What’s your witness? When you’re living your daily life, at work, with your family or neighbors and extended family–where ever it is you go or whomever you associate with–are you a reflection of Christ to them? Or are you just yourself, basically indistinguishable from everyone else, simply reflecting the variations of our individual personalities?
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)
Have you ever had a wake-up call–an experience that crystallized and brought to light an important truth you knew but perhaps forgot, or missed the significance of?
My employer closed its doors forever yesterday. Earlier in the week, a coworker started a notebook for contact information and personal reflections, and I realized–for the first time–that there actually were other Christians working here besides the Facebook friend I was aware of! And I began wondering if, just as I hadn’t been aware of their faith–had they been aware of mine? What if I looked to them like just another employee, busy pursuing the goals of the company but basically indistinguishable from everyone else?
Which brings us to an important question–what is our witness to those around us, especially at work where we spend the bulk of our hours? Is it niceness? A cheerful spirit? Helpfulness? But there are nonbelievers who are decent people–some, in fact, who put us to shame! So how do I, as a follower of Christ Jesus, differ from any other relatively polite and well-adjusted coworker? I suspect the answer may be difficult for many of us because it gets to the heart of the issue.
Christ Jesus is powerful, but we are useful to Him only to the degree we remain in Him. In His own words, His kingdom is “not of this world;” we are not selling an idea or recruiting for an organization, but witnessing to the God of the universe, so the power, the driving force, has to be of Him, not me. Did you catch that? Our witness, our light, is not ours–it is His; it is “Christ in us”–and it is only as strong as our relationship with Him is. Remember that He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.” (John 15:5 CEB) This wasn’t idle talk; He was sharing a basic spiritual truth. If I’m not in love with God–not merely tethered to Him by the tiniest of threads because it’s been so long since I’ve allocated time to really read the Bible and pray, but genuinely, actively, and aggressively pursuing Him–I doubt anyone will recognize me as Christ’s; I’ll just look like a well-intentioned individual pushing my religion.
Because witnessing Christ is not something I can fake. Pretending to be close to Him when I’ve neglected the relationship only makes me seem hypocritical to others–sanctimonious, religious, legalistic, the moral police. No, “Christ in me” really must be Christ actively at work in me through His Word and the Spirit. It is not something I personally muster; it is Him at work in and through me when I am close to Him.
But how do we maintain a strong and vibrant relationship with our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, His Son? How do we retain an effective witness for Him in light of our work and active high-tech lives, frequently devoid (by choice or necessity) of any margin in terms of time, energy and finances? Is it even possible?
There are two answers to this question. The first is that we are all different and the circumstances under which you can retain your “flavor” or “salt-likeness”–your strong relationship with and witness for Christ Jesus–may be different than the circumstances I might need. Having said that, the truth is also that every choice we make in life–even for the purpose of putting food on the table and keeping the utilities from being shut off–molds and shapes us in some way, and as it does we are being shifted, perhaps almost imperceptibly but shifted nonetheless, either closer toward Jesus or further away from Him.
So we really must examine our lives–even the sacred cow of job and career: is it drawing you closer to Christ, or pulling you away from Him? Remember that He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30 NCV) That which pulls or grows us away from Him has to go if at all possible because eternity is too important.
Our lives are remarkably short, and we must actively structure them so that each year, day, and moment is spent most effectively preparing for the day we say goodbye and leave this world forever to go home to our eternal God and Father–not wasting them in sinful (or even merely frivolous) pursuits. Why? Because these distract us from growing closer to Jesus, and thereby from becoming usable by Him.
So, how are you spending the life God gave you? Not just your free time, but also the time and energy you invest daily in your employment itself? Is the bulk of your days, all of your working hours, spent growing closer to Christ in some way, shape or form? Or is the structure of your livelihood such that there are great institutionalized or other pulls and temptations to fall away from Him–to become world-like, indistinguishable from everyone else? Who are you essentially becoming as your life progresses?
Remember that “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:6-8 NIV)
Christ has died for our sins, but God expects us to not take lightly the riches of His grace. And whether we believe it could happen to us or not, we can experience a falling away–become deadened to the things of God–not just through a conscious dramatic “I-want-nothing-to-do-with-You” moment, but also through a series of poor choices and neglect, by failing to structure our lives to actively grow in our knowledge and love of Christ, by not cutting out temptations and that which “changes us” away from Him, by not actively pursuing Him–and waking up one morning to realize we’ve lost our distinctiveness; that we believe and live exactly as everyone else!
So, what is our witness? Our witness is Christ and Christ only–“Christ in us, the hope of glory”–and if we aren’t actually ardently remaining in Christ, we shouldn’t be surprised if no one recognizes us as His, that no one sees Him in us. No amount of niceness–nothing humanly in me–will draw people to God; only the power we receive from the Spirit of Christ when we remain in Him, draws people to God!
Dear Lord God,
Help me obey You by not neglecting my relationship with You, by actively remaining in You as You commanded; let the power that comes from Your Spirit and draws people to Yourself work in me, so I can witness You–reflect You–to the people in my life. Amen.