Proverbs 23 9-23-22

Christianity only grows one way, and that is one transformed life at a time.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one [that is, Christ] died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

This next one’s tricky. I’ll tell you why after we read from the Baptist Faith & Message:

XV. The Christian and the Social Order

All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

Exodus 20:3-17Leviticus 6:2-5Deuteronomy 10:1227:17Psalm 101:5Micah 6:8Zechariah 8:16Matthew 5:13-16,43-4822:36-4025:35Mark 1:29-342:3ff.; 10:21Luke 4:18-2110:27-3720:25John 15:1217:15Romans 12–141Corinthians 5:9-106:1-77:20-2410:23-11:1Galatians 3:26-28Ephesians 6:5-9Colossians 3:12-171 Thessalonians 3:12; Philemon; James 1:272:8.

Influence. It’s the big stick of Christianity. We can use our influence in a Christlike manner or we can be impatient and use it in a manipulative manner. In history, we have classic examples of both:

From the stoning of Stephen (c. 35 A.D.) until 313 A.D (the end of Diocletian’s Roman rule), Christianity grew at a radical rate until it is estimated that more than half of the Roman Empire was Christian–and I mean Christ followers who were willing to die for following Him. The influence of Christians during this time is a great example of the Christlike manner about which we are talking. It’s been called the patient ferment of the early church. Christians lived differently than those around them, which peeked the interest (Holy Spirit-driven) of many. The ensuing conversations created converts to Christianity. But then…

Constantine the Great had a dream of a cross with the words inscribed on it, “With this sign, conquer.” He had the cross painted on all his soldiers’ shields. They won the battle and he became emperor and converted to Christianity. The Edict of Milan, signed in 313 A.D, was an agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire.* Later, Christianity became a legal religion in Rome,** and in 380 A.D. became the official religion of Rome.***

It sounds wonderful, but when we take Christianity and make it a state religion, we take all the power of conviction of the Holy Spirit out of it. We reduce Christianity to a bunch of rules–wait a minute; that sounds like Old Testament! Satan used his best ploy: If you can’t beat’em, join’em–then water’em down and steal their real power: the influence of transformed lives.

We must be careful to use our influence in a Christlike manner. It’s not about politics; it’s about the influence of our transformed lives that will bring curiosity and conviction to those with whom we have contact.

Abba, please help us to see that it’s about You in our lives that makes us different. The transformation of us into the image of Christ is what will draw all people to You. Our influence is wrapped up in our testimony. May we look to You to help us build and maintain our influence for You. Amen.

*Edict of Milan

**The Strange Dream of Emperor Constantine

***Christianity as the Official State Religion of Rome

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