To outsiders, Christianity often looks like a bunch of rules. To lost onlookers, the faith seems like a bunch of “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” (mostly just “Don’t’s) that a harsh, uncaring God laid down to keep us from enjoying our lives. According to this mindset (which even some professing Christians maintain), Christianity is all about how we shouldn’t do this or that fun thing and we ought to do boring things like read the Bible, pray, and go to church (a place where we ought to sit and watch other people do boring things like talk about the Bible and pray). There might be some cool music to listen to at church but there might not; either way you would rather being playing or watching soccer, basketball, or volleyball, catching up on homework or chores, or just relaxing in front of an electronic rectangle. This is the “Have To” approach to Christianity; it is nothing but a dead and lifeless religion that saves no one. “Have To” Christianity is a sinking ship that people under 55 have been jumping off as fast as possible during the past 5-10 years. They seek instead to find community and fulfillment in youth sports, material possessions, family recreation, good food – anything they can cling to that will temporarily take their minds off the difficulties of school, work, and life in general. It is a tragic misunderstanding of what Christianity is all about.
Real Christianity offers life, hope, joy, and peace for all who are willing to pay the price of surrendering themselves to the God of the Bible. Real Christianity is based on a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ. This mindset sees commands like those in today’s passage, commands like “Stop lying and tell the truth” and “Stop using foul, mean language and start encouraging others with your words” not as things that we “Have To” do but things that we deeply want to do and “Get To” do with God’s help. Real Christians are people who love Jesus and want to do what He says because they understand all that He has already done for them. Jesus is the one who loved us enough to die for us! He took the punishment we justly deserved to rescue us from the penalty of eternal suffering AND to give us the power to live new lives. Now we can love God and other people with godly words and actions born out of godly thoughts and desires. Reading the Bible is something that we “Get To” do so that we can hear the loving advice and encouragement of our Heavenly Father. Prayer is something that we “Get To” do so that we can have deep conversations with our Savior and Lord who knows and loves us more than any earthly friend or relative ever could. Attending church is a joy because our church is not just a place we “Get To” go to but a spiritual family that shares our love, thankfulness, and commitment to Jesus Christ. And obeying God’s commands like those Paul describes below is something that we “Get To” to do each day to show our love and gratitude to the One who saved us from death and hell and hopelessness. Real Christians believe that all of God’s laws and ways are good and just and we willingly pray each morning, “Help us, Lord Jesus, to do Your will with joy today.” May God open all of our hearts to see Christianity as He intends it to be.
The Text (Ephesians 4:25-29)
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, “for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Questions to Think About
- Do you approach Bible reading and prayer as things that you should do or things that you want to do? Explain your answer.
- When you attend church, are you usually bored? Why or why not?
- Do you like it when friends lie to you? When others are mean to you? When people take your stuff? When classmates talk about you behind your back? From this perspective, can you see why God’s “rules” in today’s passage are actually good and made to help us? Explain your answer.
- It’s important to notice that with each of the commands in today’s passage, Christians are told to stop doing something evil and instead do the opposite good thing. Every negative is replaced with a positive. This is the great secret to joyful, victorious Christian living! If we only work to stop sinning, we will fail because we have nothing to replace those sins in our hearts and lives. But Jesus taught that instead of focusing on the bad stuff that we can’t do, Christians should spend their time thinking about and doing all the good things that we can do that please God and show love to others. Then we will fulfill the reason that we were made – to worship God by doing His will.
- One way to find out if you are really a Christian or not is to start seriously trying to live the Christian life as the Bible teaches. Before people get saved, there is often a period of struggle where they start trying to deal with sin in their lives and change their ways and find that they have not got the power to do so. Then they cry out to Jesus and He comes into their lives, saves them, and starts helping them to do His will! This is my (Mr. Reel) testimony, the testimony of C.S. Lewis, and the testimony of countless other Christians throughout history and today. Try asking your friends and family about how they came to faith in Christ and see how many can relate to this experience. You will probably find it to be a more common story than you might think.