(We are making the move back to CO and the office, school, church, etc. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. You are welcome to comment as usual and I will respond on the other side.)
Should a Christian’s life be changed on the outside because of the reality of the presence of the Lord on the inside? Absolutely! However, no one has the right to define what that change will look like except the Lord Himself. In his great discussion on this kind of issue, Paul addresses this.
Romans 14:4 (NKJV) Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Not only is it not our place to criticize another believer, but God Himself will take care of him. I sincerely believe that following Jesus will make a noticeable difference in the life of any believer, much more so than following a list of rules. At the same time, I have learned that what is wrong for one may not be wrong for another and the only way for me to know God’s will for me is to ask and listen. One person may feel strongly that Jesus doesn’t want him watching football on Sunday. That’s great – but it has nothing to do with other Christians. Let them listen to Jesus for themselves. I know people who will stay far away from debt because of a sincere leading of the Lord. I know others who use debt wisely and are generous and wealthy. Let Jesus lead.
I will close with this. When my sons were small, I didn’t want them to touch the hot burner of the stove because it would damage them. I kept them away from the burner when it was hot. I told them not to touch it. If they came close to touching it by playing or by being careless, I would scold them, perhaps even lightly punish them. All because I didn’t want them to be hurt. Now that they are older, I never talk about it. Are they free to touch the hot burner if they want? Do they have license to touch the hot burner? The answer is yes, but I still don’t want them to. As they have grown older, however, I have learned that I must trust them and allow them to listen to my wisdom and follow it freely – or not, as they wish. I cannot and will not try to control them. If they want to touch the burner, they may do so. If they do, they will still be my sons. They will suffer the consequences of their foolish choice, but I will have compassion for them even in their self-inflicted pain – even after I warned them.
There are consequences to sin and God would have us avoid that pain. His love warned us. His leading will help us avoid it. Our goal is not to keep checking the list but to listen to Him and follow Him. That’s what grace is all about.