Sunday, March 8, 2015

Be A Living Example

I don’t want to downplay the importance of preachers, but all too often I think we lift up preachers as being the most important members of a congregation in regards to the spreading of the Truth.
In actuality, however, it is every single individual in the congregation who has the potential to make the greatest impact.  The lesson presented by a preacher from behind a pulpit, no matter how eloquent or thought-provoking it may be, can only affect those sitting in the audience.  Again, it is actually each member of the church who is tasked with doing the legwork of going forth and spreading the Gospel.

I look back on my own life, for example, and realize the impact of Christians who were not preachers.  I think of my grandparents in particular.  Though they never (aside from my grandpa) delivered a formal sermon, they had an extremely deep and meaningful impact on the rest of the family and others they came into contact with through the life they led by merely trying to serve God.  Through their dedication to Christ they led others to seek salvation!

We Are All Living Examples

Whether we like it or not, we all serve as an example to others.

Romans 14:7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.

As we go through life it is impossible for us to not come into contact with other people.  Since this is the case, as believers, we ought to always be mindful of the type of example we are to others.

“You are an example.  Whether you are a good example or not is up to you.”  - Steve Ferrante

Psalm 90:12  So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Bad Examples

“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” - Catherine Aird

Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites proved to be a “good example of a bad example”.  As God’s special chosen people, the Israelites did not act like it!  Whether it was rebelling against the prophets, engaging in idol worship, or just blatantly breaking God’s commandments, the Israelites often served as an “example of what not to do.”

Unfortunately, Christians – God’s chosen people today – are no better in many cases!

Leavening the Whole Lump - The Negative Influence of the World

We can become hypocritical if we are not careful and allow the world to influence us negatively.
The Church at Corinth was rebuked for some of their membership being involved in sexual immorality, but as if that wasn't bad enough, the rest of the church were somehow not ashamed and apparently even boasted about the situation.

1 Corinthians 5:6-7  Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us…

Paul points out that negative influence can spread if it is left unchecked.  Before long a whole church can become corrupted if we are not careful!  We must not allow anything or anyone to cause us to deviate from God’s instructions.

We as Christians have countless opportunities to influence others and lead them to Christ.  Conversely, however, the opposite can also be true; the world can affect us as well if we are not careful and lead us away from Christ.

Galatians 5:7-9  …Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

We must be careful.  Christianity loses credibility when Christians are indistinguishable from the rest of the world!

Proverbs 25:26  A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well…

 “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi’s words, unfortunately, reflect the perception that many in the world have concerning Christians.  Let’s prove them wrong!  Let’s commit to live a life that pleases God and leads others to Him!

1 Peter 2:11-12, 15 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation ; For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men…

When we strive to live blamelessly, when others seek to attack us, they have no ground to stand on.

“Actions speak louder than words…”

This is a phrase we are all familiar with.  We see examples every day in the workplace, in politics, and in religion.

Probably the truest judge of character is a person’s actions.  They can talk about possessing responsibility or any number of traits, and yet, if their actions do not coincide with their words, we recognize that their words were not a genuine representation of who they are.

As Christians we must not only “talk the talk”, but – far more importantly – “walk the walk.”

1 John 2:6  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 

James 2:14-17  What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

John 13:17   If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

“People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.” – Lewis Cass

It’s so easy to listen to a sermon or read a passage from the Bible or merely identify yourself as a  “Christian”, but it is only when we actually apply what we have learned and put those lessons into action that we are truly followers of Christ!

The Divine Example 

Throughout the Bible we are beseeched to follow the example of God.

Luke 6:36 - Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Likewise, we are also urged to follow the example of Christ.

“He the Great Example is a pattern for me.” – From the hymn, Where He Leads I’ll Follow

Jesus commanded many things of His disciples, and we recognize time and time again that He Himself practiced what He preached!

Jesus example of servitude - John 13:13-17  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus’ example of love - John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Jesus’ example of humility - Philippians 2:5-8  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus’ example of longsuffering, sacrifice, and righteousness - 1 Peter 2:21-24  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:  “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

Salt and Light

As mentioned earlier, we are all examples whether we like it or not, but we must realize that Jesus actually commanded us to be good examples to others.

Matthew 5:13-16  You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are called to be that flavorful salt and shining light.  Therefore we ought to live our life in such a way that others are led to Truth.  We should always make an effort to be a positive, Godly influence on those around us.

Titus 2:7  …In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility…

Regardless of our profession, speaking ability, age, whatever… we can always be an example to others.

1 Timothy 4:12  Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

The Thessalonians were commended by Paul for the great influence they had on others.

1 Thessalonians 1:6-8   And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.  For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.  For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come...

Notice that the Thessalonians influenced others by their actions.  The peoples around them, those in Macedonia and Achaia noticed the change in the Thessalonians’ conduct.  Their turning from idol worship to serve the one true God had such an impact that the Apostles credited them with doing a good portion of their work for them!

Likewise, we must always be aware of those that are around us and realize that we are always being observed.  No doubt many people are already aware of our Christian faith and many times we might find ourselves under the microscope.  Everywhere we go people are watching and listening.

Ecclesiastes 10:20  Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

1 Thessalonians 5:22  Abstain from every form of evil.

Since others are always around us, witnessing our words, behavior, etc.…  We must do our best to make sure that our actions are consistent with the conduct of a faithful Christian.

“The best sermons are lived, not preached.” – A Cowboy Proverb

Matthew 5:48 - Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We may never be a perfect example to others, but we certainly should strive toward perfection.

What kind of life are you leading?

What do others see when they observe your actions?

What kind of example are you?