Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christianity is Not a Popularity Contest

Today I am going to revisit an issue I posted on some time ago.  Today I want to talk about compromising our values in order to be popular.  We all do love to be popular.  We love having lots of friends and being liked by others.  It is only natural to want to be liked, but we must not put that above who we are and who we are called to be in Christ.  The fact is that if unsaved friends and family and Christians living in sin are completely comfortable around you it shows that there may be something wrong.  Not that we should be mean or unloving, but living a righteous life for Christ reveals to the unsaved their sinful nature and to the sinning Christian it is a testimony to their own rebellion to God.  It is not that we are judgmental, but they are judged themselves by their own rebellion and we are a reminder of that.  When we feel our unsaved friends falling away from us and brothers and sisters who seem to have more "fun" seeming to avoid us more and more, we get desperate and try to compromise our own values in order to save that relationship.  We should not cover our light to make darkness feel better.  It is natural for those living in darkness (or those who act like it) to hate our light.  Here is what the Word says.
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."  John 3:17-21 NKJV
This passage is the basis for my point.  We live as children of light, living righteously for our Lord Jesus Christ.  That righteous living condemns the darkness around us.  I am not saying that we drive our friends away by bashing them in the head with the Bible.  That is also wrong.  I am saying that just living as Christians, our fallen and backslid friends will tend to avoid us.  They are condemned in and of themselves as our light reveals their darkness.  This exposure is not even an exposure to us or the world, but an exposure to themselves.  They are afraid of seeing themselves as they really are.  It is easy to justify a lifestyle when the world is used as a comparison, but being around us changes that.  Through our lives, they see their lifestyle in how is measures up to God.  In that light, they see themselves for the sinful failures that they are.    For the backslid friend, we are a reminder of who they should be in Christ.  Our testimony by God working righteousness in our lives and the peace and joy it brings us is a constant painful reminder that their chosen rebellion is wrong. They can not justify their pet sins in the light of a brother or sister living for God.  They also know that we will hold them to account and they know they have no defense.  We are a reminder that their sin is not the fun that they think it is and they would rather live in that delusion.  By our example, they see how their walk with God is failing.  For the backsliders and the fallen those are very good things and well worth forsaking our popularity.  We may lose some friends, but God will save many souls though our testimony.  

The fact is that our way is not a popular way.  Our way is contrary to the world.  Our way is rejected by the world.  Our way is not well traveled. 
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. " Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV
As Christians, we have taken the narrow gate.  Ours is (from worldly standards) the more difficult way and therefore few choose it.  The world chooses the broad gate.  It's popular and seems easy.  We need to face the fact that our way is not the popular one.  We need to live like we are on the narrow way, not on the broad way.  Narrow does not mean unwelcoming.  Please do not get that impression.  The narrow gate is open to all, but few find it.  In fact, the way that people find it is by us showing them.  We can not lead people to the narrow gate of Christ if we life in the broad way of the world.  The reason the gate is narrow because it is the way that leads to eternal life and the only way to eternal life is Jesus.  There are many ways leading to destruction yet only one leading to eternal life.  
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6
Yes, there is only one way and that way is through Jesus.  That belief is unpopular in a world of relative truth.  Our adherence to that belief makes us unpopular in a world of relative truth.  But the fact remains that what we believe is the ultimate Truth and no souls will be saved by comprising our knowledge that Jesus is the only way.  We must live what we believe.  We must not give people the impression that our truth is relative or our righteous living is able to be compromised. 

So what are some things that we do that compromise our witness for the sake of being popular?  Well anytime we accept a behavior in our own lives that does not glorify God in order to maintain a friendship, we are compromising our witness.  One example is if we have a group of friends that constantly gossip and you allow yourself to be part of that conversation (and even choosing to hear gossip is being part of that conversation) so you do not lose those friends.  Another thing we do is when we approve of sin in the life of a friend in order to maintain that friendship.  For example, if you have a friend who is living with a boyfriend or girlfriend and you choose to congratulate them on that or assist them in their sin to maintain that friendship, you are approving of it and compromising your witness.  I am not saying you should judge them on their actions, but you certainly should not facilitate them and you should judge their actions.  For the backslid Christian, we compromise our witness to them whenever we allow sin to exist in their lives without calling them on it.  We also need to be willing to take that confrontation to the next level as directed in Scripture should they refuse to repent. 

To many this may seem confrontational. In fact, it is oftentimes confrontational. But it is necessary.  The confrontation, the conviction they feel by your life, and the discomfort they feel in your presence are all good things.  Coming to Christ requires the conviction that you are a sinner in need of a savior. The light of our lives reveals to them the darkness of theirs.  Acting in such a way to prevent that realization hinders the work of the Holy Spirit convicting their hearts of their sin.  Think about it.  You have someone who does not know Jesus feeling conviction for the sin in their life.  They are coming to the knowledge that they need a savior, but you come along and compromise your values and comfort them in their sin by sinning right along with them or by actively accepting it in their lives.  For example, let us take that person living with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  They feel convicted in their heart that the path they have chosen is wrong.   Their Christian friend comes along and congratulates them or assists them in that sin.  That friend, as a perceived reflection of Christ, has just given that unsaved friend the impression that God approves of their choice.  Their conviction is comforted and their soul remains unsaved.  On the other hand, if you are honest about your convictions regarding their sin, their conviction will be confirmed.  I am not saying that friend will come to Jesus right then and there, but a seed planted will be watered and that need for a savior welling up inside them will have grown.  You may lose a friend, but in the end you may gain a soul.  If you really do love your friend, you would forsake that friendship if it meant saving their soul. 

I am not saying to isolate yourselves from sinners.  We should have that desire to be around them, but not to partake with them in their sin, but to be witnesses of Jesus.  Jesus spent much time around sinners, but like the example of the rich man who refused to give up his riches, Jesus did not chase after them if they walked away.  Even Jesus lost many followers, even Jesus had few friends.  In the end, Jesus was so hated by his own people that they cried out to crucify Him.  Listen to what was prophesied regarding how "popular" Jesus would be.
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:2-5 NKJV
Here is what we read about Jesus here: He was nothing special to look at, he was despised, he was rejected, he was a man of many sorrows, he was acquainted with grief, he was not esteemed, and the people hid their faces from him.  He came to the world that He loved so much that He was willing to die to save it and the world thanked him by rejecting, hating, humiliating, whipping, and brutally executing Him.  Yet He went through all that willingly for us.  And He is our example.  Jesus did not tone down his message to be more popular.  He did not crush a few Roman legions to show Israel that He was on their side.  He did not compromise His message to sinners to where they felt comforted in their sin.  He stayed true to who He was for our sakes.  We need to have the same heart for the sake of our loved ones. 

I know it is not easy.  We all love to be loved.  We all cherish our close friendships.  We all love our friends.  But we have to make a very important choice.  We have to choose what is most important to us.  Is it popularity or ideals?  Is it being loved by friends or loving the Lord?  Is it your relationship with a friend or your relationship with the Lord?  Is it your friendship or your friend's soul that matters most?  

The truth is that it has not been easy for me either.  When I came to Christ, one by one all of my worldly friends fell away.  I could not do the same things with them that I used to do.  Even now, even among brothers and sisters in the Lord, friendship is often hard.  Even this blog has distanced me from some though for others it has brought us even closer.  Some things in life I just can not do anymore.  I do not want to listen to music woven through with filth and profanity.  I do not want to go out and get drunk.  I do not want to play video games or hours on end or revolve my world around sports.  That is not who I am anymore.  I am a child of God and God has been calling me more and more to live that way.  There are times when it is lonely, but those hard times are times I learn more and more that no matter who abandoms, despies, ridicules, or rejcts me in this world, I am doing what God has asked me to do and no matter what I am secure in the love of Christ.  I am learning more and more that there is nothing more that I need.  There is a song that we used to sing at church where the chorus is "You can have the whole world, but give me Jesus."  I am learning more and more each day how true that is.  I have made the choice a long time ago to be true to who God has made me to be and through that time I lost more friends than I made, met a wonderful wife, and continue to grow closer and closer to the Lord.  I have no regrets and I make no apologies for what I did that Christ has called me to do.  Be a child of light and the light of Christ that shines through you will give light to the darkened souls of your loved ones who do not know the Lord.  I say this again: you may lose friends, but God will win souls. 
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light." See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:1-16 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. "We can not lead people to the narrow gate of Christ if we live in the broad way of the world." Amen!