Saturday, September 11, 2010

Christians looking like Christians - The Problem

Okay then, to pick up where we left off: What if you are a Christian, but the seven characteristics outlined last week don't really apply to you? At least, not very well. Or very often. Maybe you wonder why you look so much like everyone else in the world, and so little like what you know you should.

I did.

Actually, I more than wondered about it. I was seriously bothered by it. In fact, I was kind of mildly devastated.

And so I began to pray about it.

And like God always does when you earnestly seek Him, He gave an answer. Here's what I've learned about this problem so far.

First, you need to know that there is a very easy way to short-circuit the power of God in your life - and when that happens you will not look like a Christian. You will look very much like everyone else around you.

That too-easy short-circuit is called:
- "living in the flesh" in some translations (ESV),
- being "wordly" in others (NIV),
- and being "controlled by your sinful nature" in still others (New Living Translation).

As you can tell by the words describing it, it means that although you are a Christian, you live just like those who do not know God.

Now, by "live" the Bible doesn't necessarily mean your whole life - or even decades. It could be for only days, or hours, or even just a few minutes. But whatever the duration, during that time, you are thinking and being and living exactly like a "mere human".

Here's an example from the Amplified Bible. Paul saw this kind of living in the Corinthian church and didn't hesitate to set them straight.

For you are still [unspiritual, having the nature] of the flesh [under the control of ordinary impulses]. For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men? (1 Cor 3:2~4)

Paul was angry with them because they did not have to live like that. They chose to.

Here's what I mean

Non-Christians have no choice in this matter. Spiritually they are still dead, so they have to live in the flesh. That's all they have.

Christians, however, have another option. We can live in the flesh, but we also can (and should!) live instead "in the spirit".

The problem is, "in the flesh" is automatic. It's the default human condition. So, if you don't consciously choose and intentionally live in the spirit, the flesh is what you'll get.

Obviously, the Corinthians of Paul's day were not choosing right.
And often, neither do we.

Next week I'll explain the solution to this problem.