Many years ago I was returning from a company retreat. It was on the way home that I decided to race one of my coworkers up the hill out of Belfair heading back to Tacoma. The ole Chevy Caprice took the day with the element of surprise. What I did not expect was my non-Christian coworker’s response. His comment back at the office, with a sense of disgust, was, “I thought you were a Christian! How could you do that?” I was immediately overcome with guilt. What broke my heart was my example of Christianity was tarnished by one foolish choice.
I am reminded that what makes a “real” follower of Jesus different than others is their lifestyle. A lifestyle that is built upon the application of Biblical truth in the individuals life. Now it does not mean that the follower of Jesus will be perfect, because we are not. It does mean that the characterization of their life will reflect a “Christian lifestyle.” My coworker rightfully questioned my example because of a sinful choice a made in the moment. I can tell you regretfully that there are more of these moments in my life than there should be, yes even as a Pastor.
What my coworker did not see; however, was the characterization of my life. We could take a slice from anyone’s life and draw an inaccurate conclusion. The real person is revealed when we add all the slices together. The characterization for the genuine follower of Jesus will consistently reflect Godly behavior with those few regretful failure points. It is sad that for many professing Christians that the opposite is actually true.
So what makes a genuine Christian different or unique? It is that God, the Holy Spirit, is working in their lives to develop Godly character that is revealed through their life choices. It will be reflected in their activities, in their language, in how they treat others and, yes, even in their dress. We know that good works do not make a person a Christian, but once they have been born again it does demonstrate that God is working in their life. I am reminded of Paul’s words “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5) A genuine Christian is the product of the work of God in their life. Jesus referred to it as being born again or born from above. It is the result of God rebuilding us. It is what the verse above refers to as “regeneration.” God cleans up the old mess and makes a new creation in Him. The new creation is driven by new desires. It is this spiritual rebuilding that makes us different and it is the on-going work of God in the Holy Spirit that keeps us becoming more like Jesus.
So I guess the question that I would ask you is, “What is the characterization of your life? Is the big picture filled with the practical demonstration that God is at work in you? Genuine Christians are different from others because they have been changed by Jesus and demonstrate it in their everyday life.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson