Reputations are fragile (Real Christianity 8)

Keith Acker SSC's picture

What People Think About Us

            It doesn’t matter if your rich or poor, more or less educated, young or old, male or female, what others think of us matters. It permeates what we think, speak, and do. In living the authentic Christian faith we are not to be concerned with how it reflects on ourselves but on Christ and His Church.

            The love of praise is at times ridiculous and at others sinister. Some may even try to make praise a worthy motive. But the only love of praise that is worthy in Christian faith is the praise that comes from God for our desire is not to please other people, but God.

            The Bible has much to say on pleasing God and seeking the praise of others. The Bible upholds the virtue of humility, the ability to see the reality of our relationship with God and one another. Our fallen nature stands in stark contrast to the perfection of God. The Bible teaches us to reject pride and selfishness, and to live our lives to the glory of God.

Our attention and focus should be on the eternal rather than things that are passing away. This is not a renunciation of the temporal, but recognize these are temporary and our hope is with the eternal. It is good to recognize that good can be done in this world that is passing away. When our motivation is to please God rather than others, there are ways to use the temporal to further the purposes of God and His Kingdom.

Authentic faith views the things of this world as temporary gifts and that we are to be good stewards of the gifts given to us by God. Wealth is not an end, but a means to give glory to God. Our comfort and luxury do not increase the glory of God. Our use of possessions to comfort of others can bring glory to God, but can as easily bring glory to ourselves instead.

Our personal desires are not extinguished in our relationship with Christ, instead they are brought under His control and direction. They are submitted to the Lordship of Christ in our lives. Our desire should be for God’s recognition and approval.

Reputation and flattery often challenge our obedience to God. When earthly reward is more highly valued than the eternal, we often find God excluded from our conversations with others—the subject is not socially acceptable! In doing so our behavior is conformed to cultural standards. If we were put on trial for being a Christian, would our case be dismissed for lack of evidence!

Just as the desire for reputation and flattery can keep us from obedience to Christ, a bad reputation can bring dishonor upon Christ and His Church. Rather than giving glory to God by our actions we bar the way of other in the path that leads to righteousness. But it isn’t the outward appearance that is important to those who would look at the actions of those who profess Christian faith, but the spiritual character of a life being transformed the work of the Holy Spirit. God is glorified as the inward grace is seen operating to bring about reconciliation, forgiveness, and new life that comes in our relationship with God.

Living the authentic Christian life requires our seeking the help that comes from God to resist the love of self. Self-examination and confession of sin are spiritual tools which remind us of our need for the salvation and redemption which comes in Jesus Christ. We need to recognize that any gifts or strengths we possess are gifts given by God and are to be used for God’s purposes. Friendship with others who also share in seeking the glory of God in their daily life can assist our focus on God’s Kingdom.

In living the Christian faith, our honor from others or our dishonor from others is of little account as it is God’s honor and glory we seek.

Good lives and good deeds are not substitutes for Christian faith

            Good lives and good deeds do not earn us entry into the Kingdom of God. Salvation come only through Jesus Christ. Without Christ, good lives and good deeds are of no eternal value though they may be of benefit in the temporal world.

            Being kind, sweet, sympathetic, giving, and likeable may make you socially desirable, and even if Christian faith may bring some of these qualities to the Christian’s life these qualities are not evidence of Christian faith. Morality and spirituality are different characters. Morality may only be interested in societies standards of goodness, whereas, spirituality is interested in the Goodness of God. It is the difference between being man-centered or God-centered. Goodness is not a substitute for devotion.

            God doesn’t have a set of scales to weigh our good deeds and evil deeds against one another to see which way our life tips. This teaching is not what we find in the Bible. In the Bible we find the righteousness of Christian faith isn’t dependent upon our good deeds, but on the righteousness of God in sending His only Son to give us salvation.

            For those who’s salvation is in Christ, good lives and good deeds bring honor and glory to God. Good lives and good deeds are evidence in the work of the Holy Spirit transforming and conforming our lives to the image of Christ, which is of great benefit in the Kingdom of God.

God is in the transformation business, but it must be measured at the spiritual level not the moral. What is seen in outward appearance is not necessarily reflective the spiritual transformation occurring in the Christian life. God does not give up on bringing us to be the man or woman God called us to be and we shouldn’t give up either.

We must always be looking to the eternal and not the temporal as we focus our efforts and purpose. We are to take stock of our lives to ask if the objects or achievements of our lives are striving for God and His Kingdom. Christian faith attempts to practice the presence of God in the carrying out of tasks of our daily life. In this spiritual life our attention is on doing it all for the glory of God.

© 2011, Keith J. Acker. Source material from William Wilberforce A Practical View of the Prevailing View of Practical Christianity…

Powerpoint slides are available the above material.