Testing our lifestyle

  • Nathan Dempsey
  • 12 January 2023

Are you able to declare with the apostles that you cannot help but talk about what you have seen and heard since becoming a Christian?

Sadly, I cannot, which God recently showed me by directing my attention to Acts 4:20. Here the apostles declared to the Jewish leaders that they could not stop talking about what they had seen and heard, their passion for the gospel unquenchable. As for me, I talk easily about my family, my hobbies and my job, but I’m often mute when I have an opportunity to share the gospel. Perhaps you can relate? If so, we need to examine our lives to learn why our enthusiasm for the gospel is so frequently quenched.

Tragically, the answer could simply be that we’ve become nearsighted and blind, which means, according to Peter, that we’ve forgotten that God has forgiven us (2 Pet 1:9).

That Christians could forget this sounds ludicrous. But Peter explains that we are guilty if we aren’t making every effort to complement our faith with qualities vital to our effectiveness: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (vv. 5-8). Growing in these qualities, Peter assures us, is a sign that we are anticipating a rich welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom; lacking them, however, means we’ve become so focused on our present that we give little thought to eternity (vv. 9-11). The apostles were clearly fixated on eternity and pleasing God in every way (2 Cor 5:9). If we fail to imitate them, we’re walking in fruitlessness—also known as sin.

If this is where you’ve found yourself, then it’s likely that your treasure is here instead of with Christ. Collecting sufficient earthly goods to shift our affections from heaven to earth is painfully easy for most Western Christians. In fact, I think we’re largely numb to what it means to be wealthy, as the majority of us consider ourselves neither rich nor poor. We know of people who can easily pay cash for a new car and can afford exotic vacations. They are the ones, we tell ourselves, who need to be concerned about the Bible’s warnings to the rich. We see the rich man who walked away from Jesus and reassure ourselves that we aren’t so wealthy.

But 1 Timothy 6:8 is our wake-up call. “But if we have food and clothing,” Paul tells Timothy, “with these we will be content”. Most of us have more than food and clothing: we have homes, vehicles, and other goods that provide us comfort and amusement. If we can enjoy these in moderation while still seeking first spiritual maturity, that’s fine. If, however, we enjoy these so much that we spend more of our time and money on ourselves than on advancing the kingdom, we become guilty of idolatry.

Are we guilty? Thankfully, we can we test ourselves to determine whether we’re pursuing godliness or idolatry. The saying that you can tell what kind of person someone is by looking at their budget has been around for years, but I think you should also check their calendar. When you look at your calendar and budget, what do you see? Be honest with yourself. Do your finances show godliness and contentment, so that you buy what you need while also supporting your church and those who may be struggling (1 Tim 6:6; 2 Cor 8:13-14; Acts 2:45)? Or are you giving God the minimum (usually the tithe) and then spending the rest exclusively on you? When you look at your calendar, does it show that you are “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” by committing to Bible study and prayer apart from church activities (Eph 5:16)? Or are you instead pursuing the good life as defined by the world?

I must confess that for me, even without a lavish lifestyle, it can be painfully easy to give to pleasure reading, chores, and many other things the time that should go to God. It doesn’t take great wealth to distract us from him; it takes only the wealth that most of us have long enjoyed.

Imagine what it would be like if talking about the gospel and God’s grace was something that happened easily, naturally and more joyfully for you. Imagine what it would be like to be a more faithful servant, not only to people who attend your church but also to the unbelievers you know at work and in your neighborhood. Would you like this to become reality? Then please: examine your finances, study your routines, and repent if necessary. Make it your goal to please God in every way (2 Cor 5:9). Make every effort to clean out of your life anything that is distracting you from full, sincere devotion to Christ, so that you can grow in the qualities essential for you to actively advance the kingdom. Then, rather than becoming mute when you have a gospel opportunity with the lost, your mouth will overflow with the grace you’ve experienced.