“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted.” (Philippians 2:14-16 New Living Translation)
It has never been more important that our witness for Christ be genuine. Our lives are to be distinct from those in the world, reflecting that most significant of changes the human heart can undergo: the new birth. Someone has said that the Church has had her greatest impact on the world when She was least like the world. Another way to say this is that we cannot hope to be an agent of change in the world if we are no different from the world.
We are called to be light; a city on a hill. While we have been justified by faith apart from works, we are called to live a life of good works that reflect the work of grace wrought in our hearts (see Matthew 5:14-16). It’s not about working for our right standing with God. That was made freely available through what Jesus secured for us on Calvary. But our works provide the platform of credibility from which we can give an authentic witness for Christ. Our works are the out-working of the life of Christ on the inside. The world cannot see what has happened in us unless it’s demonstrated outwardly.
Learning to live with a certain awareness and sensitivity to those around us is vital to effectively representing Christ to the world. We are to be holy, and yet relatable. Separate, and yet sympathetic. Kind, and yet uncompromising. Heavenly, and yet grounded. In my years of experience as a pastor and leader, I have found that those who were responsible, conscientious people before they came to Christ made responsible, conscientious Christians when they found Christ. The good habits, diligence, and consistency, which served them well in their natural lives, help to propel them forward in their spiritual lives as well. On the other hand, people who live loose and irresponsible lives before they come to Christ do not necessarily shed their bad habits the moment they “change teams”. There must be an on-going process of discipleship and growth that allows the outward walk to reflect His inward work.
This is not to say that the Christian life and witness is supposed to be difficult, stressful, and formulaic. Rather, it is to be natural and organic. Jesus likened the life of the fruit-bearing believer to the branch that maintained a vital connection to the vine (see John 15:1-8). As we maintain connection to Christ through prayer, the Word, and fellowship with other believers who encourage us in our faith, growth occurs naturally and progressively.
We may not realize it, but we are living our lives before a watching world. We are on display on the most significant of stages, demonstrating before a skeptical yet curious audience the degree to which Christ’s redemption has become a reality in our lives. We may not be without flaw in the working out of our salvation before their eyes, but we can shoulder the responsibly of being intentional about our witness. It matters. It matters how we live. In fact, it is the most important of matters that the life we live not belie the words we speak. An old Chinese proverb expresses the importance of this well when it says, “What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
To me this is the acid test of our Christianity. We can boast about our position in Christ, but if there’s not a practical outworking of the new life we claim to have received, then for all intents and purposes, at least where the world is concerned, our lives are none the better for Christ having died. That is a strong statement, and it should underscore the fact that we must be mission-minded believers, realizing that the world still needs a Savior, and we are His only witnesses. We are to go into “all the world”, and in the world to which He has sent you, you may be His only voice, and it is the integrity of your life that gives value to that voice.