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Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.Joseph set out to tackle hypocrisy, which seems to be one of the biggest complaints people have about Christians. One statistic he mentions that stuck out to me was that more than half of Christians have "severe cases of self-righteousness." I know I've been there...
Joseph says that we can't base the truth of a claim on the character of the people who believe in it. I see what he's saying and agree to an extent. But I've learned from Ray Vander Laan that one of the ways to see if you want to follow a particular rabbi or not, is to look at his followers. When people look at bitter and condemning Christians, what does that say about their rabbi? In reality, Jesus is probably not truly their rabbi, but they at least claim He is.
I think a lot of the self-righteous mistakes I've made happened as a younger Christian (I'm not saying I don't have these now, of course). When you become a Christian, you think you have THE answer to everything (and in a sense, you do), but there's still so much growing to do, that to tell someone, "follow me as I follow Christ," could actually be leading that person in the wrong direction.
I know I said things as a young believer that I thought were right, and later learned were wrong. For example, I remember being in 9th grade and telling a friend who was curious about Christianity that he had to stop having sex in order to become a Christian. I'm pretty sure that immediately deterred him from following Christ. Theologically, this is pretty sound -- the bible says sex belongs in marriage -- but you don't "clean yourself up" before becoming a Christian. A more mature me would have told him to just follow Jesus and, if God wanted him to stop having sex, I'll let God tell him that, trusting that He would.
As I read through these notes, I particularly liked the emphasis on influence and integrity. A wise man said, "Leadership is influence, the ministry is prayer." We all influence someone, so let's make sure we're doing it as much like Jesus as possible.
Here are some notes, with my favorite things in bold:
- We can't base the truth or veracity of a claim on the character of the people who believe in it
- This is an ad hominem fallacy
- However, if Christians don't live lives that are changed, something is wrong
- Satan can't take your salvation, but he can take your influence
- Christians should be okay living differently from the culture
- The first ingredient to a person of influence is submission
- People of great influence will always obey something that is greater than themselves
- Maybe a mission statement, based on values
- The problem with this is that you are still sovereign
- You can change the rules to what suits you
- Often the people we trust the most are people who believe in something more sovereign than they are: Christ
- "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord."
- We have a choice in the matter
- Is Jesus just your Savior? Or also your Lord?
- Jesus is not Lord of your life if you can change the rules when you want.
- The second ingredient is humility
- "But do this with gentleness and respect..."
- People who were doing the right things for the wrong reasons were the hypocrites.
- Over half of Christians have severe cases of self-righteousness
- Gentleness comes from a place of peace
- The third ingredient is integrity
- "...keeping a clear conscience..."
- A life so consistent that it is impervious (ultimately) to slander and defamation
- Conscious = secret awareness of the moral quality of your actions
- Integrity, over time, equals trust
- Anyone can do something with a clear conscious (consistency), but the difference for the Christian is the presence of God, by His Spirit, in their lives
- The Holy Spirit is more than just something that pricks you when you're doing wrong, He is the real presence of the real God, manifesting Himself in your life, moving into your consciousness, soul & body, to form you more into the likeness of Jesus.
- Christians act with peculiar integrity, because Jesus is different
- God always wants us to grow in community
- A life of great influence begins with one that doesn't have to hide a false self
- Jesus powerfully uses lives that are submitted to Him, walking in humility, living in peculiar integrity
- "For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil."
- Peter is describing the difference between a hero and a criminal
- Begin with this at the point of forgiveness