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The Difference Makes the Difference

In our day, it’s common for many Christians to spend their time trying to blend into the fabric of society as if the goal of the Christian life were to hide like a chameleon in the shadows instead of shining Christ’s light in the darkness.  The courageous faith that got early Christians publicly humiliated, imprisoned and even killed has long been sleeping for fear of a little criticism.   The faith that fueled the addition of 3,000 converts in one sermon has, at times, grown silent.  (Acts 2:14-41) It’s time to bring back the faith of our fathers.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not advocating for beatings and imprisonment, but I am advocating for the kind of faith that’s willing to take a few risks in order to advance the gospel.  Admittedly, things don’t seem to be going well for Christians right now.  We’ve lost some traction and it’s because we’ve spent too much time trying to argue over tradition instead of identifying faithful ways to be relevant.  As a result, many Christians have become so concerned about being identified with the outspoken, condescending and hypocritical religious types that we’ve stopped speaking up at all, but that’s not a good alternative either.

The Difference

Ephesians 4:21-24 says, “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life… and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  The writer to the Ephesians is basically saying, Jesus has made you different, so live different.  Through Jesus our sin is removed, we’re clothed in Christ’s perfection and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a new life.   This new Christ-exalting life is what makes the difference in the lives of others.

Surprisingly, most unbelievers don’t care if you’re eccentric, they just want to know that you’re authentic.  Our culture is starving for the authentic Christian message.  People really do want to hear the good news about Jesus.  They just want it to be from someone who is actually living it.

difference2Different, in a good way. 

My wife and I host a church small group in our home each week.  We connect with members and guests over a shared meal, enjoy quality time with unbelieving friends and discuss the sermon from the previous Sunday.  Unlike most church small groups, ours is predominantly non-Christian.  It’s not unusual for our group of 20 to have 5 to 10 non-churchgoing, unbelievers participating in our discussions.

When asked why they come, most of our unbelieving friends commonly confess that it’s because they were attracted to the authentic lifestyle of one of our Christian group members.  When these unbelieving friends ask about that difference our group members honestly tell them that it’s because of Jesus.

After the shock wears off, our friends find themselves craving our Thursday night gatherings.  They’re blown away that a group of Christians can disagree with their lifestyles and beliefs while still caring for and accepting them unconditionally as individuals.  The result is that a good majority of our unbelieving friends become Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, God-honoring Christians.

Be a Difference-Maker

The truth is, you really can make a difference for Christ in the lives of your unbelieving friends, co-workers and family members, but doing so means both living differently and answering honestly.  It also means taking the gospel serious.  God unconditionally loves, approves of and accepts those who believe because of what Jesus has done, even in spite of our sins and short-comings.  This should move Christians to love and care for sinners in much the same way.

When it comes down to it, being a difference-maker means being able to disagree with the sin in someone’s life, while simultaneously caring for and accepting them in spite of their short-comings, just like God does for those who believe in Christ.  It means emphasizing the goodness of God’s grace instead of the atrocity of their sin.  It means being honest about your own failures and short-comings, while celebrating Jesus as your hope for change.  This is the kind of difference that makes the difference.   This is the kind of faith we must return to if we ever hope to take God’s good news to to a world in need.

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