In this series we have covered some of the basic ideas and teachings of Christianity. In our final chapter I want to give you a description of what the Christian lifestyle is like and hopefully dispel some false images of Christianity that many hold to.
Misconceptions About the Christian Lifestyle
I suppose that the two most popular misconceptions about the Christian lifestyle are:
1. You are not allowed to do anything that is "fun"
In other words, when you become a Christian you have to abandon most of the things that you enjoyed doing before you became a Christian. The idea is that Christianity is about obeying a strict set of rules.
2. All you do as a Christian is go to church
Many people refuse to become Christians because they are afraid that they will be obliged to attend church all the time. The false idea that Christianity is mostly about attending worship services once, twice, even three times per week.
There is a germ of truth to these two ideas, but in the end they are expressed in such a way that distorts the true lifestyle experienced by one who becomes a Christian.
The True Christian Lifestyle
When someone becomes a Christian they should expect a change in their lifestyle for several reasons:
1. They have come under a new circle of influence
Paul explains this in the epistle to the Colossians.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
- Colossians 1:13
In this Paul compares the ideas, philosophies, and motivations of the material world to the teachings, revelations, and leadership of Christ.
One, he says, is darkness and the other is light. Since Christians now live by a different set of realities and values there is bound to be a change in thinking and behavior. Now the words of Christ in the Bible, the encouragement of the church and the influence of the Spirit are primary.
2. Christians are motivated by the Holy Spirit of God, not self-motivated
Before becoming Christians most people are focused on self, or what is important to oneself. Our society is filled with all kinds of programs, books, and experts who promise to help us find or improve ourselves. Governments, movie stars, scientists, authors and every kind of expert want to show us how to be:
- More healthy
- More beautiful
- More secure financially
- More successful
- Better parents
- Better athletes
- Better than our neighbor
- Better for the environment
The focus is always on how to maximize our lives here on earth. How do we make the 70-90 years we have to live the very best. Of course the idea underlying all of this self-motivated improvement is that this life is all there is, so you should make the most of it.
Christians, however, are not motivated by self, not centered on self, not focused on this world exclusively. Jesus said,
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
- John 15:19
Christians live in this material world and are subject to all of the same challenges, opportunities, and experiences common to everyone except:
- Their motivation is spiritual
- Their goals are spiritual
- Their values are Biblical
- Their focus is life after this life on earth is over
Their object of worship is not self or the things important to self, but rather Jesus Christ, the one who offers eternal life.
This difference in life-center, difference in life objectives, is what creates the unique Christian lifestyle. It is a lifestyle not marked out by a change in clothing. There is no uniform or special dress needed to be a Christian.
What a Christian puts on is Christ Himself
Paul said it this way in Galatians 3,
26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
- Galatians 3:26-27
The Christian lifestyle is the character of Christ being developed and perfected in the character of the Christian on a daily basis. As I said, Christians are subject to all the same experiences as non-Christians, but the difference is that Christians view and react to these as Christ would, not simply as a human being would. For this reason all the elements of life are seen through the vision of Christ, not man. For example:
- The environment is not just for saving, it is for managing and witnessing to God's creative power.
- Money and power are not for hoarding or for fulfilling of self-interest, but for use to the benefit of those in need.
- Conflicts are not resolved through power, but through prayer and forgiveness.
- Stress and worry are replaced with concern and focused prayer.
- Poverty and illness are not simply a curse to be avoided, but an opportunity for service and generosity.
- Trials and obstacles not simply to be overcome, but God's way of testing our faith and creating patience and hope in us.
- Failure and sinfulness are not causes for criticism and shame, but the opportunity to know God's love and forgiveness.
- Finally, death is not to be feared and avoided at all costs, but for the Christians, expected with the courage and confidence of one who will continue to live after death.
These are some of the attitudes and approaches to life experienced by Christians. These attitudes, these goals, this motivation creates a daily lifestyle that is much different than those who have not believed and devoted their lives to Jesus Christ. You may not be able to detect who is a Christian simply by the way he/she dresses (because there is no special dress code or special mark on the outside).
You can, however, discover who are the Christians by the way they live, how they treat other people, and how they deal with this life here on earth. When you observe or live the Christian lifestyle, you will see Christ Himself living and acting in that person's life.
So let us review, I said that there is a change in lifestyle when one becomes a Christian because:
- He comes into a new circle of influence.
- He has new or different motivation.
3. Christians' lives have a new direction
The main activity of most people in the world without Christ is to consume. We consume food, entertainment, money, power, information. We desire to be served, to be praised, to be cared for when we are sick. The Christian lifestyle requires the exact opposite for the follower of Jesus: to empty oneself.
Paul explains it this way in Romans 12,
1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 12:1-2
As Christ was in service to us, even to the point of offering His life as a payment for our sins, Paul says that our own lives should be spent (or offered as he says) in service to others in the name of Christ. The two main misconceptions about Christian lifestyle:
- That it is all about rules and removing the joy from life.
- And that it is mainly exercised by attendance at religious services.
These two ideas are clarified here.
1. True joy comes from knowing and doing God's will. Knowing His will, Paul says, is good and pleasing and perfect for us. He explains that reaching this goal requires Christians not to copy the sinful/evil practices of the world which go against God's will and purpose for our lives. God wants us to have joy, and true pleasure and goodness in life and these come by obeying Him, not from disobeying Him. So when a Christian avoids immoral behavior of any kind; makes an effort to be just, or forgiving, or generous, he is trying to do God's will and know the joy that comes from doing it.
I have never seen much happiness come from adultery, or violence, or dishonesty, or selfishness, or pride, etc. Christianity does not forbid anything that can increase one's peace, joy, and life fulfillment. What God forbids Christians are those actions and attitudes that will take away what is good and perfect in his life. So the Christian lifestyle reflects the manner in which God directs our lives through the teachings of Jesus for our ultimate happiness and eternal life.
The other idea that Christianity is best expressed by going to church is also clarified by Paul in this Bible verse.
2. Paul explains that the truest form of worship is the Christian lifestyle. That Christians offer themselves to God in service. That Christians purify themselves from sinfulness. This is the purest form of worship and very pleasing to God. This does not mean that public worship is not important - it is! But public worship is a time when Christians come together to:
- Praise and worship God publicly.
- Receive instruction and encouragement from their leaders.
- Provide financial support for the work of the church.
- Make a public witness of their faith in Jesus by sharing the communion.
But all of these public actions are based on the fact that each Christian in the church has a Christian lifestyle throughout the week. Otherwise it is simply public hypocrisy.
Christianity is about following Jesus Christ every day.
This exercise is the source of our strength and provides all the rewards of joy, peace, and life eternal. Going to church is where and when Christians come together to share that common strength, joy, peace, and hope for eternal life. If a person is not living the Christian lifestyle during the week, going to church (no matter how many times) will not do him much good. But for the one who is truly following the Lord, church services are a great joy and blessing, not a burden.
I hope this chapter has given you some insights into the Christian lifestyle and will help you in your daily walk with the Lord, whether you are just beginning or have been with Him for many years.
This is the last lesson in this series and I thank you for your interest and participation - God bless you.