Monday, April 29

is being set apart, and being a living testimony the same thing?

Okay, forgive me, but there may be some long-winded rambling happening here - as I am "talking out loud" and processing the ton of thoughts going through my mind lately.  Old thoughts.  New thoughts.  Ever present reality thoughts.  Sometimes, like lately, I have not been able to get away from them!  They occupy my waking moments, and often my nighttime ones as well.  They are thoughts about being "set apart" for Jesus Christ. 

I grew up (first 20 years of my life) in a Brethren (Plymouth Brethren) chapel - Arlington Street Gospel Chapel.  At the time, I remember my dad telling me a story about one of the elders, who held a fairly important job with the city.  My dad told me that Mr. G often went to dinners where there was drinking happening, but Mr. G, being a Christ-follower, did not drink, and he would not even stand with a glass of water in his hand, in case someone did think it was a drink of some kind.  That impacted me as a young girl.  I remember telling someone who said that was stupid, and that we can't be responsible for others.  Hmmm....  in the bible, there is scripture in Matthew.  Oh, and it is also in Mark ... and wait a moment - it is in Luke too.  The same words - three times?  Must be important!  Here they are:

Matthew 18:6

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
“But what if someone leads one of these little ones who believe in me to sin? If he does, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned at the bottom of the sea.

Mark 9:42

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
42 “What if someone leads one of these little ones who believe in me to sin? If he does, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

Luke 17:2

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Suppose people lead one of these little ones to sin. It would be better for those people to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck.

The person I had the conversation with, many years ago, the one who thought and said that we can not be held responsible for another person's actions ... and that if someone stumbles, that is their sin, not ours.  Well ... I guess she interpreted it differently than I do.  If the Bible is the inspired WORD of God, which I believe it is - then it is ACTIVE and LIVING and pertains to today as well, and the way I see it ~ we ARE responsible to not cause someone to stumble.  I think that is the bottom line.  "Having a millstone tied to a neck and being thrown into the sea ... that is pretty severe."  Yep ... pretty severe, but then again - why would we want to cause someone to stumble especially if the Word warns against it.

You see, going back to my roots in the Brethren church, I was taught something then, in my childhood - which I still believe is relevant to today.  We as believers have to be "set apart".  There has to be something different about a Christ follower.  I think it is NOT what we say, so much as how we live.  
And in how we live - I think that the person I am in my quiet days at home MUST be the same person that you meet in Sobeys, or the same person that you see in the pew on a Sunday morning.  And, being that I am in ministry, I believe I am called to a higher standard, as people are watching.  Not everyone believes in transparency however, and I think  it must get hard deciding who sees what and when.  I also know from experience, when I was in pastoral ministry, that people WANT to see authenticity and transparency in leaders!
Yes, it makes leaders vulnerable at times, but it also makes you real.

Sometimes it is hard not to be judgmental, I realize that. And I am sorry for those times when someone has felt judged.  I am also sorry for those times when I know I judged someone.  I guess somehow, my being raised to think that believers need to be set apart, does cause some issues at times!

I realize that being set apart is not a hot topic these days.  Remember I also grew up in the times where things were either black or white.  Now things have gotten quite grey (so to speak) and personally I think that we have "dumbed down" christianity to make it appealing.  Truth is - Jesus is the one that is the appeal of christianity, and following Him is not for the weak kneed because truth is - being a christian IS OFTEN HARD!! But oh, how worth it is - being in relationship with the ONE who is the giver of life, the redeemer, the one who covered our sin with his blood on the cross! AND the one who gives us life!!

I guess, the thing is - He died for our sin - whether we live a life set apart or not - we can still have forgiveness through grace!!  (Thank you Lord).  
I just think that living a life that is at least somewhat different - somewhat set apart - is just less confusing for those who are watching.  Oh, that reminds me though ... like my friend said years ago ... "we can't be held responsible for others."   Hmmmmm ..... or can we?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I have just had the joy (about a month ago) of being introduced to a young woman, who has quickly become a friend, and I truly think she is a gift from God to me!  I have had the joy of listening to her, and talking with her, and also praying for and with her.  It is refreshing to spend time with her, as she is a new believer, and my goodness - she is wanting to follow Jesus with ALL her heart.  I see how she, without anyone telling her (although she does has some great mentors in her life) , has chosen what she has to walk away from, in order to be more like Christ.  I see how she, NOT being raised in a Christian home, is wanting to be more like Jesus in all she does.  (Sometimes I think when we are raised in Christian homes, we become complacent and make our own rules to justify our means!) 

I have, with great joy ~ seen how she feels that being a Christ follower means that she is "set apart" and that the old life has to be left behind, as it was not life giving, in the true sense of the word LIFE!!  Of course - she is not using those words ... but I see, how deliberate she is - in choosing how to walk, to be more like Jesus.  She gets it.  So why do we (those who perhaps have walked the christian walk for a while) struggle with it, and make all kinds of excuses for the lives (and often the lies) that we sometimes live.  O Lord, please help us to not be causing someone to stumble - especially someone who is yet to know you, or someone who is has just fallen in love with you Lord.  

She has taught me alot about following Jesus in all that we do - actions, lifestyle, words, thoughts, habits ...  and I am so thankful! She has also made me very aware of how I need to be a living testimony of you Jesus!!  She has never heard the old story about the elder ... she has likely never ever read those verses yet ... but she knows that following you Jesus - makes her life different.  And I stand in awe of what you O Lord,  are doing - and are going to do through her - because she is willing to live with you in charge of her life!!  Thank you Lord!!

O Lord, may I take my own post to heart - and live for you - no matter what - no matter where - no matter when!  To let you shine through my eyes, and to be seen through me.  That is a huge thing - but Lord, I really want to be more like you.  MORE LIKE YOU JESUS!!

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