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Vision for Italy
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Do not conform to the world
Revd Dr John Stott
who went to glory last week, in this video, talks about how Christians are not to conform to the world and that without looking "authentic" they will not draw people to Christ. He implies that if we are not enough like Christ to be distinctive from the World, no one will believe we are actually followers of Christ. This is utterly rational and reasonable.
In other words, many of us who call ourselves Christians (and I do not exempt myself) are
conforming too much
to what the Bible calls "The World". We must live distinctively: be "separate".
See John Stott* explaining this here:
Different in Love
Everyone wants and needs love but not everyone knows what love is. Many confuse it with "desire". Christian Love is to be manifestly different in that it is not at all self-seeking, materialistic, motivated, lustful, greedy. It is sacrificially "Christ centred", it looks like Christ's love, balanced, patient, kind, unchanging, reliable and unconditional and includes those whom the world deems unlovable and without value. This is distinctive Christian love. It is the mark of the Church - but sadly it is often missing. We must exhibit this Love. We must examine our loves daily to see that they conform with this Love (which is real love).
Different in Thought and Perspective
We are not to judge by worldly standards - valuing what the world values, in terms of wanting material things, lust, power, wealth and status. We value what Jesus values, which is obedience to His teaching and Ten Commandments faith in God, and faith in action: compassion and care. We trust and worship Him "in spirit and in truth" and seek to grow in knowledge and faith.
Different in Lifestyle and Spending
We are not materialists: we are not millionaries ,and if we are, we give a lot away. We do not amass what we will not need for the sake of greed. We share things we own. We do not compete with the materially successful of this world.
have to support ourselves and provide for ourselves, without burdening society unless we have a disability which stops us fniding and sustaining any work (with workplace adjustments being in place) or we are elderly and frail, in which case, if we have no other means, the church and society should support us.
have to live somewhere affordable but without undue ostentation - unassuming, open, friendly, warm and if affordable, hospitable. We are not to make our homes our idol or our burrow.
have to wear clothes which God will supply but we are not to make them our raison d'etre
have to take rest e.g. on Sundays- but we are not to make world travel and "pleasures of the flesh" our main reason for living (as many do)
We do have to steward the world of nature
serve the "prisoner, the sick and outcast" in some way
have to meet the requirements of the World in terms of work, contribution, paying our full taxes and saving for retirement. We are to plan our giving of time and money and effort to the Church and to "seek his Kingdom" in our life - working out how He wants to use the gifts he has given us. This could be serving the Church in work, reaching out to the sick and elderly, chatting to people far from God, and taking time to get into their mindset, improving our understanding of the Bible and what it is saying and being creative for God (music, writing, art etc). We should think about our legacy - which should serve His Kingdom.
We must live balanced, planned lives if we are in control enough, of our life, to be able to.
We should seek to share the Gospel if we have opportunities.
We are under an obligation to give to the work of the Church cheerfully if we have sufficient means for ourselves (you cannot give out of nothing)
We should be seeking to glorify and reflect Christ, in all we do.
Different in Character and Work
If there is nothing else we can do, because we are too ill or old, but lie still, then we should do that with determination and work purely at polishing our faulty character and addressing our obstinate sins and weaknesses, which we need to find time to do in our busy lives anyway. As John Stott also says, the greatest obstacle to the message is that we Christians do not look "enough like Christ".
Different in Learning and Teaching
As John Stott says, we are struggling with a very complex world of multiple competing perspectives, most of which are far from God, due to the Church being too weak at the Englightenment and allowing the world to drift a long way from the Bible. This has resulted in terrible complexity in which people are mind-boggled by choices and messages - and evil confuses them further. We can serve the world by reading secular books and seeing secular films to get "inside" these complex perspectives, to understand what people are exposed to, to find what Christianity has to offer them which they lack (usually purpose, fulfilment, clarity, forgiveness and Love). We should seek to gain knowledge and languages, in order to serve God better. We should read the Bible daily and listen to learned sermons (like Stott's) so that we can hold key concepts and verses "in our bloodstream" to refer to at all times.
Different in Weapons
Above all we are to be different in resources. Where others trust in science completely, we must pray and trust in God, in all situations. Do we?
Different in Forgiveness
to conduct feuds, ditch relatives and friends, hate church family members we disagree with, or hold grudges. We do not judge and we are always ready to forgive and understand, without minimising the seriousness of "sin".
*John Stott's words on video are:
I have been very struck in my own study of the Holy Scripture to see that right through, there is one theme that we (bible-based
Christians) have tended to neglect: the call to be different from the world around us.
It is interesting to me that in the four great sections of the Bible, the same call comes out - in the Law, in the Prophets, in the Gospels and in the Epistles. In each one there is the same call.
In Leviticus (the Law), God says, through Moses to the children of Israel "You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, in which you lived, and you shall not do as they do in Canaan: you shall not follow their statutes, but My decrees and My laws. A remarkable statement....It is often in the Prophets, where Israel was accused of following the nations around them.
Jump forward to the Sermon the Mount. I love that verse in Matthew 6: Jesus says "Do not be like them" - there were the hypocrites, there were pagans all around them. Five mono-syllables: "DO NOT BE LIKE THEM".
Then the Epistles, in Romans 12: "Do not be conformed to the world around you". That is absolutely central to all out thinking that we are called to follow Jesus and His standards, and to reject the ways of the world around us.
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