A Revolutionary Lifestyle

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HEN JESUS CHRIST lived on earth, His followers viewed Him as loving, peaceful, and meek—a servant. However, the Romans saw Him as radical and rebellious—a revolutionary.

Jesus caused unrest and discord in the first-century world. He demonstrated a lifestyle contrary to the principles of Roman society. He did not allow the laws of the land to alter His core values or personal behaviors. To the world, the life of Jesus during His ministry on earth was upside-down.

Jesus did not live according to the world’s ideology. He refused to become self-absorbed and self-serving. Instead, He was consumed with the needs of others.

Indeed, Jesus had turned His own life upside-down when He left the throne of heaven to be born in a stable. To His disciples, He turned life as they knew it upside-down when He sacrificed Himself on the cross as the supreme sacrifice to save fallen men and women.

Today, Christ is still turning lives upside-down . . . and He wants us involved in this revolutionary lifestyle process. When missionaries Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica, their opponents cried out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6 NKJV).

While we cannot change the whole world, we know the One who can! We hold “the keys [to] the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) as “ambassadors for Christ,” charged to reconcile people to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

Years ago, I saw a movie on evangelism called The Gospel Blimp. It illustrated the false concept that only big things make a difference in reaching people for Christ.

Most of us can do more for one person than we can do for the masses. Remember, Jesus did not call legions of angels to initiate God’s redemptive plan for humanity; instead, He came alone and died alone on a Roman cross.

It is God’s desire for us to strengthen the weak and not to be all about ourselves. Jesus told Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). This calls for upside-down living— to intentionally follow Christ’s example by focusing on others.

The apostle Paul amplified Christ’s command to live in ways opposite of worldly thinking: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 15:1-2 NIV).

Paul understood that only strong Christians are able to look beyond themselves. It was true in his day, and it is true today. Many Christians are manipulated by the “me-first” philosophy of the world. Narcissistic behavior permeates our society, feeding a heightened sense of personal interests, esteem, and entitlement. It is with this understanding that Paul pleads for us to present ourselves as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service” (12:1 NKJV).

Paul further challenges us to have the mind of Christ. God does not think for us. We are to commit our thoughts to His will, and to think like Him! We are not to “be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2). This is a daily challenge, and reading the Word of God equips us for it. His Word is a living power that changes how we see the needs of our neighbors, our present circumstances, and life in general.

Our inclination is to distance ourselves from people who do not believe as we do. We easily write off people who think and act differently. We move past them quickly. We dismiss them as if we have little, if any, responsibility for them. Yet, Jesus said we are to be concerned and involved with them. We are to be “salt” and “light” among them (Matt. 5:13-14).

The process begins with the personal commitment to actively look for opportunities to encourage and help others. Some talk about divine appointments . . . and there are people who cross our paths at a time when an encouraging word or deed will be prompted by the Holy Spirit. However, unless we are intentionally looking for these opportunities, we will not recognize them when they present themselves.

There are few people, if any, who are not experiencing some type of personal struggle. Life is always a challenge, and Satan is relentless in his quest to destroy hope, love, and faith. Jesus seized every opportunity to help people, and He wants us to do the same. It may be a Zacchaeus looking for Jesus, or someone like the woman at the well. It may be a desperate person found in the act of sin. Perhaps it is a father who is confused because God has not healed his son, or a young disciple like Mark who needs another chance to fulfill his call to ministry.

Every day our lives intersect with people who are in the throes of a battle or in a dark valley. They might feel hopeless and ready to give up on their faith. You or I may be the only person available for God to use, so we must be actively looking for these special opportunities.

A fellow minister who needed direction in a difficult situation told me, “Well, I’m keeping my eyes open.”

I replied, calling him by name, “Thereis a difference between keeping your eyes open and looking for something in particular. Lots of people have their eyes open, but that is not the same as actively looking for God’s answer.”

Many years later, he told me my admonition totally changed his perspective and, ultimately, his future decisions!

Recently, a parent was telling me about some challenges with her grown children. She said, “My husband and I feel our kids are making wrong decisions, and we are mainly concerned about their souls.”

I expressed my understanding of their concern for their children’s souls. Then, being careful to communicate clearly, I asked if their concern did not also include anxiety about their children’s choices affecting the desired relationship with them and their grandchildren. Immediately, I saw a look of surprise on her face. A few days later, she thanked me for my insightful question. She told me that our conversation caused her to reevaluate her thinking about the situation and alter her approach in talking with her family.

I share these examples to encourage you to look outside yourself and seriously consider investing in others while you abandon acts for personal gain.

For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus (Rom. 15:3-5).

This is the example of Jesus. Will we follow it?

J. David Stephens, D.D., is third assistant general overseer of the Church of God.