Last Sunday during a meeting I had wanted to say, “Practical Christianity”…but what came out was, “Practical Christianality.” No, it’s not in the Dictionary, and Yes, I felt pretty silly. But this slip of the tongue non-word has been in my mind all week. As Followers of Jesus, we are in many ways a nationality that has much in common. We share common allegiances,(our faith and trust in Jesus Christ) traditions, laws,( the Gospel-the Law of Faith) and characteristics (becoming more like Jesus every day.) Even our citizenship is not of this earth but of heaven. (Philippians 3:20) So what does Christianality look like? It’s loving each other, caring for needs of others as we see them, and sharing our commonality, not the things that make us different.
In this verse it tells us how we should approach evangelism and share the Good News of Jesus with others. It’s about being encouraging not convicting…listening not preaching…and having conversations not sermonizing. It’s also about not having an “us versus them” mindset, but rather thinking “we” as a group. Finally, it’s about living with integrity but also being vulnerable and transparent about our own struggles. For none of us is a perfect Christian without faults and flaws. And when we can show this side of us…we become more believable.
The Apostle John was warning of false teachers infiltrating the early Church with their deceptive ideas…for they were denying the key fundamentals of Christianity…that Jesus Christ came to earth taking on human flesh – that He was all man and all God. He also warned of their denial of the resurrection – that Jesus was crucified, buried, but rose to life on the third day. So why should we be so surprised today when we hear preaching that just don’t sit well with us. Those same false teachers are alive and well and preaching a “type” of Jesus to the masses. But this corrupted concept of Jesus isn’t true, and doesn’t line up with the Word of God. And if we’d look at the many religions around the world, we’d see many that deny Jesus and His deity all together. But as John explains…the litmus test is simple. Test everything you hear against the Word of God… evaluate for yourself to determine the truth… Listen carefully to the Holy Spirit within.
To quote I John 3:13, “Don’t be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” And we shouldn’t as evil abounds in the world and the boundaries between right and wrong become blurred. We shouldn’t be surprised when our Christian walk is met with opposition…or we are attacked for trying to do what’s right…or we are accused of not being “politically correct and inclusive” in our thinking. Those who repay evil for good will always be around, so don’t be surprised…for it’s your reaction to hatred that really counts. Jesus encountered many haters and those who disagreed with Him…but Jesus chose to never be disagreeable or nasty back.
It tells us in John 1:12-13, “Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” When we are born again into the family of God we become His children. And just like little children we learn by our Heavenly Father’s example. We’ve all seen tiny toddlers attempting to mimic adult actions…it’s how children learn to do things…they model and copy their parents. We are to be imitators of God…modeling our lives after Him, and living as His beloved children.
Here Paul was warning about idolatry and falling into temptation. Probably the most conceited thought a Christian can have is, “That couldn’t ever happen to me!” It’s when you think your “beyond” being tempted…that it’ll sneak up behind and bite you. I’m sorry, but no one is immune to temptation and smugly thinking you are above it is only setting yourself up to fail. We all need to be on guard and wary…for our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
The Apostle Paul wasn’t speaking to non-Believers in this passage. Rather, he was directing the faithful to stop judging one another. You probably know someone who has been deeply wounded at Church by some hyper-critical Carnal Christian, and now because of that, has turned their back totally on Christianity and anything to do with God. For them, they can only see hypocrisy in fellow Believers that should be showing the love of Jesus…but instead are negative and critical. Such Carnal Christians are a hindrance and a barrier to the Gospel Message.