I was in church the other day, and as I was singing the songs I realized that I wasn’t even paying attention to the words that I was singing. Then, I began to look around and wonder how many other people were in the same boat as me – just singing words without any emotion or conviction behind them. I would like to say that I snapped out of it with that realization and became so much more sincere, however if I’m being honest, I struggled to stay awake through the sermon yawning so much that it was embarrassing.
I remember a time in college, within the first few years of me becoming a Christian, when I wouldn’t sing the praise and worship songs in a worship service if I didn’t sincerely mean them. I was aware of the power the words in the songs held, and I refused to cheapen them with half-hearted effort and a lack of sincerity. After all, A.W. Tozer once said, “Christians don’t tell lies – they just go to church and sing them”. Sadly, as I became more and more involved in church and ministry, I began to worry about what people would think if they noticed that I wasn’t singing. Would they think I was upset? Would they think I didn’t want to be there? Would they think that I wasn’t a good Christian? Would they think badly of my minister husband because of me? Guys, listen to how screwed up this is: I was so worried that someone would think I wasn’t a good Christian that I became less sincere in my faith! What the heck?!
Here’s the thing, though, I know that I am not the only one that has done this. I would contend that most of us are this way. We worry so much more about what other people think than what our Holy God thinks. It’s kind of understandable. After all, the disappointment or judgement on the faces of those around us is much more evident in the moment. We let the voices of those around us drown out God’s voice. People like things that “fit”, things that don’t rock the boat. But that’s the exact opposite of what Christ told us we would be as Christians. If we are following His example, we will be boat rockers who will not at all “fit” with society.
Paul tell us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform 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.”
We quote this verse a lot, but what I think we often miss about it, is that it is an “if-then” statement. IF we do not conform to the world and instead allow our mind to be renewed and transformed by Christ, THEN we will be able to understand God’s will. The world and our desire to be accepted by it drowns out God’s will. If we try to be a “good Christian” by anyone’s standards except for God’s, and God’s alone, we will completely miss the mark.
We were talking the other day in youth group (I swear, sometimes I learn as much as the youth) about how Peter was crucified upside down. This much I knew, but I always thought it was because he didn’t think he was worthy to be crucified in the same way as Christ. While that might be true, other scholars think that it was because he understood that Jesus had turned the world upside down, and so he wanted to be crucified upside down so he could finally see the world as Christ did. If we are truly going to call ourselves followers of Christ, we have to ask ourselves what we are actively doing to follow Him. More than likely, whatever that is, it won’t be the most popular action.
We who have been Christians for a while, look at new Christians that are “on fire” for Christ and either think “I remember when I was like that” or “well, they’ll calm down soon enough. They just have to get used to it” The grace and love that our Savior freely gives to us is not something we should ever “get used to”! We should all hope to live our entire Christian lives as “on fire” as the new Christian we are rolling our eyes at.
We have to find a way back to the place of passion and conviction that we had when we first came to Christ. For some of you, maybe you’re thinking that you never really had that for whatever reason, maybe you became a Christian at such a young age that it was just always a part of you, but never really something radical in your life. I would suggest that you begin to pray that you come to a point where you can experience Christ in a fresh and new way. Y’all, Christ WAS radical. There is absolutely no arguing that. If we are not radical for Him, for the cause of Christ, I have to think that we are missing something…maybe everything (Rev. 3:16).
What if we began to base our life, not on what others thought of us, but on what Christ was leading us to do? What if our actions were spurred by Christ’s love – His love for us and His love for others? What if we were more influenced by God’s love for us than what others said to or about us? What if we lived our lives, not for the applause of others, but for a simple “Well done my good and faithful servant”?