By Ed Barnett
Recently, in England to assist in a wedding service, I was repeatedly asked, “What is going on in the United States?” Our presidential election was nearing its conclusion and everyone was interested in what was happening. People were concerned about the tenor of the campaigns being waged.
I have to admit that I was embarrassed by the depths that the candidates were willing to stoop in their rhetoric.
As a country, we have slipped far from the Christian ideals we were founded on. It is scary to see the open-faced lies expressed back and forth by politicians and reported in the media. When speeches are made and news agencies do their fact-checking, they often find that less than twenty percent of what is being proclaimed is true. Such communication becomes very confusing.
What are Seventh-day Adventist Christians supposed to do in the world we live in? What do our young people think when they see and hear that it is okay to lie or stretch the truth? I am writing this piece on a day that started with great family news. This morning I became a grandpa for the second time. I can’t help but wonder what our world will be like as Connor Patrick Barnett grows up. These are unique and scary times.
If there ever was a time in our common experience to live the lives Jesus calls us to live, it is now. As Christian Seventh-day Adventists, we have the opportunity to live exemplary lives and become an influence for change. Living openly and uniquely the values Christ taught us is the call of the day.
Today’s social climate offers itself as the opportune time to engage in timely community outreach because what we have to offer as Seventh-day Adventist Christians is not the type of thing we usually see playing out around us. People want to know what is right and true. Many desire to see and to experience old-fashioned love and kindness.
Several verses surfaced in my contemplation about these issues, verses that contain a healthy amount of admonition. They may serve as a reminder for our Rocky Mountain Conference church members of the importance of Christian fundamentals.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians (5:19-21) that “the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Many of the attitudes and the behaviors Paul addresses are prevalent in our world today. Consider those three verses and see what sticks out to you. Much of what is described by the apostle seems to be the preferred lifestyle for many and many more accept it as the norm. God makes it clear that this is not acceptable behavior. The apostle concludes, “That those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21).
What follows is a list of what the life of a Christian should exemplify. The apostle refers to this as the fruits of the Spirit. He makes a direct comparison between the way of the world and the way of godly living. We notice a prescription for how God’s people ought to be living their lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:22-26).
What an amazing difference between these two sets of verses. If every Seventh-day Adventist Christian in our conference lived their lives with evidence of the fruits of the Spirit, we would we would soon be known as the kindest and most loving people in our neighborhoods. Our faith community would also be growing by leaps and bounds.
Another set of verses comes to mind. The same apostle, writing to believers in Philippi, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:4-8).
What I hear in these verses is that we should not be anxious about what is taking place. Don’t let it keep you up at night, but take it all to the Lord in prayer. And then again the apostle Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, what- ever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.”
Again, I hear Paul saying we need to keep our minds on what is truthful, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. In other words, we need to keep thinking about pure things that are far above the things we are seeing in the world around us. Let’s be an example of change for good. Let’s put our words and attitudes into practice.
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we must allow the Spirit of God to lift us up so we can live our lives on a different plain. When people see Jesus in us, they are drawn to some- thing that is so different, they would want to be part of it.
It reminds me of the words of Jesus: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).
When Jesus reigns supreme in our lives and His spirit helps us live the beautiful lives He wants us to live, I believe we are lifting up Jesus and it will draw “all men” to Him.
To effectuate this in our lives, our daily life should be a life with Jesus.
Ed Barnet is RMC president.