"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Has someone ever asked you why God in the Old Testament was cruel and God in the New Testament is all full of love? I get this kind of question quite often. People try to say that God is inconsistent because in the Old Testament He had the Israelites kill men, women and children when they fought other nations. When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations--the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Deuteronomy 7:1-2
People take these things out of context and try to prove something of God's character by these stories. Yet if you look at what happened in context and try to understand why God commanded what He did, it is much easier to see what was going on. The Israelites were weak; they succumbed to temptation many times while in the desert after leaving Egypt. God spoke to them but they were afraid they would die, so they asked Moses to go talk to God and then come back and tell them what He had to say. While Moses was up on the mountain talking to God, the Israelites had Aaron make a golden calf so they could worship it. That is just one instance where they did not remember or trust God.
God told them that He would give them the land of their enemies, but they must kill everyone. They were to leave no one alive. On the surface if you stop there this seems pretty cruel of God, but you don't get a true sense of what God was doing if you stop there. The people who God was going to give over to the Israelites had rejected God and were idol worshipers. They had brought judgement on themselves and their children. God was using Israel to judge these people.
Another reason that God did not want anyone spared was that the Israelites were so weak that even one or two of these people would have corrupted them and they would have started worshiping idols too. In fact God even stated that He did not want any of the Israelites to intermarry with these people. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 This seems like an unnecessary command since the Israelites were to kill these people. Again the problem was with the Israelites; they had this nasty habit of not doing what God told them to do. The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. Judges 3:5-7
Moses fell on his face in the dirt more than once or twice pleading with God not to destroy the Israelites. God even told Moses that He would bless Moses and start a new nation with his (Moses') children, but Moses asked God to have mercy on the Israelites. They only needed mercy because they kept becoming part of the world around them. They saw the mighty hand of God with their own eyes, yet they were quick to worship idols.
God did not want His people contaminated by the rest of the world. He used the Israelites to show others His power and glory. If they became contaminated by the rest of the world and had started worshiping idols and acting like everyone else, how could they have shown others what a wonderful God they served? They could not have.
We must live in this world. We must have contact with it on a daily basis, but God calls us out of the world. He wants us not to be part of it, not to be contaminated by it. We are to be a cut above the world, so that His glory can shine through us. How else will anyone ever know that God is different? If Christians are just like everyone else, why will anyone want to be one? Why put any stock in a Savior whose followers are just like you are?
The lives of the early Christians were dramatically changed. Otherwise no one would have even noticed them, much less followed them. Once Christ arose and ascended into heaven, no one could see Him or know Him, unless they looked at His followers. The early Christians did a good job of shining through with His glory. People looked at them and they knew they were different.
Can the same be said for you today? When people look at you do they see something different from the world? There are a lot of 'good' people in the world, who try to live by a high moral standard, but they don't have a relationship with Christ. What sets you apart from them? Do you just look like another of those people who still go by ethics? Or is there something about you people see that is different?
Many things are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves. Paul said You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he? "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:21-23 But we need to look deeper. Just because something is not wrong for us, is it good for us? Maybe even more important, is it good for others to see in us? We lose site sometimes (most times for some people) of what is really important in this life. It is having a relationship with Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is not your Lord and Savior then nothing else really matters, because this life will soon be over for all of us and after death comes judgement.
What I am getting at is, as followers of Christ our lives are not our own anymore. We belong to Him. Our job is to bring others into a relationship with Him. If our lives do not reflect the glory of Christ, how will we ever be able to convince others to seek Him? I don't want to get into whether a Christian should drink alcohol or not, but what if your drinking causes someone else to look at your life and say, "He is no different then me, so why should I bother listening to him?" If the movies you go to see cause someone to ask the same question, is what you are doing good for their soul? If you are well known for breaking the speed limit, and that causes someone to not see the difference Christ has made in your life, even though in every other way you shine brightly with His glory, is speeding harmful to that person's soul? If we stand around and gossip like everyone else, are we causing someone to reject our witness?
We carry an awesome responsibility. Our lives are the guideposts that will lead people to either eternal life or eternal damnation. We may be on the right road, but which way are the guideposts of our lives pointing?
Do you know one of the biggest reasons people give for not going to church? Hypocrites! Many people think that all Christians are hypocrites. They see them out partying on Saturday night and then singing hymns on Sunday. Or maybe they see them taking home office supplies from work while condemning others for stealing. Or maybe it is the first word that comes out of their mouths when they hit their shin on the desk. Playing the lotto while complaining about the evils of gambling.
The world holds us to a higher standard than they do themselves. What standard do we hold ourselves to? You might think this is all not fair; what we do should be between God and us. If God does not convict us over something then why should we worry about it, why care what other people think? Is our life just about what pleasure we can enjoy from it? Do we care that other people may not come to know Christ because of us?
Turn all your guideposts toward Jesus and there won't be anything to worry about. That does not mean that the world will not still see things in your life that they try to claim make you the same as them. Satan loves to help people think that what Christians are doing is no better than what the world is doing, just don't give him any ammunition. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
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