We must behave differently
It is a matter of concern that we see a distinct difference in the conduct and behaviour of persons who claim to be believers in Christ.
The Apostle Paul was very strong on this: " with the Lord’s authority, I say this: live no longer as the non-believers do, for they are so hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him (Ephesians 4:17 & 18 NLT). And he writes to the believers in Rome:" don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (Romans 12:2 NLT).
In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul instructs the younger believer in Christ, how he should conduct himself and respond to the various issues in his situation. We will consider seven of those instructions and directives:
1. Paul writes: " I solemnly command you, in the presence of God, and Christ Jesus, and the highest angels to obey these instructions without taking sides or showing favouritism to anyone. Never share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgement. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done by others in secret will someday come to light" (1Timothy 5:21-22, 24- 25 NLT). How would you propose or plan to live by this instruction? What must you start doing! What must you stop doing? And what must you do more in light of this instruction?
2. Paul writes: "the purpose of my teachings is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience and genuine faith. But some people have missed the whole point. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses( Pastors and Preachers of God's word, the Bible); but they don't know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently ( see 1 Timothy 1:5-7 NLT). How differently is Timothy to behave? Paul instructs: "Study to show yourself approved , a man of God, rightly dividing the word of truth" In other words, "work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed , and who correctly explains the word of truth" ( 2 Timothy 2:15 NLT). Would you say you have given yourself to serious learning and the study of God’s word, and received God’s approval? Before God, are your sermons the correct interpretation and preaching of the word of God, and correctly explaining its teachings? Will Christ approve your preaching and teaching of the Bible?
3. Paul writes: “don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps, God will change those people’s hearts and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses, and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants "( 2 Timothy 2: 23- 26 NLT) .When we take time to understand this instruction well, we believers would be more effective and fruitful in our witness and our service to Christ and His Kingdom.
On our own, we cannot change people’s hearts. Some of the people are captives in Satan’s hands. And Satan manipulates them on occasions to do what he wants; and not what will please God. Believers are to persevere to "tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone, with all the wisdom God has given us; and to present them to God, mature in Christ" (see Colossians 1:28 )
4. Paul writes: There are those people who “will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that." (2 Timothy 3:5).
Hmmm. There are people who are merely religious; and strongly get involved in Church and other religious activities but they have no new life in Christ. They have not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. They have not been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!!"(2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you have a new life in Christ and growing in every way more and more like Christ?
5. Paul insists that the genuine believer he knows Timothy to be, he must live differently. He writes his famous “but as for you" instructions to Timothy: “But as for you, Timothy, you certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. .. Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution "( 2 Timothy 3:10 & 12) The Apostle continues with a strong advice: "But as for you, "you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true; for you know those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting Jesus!" (2 Timothy 3:14 & 15 NLT).
Paul moves to a climax of his instructions to Timothy and the believers: "All Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong, and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work!!" (2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17).
Proper Bible use changes our lives and gives us capacity to be effective and fruitful in serving Christ and His Kingdom, including loving our neighbour and serving our community and nation. How much are you into transformational daily Bible reading , Bible study, Bible memorisation, and above all, loving God by living according to the standard of God's word, the Bible.
In conclusion, we turn to 1 John 2:6: “Those who say they live in God, should live their lives as Jesus did". How must we pay attention to these five Biblical instructions and obey them?
If we do, our own personal godliness will be improved, and the moral values of our churches and the communities we live in will be much better. Believers will then be functioning as the true salt of the earth and light of the world, to the glory of God! So be it!!
(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)