Ouch! Sometimes when I think about the lives of the first disciples of Jesus I feel a big sense of conviction. By looking through the lens of history and observing those early Christians it’s easy to notice that there was something radically different about them. The truth is that they had a deliberate conversion from the old life which is often lacking in our day. I wonder at times if we haven’t gotten a bit soft and sleepy in the 21st century west and are no longer able to show any difference between us and the world around us. By this I don’t mean we need to act weird and pick up man made traditions like the Amish. But sometimes we forget that we as authentic followers of Christ are part of a greater Kingdom and therefore are called to a new way of life. The first followers of Christ seemed to get that. A dramatic illustration of this is found in Acts 19:18-19 where believers burned their sorcery scrolls which amounted to an enormous financial sacrifice. They took their commitment to Christ seriously and therefore the faith spread. They were so serious, that they were willing to make huge economic sacrifices in order to live a holy life. The life of those first Christ followers was a completely radical call contrasted to the world of non-believers. Describing these early Christians, a Greek physician of the day named Galen stated that, “They include not only men but also women who refrain from cohabitating all through their lives, and they also number individuals who, in self-discipline and self-control in matters of food and drink, and in their keen pursuit of justice, have attained a pitch no inferior to that of genuine philosophy.” They lived to please God and other folks took notice. These early saints lived in the spirit of those listed in Hebrews 11 who were focused on Christ’s Kingdom. About the early Christians, the Letter to Diognetus, written at the end of the second century, states that “They live in their own countries, but only as guests and aliens. . . Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country to them.”
As the Church grew in the first century, they became increasingly more distinguished from society. Acts 19 records the church in Ephesus as being so influential that the trade of the silver smiths who made idols was affected negatively. With the church’s teaching that the man made idols were really no gods at all, the demand for the silver statues diminished. In other words, their lives influenced society. They didn’t try to shape the city through politics, they just lived out a serious commitment to Christ and change came naturally. As the US approaches Independence Day, I wonder if American Christ followers can learn something here. It would appear that the ancient way of shaping culture was not so much done through politics or coercion, but through love and daily influence? What are some practical ways that you can raise the bar in your life to reflect what it means to live a Kingdom life in the here and now?
So what are some practical ways that you can raise the bar in your life to reflect what it means to live a Kingdom life in the here and now?
 Glenn, Hinson, “Ordinary Saints at First Church.” Christian History (Issue 57 Vol. XVII, no. 1): 18.
 Arnold, Eberhard The Early Christians in their Own Words. The Plough Publishing, 1997. p. 114.
Hey Jacana, you are so right on that “in put, out put” thing.
Great question, one worth time in thought and prayer. My initial response is one of confidence that in a visibly set apart life, Jesus can be seen. Often in politics or coercion, the agenda and persuasive arguments can drive a wedge between people – increasing the gap instead of bridging it. I don’t want to go to dinner or share my heart with someone who just insulted my core beliefs (no matter how human that makes me). In debate, emotions are suppressed, facts illuminated, and tongues fly – eventually, when the dust settles, the emotions come to light… and the result is not usually a conversion, but a wound. Likewise, when I meet someone who is likable, nice, and I feel comfortable around, I am willing (and usually interested) in learning more about their life and thoughts. Many of my life lessons I hold dear came from meeting and listening to such people (some saved, some not).
The set-apart life style, as described below, is a daily – moment by moment – choice and re-direction or refocusing that requires a deliberate effort and prayer to achieve. (Becoming like Christ, than in me, He is seen.)
My idea of a set-apart life includes two basic principles and doing them better and better:
● Doing what is right, because it is right and because He wants us to. (Even if no one will ever know)
o This establishes a set of patterns that when they become a habit can prevent a bunch of trouble.
o It sets a basis for making decisions – to do what is right, you have to stop and figure out what the right in that situation is. Often just that short period of thought can prevent many mishaps.
● Being pure in spirit and in thoughts and translating it to words and actions.
o When we work to control our thoughts and focus of our life, then – just like the song I learned in a 5th grade musical – “in-put out-put; what goes in is what comes out” – when we feed our minds things that do not align with God or His purpose for our life, then those things come out in ways we don’t often realize.
o I notice when my children watch certain cartoons, that they are more disrespectful than normal…. So we ban those cartoons – much to their disapproval. It works that way for adults too. When we watch movies or listen to music that either consciously or unconsciously delivers a message to us, then what the “goes in is what comes out” principle often applies for us as well. Becoming complacent with our word choices (yes language, but more than NOT using certain words, we should USE certain words) can show the attitude and focus of our hearts.
o I’m the worst in the area of the unbridled tongue. I have to learn and relearn the “it’s not your football” lesson. I try to help others and in doing so often prevent them (or myself) from receiving the blessing or the lesson that God intended. (That’s a whole other topic.)
o Building up – speaking words of genuine compliments to people around you encourage them to repeat those things, and give them a refill to continue to serve. Saying a few kind words to a server at dinner, or expressing gratitude in extra care for your favorite shirt at the dry cleaners, can really be a shocking thing in this world. If you listen around you, there are many, many more people who complain and point out the problems (with or without offering a solution), and very few who compliment the good – however small that may be. Looking at Jesus’ life, He did address big problems in the temple and in certain people’s lives, but there are more stories of His compassion for the “ugliest sinners” and willingness to spend time with them in public (unashamed) for the purpose of sharing everlasting life with them. This doesn’t give Christians a pass to have best friends that are deeply rooted in sin and thus opening themselves up to temptations, but it does mean that if we only are kind and witnessing to the “nice, friendly” people, then we may have missed the hearts that need His LOVE and GOODNESS the most.
o Being willing to share… whenever wherever and to whomever, and looking for the open door to do so. Once I was in my professional element in a major dental convention. After a long hard day of teaching, I found myself exhausted, my voice very tired, and stomach grumbling/starving. I found refuge in the VIP room where food and a quiet place to rest was available. While eating I was joined by a woman who, despite my efforts to avoid any conversation, wanted to chat. She asked questions about my day, and my company, and asked for a business card. She questioned my company name (Cornerstone Dental Academy) and asked if it has any religious meaning. I briefly (ok, maybe not so brief) explained that I named it such as a Biblical and foundational reference for the style of training I present. She began asking questions about God and my beliefs and I eventually presented the gospel “good news” to her in a room full of professional scouts, meeting planners, and other people who could either help my business grow or sabotage it. I share confidently what God has done for me and wrapped it up asking if she knew where she would go when she died, and if she wants a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here is where the story got really interesting… She told me she is a Christian and was saved a few years ago. She went on to explain that she didn’t know how to “lead someone to the Lord” and has been praying for 5 years that someone would witness to her and that though it she would learn HOW to share her faith with others. In the 5 years she had been praying and fishing for someone to witness to her… no one previously had.
SUMMARY: She was TRYING to get someone to witness to her and NO ONE, over a 5 year period of time, would or did. WOW!!! I was shocked. As we parted and I walked away, I was changed. In our “Christian” world, in Anytown USA, people don’t hear the word of God or the GoodNews He has for them because WE (His followers) assume other people don’t want to hear it, already know it, or some other excuse we can find. We share our stress, our complaints, and our “I’m fine how are you’s” but how often do we share the most important “news” that a Christ follower can share?
In conclusion, if WE don’t live set-apart, how will they ever learn what Jesus is like, the Jesus loves, or the life with Jesus is better than life without Him?