God’s alternative lifestyle: Are you following an Alternative Lifestyle? About.com defines Alternative Lifestyle in 3 ways, here are the first 2: A method of living one’s life that is contrary to social norms. Unconventional participation within society. Alternative lifestyle can mean a bunch of things, big list, communes to Amish, new age travelers to some sexual things. So here is where I am going with this, in this Post-Modern world most of those alternative lifestyles are now accepted as normal mainstream lifestyles.
Now let me give you the third part of the description: A philosophy or way of thinking that differs from mainstream culture or society e.g. Monotheism or Abrahamic belief systems. Abrahamic belief systems – that would include Jews, Muslims and Christians. Now the world is upside down! How can being a Christian be considered an Alternative Lifestyle – outside the cultural norm?
Well, God has always expected His people to live outside of what the world says is the cultural norm. We have been called to live according to God’s plan and purpose, we have been chosen, set apart, forgiven and saved to live for Christ. God calls us to live an alternative lifestyle that challenges the moral, political, economic and social structures of the world around us. We have been called to be dynamic followers of Christ, who live, speak and act in a way that brings honor and glory to God. We are to follow an alternative lifestyle, an alternative path, the narrow way, the narrow gate, remember the words of Jesus about the narrow gate, narrow road and only a few ever find it. Sobering words. Jesus didn’t sugar coat the truth, in love He spoke to those who would listen.
John 14: 23-24 Jesus said “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.” Jesus is the only way of salvation and we are called to follow Him and to obey His commands out of love. We are meant to live an alternative life, a life of faith, a life of service, a life of trust, a life of faithfulness, we are called to live holy lives. We are called to live an alternative lifestyle.
1 Peter 1:13-19:
“Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy. Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land. Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. Instead, you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb.”
A people set apart, to be Holy because God is Holy. We are called to act differently in thought and action. “Act differently” – problem is for some people being a Christian is an act – just going through the motions. Being religious rather than being in a real relationship with God. Some people are really good at being religious – it’s Sunday get on the church clothes, the church face and for everyone else to see they act differently than they do for the other six days of the week.
Acting like a Christian is worlds away from what it really means to be a follower of Jesus, worlds away from what it means to be a disciple of Christ. There is a big difference between acting like a Christian sometimes and being a disciple of Jesus at all times. So, how do we make the change from acting like a Christian to being a real disciple? Simply put, our focus needs to be more on God and less on ourselves.
God at the center, not God at the edges. How? Truly living out what all know: Matthew 22:37: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When we focus our attention on the Lord, throw out our other worldly idols, and build an intimate relationship with Him we spend less time going through the motions of what we think we should be, and we concentrate on His goals, His plans and His purpose for our lives.
Listen to this Joyce Meyer quote: “This generation is desperately searching for something authentic. People are always watching us. They are watching us to see if we are the real deal. Without a transformed heart we can never be the light that the world around us so desperately needs. Stop acting and start being!”
Here is what I believe God is telling many of you today: “Don’t just act like a Christian, be a dynamic follower of Jesus.” Make every effort to live every day as an authentic disciple of Christ. Yes, sometimes we fall back into old patterns of behavior. Sometimes we fail to control our actions. That’s what happens when we try to live our lives from the outside in instead of from the inside out.
Sometimes we compartmentalize our life and divide it into segments. We become actors, taking on the role of who we think we are supposed to be depending on our audience or circumstances. At church we are supposed to be a Christian, so we act like one. Around our Christian friends we are supposed to be a Christian so we act like one, usually.
At work or in public, we try to act like a Christian because we are supposed to be one, but at work or in public we don’t have to play the role as well as we do at church because often the people around us are not quite as familiar with the Christian script.
At home, we act like our real selves, because we believe that our secret is safe with our family. In the home the storm might be raging but then the doorbell rings. It’s amazing how quickly people can shift roles and play the part of the perfect life. We move the couch to cover the stain on the carpet, we wipe the dust off the tv stand, we threaten the kids with lifelong grounding if they so much as look the wrong way. As soon as guests arrive, we can become an instant model family. Many of us do the same thing with God.
We can be on our way to church having a fight with our spouse, or the kids, and the moment we arrive at church, the “spirit of visiting God” comes upon us. We smile at the greeters and people, sing and pray with the same voice that we were just using in anger. We play the role of perfect Christian for an hour or two, have a nice visit with God, then get back in the car and go back to being our real selves again.
We act like who we are supposed to be instead of living a real heart-transformed life, too many Christians are living a life of outward behavior modification. This is not how God wants us to live. Jesus does not want us to simply act like Christians. He wants us to be authentic dynamic disciples. The only way for us to be dynamic disciples is by allowing God to change us from the inside out.
God wants to have a personal relationship with us. He wants to be involved in every part of our lives. God is not satisfied with visitation rights for a couple of hours on a Sunday. God wants to be at the center of our lives, at the center of who we are, at the center of who we are becoming. God wants us to live an alternative life – a Holy Life. Just looking the part is not enough. We are supposed to be transformed into the image of Jesus.
If we do not respond and accept the transforming grace of God then we are just like the Pharisees Jesus described in Matthew 23:27-28, “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs. They look beautiful on the outside. But inside they are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth. In the same way you look righteous to people. But inside you are full of pretense and rebellion.” Jesus despises hypocrisy. He wants authentic disciples.
Our transformation does not happen overnight, it is something that we have to work at, struggle with, pray about and be willing to accept. Don’t focus on just doing Christian things – focus on being a disciple. If we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior then we should have a real desire to be like Christ and truly behave like His disciple. True Discipleship comes from a heart devoted to a God who loves us and we should be willing to serve our Lord with our life.
At the heart of real discipleship is a desire to do what God has called us to do, not out of duty but out of our love for our Savior. Our external actions should flow from an internal life lived for Jesus. The key to becoming who we are supposed to be, in Christ, is to spend time in His presence and allow ourselves to be conformed to His image. We need to peel back the layers, real change needs to start from the inside out.
Let me ask you this: What does being a disciple of Christ really mean to you? Based on the way you are currently living your life, is it obvious to others that you are a disciple of Christ? If you truly believe God is with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it should change the way that you think or act. Is the “you” that people see at church the same “you” that people know at home or at work? True discipleship should be evident in our lives every day. God has called us to love Him and to love others. God calls us to be part of a community outside of these 4 walls where we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
In your everyday transactions with others, do you see the person as someone who is there to serve you, or do you see them as a real person, someone who needs to know and feel the love of Jesus? Is there someone in your life who needs to know Jesus as Lord and Savior but you have avoided talking to them?
God’s commandment is to speak with people, develop relationships, treat people as people of worth created by God. A disciple focuses on others, not just themselves. We need to learn to be content in the plan and purpose that God has for us, that doesn’t mean we don’t have ambition, but we do need to be realistic. When we learn to embrace God’s plan for our lives we can experience a deep contentment.
Every one of us is unique and special to God and He has given each of us gifts and talents that are to be used for God’s purposes. But a person’s spiritual gift’s does not define who that person is. The true determination is the fruit of a person’s life. Resolve to focus on developing the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are measures of our discipleship. Living possessing these fruits is God’s alternative lifestyle.
Choose one of the fruits and think of an area in your life where this fruit may be lacking. Will you allow God to develop that particular fruit in your life?
I will close with this: Romans 12:2 “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature” If we want to change the way we live our daily lives, if we want to be dynamic disciples, then we need to allow God to transform us and transform our thinking.
We are called to be a light in the world. When it comes to being a light in the world, we have a choice how brightly we shine. Are you a candle, a light bulb, or a lighthouse? Are there people in your world who are in darkness because you are not shining bright enough? Are there people in the world that sees your lifestyle is not set apart from the worlds?
We know exactly what we are not supposed to be doing, but we often forget about what we should be doing. Being a truly surrendered follower of Jesus requires us to make a daily choice and determination. It is something we can forever be improving on, learning from, sharing with others. Discipleship is a journey, it’s an adventure, it’s an alternative lifestyle – a Holy lifestyle. Don’t just act like a Christian, truly be one!