“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” ~Matthew 5:13a, NLT
My dear fellow believers in the United States, we are losing our flavor. We live in a society captivated with the idol of self. I am sad and burdened to say it, but this attitude has seeped into the Church. The glaring result is that modern Christendom adds little flavor to our lost and dying society.
Brothers and sisters, we should be different. I’m not talking about being different just for the sake of being different. I’m talking about being different because we are changed by God and are so motivated by His love for us that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.
We need revival. I’m not talking about a big meeting where someone preaches “hell fire and brimstone” and we all recommit our lives to Christ as a result. I’m not talking about a spiritual high where we all say and do the right things. I’m talking Holy Spirit-orchestrated change in our hearts to make us more like Christ, individually and collectively, where we live in love, grace and humility.
I think three things need radical change in our lives: the way we think, the way we speak, and the way we behave.
The Way We Think
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).
I know I sometimes don’t give as much attention to my thought life as I should. I suppose this is because since no one else can see my ignoble thoughts, others are not able to be affected by them. According to God’s Word, this is simply not true: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). What I think about someone else will inevitably come out in my actions toward them. My intangible thoughts can absolutely have tangible effects.
So I have to focus my thinking. I have to be objective and look for truth (i.e. what in reality is) in people and situations, I cannot be swayed by my personal opinions or experiences. I have to adopt right thinking, that is God’s way of thinking: what are His thoughts towards these people or situations? I have to dwell on good things, pure things, beautiful things in order to counteract the constant influx of negativity from my sin nature and the world around me.
The Way We Speak
“Let your conversation be gracious and attractiveso that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6 NLT).
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 2:26 NKJV).
I’m not trying to be a hater, but I think this is an area where women especially struggle. We have this terrible to compete with each other and tear each other down. I see it at work in my secular job, and I see it in the Church. It’s ugly. And in the life of a believer, it’s inexcusable.
I am growing in this area, but it’s been a struggle. It used to be that when I saw another woman going after something (or someone) I wanted, I had to build myself up enough and tear her down enough to make myself seem more deserving of what we were both pursuing. I am learning to speak highly of women (like myself) who are completely worthy of earning what we pursue. Where I still have difficulty is with people who have done me or my loved ones harm in their own speech, because they don’t deserve my kindness. And that is where gracious speech comes in – favor when it isn’t merited. I am learning to speak kindly to and about my enemies.
The Way We Behave
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV).
Talk about counter-culture. This is a completely foreign concept in our “to each his own” society. We are taught that “I” and “me” are the most important people in the universe. I often catch myself thinking, and speaking, and behaving in ways that state that I believe this to be right.
At the end of 2011, God convicted me to pray for a year to die to myself, that is, to live a Christ-centered life with the goal of serving and loving others. I prayed this prayer for two months, and it ushered me into trials that I had never even imagined possible throughout 2012. I was tested in my love for God, trusting His love for me, the basics of my relationship with Him, my relationships with His people, and long held assumptions, opinions, and preferences. As everything in my life as I knew it, as I desired it to be, was pried away from me, I realized.
This. Life. Is. Not. About. Me.
And it’s not about you.
It is about God. Taking pleasure in Him and making Him known. It is about Him taking pleasure in me and conforming me to the image of Christ. About Him working in me to “will and to do His good pleasure.”
When we adopt Christ’s attitude, we are able to humble ourselves and consider and love others. We don’t do it because we’re getting something out of it, or even because we feel obligated. We do it because we love people.
Maybe they don’t deserve your love. Maybe they are completely unworthy of any kind thoughts, words, or actions.
But we’ve done nothing to deserve Christ’s love. In fact, on a daily basis, I sin and spurn that love. And I’m certainly unworthy.
And we are to have the mind of Christ:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).