2 Reasons and 3 Monkeys
As I reflected a bit on this week’s message, I had a vision of three monkeys. No, I don’t think I got into a bad batch of Frosted Flakes. This week we focus on the outward appearance of “being different,” of living a holy life. And just like the monkeys covering their ears, eyes and mouth speaking the message of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, there are three primary decision and action points when it comes to appearing different to the world. They are my three monkeys. But before we go there, let’s reboot a bit and look at two reasons the apostle Peter suggests for being different and living a holy life.
We find the first reason in verse eleven of 1 Peter chapter two:
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.
Peter is urging us to be different, to live holy lives, because giving in to our sinful desires wages war against our very soul. I suppose this could sound a bit over-the-top, but I assure you it is very real. We have talked about it in this series, and several others this year, there is a war raging every moment of every day you are alive. It is a war involving forces which you can’t see and touch, but the effects of this war can absolutely be felt. If you choose to fall to the temptations which bombard you each day, you can feel the effects in the very center of who you are. I’m not just talking about the physical or emotional consequences, I’m talking about a pit-of-your-stomach, core-of-who-you-are, uneasiness or sickness you feel when temptations and desires are winning individual battles. And by contrast, when you are battling and conquering desires and temptations, there is a sense of “health” and joy which doesn’t come from good nutrition or an exercise high. This is your soul hitting a tuning fork and its wavelengths falling right in line with the very heart of God. He desperately desires the best for us, and He knows the hurt and devastation that’s waiting at the other end of our sinful desires.
Reason number two can be found in the very next verse:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
In this context, “appearance” does matter. Doing good “in public” should not be an exercise of showing off, but of showing. When we live holy lives out loud, people see. Whether it’s a “Life Bridge Church” t-shirt or someone knowing you believe in Jesus, how you choose to live in front of others announces Jesus. What they see in you is a reflection on Him. God works even through our failures, but our desire and pattern in living should be as a knowing and willing ambassador for Him. It is the plan for every follower of Jesus that their life be an invitation to the kingdom. When people observe your life, they should be drawn to the difference — drawn so strongly that they insist on knowing the reason for it.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
1 Peter 2:13-16
Intellectual arguments will never reach people’s hearts like the power of a living example. You can be equipped with all the theological arguments for the existence of God and physical evidence of the person and life of Jesus, but that will never show God like a simple, selfless act of godly love or a genuinely changed life. How we life speaks infinitely louder than any words we use to defend or explain God. You want to win an argument about God with someone? Stop arguing and start living a holy life.
Be an impressionist
As followers of God, we need to commit ourselves to the truth that our lives are not our own. We belong to Him, and everything we do and are comes from Him. As followers of God, we need to make an impression in and on the lives of everyone God intersects with ours. And this is where we return to the three monkeys. They’re really not monkeys, but if that’s odd and different (see what I just did there?) enough to stick, then all the better.
In order to make a permanent impression in and on the lives of others, our life must be different in three ways — how you live, how you look, and the way you talk.
Who do you listen to? Who do you go to for wisdom and advice? It’s likely not someone who’s a hypocrite, and it’s definitely not someone who’s dishonest (how would you trust a word they said?!). If you want to make a good impression, if you want to be someone who others listen to and respect, it needs to matter how you live. Before you begin to speak the truth of the Bible to someone, make sure your life speaks the same words that you’re offering to someone else. It does matter. They may trust you or gift you trust if they don’t know you that well yet, but they will turn you off quickly if who you are doesn’t speak the same language as what comes out of your mouth (no matter where you’re reading it from).
What do people see when they observe you? Does your life outwardly speak the truth that you believe inwardly? The question is not whether you’re perfect (no one truly expects perfection), the question is whether you are being and living true.
We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
2 Corinthians 8:20-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Live your life in a way that speaks what you believe without you having to every say a word. Play the match game with what you believe and how you live.
It seems to be true in our modern world that the voices are either confrontational or muted. We are far more about the extremes than the picture of right conversation illustrated in the second sentence of the following verses:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Be different in the way you speak. Don’t rail, and don’t cower. Don’t dominate the conversation, and don’t shy from it. The Bible gives such a beautiful and concise standard for the way we ought to speak … speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). That doesn’t mean we shout, and it doesn’t mean we stay silent when truth is at stake. That doesn’t mean we coerce and it doesn’t mean we refuse to speak when godly wisdom or correction is needed. If you speak the truth in love, you can be assured of your holy life speaking the same thing outwardly as you believe inwardly. And I guarantee you will draw a crowd, and show Jesus in the process. Your life will make an impression because your words are gracious and properly seasoned.
And here is the question…
If there is one thing you leave with at the end of watching and reading today, let it be this. How am I going to live my life as evidence that God is real? How am I going to live, look and speak in a way that will make people take notice, and draw them to Jesus?