Are you measuring up to God's standard of conduct? Is your life really a good example to others? Could someone follow you and be assured of entering God's Kingdom? Read this article and learn what God expects your conduct should be.
HAVE YOU ever had the uneasy feeling that someone was watching you — that a pair of eyes was trained on you, carefully scrutinizing your every move? Almost instinctively, you've glanced in the direction of the person, more often than not, only to catch a fleeting look before the eyes are hurriedly turned in another direction. This is distracting — annoying. Feelings of resentment often arise — especially, if the person persists in "eyeing you." It makes you feel nervous and self-conscious. You suddenly feel "on the spot." Brethren, YOU ARE ON THE SPOT! You are being watched. At times, you are being followed!
Teaching by Example
God has called us to be living proofs that His way of life is the very finest available to man. It is unsurpassed by anything this world offers. We have the fabulous opportunity of influencing people through the power of our example. When God called Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He intended for them to be a MODEL nation — a kind of national "showcase" — through which the surrounding Gentile nations could learn of God's laws by seeing the PRACTICAL benefits of obedience on a national scale. Moses explained this awesome responsibility to Israel just before they entered into the promised land. "Keep therefore and do them [the statutes and judgments of God]; for this is your wisdom and your understanding IN THE SIGHT OF THE NATIONS, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Deut. 4:6-8.) The tragic chronicle of Israel's history is that she consistently failed to measure up to this high calling. Instead of remaining faithful to God's laws — which was Israel's greatest claim to fame — she repeatedly borrowed the pagan ideas and customs from the surrounding Gentile nations. These nations didn't learn righteousness from Israel, because Israel was too busy learning WICKEDNESS from them! Instead of overcoming the world, Israel was overcome by it! God's Church — the spiritual Israel of God — has been given the very same responsibility. The apostle Peter wrote, "But ye [Christians] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [purchased) people; that ye should SHOW FORTH the praises [virtues or excellence] of him, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (I Pet. 2:9). We must succeed where Israel failed. People are to see through you the LIVING PROOF that God's way is the best way to live. Your lives are the showcases into which people are looking
Live a Life Worthy of Your Calling
What a responsibility! Have you ever stopped to fully consider the awesome implications of this commission? People are going to be watching you. Your words and your actions are going to be the mirrors by which God's truth is reflected to others They will judge God's way of life by your example. Paul wrote, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye WALK WORTHY of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Eph. 4:l). Here is our real vocation — our JOB — to live so close to God that our lives give no occasion for reproach to be brought on God's Church. Paul also wrote to the Philippian Church, "Let your conversation [conduct] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27). We are living examples of the Gospel of Christ — the good news of what God has purposed to ultimately achieve in all mankind. We are to demonstrate the happy, abundant lives which all men are to experience in the World Tomorrow. We are the advance guard — the forerunners — the PACESETTERS. Yes, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE FOLLOWING US.
You Must Be Blameless
Last month, you learned what kind of attitude you should have toward your ultimate job in the Kingdom of God. You are not to be seeking a position of rulership for a selfish motive. Personal pride and the vanity of position must be crushed. A true servant of God is driven forward by a SELFLESS, outgoing concern for other people. His mind isn't on himself but on serving others. You must desire God's Kingdom so that you can give the matchless benefits of God's way of life to future sons of God. No one is going to qualify as a king or priest unless he has developed the mind of a servant. However, there is more to qualifying for the Kingdom of God than just having an attitude of service. There are definite QUALIFICATIONS you must meet. Just anyone isn't going to be in God's ruling family — only those who have qualified. The qualifications for the ministry are spiritual guidelines that can be used by every member of God's Church to evaluate his own personal spiritual growth. It is remarkable how many of the qualifications God has set for His ministry — which in principle involve each member who is to become a part of God's ruling family — involve the matter of personal conduct and how that conduct can influence others. The apostle Paul begins the list of actual qualifications in both I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with the most important one of all. "A bishop [overseer in spiritual matters) then must be BLAMELESS" (I Tim. 3:2). What does this mean? Is this referring to spiritual perfection — complete sinlessness? Must a man finally reach the point that he never sins before he can be ordained to the ministry? Does his character have to be absolutely flawless? No, brethren, such is most certainly NOT the case. If it were, there would never have been anyone in the ministry except Jesus Christ, who is the only One who has ever lived a sinless life. The apostle John openly admitted his own sinful nature when he wrote, "If we [he included himself] say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). He had been in the ministry over half a century when he wrote this. The apostle Paul wrote, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). Blamelessness does not mean spiritual perfection. God is well aware of our spiritual flaws and weaknesses. Our sins are not hidden from God (Heb. 4:12-13). However, when we sincerely repent of our sins, God promises to completely forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). We are no longer guilty before God, because our sins have been pardoned and blotted out (Acts 3:19). God has even promised to remember them no more (Heb. 10:17). It is as if these sins had never been committed! Our past becomes, therefore, sinless or BLAMELESS through God's mercy. Even though we continue to break God's laws through weakness, God will not impute these sins to us IF we repent of them and strive to OVERCOME them (Rom. 4:7-8). Blamelessness has another important dimension. It also involves your conduct as seen by other people. The actual Greek word for blameless could just as correctly be translated "irreproachable" or "not open to censure." It refers to a person who has been sufficiently successful in overcoming that all the obvious or glaring character flaws, which would make him liable to censure or criticism from those about him, have been overcome.
A Reliable Example
He is one whose example can be SAFELY FOLLOWED! This is a primary consideration before any man can be ordained to the ministry. We find the apostle Paul making such statements as these: "Be thou [Timothy] an example of the believers, in word, in conversation [conduct], in charity [love], in spirit, in. faith, in purity" (I Tim. 4:12). "Remember them which have the rule over you [God's ministers], who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation [conduct]" (Heb. 13:7). A minister of God is one whose example can be followed. In him, people can see LIVING PROOF of God's laws in his life. Some might say, "I thought we weren't to follow men but only follow Jesus Christ." Of course, we are to follow Jesus Christ. However, since Jesus Christ is no longer living on this earth as a human being, it is impossible for you to personally follow Him. You cannot live with Christ as His original disciples did. You cannot listen to Him speak or observe His every move. God knew that we needed human examples to follow. That is one reason why there are ministers. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Be ye followers [imitators] of me, EVEN AS I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1). He also wrote to the Thessalonians, "And ye became followers of us, AND of the Lord" (I Thes. 1:6). Is this following a man, instead of Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! It is following Jesus Christ through the example of a man, who himself is faithfully following Jesus Christ. You are to follow God's ministers only in so far as they follow Christ. Nothing could be safer.
Is This True of YOU?
Is YOUR personal conduct blameless and above reproach? Can others SAFELY follow your example? Can Jesus Christ be seen through you? Yes, brethren, these questions do apply to you! God's ministers aren't the only ones responsible for the impact of their lives on others. Your example also plays a vital role in fulfilling your CALLING. You weren't called merely to have your erroneous doctrinal concepts changed. You were called to CHANGE YOUR WAY OF LIFE! God's truth is something to be LIVED, as well as learned. Right knowledge is worthless unless it changes the way you live! Your calling is "an HOLY calling" (II Tim. 1:9). God has chosen you to "be holy and WITHOUT BLAME before him in love" (Eph. 1:4). Your conduct is to be BLAMELESS! This is the very purpose for which you have been called. God is creating sons. And He demands that you grow up spiritually into His very character. The apostle Peter wrote, "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in ALL MANNER of conversation [conduct]; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (I Pet. 1:15-16). Some in God's Church have utterly failed to grasp this purpose of their calling. Too many have been excusing their shameful conduct. They are NOT striving to be blameless in all manner of conduct. Could you be guilty of such careless disregard for your personal example and its impact on others? Are you conscious of your influence on others in every aspect of your behavior? Paul wrote, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless [innocent), the sons of God, without rebuke [above reproach), in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye SHINE AS LIGHTS in the world" (Phil. 2:14-15). You are an example to others — whether you like it or not. You cannot escape influencing others. Jesus Christ made this very clear: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill CANNOT BE HID" (Mat. 5:14). You cannot afford to be unconcerned about your conduct. People are going to be watching you. What will they see? You are an example. The major question is whether you are a good or bad example.
Take This Seriously
This is SERIOUS BUSINESS! It is a grave responsibility! Paul showed that a servant of God must be sober-minded (I Tim. 3:2). Do you take your calling seriously? THIS IS NO GAME! Yet some are "playing around" with salvation. Do you realize the ultimate stakes which are involved? Your conduct — the way you live day after day — is going to determine whether you end up in the Kingdom of God or the lake of fire! This is nothing to take lightly. You need to awaken to the tremendous urgency of conquering those sins which have been so easily besetting you (Heb. 12:1). You need to begin a CRASH PROGRAM to overcome every one of your character flaws — beginning on those which are most obvious to those around you. You cannot afford to continue compromising with sin — to let your weaknesses be a public spectacle for others to witness. Some have brought scorn and ridicule on God's Church because of their wrong example. Such conduct is a REPROACH to the very body of Christ. Don't let this happen to you! Begin to seriously apply yourself to the task of being blameless in your conduct.
Be On Guard
Another qualification — that of VIGILANCE — goes hand in hand with being serious-minded (I Tim. 3:2). If you earnestly desire to be blameless in your conduct — to be a real overcomer — you are going to be alert and ON GUARD against your enemies. You will not become spiritually careless and fall asleep on the job. Satan is one of our major enemies. The apostle Peter explains how to resist his attacks. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith" (I Pet. 5:8-9). No man being stalked by a man-eating lion hot on his trail is going to become careless and forget that he is the hunted — not the hunter. Satan is bent on destroying YOU. Nothing short of absolute alertness can avoid disaster. Not only must we battle Satan, but we must also be on guard against the alluring pitfalls of this world — a Satanically devised society well calculated to bombard you with the most enticing ways to sin. Finally, we are subject to these temptations because of our biggest enemy of all — HUMAN NATURE. Within you are pulls and drives which run totally contrary to the laws of God. These make you a potential prey to Satan and the influence of this world. You must resist them — PUT THEM TO DEATH through the power of God's Spirit (Col. 3:5). This is not the time to go to sleep on the job. The apostle Paul warned the Church at Rome against this very tendency. "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to AWAKE OUT OF SLEEP: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly [live blamelessly], as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But PUT YE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:11-14). If this was true in Paul's day, how much more applicable it is today. You are now living at the very close of man's LONG NIGHT of spiritual ignorance and rebellion against God's laws. The night is almost over. A new day is about to dawn. Christ will soon return to usher in the happy World Tomorrow. No era of God's Church has ever been so close to its ultimate reward. Christians in other eras have had to wait in their graves — in some cases, thousands of years — before receiving what you are on the very threshold of receiving. Even as a runner nearing the finish line is spurred on by the prospect of victory, all in God's Church should be inspired to put forth a MAXIMUM EFFORT, since our salvation — the reward of being born into the Kingdom of God — is "NEARER THAN WHEN WE BELIEVED." Are you hard at work — striving to be blameless in every aspect of your life — so you will be qualified to receive this crown of life?
Self-control Is Necessary
In order to really master your human nature, you must be TEMPERATE (Titus 1:8). Too often this word has been misunderstood. It should better be translated "self-control." This is one of the most important of all qualifications for a potential king or priest to possess. This attribute is, however, sorely lacking in today's world. More and more, we see the evidence of undisciplined minds — the skyrocketing crime rate, the deterioration of the home, the undisciplined and delinquent children, the lack of respect for authority at all levels of our society and the appalling increase in mental breakdowns and even suicide. This was prophesied! The apostle Paul described our day when he wrote of the conditions which would exist in the "last days." One characteristic he was inspired to record was that of being incontinent" (II Tim. 3:3). This means "without self-control, POWERLESS." Yes, people today seem powerless to cope with the burgeoning array of problems (both public and personal) which besets them on all sides. An increasing number are cracking under the strain. Too many are following the line of least resistance — refusing to put forth the effort required to discipline themselves. You are a product of this age. Just because you have been converted and are now in God's Church doesn't mean you no longer have to battle this problem. The chances are that before you were converted you also were following this line of least resistance. You were indulging in various debilitating activities which probably weaken even your carnal ability to exercise self-restraint. Many come into God's Church with their mental fiber greatly weakened. It becomes necessary then to shore up your self-discipline. This is not to be accomplished through the devious machinations of so-called "mind science." While some partial benefits do result from developing carnal self-discipline, total self-control is absolutely impossible. No stream ever rises above its own source. Therefore, no one is going to be able to achieve complete SPIRITUAL self-discipline using only his carnal mental resources. God has given us His Spirit — the Spirit "of power, and of love and of a sound mind [DISCIPLINE or SELF-CONTROL)" (II Tim. 1:7). God's Spirit imparts the spiritual power we need to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10:5). However, too many in God's Church have allowed God's Spirit to lie dormant in their minds. If we don't stir up this power and put it to use, it is worthless. Solomon said, "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." (Prov. 25:28.) You will never be qualified to rule others unless you first learn how to rule yourself.
Control Your Temper
Another qualification Paul mentions is "NOT SOON ANGRY" (Tit. 1:7). Do you exercise self-control in this important area of conduct? Solomon wrote, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Prov. 16:32). By mastering this one important facet of character development, you will be more qualified to rule than any of history's famous generals or military leaders. Though brilliant military strategists and successful in war, many of these men were unable to master their own personal weaknesses. Alexander the Great, who brought the mightiest nations of his day to their knees, sat down at the age of 31 and wept because there were no more nations left to conquer. Yet he died at the youthful age of 34, a victim of his own profligacy. How tragic! A world conqueror unable to conquer himself! Notice a remarkable case of short-temperedness in Luke 9:51-56. Jesus Christ and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem. When the messengers He had sent to a certain Samaritan village to prepare for His arrival were rebuffed and snubbed by the villagers, James and John became filled with wrath. They immediately urged Christ to allow them to command fire to come down from heaven and utterly destroy those people. Christ's answer is most significant. "But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to SAVE them" (Luke 9:55-56). Think of the colossal damage these men would have wreaked on those hapless individuals if they at that time had possessed the power to execute their wrathful reaction. Now consider the terrifying prospect of one possessing the power of God without the wisdom and self-control necessary to properly me that power for the GOOD of those under his rule. Without Godly patience and long-suffering, you would be lashing out with sudden fury at the slightest provocation or demonstration of rebellion. Instead of being a ruler, you would be a ruiner — an executioner. No one is going to be given this awesome power until he has first proven capable of controlling himself. If God did not have perfect control of Himself, He would have expunged all human life from the face of the earth because of man's God-defying ways. At the beginning of the Millennium, it is going to take extreme patience in bringing mankind to conversion. Human nature isn't going to easily surrender. We will have to bear long with many before they really come to repentance. Any unwise and impatient misuse of power could prove disastrous. There are times, however, when even a deeply converted person will become angry — very angry. The Bible records many times when God Himself became angry. Notice God's statement to Moses after Israel had committed gross idolatry in making the molten calf. "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may WAX HOT against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation" (Ex. 32:9-10). We must learn to be angered by the same things which make God angry. God hates sin, and His wrath is directed towards all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). God becomes angry when He sees people hurting themselves. This is always the end result of sin. By contrast carnal anger is aroused when the self is hurt — when personal pride has been offended or personal ambition or achievement has been thwarted. We become very indignant when someone crosses us or we don't get our own way. This kind of anger is totally SELFISH and is SIN! A truly converted servant of God is going to be motivated by genuine love for those about him. His mind will be absorbed in serving them — not defending his self-centered interests. He won't become "easily provoked" (I Cor. 13:5) when others don't respond in the way he had hoped. He won't be "losing his temper" or "flying off the handle." Instead, he will be merciful and patient — LONG-SUFFERING — and kind in dealing with his fellowman.
Moderation in Drinking
Another way in which self-control manifests itself is in relation to the use of alcoholic beverages. A well-disciplined servant of God is not GIVEN TO WINE (I Tim. 3:3). This doesn't mean (as some contend) that a Christian should never take a drink. Rather, it is referring to the proper me of alcoholic beverages. A Christian is not to be addicted to them but to use them in moderation. Many of you drank before coming into God's Church. How happy you were to learn that this was one thing you wouldn't "have to give up." So you kept right on drinking — in many cases, exactly the same way you did when you were still in the world. You have convinced yourself that you are "moderate" in your drinking, never realizing that possibly yow definition of moderation may be that of the world and not of Jesus Christ. The world's concept of moderation is usually, in reality, EXCESS! In most cases, you can't drink the way you drank in the world if you intend to be a Christian — one in whom the mind of Christ motivates all things, including your use of alcoholic beverages. Christ didn't drink the way some of you drink. And if you allow Him to guide you, you won't continue to drink the way you have been drinking. You will alter your concept of moderation. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and instructed him to take a LITTLE wine (I Tim. 5:23). This means exactly what it says. No one is going to get drunk or come anywhere close to getting drunk on a "little" wine. The trouble with some IS that they want the Church to define the absolute limit they can go before they would be considered drunk. This is the SPIRIT OF LAWLESSNESS! A deeply converted person isn't going to want to get as close to the edge as possible. He will do everything in his power to stay on safe ground. Don't flirt with danger — stay far away from the edge. Some have miscalculated and plunged to their doom. Your eternal life is at stake! Also, don't make the mistake of depending on alcoholic beverages for comfort or strength when the "going gets rough." Some have refused to face up to their problems and have tried to escape into the twilight world of fuzzy feelings and dulled senses. This doesn't solve anything. It only makes matters worse. Look to God for help and then in the strength of His might meet the challenges and overcome them.
A Bond Slave
We naturally are self-willed. We want our own way. This is a basic ingredient of human nature. Usually, our way is the wrong way! Solomon wrote, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). If you are to be qualified to rule in the Kingdom of God, you must NOT BE SELF-WILLED (Titus 1:7). You must overcome your "know it all," "this is the way I look at it" self-willed nature. We are now bond slaves — totally loyal and obedient to God in all things. Notice Paul's statement, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and YE ARE NOT YOUR OWN? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Cor. 6:19-20). A truly converted Christian doesn't want his will to be done. He has crucified his selfish desires and ambitions and has completely surrendered his will to the rule of God. He prays, "Not my will but yours be done." Neither will he be greedy or covetous (I Tim. 3:3). We don't obey God for merely what we can get out of it. As you learned in the first article in this series, "Why Do You Want To Be in the Kingdom of God?" the motivation must be that of wanting to give and serve. We are all preparing so we can be qualified to be mighty SERVANTS in God's Kingdom. This takes time and experience. No one is qualified to assume a position of rulership immediately upon entering God's Church. Much growth and overcoming is necessary. Therefore, no NOVICE (I Tim. 3:6) — no inexperienced and unqualified "greenhorn" — is ready to discharge the sweeping and awesome responsibilities of rulership in God's family. We must all go through a time of trial and testing before God will entrust such powers to our charge. Paul said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Tim. 4:7). We also must prove faithful "under fire." It is the heat of the battle that changes the boot camp trainee into an experienced, battle-hardened veteran. Even so we must have our character proven "under fire." We must remain on the firing line no matter how rugged the battle might be. Christ said, "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Mat. 24:13). Now is the time to be developing these qualities in your character. Don't let down — don't become careless in your conduct! Make sure those who are following you will be able to see Christ living His life in you. Remember our goal is perfection.