As I read through my Blogger, my FaceBook, my Twitter and my Tumblr this morning a thought came to mind: Is the Internet killing Christianity? It was a joy reading through the various scripture quotes and the thoughts on them. It was great reading how young and old are receiving revelation on these scriptures. It was encouraging to read the encouragement of one young Christian to another. But as I read this one scripture I was reminded that Christianity is more than words:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
We know that love cannot remain as a word, a concept or even a theory because love only has power when it takes action. The best form of preaching is not with words but with what we do in our living.
My gifting in the Body of Christ is as a teacher so I would never say there is not a place for teaching and preaching, but what use is it if we never put into action what we are taught? Then again, I do not believe that we can put the Word of God into action unless we are surrendered to the Spirit. This means that we have honestly sought forgiveness for our sins and surrendered what we once were so that we could come alive in Christ. We are honestly dead and are only able to live in Jesus, through his power and will. It is a transformation and nothing short of a miracle. Living in submission to Jesus means that the Word comes alive in us and we live what we are taught.
Sometimes we treat Christianity as if it were some code for living a good and healthy life, a way of becoming prosperous. Our focus is all wrong as we concentrate on what it can do for us instead of understanding that it is all about God working through us for others. We are not a dam to hold in the teachings and blessings of God. We are a canal for those things to flow through us into the lives of others. This is done as we live this life of victory with the people around us.
I spend my days working with words, crafting them to convey various messages and teachings but if they only remain as words in me then they are nothing more than theories. Christianity is not about theory, it's about living. Too many of us have stopped living and exist only in words to our various friends online. I also teach Internet Safety and I know that any of us can make ourselves out to be anything we want to be, whoever we want to be. With a few key strokes I could become a 10 year old girl, or a war hero, a doctor, a techie person, a geek, a jock or a stellar Christian. The truth of who we are is not found in our words but our actions.
Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy on this subject. He instructed him:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Timothy 4:12-14)
Set an example Paul told him. We set an example by our living, affecting the people with whom we do our living. It's great to have the encouragement of people online but the real proof of who we are is found in how the people who are closest to us see us.
Paul said to set an example in the way we speak. There are people who work very hard at being careful of what they say but in moments of weakness, tiredness, frustration, or anger the real content of our heart is revealed. If we have fellowship with our Holy God then nothing ugly can remain in our heart to flow out when our guard is down. It is more than being careful, it is making sure it doesn't exist in the first place.
Paul said to set an example in our living. As we spend time with Jesus we become like Jesus. We start acting as he acted and reacting as he reacted, not because we are mimicking him but because we are being transformed to have his character. It is seen in how we live our life, in our actions and attitudes. This is difficult to see online, although a glimpse can be seen in the way we respond to those who write hateful things.
Paul said to set an example in love. This is a biggy because love should affect every area of our living. It is important that we understand God's love which is not an inconsistent thing but is applied in the same manner all the time. How you love is a good indication of your heart condition. It is not that we are perfect but that we are made perfect in love. In other words, when we hurt someone love compels us to seek forgiveness, or when we are hurt we are compelled to give forgiveness. We never allow any offense to rest in our heart to allow hate or bitterness to take root. The Word says:
Love "is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:5)
Paul said to set an example in faith. How is faith being worked out in your life? This is something we need to be very careful about because we all know that tomorrow can be a scary thing. We have to trust that God is completely in control and that we are prepared to live his will and not our desire. Life can be disappointing if we live according to our desire instead of God's will. Everything we say with our words can be destroyed in one moment of living according to our desires. If our living is only done online then it is hard for us to affect others by a life of faith. To read about it is encouraging but to actually see it is life changing.
Paul said to set an example in purity. Imagine if your online friends were to hang out with you for a month, would they discover purity in your life? Again, this is not something we can put on because it must be produced in us through the transformation through the Spirit, every day. We can hide behind our words and we can "put it on" for a period of time but sooner or later the mask is going to slip. The people we live with know us much better than the people online.
So often we mess up our living, become angry and frustrated in our lives, have fallen out with our friends and so escape to our perfect life online. If serving the Lord is important to us then we need to serve in honesty and truth. These things we are to set an example in are best seen in the adversity of our lives. We have to be willing to reveal our weaknesses to people in order for them to see the glory of Christ in us. This is demonstrated for us in the Word when Paul was facing some kind of short coming in his life. He asked for it to be removed and the Lord answered:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The perfect example I saw of this online is with a young lady who has been very frank and open about her struggles with sex. Even though she had surrendered her life to Jesus she ended up pregnant. She did not hide her failings and refused to allow others to place her in a box. She fought to live and explain the grace of God. She continues to testify to God's goodness, love and forgiveness. She does not treat her sin lightly but neither will she live as if she is still in that sin. She has been forgiven and she knows it has been forgotten and so she lives her life according to God's reality instead of the judgement of man. People want to put her there in that box to keep her small but she has a profound understanding of God's mercy and grace, and despite having to live with the consequences of her sin, she is living a life worthy of Jesus. She does not simply quote scripture but she shares the practical victorious life that she lives in relationship with Jesus.
If we can get past the platitudes and the simple quoting of Scripture and allow that scripture to come alive in us; if we are willing to be honest in our living and allow the power of Christ to be seen in our weakness; if we are willing to be less in people's eyes so Christ can be more, then perhaps we can save Christianity from fading in significance on the Internet. Our internet friends need to see the power of Christ to redeem "the chief of sinners" so that they know that Jesus' love is for them as well. We don't need to try to make Christianity relevant; it is the most relevant thing in existence. All we have to do is live it in all its practical applications. So let's set the example in word and deed, allowing the glory of Jesus to be seen in us. Make your faith, belief and trust a relevant thing to the people you interact with every day and amazing things will happen.