rachel Scott, Si Steele, and Charles Huff (my grandfathers). This great cloud of witness continues to grow, and their influences can still be felt. We can gain encouragement and wisdom by focusing on their examples faith.
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. It is difficult partly because it means admitting that our way of living is wrong. Another reason change is hard is because sin tends to be habit forming. This means our bodies have developed the habit of not trusting God, and like any other habit it is hard to break.
Even though change is hard each one of us have areas in our lives that need to be changed. Whatever our sin and other junk is we need to keep in mind that all of it hinders us from becoming the people God created us to be. That is why it is so essential that we seek to remove these hindrances from our lives, even if that means getting professional help.
Of course the universal weight that is hindering us is sin. The weight of sin will be different for each of us, but there is no getting away from the reality that sin plagues all of us. We need to attack it, struggle with it, confess it to God, and continually turn our hearts back to God. We cannot go with God and allow sin to remain in our lives 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 (p. 35).
God created us to do good. That means we are to bring love and truth 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 He planned for us when He created us (Ephesians 2:10). When we use the blessings (talents, resources, and relationships) God has given to us to bring good into this world, that is when we are running the race of faith.
The final action is to remember Jesus.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.
How do we keep our eyes on Jesus?
First, we need to remember who Jesus is and what his life means for us. Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. Second, we need to follow the example of Jesus. This requires learning about his life. We need to spend time in the Gospels and discover Jesus for who he truly is. Knowing the Gospels is essential to keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Followers of Jesus Christ need to be different from the rest of the world. This doesn’t mean that we seek ways to be strange so we stand out from the crowd, but it does mean that we intentionally follow Jesus.
Let’s face it, the easy way to live is to be pushed around by the fads and trends of the world. It is a struggle to live holy lives in a world that is rebelling against God.
This struggle begins, not by making a list of resolutions or trying to summon up the will power to overcome the sinful habits of our lives, but by falling on our knees and crying out to God for healing, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit. This is not about our strength, but it is about relying on God for His strength. It is God’s strength that will make us different from the rest of the world.
Questions to consider:
- Why is it necessary for us be different from the world?
- How is it possible for us to be different?
- What challenges do you face in trying to live differently from the world?