Am I Showing the World a Jesus-Present Life?

Finetown
Finetown, South Africa

When I walk the dirt streets of Finetown, South Africa, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who observes my peach-colored skin that I am an outsider. No one with my skin color lives there. In fact, according to a 2011 census, only 0.11% of the population of Finetown and the area around it is ‘white.’ Whenever I visit this informal settlement that lies 40 km south of Johannesburg, I rarely, if ever, see anybody who looks like me, either. I don’t have to do anything to look different there; I just am.

However, if you observe me walking down the corridor of the Cresta Mall in Randburg, South Africa, you wouldn’t necessarily know that I am an American. According to a 2011 Census, nearly 46% of the population who lives there is categorized as ‘white.’ This percentage of people is primarily composed of Afrikaner (those who descended from Dutch settlers from the 17th and 18th centuries) and English (those who descended from British settlers in the 19th century) populations. Unless you really, really, really study my mannerisms, some one might think I am an Afrikaner or English descendant. My skin color doesn’t betray me.  It isn’t until I speak, that my accent gives me away and I am once again termed an ‘outsider.’

Recently, I have wondered something about myself.

Do I, in any possible way, show others that I am a follower of Christ by the way I look, the way I act, and the way I speak?

Would someone know that I have Christ living inside of me as I walk down the corridors in the mall in Randburg?

Recently a friend challenged me with a statement that caused me to wonder how people – outside of the Christian faith – really, really, really, really, really can tell that we are Christ followers. My friend really doesn’t see much of a difference.

It says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In my mind, then, if someone is interacting with a Christ-follower, that person should observe something, feel something, hear something, and sense something radically captivatingly different about the one who proclaims Christ as Lord.

What is that difference?

Jesus Christ Himself.

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been made holy. Let me say that again. Because of what Jesus has done, we have been made holy. Jesus Christ is beautifully present in the believer’s life. There is sweet and precious intimacy that is shared. And because of this new life, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us and help us live in a transformational way too; helping us to – “not conform to the pattern of this world….

Our walk and talk have the potential to emulate our Savior in such a way that others’ wonder: “What makes this person so real, so loving, so accepting, and so gracious?”

It is then that we betray that we are truly outsiders of this world.

Are we doing that though?

According to my friend, there isn’t much difference between what non-believers and believers say and do. And if changes are to be made in either’s life, my friend doesn’t really see that believers are drawing upon the strength, peace, and help of Jesus Christ.

It’s a blanket judgment, of course.

Yet it makes me wonder how many of us are using our religion as the means of incorporating ritual and works to help us become godly – rather than trusting Jesus Christ to do the work inside of us. Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is dwelling inside of us and because of His presence we are radically changed?

One of the most common spiritual errors that Believers make, even now, is that we must continue to do good works to get to heaven. We need to be good and show the world that we are doing good.

Jesus never asked us to do that.

A long time ago, Jesus said, to a woman at a well, “If you knew the gift of God and who says to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water (John 4:10)…But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” NIV, John 4:14

Do you see what Jesus has said and is even saying to us now?

The gift of the living water, the Holy Spirit, is present in us. Once we drink of this life-giving water, we have changed and our spiritual thirst is quenched – once and for all!

We have been saved by grace and our faith in Jesus Christ. That’s it. No work. No deed. No word. Nothing but faith in Christ has, can, or will save us.

So, why does my friend cast this blanket of judgment across the believers and unbelievers that look and act no different from each other than my skin tone does in mall in Randburg, South Africa?

Because, I think, he sees some Believers still striving to do things and say things without the presence of mind that Christ is Present.

Because if we really acknowledged the Presence of Christ in our lives, I am certain we would do things a lot differently.

We would love others more than condemn them.

We would care for others more than ignore them.

We would bless others more than curse them.

We would humble ourselves more than shame them.

We would encourage others more than wound them.

We would forgive others more than punish them.

We would accept others more than judge them.

We would listen to others more than shout at them.

We would embrace others more than fear them.

 

We would trust God more with our lives than trust and depend upon ourselves for this life that we have been given.

Friends, if we really want to show a non-believing world that Christ is real and present in us – we need to live like we believe and embrace that truth!

What’s the first step?

Believe and trust that Jesus is in us!

As we do that, we then start loving others as Jesus loves us.

Love is the evidence of a Jesus-Present life.

It’s what will and does make us different and transformed from this world – so that Jesus can be seen in us.

I want that.

Do you?

4 Comments

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  1. Thank you for writing thoughtfully about this! I will say, if all Christians loved, encouraged, listened, and accepted others, the world would certainly be a better place. And if I saw those traits to be more prevalent in Christians than in others, I might at least consider giving Christianity a second look. But when I see no difference at all or even negative differences between Christian and non-Christian behaviors, I don’t know why I should accept the explanation that 99.9999% of Christians are just doing it wrong. In my own experience, all of the cruelest people I know were both Christians and acted in this way specifically because of their Christianity. But my experience is anecdotal only (plus, I live in a Christian-majority country, so this skews my statistics) so I will not pretend that Christians are less moral than non-Christians based on this. Indeed, despite my considerable dislike of Christianity (due to being part of a population generally despised by Christians), I don’t think that believing in god makes people meaner than those who don’t.

    However, I also don’t think they are better. Statistical studies have not shown any clear trend of greater morality among Christians vs. non-Christians whatsoever. If even 10% of Christians were actually being transformed into markedly better people, this would show up in a study. But it doesn’t. So, while your explanation that most Christians are just following Jesus incorrectly could be true, it would have to mean that the number of Christians “doing it right” are so vanishingly small as to be undetectable. Either that, or those who are “doing it wrong” are causing so much pain as to balance out the positive effects. In this case, I have to conclude that if Jesus is transforming these people, he doesn’t seem to be doing it well enough for it to have any global impact. So, forgive me if I sound a bit blasphemous, but I have to wonder “what good is he?”

    Don’t take any of this to mean that I’m discouraging your message, though. If you can encourage others to love more, care more, and accept more in the name of Jesus or anyone else, I support you 100%. I wish you all the luck in the world. Hell, I sincerely wish that there was someone out there who could actually help piece this broken world together because goodness knows it needs a lot of fixing. If Jesus or Mohammed or Joseph Smith or any other deity or prophet could do that, I would support them, even if I didn’t believe them to be god. So please do continue exhorting and encouraging other Christians to be transformed and to transform the world. They will listen to you more than they’d listen to me. And likewise, I will continue trying to transform the world from my own position, helping homeless, supporting abuse survivors, protecting vulnerable people from violence and harassment, and encouraging my own social circle to change the world around them. Maybe, with all of us working together in our own spaces, we can make a global difference?

    • Hi Evan, what I most appreciate about our back and forth discussions is you present things from such a different worldview. You really make me think!

      It’s interesting to me that you took my blog post as meaning that other believers are living out their faith in the wrong way. I’m not sure I would have chosen that word. I believe that we as Believers are on our own, individual walk of discovery with Christ. Honestly, I am not sure how many Believers are opening up their Bibles, reading it daily, seeking out their God for His direction in their lives like I do. However, I do know one thing. They are out there. I have a lot of really close friends who are living out their faith one day at a time like me. I also know that there are many Believers who are suffering for Christ and taking a stand for Him in ways that you do not see in the US.

      Yet, why I wrote what I did is that I don’t think you know many people like me. I’m not perfect. I have my days when I get into a funk. I get discouraged. I get angry and frustrated. I can be impatient. I try way toooooo hard. But, I don’t give up. I keep going – even when my world drops out below me – I keep holding fast to Jesus. I need Him in my life and my life has absolutely no meaning without Him.

      Whether people ‘listen’ to me or not, I have no idea. This is a little blog with a small following. Honestly, I don’t think you would have ever commented if this blog had a huge following. You took a risk to see who and what I was all about.

      And whether you decide to return to Jesus Christ or not, is your choice. I can’t make that happen. I am praying for you, of course. It is the desire of my heart for you to have an altogether new and different experience with Christ – where you’ve chosen Him on your own – to be your Reconciler and your Peace. For this to happen, there is going to be an amazing and life-giving work done by the Holy Spirit. You don’t seem to be interested right now. But like I said, once you’re on my prayer list, you’re on it. I want you to know that God – the God you say is not real – Is! And He is very much aware of who you are and He wants you back.

      Okay, I’m being pretty bold. But, I’m honest. 🙂

      I appreciate you and I hope you have a great week ahead of you.

      Thanks again for all of the comments this past week. You are growing me.

      Take care! heather

      • I also find it interesting! A lot of what you say rings familiar as I used to believe many of these things or else be surrounded by a people and culture who did. But since my views and experiences changed so drastically (along with being colored a little bit with PTSD-like symptoms of confusion and memory loss), it can be hard to remember exactly what I used to say or believe, and sometimes your answers are different as well. I can say that opening a bible every day and seeking god’s guidance and putting your trust in him every day didn’t make the people I knew into good people, myself included. It was when people around my prayed and read the bible the most that they became the most cruel. And you’re right, if you had a larger blog following, I might not have commented. Internet backlash doesn’t frighten me, but it can get exhausting or upsetting having Christians pelt you with demeaning and dehumanizing words so usually I just don’t engage on Christian blogs where this has almost always been my experience.

        As for returning to jesus, it’s not a choice for me at the moment. I can’t return to something I don’t think exists! But in the long run, I guess we’ll see :P.

      • Let’s just keep ‘talking,’ Evan. Like I shared, I’m enmeshed in a Believing community. I appreciate your views and appreciate your take on what I write. If I am going to be relevant, I need to understand where others are coming from and why.

        I am sorry that others respond to you in fear – at least that is what I think they are doing. I just don’t think Jesus would do that if He ever rocked up to you – face to face.

        Have a great week! Whatever you’re working on these days with your PhD stuff – I hope it all goes well.

        Blessings, heather

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