Preface: If you are not a follower of Jesus, this short lesson has nothing for you: live your life as you choose. God the Father allows each of us to choose our own path. Where that path leads is predetermined, but you have the freedom to choose for yourself.
The most devout followers of some religious sects sequester themselves from the world in remote monasteries (men, monks) or convents (women, nuns) to study their religion and learn its disciplines. In doing so they shut out the corruption and sin of the world to devote themselves entirely to their study. Some, after training, will go out to serve in the world. Others live their lives shut away from the world.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just close our eyes to sin and corruption? But followers of Jesus do not live in fortified sanctuaries, separated from the world. Jesus told us to go into the world and take His gospel of good news with us everywhere we go. To do that we must function in the world, but we were also told not to function as the world does.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;” How can we tell people about Jesus and teach those who accept Him if we are not present and functioning in the world?
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The works God has prepared for us are among the peoples of the world.
Ephesians 4:11 says, “And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.” The word translated as “ministry” here: diakonia (Strongs #1248) is Greek for attendance (as a servant), aid (as to an official) and service (especially as a Christian teacher).
1 Peter 1:15 says, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” Holy means to be set apart (like those monks). We live and work (for God) in the world, but we are not to be of the world.
2 Peter 3:10-11 tell us, “10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,”
Clearly, we cannot sequester ourselves away like monks, but we also must not allow ourselves to be corrupted by the world we travel through. We are a set-apart people, we cannot engage in the things the world embraces that are forbidden in the Bible: doing so builds a wall between us and God so that he can no longer guide us. How do we avoid the snares that the evil one sets for us?
By consistently reading our Bible and heeding its teaching. The written word of God is our guide and our strength. While we keep our path straight, the Holy Spirit walks with us, whispering to us what God the Father wants us to do and to know.
However, the core of true Christianity is not behavior modification, it is a process that starts on the inside and works its way out. Christian maturity is the end result of this process that may take years to complete. As we grow in Christian maturity we gain an understanding of the Creator that brings peace and contentment to us even as we live in the world. Simply “behaving ourselves” without accepting and committing to Christ is like changing a filthy set of clothes for a fresh set but leaving the body within filthy and odoriferous.
What manner of people ought we to be? Godly people. People who conduct all aspects of our lives in accordance with the instructions of Jesus. That way, when the end comes, we are assured to have a resurrected body that will come through the destruction of the elemental universe unscathed and eternal. When praying, be sure to include this request, “Heavenly Father, please complete the process you have begun in me.”
Footnote: all quoted passages are from the New King James Version (NKJV) bible, published by Thomas Nelson in 1982.