How to Make a Difference as a Christian


October 18, 1998 ~ Pickering Standard Church


Colossians 3:12-17 - Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


How many here have tried to live lives more in keeping with what they thought God wanted them to be?


How many here have recently done something and then suddenly realized that "Christians don't do what I just did?"


I think that I can speak for each of us when I say that our aims and ambitions for living a Christ like life are often muddied by our day to day living. We seldom reach the ideal for which we are striving. In our passage above we are given a glimpse of what the ideal Christian life is like through the words of the apostle Paul. Paul also wrote the passage that follows, comparing the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh:


Galatians 5:16-26 - So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.


The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


But what is the problem? Why do we seem so unable to live as we believe that Christ would have lived? What is it in us that causes so frequently this difference between our ambition and our achievement?


Quite simply the difference is this: We rely too much upon our own power and not enough upon that of the Holy Spirit. When I was younger, somewhere between my late teens and late twenties, I had a conversation with a friend of mine regarding why I did not drink vast quantities of alcohol like my friends did. My reason, as I remember, was that I had had a relative who was an alcoholic and his behaviour had so frightened me that I chose not to become what he had become and so I decided to abstain from alcohol as much as possible. I told my friend that I was living a Godly life in this area not so much because I loved God and wished to honour Him but because I was scared of what I could become if I let myself go. Notice that while this may have been an admirable characteristic for a young man to make his own it was a characteristic based on personal desire and ability. I personally chose not to overindulge in alcohol, and I personally maintained this behaviour. I don't ever recall asking God to help me avoid drinking and I do recall actually taking pride in the fact that several of my friends tried to get be drunk a party we were at one time. At this party I did ask God to make it so I would not feel the effects of these drinks but at no time did I ask Him to help me say "No."


I still have areas in my life where I rely more on my own power and desire than on the strength of the Holy Spirit within me. As a consequence there are time when I will fail to do what is Godly, and even if I do what is Godly it is sometimes not for a Godly reason but a human reason. We are trained from our early childhood to stand on our own, to be self sufficient, not to have to depend on anyone. It is uncomfortable for us to realize that as human beings lost in sin we really have no power over what we do or what we are. In Paul's letter to the church in Rome we find that no matter if we are sinners or righteous we are still servants:


Romans 6:16-18 - Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.


The point that Paul is making here is that regardless of what our society teaches us we are slaves to either good or evil. We may do the right things but if we do them for the wrong reasons we are not being Godly people. I remember in my math classes in college that we used to be graded on the completeness of our answers to the test questions, we were marked both on the answer we came up with as well as the method by which we arrived at the answer. If we somehow got the right answer but our method was wrong we only got partial marks, and again, if we used the correct method but obtained the wrong answer we again received only partial marks. As far as our teachers were concerned there was no way to obtain perfect marks with an imperfect answer. God has the same philosophy. Jesus tells us of a sad discovery that many will make at the second coming:


Matthew 7:21-23 - Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"


The difficulty that those in Jesus preaching had was that they seemed to do the right things but for the wrong reason and were therefore not perfect. Don't get me wrong, God does make allowance for our failure, that is the whole purpose of forgiveness, but this forgiveness can only be applied to those who have devoted themselves to God.


So the question remains: How do we devote ourselves to God? How do we, as feeble humans, live lives that can truly be said to be in imitation of Christ? What is that difference that allows us to overcome our failings and serve God with faithfulness and love? The answer to all these questions is found in these words of Paul:


2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!


The language in the KJV is even more emphatic about the change that takes place in us once we are in Christ:


2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.


Once we are in Christ we have the power of the Holy Spirit available to us as Jesus promised His disciples:


John 14:15-21, 26 - If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father , and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him....But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you


It is clear from this passage that with the indwelling Holy Spirit we actually experience the presence of Christ in our lives. Again, the apostle Paul tells us that:


Philippians 4:13 - I can do everything through him who gives me strength.


In the KJV this verse is rendered:


Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.


leaving absolutely no confusion as to who it is that give Paul strength. This is what many Christians have forgotten, that they are not required to serve God through their own power. We have seen in our own lives and in the teachings of the Bible that this is impossible, we are always slaves to something and if we are not relying on God then we are relying on Satan - even if it seems we are not. I have been there, trying to serve God through my own ability and strength and I have found it to be impossible and frustrating. When I instead appeal to God to help me and ask for the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, that is when I am able to make a difference and overcome the baggage of my sinful nature. I am able to serve God but only because, like Paul, I am able to say that I can do all things through Christ Jesus who is my strength.