Of Talk, Outside Appearances and Reality

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:21-32

I was sharing the gospel the other day with a lady who attends church in one of the well-established denominations. She spoke of living a comfortable Christian lifestyle which appeared victorious on every front.

But we hadn’t gone very far into our conversation when she intimated to me that there was a slight problem in her marriage. And soon enough she admitted that her life was not as spiritually victorious as she had initially made it out to be.

At about the same time I also spoke to a young man from a church which I know teaches erroneous doctrines. I was simply sharing the gospel with him but he told me he was satisfied with his denomination and that he would die and be buried there.

Not far into our conversation, however, he broke down and said to me, “Pastor, I am unable to live a holy life.”

I told him that he needed to surrender his life to Jesus and he knelt down and I led him into salvation.

Appearances are so deceptive! It would be wonderful to imagine that everyone you see going to church on Sunday is sound and well in their spirits. But the reality is far from that. The goal of a victorious and happy Christian life is one that eludes many believers, and the truth is that most people’s lives are not as glossy as they appear – or as they claim them to be.

The Bible says that when He was here on earth, Jesus “24…knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” Jn. 2:24-25

Jesus knew what was in man. We, too, ought to know what is in man. Romans 3 tells it all.

It is only through a deep work of the cross that we can expect any man or woman to be transformed and to have the nature of God in them.

I wonder why the Apostle Paul would spend an inordinate amount of time talking about mundane ‘life’ issues in his epistles. When, for example, you look at his Epistle to the Ephesians, more than a half of it is devoted to exhortations to live a holy Christian life.

In the Epistle to the Colossians, fully a third of the book talks about the kind of lifestyle they were expected to live.

I believe Paul wrote all this because he knew we cannot take these issues for granted. Paul knew what was in man. And he did not bury his head in the sand and proclaim that now that we are all saved, we are sound and well. On the contrary, he wanted it made clear that there was an immense and deep work that needed to happen in each one of our lives – a work of the cross.

The power of the gospel that we preach is portrayed in the life that we live. Talk, as they say, is cheap. But living a victorious Christian lifestyle has a price to it. It demands a total death to self.

That is why Paul in his epistles ties up his exhortations to live a holy life with the revelation of the cross in our hearts. It is only at the cross that we can crucify self. Nothing else – absolutely nothing – has the power to deal with the flesh.

I believe we can begin to understand 1 Corinthians 2:2. We can begin to understand why Paul would want “not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”.

We can begin to understand why the apostles of the Early Church did not spend time talking about miracles, healings or God’s provision. They had a more important mission to accomplish. They zeroed in and dealt singularly with the one thing that mattered: God’s working on the inner man.

If you listen to people talking, or if you were to simply observe their outer appearances, you would think there is no more need to preach the gospel; everyone seems so ok.

But no. Everyone is not ok. There are currents running deep within many believers’ lives. There are buried hurts, and things like envy, hatred, anger. There is sin, and many are overcome by it.

We need the gospel that exposes these things and brings a healing balm to them.

[Below: We need the flesh buried here: a graveyard in Musoma]

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