Friday, July 24, 2009

Spiritual Footprints: The Test of True Faith

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." ~ 1 John 2:3-6

We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about. ~
R. C. Sproul

Thanks to the latest "Save the Planet-Be Green" trend, we now have carbon footprints to measure our impact on the environment. Of greater importance however, are the spiritual footprints Christians leave upon the world. These are the impressions we make upon others and are also the true test of our faith in Jesus Christ.

The problem with footprints is that they lie behind us and we are not aware of what they look like until we take the time to stop and look back. When it comes to the mark we leave on the world with regard to our witness for Christ, we often fail to recognize the effect we are having. Are we representing Christ in a way that would draw others to Him or, are we presenting a false picture of the Gospel by a lifestyle that contradicts what true Christianity is? Our lives reflect not only the influence and impact we have on the lives of others, but also who we really are. Many claim to be Christians but their lives demonstrate something else. All that we think, do and say publicly and privately reveal not only who we are but who's we are. If someone were to ask those who know you what is most important to you, what you love or enjoy the most, what would they say? As a follower of Jesus Christ, we are called to be separated from the world; we shouldn't blend in so well that we look, act and talk just like them. Our heart's desire should be to please God, not be loved by the world (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17).

The world is full of superficial people. Those who claim to be someone they are not. This may be more evident amongst those who call themselves Christians than in any other group or religion. People who claim to know Christ but live like the world. Products of quick & easy conversions. They believe in God and accepted Jesus (or asked Him into their heart) without any brokenness of heart; without any understanding of the Gospel. Many claim they are saved without having any sense of being lost in the first place. Jesus addressed the issue of false converts and hypocrites to show us that being a Christian is not simply being religious. Perhaps the best illustration of this was during the Sermon on the Mount...

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' ~ Matthew 7:21-23

Our spiritual footprints reveal the pattern of our life and that which characterizes who we are. The true test of our faith is not how religious we are nor is it simply what we claim to believe. According to Jesus Christ, the evidence of true faith is found in our obedience...

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." ~ Ephesians 5:8-11

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." ~ Luke 9:23-24

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." ~Ephesians 5:1

"Do not conform any longer 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." ~ Romans 12:2

Every aspect of the life of a Believer should be Christ-centered and God-honoring. Some mistakenly confuse this with legalism. Certainly, that has been a problem since the beginning of the church however, our lives should be a reflection of God's Word purely out of our love for Him, not simply to abide by a set of rules in order to appear religious or good. The ultimate deception of Satan is to convince people they are saved when they are not. It all started in the Garden with pride.

There is a huge difference between living in obedience to Christ and living to appear holy in an effort to impress others. Our lifestyle should be set apart from the world. God has given us clear guidelines for how we are to live. Those who live in the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom...(1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 21:8).

We should be regularly checking our spiritual footprints by examining the pattern of our life to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are we boldly sharing the Gospel or do we hide it? Do our activities outside of church align with our faith or do we live two separate lives? How is it that we can call ourselves Christians and yet, demonstrate a lifestyle at work, with friends or even on Facebook that contradicts the very principles that define a Christian? Sharing inappropriate jokes, using coarse language, boasting of how much beer we drank, watching movies and reading books that tickle our ears and feed the lust of the flesh, exploding in anger with those we love.. the list goes on. How can we call ourselves Christians and regularly be living like the world? It's one thing to stumble into sin, repent and move on but, when we live in it and see nothing wrong with it, something is clearly missing in our salvation experience.

A born-again, follower of Jesus Christ should be pursuing and striving for the things that leave God-honoring spiritual footprints. True, we will stumble and we will struggle but, we should be moving in the direction of the narrow way; not taking detours backwards. Some of the areas that demonstrate attributes of true faith are:

- Love for and submission to the Word of God. (Psalm 119)
- Love for the truth. (John 8:22-36)
- Love for the people of God. (1 John 4)
- Changed Life. (Matthew 7:15-20, James 4)
- Love of Holiness. (Galatians 4, Romans 7)
- Growth in sanctification. (1 John 2:3-6)
- Ever-growing sensitivity to sin. (1 John 1:8-10)
- A Right Attitude To This World. (Matthew 6:25-33, Phil. 1, 2 Cor. 5)

"Separation from the world has always been one of the evidences of God’s work of grace in the heart. Those who have really been born of God’s Spirit have always separated from the world, whereas those who are Christians only in name always refuse to come out and be separate. The subject is especially important today, because many are trying to make Christianity as easy as possible and to avoid the need for self-denial. "The world is a source of great danger to the soul. By "the world", I do not mean the physical world in which we live. When I speak of "the world" I mean those people who think only, or mainly, of the things of this world and neglect the world to come – those who think more about the body than the spirit, more about pleasing men than about pleasing God. By "the world" I mean these people, together with their way of life, their opinions, their tastes, their ambitions and their outlook. This is the world that is dangerous to the soul. This is the world from which we must come out and be separate." ~ J.C. Ryle (Practical Religion)