Sadly, many of my spiritual conversations begin like this: “I’ve seen way too many hypocrites to ever become a Christian!”
The Gospel (“good news”) of Jesus is about the certainty of a relationship between us and God. This eternal relationship is initiated by our trust in Jesus as our only hope, as the bridge between God and humankind. This is the spiritual birth that Jesus referred to when he told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:3-6).
But what about life after our “spiritual birth?” Followers of Jesus are commissioned to practice their faith authentically, to demonstrate the love of God in every aspect of their lives. Their lives should match their lips and their behavior should match their beliefs.
Obviously, no human can live a perfect life, and that is another beautiful twist in this grand narrative. Indeed, the very weakness of Christians (perhaps most notably the Apostle Paul’s own admission of weakness) reveals the glory of God. When we are weak, He is strong.
This is the challenge: How do we authentically practice and demonstrate our faith while living as fallen people in a broken world?
First, let’s be honest about our hypocrisy. We should probably begin there. None of us are perfect. When we are authentic followers of Christ, we reflect the uniqueness of the Christian message in the pluralistic ocean of ideas. There is a difference between Christianity and other world religions. The difference is demonstrated by followers of Christ pressing toward spiritual maturity, walking by faith and listening to God’s Spirit, without ever claiming perfection on this side of eternity.
Second, authentic Christianity is expressed by obedience and real-life application of biblical truth. Dr. Howard Hendricks was one of my seminary professors and my all-time favorite quote from his class was: “Many Christians are like poor photographs—overexposed and underdeveloped!” We don’t need any more information. We need application!
I find that there are very few times when I wonder, “Hmmm, what is the right thing to do in this situation?” After following Jesus for many years, the question isn’t whether I know what is, or isn’t, the right thing to do. The question is almost always whether I will apply it or not—whether I will obey God’s guidance or not. That’s the hard part, isn’t it?
Let’s agree to humbly and honestly follow Jesus. We don’t need to prove that we are perfect, that we have all of the answers or that we have it all together. We can rest in the confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).