By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
We all want to be more like Jesus. We strive to read the word daily, pray and listen for God's voice, and go to church regularly. But are those the only criteria necessary to be a follower of God?
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Research shows that over 70% of the American population would claim they're Christians. But their actions speak otherwise. While we're not called to be perfect, Jesus calls us to be an example of Christ to the world. Actions speak louder than words. How do we demonstrate to an already unbelieving world that Jesus is the one true God? Here are five ways to be a godly follower:
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Priscilla-du-preez
1. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Reading the Word and prayer are two great disciplines to develop our spiritual lives. But Jesus practiced additional disciplines that helped him keep himself close to the father. He fasted, spent time alone in silence and solitude, and meditated on the Law. These disciplines helped him do the work he was put on earth to do. But so often, we, as Christians, neglect these additional disciplines. Sometimes all we do is read a quick devotional, present God with our requests, and never give him another thought until the following day. Jesus demonstrated that these additional disciplines were a necessary part of his ministry, and so should we.
Under certain medical conditions, fasting may not be an option. But food is not the only thing we can fast from. We can fast from social media, TV, music, junk food, or our favorite dessert. There are many ways we can practice the discipline of fasting without depriving ourselves of food or water. Consistent time alone may not fit into our already jam-packed schedules, but can we say no to that sports event or that extra activity to make time for God? It may feel like it is a difficult discipline to complete regularly, but can we turn off the radio on our way to work? Can we ask God if there's anything he would like to say to us that day instead of allowing music to fill our ears? Ask God how you can practice these disciplines based on your schedule. When we practice them regularly, we will find our souls are at peace, and we are cultivating a more intimate bond with Jesus.
2. Demonstrate the Fruits of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." This famous passage tells us that if we live by the spirit, these character traits will be evident in our lives. Yet, we walk out of Sunday church service and quickly get angry with the person who cuts us off in traffic or have a biting comment for our children. While no one is perfect, we can vow to cultivate these fruits in our lives on a regular basis so they can become regular habits. Once it becomes a regular habit, we will assume a posture of these characteristics. Then it will be evident to the world who God is through our example.
3. Care for Your Community
While most churches have programs that care for their community and demonstrate godliness, we can go above and beyond our service to others. In this economy where money is tight and times are tough, we can go the extra mile by helping single mothers and widows in their time of need. We can buy groceries for people in our neighborhood and leave the bags on their front porches. We can throw a baby shower for a neighbor who's having a new baby. We can go to the local department store and pay off someone's bill in layaway.
Take a few moments and brainstorm ways you can demonstrate love in your community. Figure out what the needs are and seek to fill them. If you don't know what the community cares about, attend a community day or another local event. Look at the vendors that are signed up. Look at what they're giving away. You can also join a Facebook group for your community if there is one. If there is not one, start one. Don't brainstorm random ways to help if you don't know what's the need. Ask God to reveal the pressing needs within your community. Ask the Lord to provide you with the means to help meet those needs.
4. Love Your Enemies
Matthew 5:43-44 says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
This is easier said than done. In our works-based society, we give people what they deserve. If they are hateful to us, we deserve to be hateful back to them. But this is not the way Jesus wants us to live. Instead of getting mad at the latest political ad and expecting the government to take care of our problems, pray for those running for office. Ask the Lord to use whomever he chooses to be placed in a position of power. Instead of griping on Facebook about all the issues plaguing the world, respond with loving kindness. Forgive that person who hurt you. Although some offenses may take longer than others, we are called by God to forgive those who have hurt us. God says he will forgive us if we forgive those who offended us. In what ways is God calling you to love your enemy? If you don't think you have any enemies, pray and ask God to reveal if there are any enemies in your life. God's plan is for all of us to be reconciled not only to each other but to him as well.
5. Be Missionally Minded
Human nature dictates we think about ourselves first. We put our own needs and selfish desires ahead of others. But when we turn our thoughts to becoming other-centered people, God is glorified. The more we think about others, the more we think about ways we can meet the needs of those whom God has placed in our path. It is easy to go about our day thinking only about completing our agenda and checking off items on our to-do- list. But what does God have for us today?
Make a part of your prayer time asking God to make clear to you anyone to whom he wants you to demonstrate his love. Ask him to open your eyes so you may see the world in a different light. It not only fills our souls, but it also makes us happy to think about others before ourselves. It helps us become closer to Jesus. Change your perspective that missions work only happens in 3rd world countries. Your mission field starts the minute you walk out your front door.
There will always be people who can't see God clearly. We will not always be able to please everyone with our example. But we can take steps to shine our lights brighter in our homes, our communities, and our world. By following the steps outlined above, we can be walking examples of Jesus's presence in our lives.