Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode 136 - How to Thrive as a Christian in a World of Unbelievers
Welcome to the Terri Hitt – Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast
Episode #136 – How to Thrive as a Christian in a World of Unbelievers
Thank you for entrusting and investing your precious time with me to seek, find, and follow Jesus together as we live with purposed eternal perspective.
An event that happened one evening about 15 years ago stands out in my mind like it was yesterday. Most of the women at this event were strangers to me, but since a mutual friend had invited each of us to her place to watch an important adoption movie, I felt very comfortable going. At the end of the film, several of us shared our thoughts about what was important to us and why.
As soon as my beliefs were spoken, one woman exploded with angry words that shocked and silenced me. Amazed that my belief in God and the viewpoint I had on adoption based on my relationship with Jesus had offended her so harshly, I was unable to think of any response other than to concentrate on stopping the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks.
Although my logical side guessed that she was not a believer and must have had something happen in her past that turned her angry against God or Christians, I couldn’t converse logically because I was so disappointed in my friend for not intervening and keeping the space we were in safe for all viewpoints and, of course, for the hurtful words thrown at me by this stranger. As soon as possible, I left the meeting and cried all the way home as I poured my thoughts out to God, and then on the phone with a close friend. I had never faced someone so violently opposed to hearing biblically-based views.
It was only later than I realized I had assumed the woman was not a Christian. In reality, believers can look so much like the world that God is never seen.
It used to be that professing Christianity was respected. Tolerated. Trusted. Now the most outspoken seem to be those who despise or reject God, or those who when you mention God carry their own definition of what a Christian is. It’s only when you begin conversations that you’re able to discern that the God you worship is not the god they claim as lord of their life.
Since it is common for many who profess to be Christians not to read their Bible, they aren’t familiar with the Word. Many of these believers enjoy or prefer the “gentler” approach to preaching. They don’t want to spend a Sunday morning uncomfortable in the pews. In fact, most churches don’t even have pews anymore. It’s more casual to sit on a chair you’d find at any meeting. And it’s more pleasant to hear that God is our friend, looking out for us from above. He understands when we slip up, but He knows we don’t plan to continue sinning. Surely He knows that we aren’t hurting anyone but ourselves, so it’s not a big deal. We’re told he’s an awesome, patient God, so there’s not really anything to worry about.
Unbelievers or casual “Christians” do believe that God knows the Gospel offends people. They think He understands that we don’t know how to share Jesus without discomfort or embarrassment. In fact, many believe it’s easier to hear prosperity preaching or blame our issues on enneagram numbers so we don’t have to face change. Or growth. Or put effort into developing a relationship with Christ that purposely matures daily. That way we won’t stand out as separate from others and we won’t offend anyone. God knows we don’t want to scare people off or act like we’re superior by judging them. God surely understands that believers shouldn’t mention current cultural topics like abortion, pre-marital sex, politics, assigned sex at birth, or pornography. By the time believers with this mindset are finished compromising self on so many issues, they may as well remove the identifying label of “Christian” from their identity. Just as unbelievers who have chosen to deny God, each believer must come to a time of humble brokenness that forces us to acknowledge our trust, faith, and hope are only found through Jesus, and confess that we are a product of grace and mercy extended by Christ alone.
1 Corinthians 3:11-17 says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
How often do you think of representing God, of being a living representation of His holy temple? Each of us needs to be cognizant of exactly Who God is and what He requires from us as followers of Jesus.
Have you noticed that many churches in our present day don’t mention hell often, but Jesus actually preached more about hell than heaven. Many modern churches focus more on a loving God who blesses with prosperity than a God who lovingly disciplines.
Romans 1:18-32 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
Just like unbelievers, Christians reap what we sow. God will release us to follow the acts of our choosing. When we turn away from the Lord and follow worldly desires instead of heeding the commands of our long-suffering Heavenly Father, God may turn us over to live as pagans to follow the depravity in our heart. This is how generations are lost. Choosing to live the easiest lifestyle is actually more difficult in the end. Thus, we must face the question: how many children and grandchildren are negatively affected or spiritually lost due to compromises in our life that became lifestyle? How many unbelievers will never be reached because they see no difference in the life of those of us professing to be believers?
Believers must find that “sweet spot” of reliance on Christ and maturing faith that fuels a desire to be mentored by Christ. One that propels us to sit at His feet in humble adoration. Love is the greatest commandment after worshipping God. It is the only way the holy, agape love from Jesus will lead us to study and understand His Words and desires, even those unspoken pleas and beliefs in the Bible. If we know the Father and we are led by the Son, we should understand and exemplify His guidelines in our life. Our beliefs, words, actions, and reactions should mirror those of Christ, not portray personal feelings or emotions. We should be able to display Jesus, yet point others to Him. When we are questioned or ridiculed about our ideology, we must direct those unbelievers to Him. What we think doesn’t matter. What Jesus says to be truth affects each of us for eternity.
The world may not like the fact that believers have a different set of moral codes, but true followers of Christ should be more concerned about reading and studying the Word than listening to the opinions of the world. We must seek to fully understand the Words in red and strive to humble ourselves before Him rather than seek human approval. People may reject the teachings and commands of God, but they may come to follow Him if what we live and speak comes from His Word as we faithfully and prayerfully seek His will and ways, then respond with genuine love and concern when leading others to His Word for direction.
What are some of the ways unbelievers view Christ or Christians?
1. Some look at God as a personal “magic genie” who should grant every wish. When He doesn’t, they reject Him.
2. Some think Christians are mean and judgmental. Scripture is foreign to them or they interpret the Word differently because they do not spend time studying and understanding God.
3. Some see God as a crutch and they believe only weak or simple-minded people believe in God.
What are some of the reasons people choose to reject Christ?
1. They were raised in a non-Christian home.
2. They may have been raised in a “Christian” home, but never saw biblical principles lived or they were never discipled.
3. They never made the faith of their parents fully their own.
4. They had a weak faith that was rocked or shattered by experiences.
5. They do not understand the Bible because they do not make time to study the Word and grow or mature their walk with Christ, so they begin to question God.
6. They don’t want to humble themselves and submit to God.
7. They don’t want to release sin.
I believe God gives each of us the opportunity to experience personal relationship with Him. Because He allows us free will, we shouldn’t expect that everyone will follow Him. It is God’s desire that all know Him, but it is He who does the work in the heart and soul of each person. We should share the Good News of Christ and not be afraid to mature our personal walk with Jesus, but we should not be ashamed or hesitant to speak boldly about our walk with Him. We should be ready to give an account of the work He has done within us.
One of the hardest things for me to understand is how those of us who profess to be believers and followers of Christ can differ so greatly on topics such as pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, politics, assigned sex at birth, and other topics like these. Certainly, what we have lived and experienced comes into play, but must be released to focus on what God’s Word teaches and instructs. We are merely fallible humans and only God’s Word can be trusted to lead and instruct what is truth and what are products of a broken, sinful world. Some people claim that abortion isn’t addressed in the Bible, but if you know the character and teachings of our Holy God, we understand that He values life. The Creator of Heaven and Earth intimately planned and prepared each life. Scripture is very clear as to what God believes about abortion. But while our God of love and grace detests abortion, he still loves the person who has had one. Just like any other sin we serve, God is ready to forgive and move us from a place of shame, confusion, deceit, or fear into His mercy and truth.
Since we all come from different backgrounds and histories, are at different steps of growth in Christ, live in a fallen, sinful world full of hardships and tragedies, coupled with the fact that not everyone believes in Christ as Savior and attempts to live within His guidelines, it is amazing to me that anyone gets along.
But what saddens me is that knowing Christ, and knowing the changes He has and continues to make in me daily as I trust in and follow Him, it makes it difficult for me to understand why some are hesitant and even sometimes passionately hateful about learning more about Jesus and also what He would believe about the state of the world today. Is it because Christians have failed them?
Even when we allow for godly grace and love to move us in relationships and communication with others, our sinful nature will sometimes get it wrong – or they will misunderstand. In our pursuit of Jesus, we must always remember the grace and mercy extended to us and live within the guidelines He established for us. Trust Him for the rest and remember that although we should attempt to treat others with love and respect, we cannot please everyone, especially those living with evilness through serving this world. Believers are to live in ways pleasing to God, glorifying Him, not simply live to please everyone in the world. There are times our viewpoints and attitudes will just not be in alignment. This is what causes the divide. This is how the devil flourishes.
Also, when others do not believe or follow Christ, they will simply not understand the words we share or the beliefs we carry. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Because of the relationship we carry with Jesus, we must fix our eyes and heart on Him, knowing that when our deepest desire is to please Him, we can trust that He is in charge and will be with us. We can cling to Him and allow Him to carry us through what occurs, whether it be pain and suffering or promise and success.
Because believers have the promises of God through His holy Word, we live with hope that is certain, not just a belief. Hope that carries us, comforts us, and connects us to an eternal future with Him. God’s holy Word beautifully and personally instructs each of us about how to live and withstand life in this broken, sinful world. Yet, the power of His living Word also intimately encourages and equips us at the same time.
Romans 15:5-6 says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As believers, we have this hope, but also many other fruits of the Spirit, yet because we are at different stages of maturation in our personal walk with Christ and interpretation of the Bible, we will not see eye to eye on all subjects. Imagine if we each allowed the grace of Christ to control our hearts, instead of judgement. With mind, heart, and mouth we should seek to allow Jesus to control our thoughts, motives, actions, reactions, and words so that they remain glorifying to Him and edifying for others.
Matthew 5:13-16 says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
I believe one of the strongest benefits of believing is the hope found through Christ.
How do we learn of this hope? Through reading and studying His precious words. More than ever, I crave reading God’s holy Word. Similar to how we become addicted to sugar when we have it often in our diet, the Word of God draws us in the more we read it. As our relationship grows and matures, our desire for God does as well.
Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
My youngest daughter was brought home to be with us when she was nine years old. If you’ve listened to this podcast for long, you may already know some of her story. Now that she has been with us for several years, and has learned to speak English, it is very interesting to hear what she has to say about her time in China.
One of the most touching statements she has made is that she never had hope while there. Now that she is living life with a family that loves her very much, and she has found Jesus as her Savior, she faces each day with hope for the present and for the future.
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
The biggest source of hope for her is found through family and the living hope she has discovered by living in a loving Christian home. By reading God’s Word daily, participating in family devotional time, family prayer time, scripture writing, and conversations that bring Christ into every aspect of life, she has learned that she can hope for a future that is secure through Jesus. The Bible has been integral in allowing her to seek and find Jesus herself.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
• What are some of the benefits believers can exhibit to unbelievers as we show them the difference Christ makes in our lives? We can show them the difference He makes in the following areas:
Relationship, Obedience, Faith, Love, Pardon from sin, Fruits of the Spirit, Fellowship with God, Eternal Life
• What are some of the benefits they can discover as they commit to following Christ? They will see God work in areas that prove His faithfulness:
Love, Relationship, Forgiveness, Faith, Wisdom, Trust, Respect, Grace
Ephesians 3:14-20 says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
As we strive to live in ways that honor the Father and show grace to others, I believe Christians have strides to make. Only through the loving direction of our gracious Heavenly Father can we properly begin to exhibit His love. As we do so, it does not mean that we compromise the standards He has set for us, but we do live with freedom to love others, even those who rebel against God. We realize that each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are to be discerning, not compromising or going against what God calls for us, but understanding that not all know Him. When living in ignorance, one will not understand or come to accept what they perceive as judgment from a group of people living in ways they do not comprehend.
The hardship of trying to live with grace in a world of unbelievers grows more challenging each day. But don’t let it silence your voice or stop you from reaching out to let someone hear stories of God at work in your life and what He can and wants to do for them.
God does not issue warnings or instructions to stifle or control any of us. He desires that we walk in step with His commands because He carries no sin and can tolerate no sin. Following His wisdom allows us to stay in step with the Holy Spirit and His beautiful purposes for our life. Through grace and mercy, we have the privilege of seeing the heart of our Father more clearly, thus leaving us with a huge responsibility and purpose to make Him clearly known. So first, we must intentionally seek Him ourselves and strive to humbly know Him fully.
Dear Heavenly Father, how far from You we are. How mighty is Your great love for us. Thank you for never leaving or forsaking us. Thank you for Your Son who allows us to be reconciled to You. Father, help us to desire to know You more each day. May the person we are today never be the person we reveal tomorrow because we are in pursuit of a deepening relationship with You moment by moment. Help us to reveal You to others in the ways You ordain and desire. Help us to clearly show You because we make the time to know You. Help our nation and our world to deeply desire and find You because believers are living in the fullness of Your truths and love for others to be attracted to You. Thank you for Your great book of instruction, the Bible. We could spend a lifetime pursuing You within this book and still not be close to knowing You fully. Fill in the gaps we miss and allow our spirit to shine You. We are lost without You. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
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Remember, if we are not purposed in knowing Jesus ourselves and showing Him to the next generation, the world will direct them away from Christ. Live With Eternal Perspective helps us to find, trust, and follow Christ more intimately. Purposed Parent/Connected Child shares biblical, practical truths for parents and grandparents to influence and mentor Christ over culture.
I pray that what you hear on this podcast draws you nearer to God and helps you cling to Him, despite any circumstances in your life. Until next week, keep looking Up while focusing on new ways to Live With Eternal Perspective.