Your relationship with God is personal.
Your salvation is personal.
You get to live with the results of your choices.
Your onwards and upwards race is a competition against yourself only.
No matter what you experience in life, you are the constant factor.
In many conversations, I often hear statements like, “yea but other people who say they are Christians do such and such” or “I used to do it this way but I see others doing it that way” or even, “I can’t do this whole Christian thing because the Christians I’ve seen are all so this and that“. Thank God for your observant demeanour but it just might be leading you astray.
Don’t set your faith up to fail by using the actions of others to justify your own actions. It would be much better to observe and emulate what is right and acceptable out of what we see and for the bits we feel are wrong or know to be wrong, we can resolve to be a better example so that less people are led astray by questionable actions.
If you find that your faith is struggling/has struggled/sometimes struggles because of other actions or words of people who identify as Christians, here are a few thoughts to hopefully help:
Christians are human beings too: As is true for all people, being a Christian does not make you immune from mistakes. We won’t always get it right and some of our actions are moulded by what we’ve been taught previously, our latest revelation in life, our spiritual maturity level, the kind of day we’re having etc. So if you use another Christian who is still navigating their own path as a reason for not practicing your faith in the way you’ve been personally convicted to, you could very well be making a journey you weren’t designed for.
Even when it comes to seeking counsel from others, those that deeply care about you can lead you astray unknowingly because they don’t particularly know the will of God for your own life. Remember when, “Peter took Jesus aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You!” (Matthew chapter 16 verse 22 AMPC) after Jesus spoke to the disciples about his impending journey to the Cross? Well, “… Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offence and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men.” (Matthew chapter 16 verse 23 AMPC).
Jesus recognised that the devil was speaking through Peter’s logic and sentiments. Not every counsel that sounds good and logical is for you to follow without checking with the Holy Spirit first, but we pray for God’s discernment in all matters and trust in the Holy Spirit to give us inner peace for that which is for us to adhere to.
Stick to the “absolutely right” and have no business with the “absolutely wrong”: We all have unhindered access to God’s Word for us to read and study and search for ourselves. The Bible explicitly states God’s viewpoints on most of life’s issues that we encounter today. Studying and understanding God’s word will keep you grounded so that you’re less swayed to follow a Christian who is doing the explicitly ‘wrong’ things especially pertaining to sin, and then proceed to blaming your faith crisis on them. The following verses lay emphasis to this point:
“So do not participate or even associate with them [in the rebelliousness of sin]. For once you were darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [live as those who are native-born to the Light] (for the fruit [the effect, the result] of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn [by experience] what is pleasing to the Lord [and letting your lifestyles be examples of what is most acceptable to Him—your behavior expressing gratitude to God for your salvation]. Do not participate in the worthless and unproductive deeds of darkness, but instead expose them [by exemplifying personal integrity, moral courage, and godly character] (Ephesians chapter 5 verse 7 to 11 AMPC)
Hold on to your personal convictions: In general, I have found that most Christians have their personal revelation on certain aspects of righteous living that the Bible has not given explicit guidelines for such as how you dress, what you eat or drink, where you gather socially etc. But topics such as these are largely subject to what we believe our spirit to be comfortable with for us personally, however, we can often project this onto others who do not have the same revelation and subsequently be accused of being judgemental. I mean, I remember when I lived for mini-sit-below-the-bum dresses and shorts with my butt cheeks hanging out but as I grew in Christ, I just didn’t feel comfortable in them anymore. Who am I to judge another whose spirit has not convicted them in the same way? Or what about those who are convicted to not taste so much as single drop of alcohol whilst I’m completely comfortable with a cocktail or two sometimes? The Bible says, “So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James chapter 4 verse 17 AMP).
Fakes can’t exist without the fact of the Original: One of my major concerns with Christians today is their over-reliance on the voices from the “pulpit”. I know so many people with countless stories of spiritual leaders that have led their congregations astray with false teachings and non-biblical commandments. But these times were expected hence why John the apostle urges us, “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.” (1 John chapter 4 verse 1 MSG). We are very much in prominent times of false teachings but “false” cannot exist without “true” so you must be tireless in your pursuit of truth in God’s Word in order to know what and how to test. Don’t let one bad experience of church/Christians take you off track!
Jesus is THE example: No doubt that pastors, preachers and teachers that have been called and are operating in that calling are great because we do need godly counsel and spiritual mentors per se, to offer assistance and some clarity on this journey as is needed from time to time. But do not forget that they are still very much people, like you and I, who still have to endure spirit versus flesh battles like everyone else and their view points are also tinged with their own opinions, revelations and experiences of life. They are not immune from “falling” any less than the rest of us are so don’t make them your example. Jesus is our template for perfection and that’s who you should strive to be like, not your spiritual leader. John chapter 13 verse 15 (NLT) sees Jesus telling us, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.
Now, more than ever, we must seek to know God for ourselves and have our personal daily encounter with Him. Your Christianity cannot be vicariously lived through another. You are to, “…work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust,with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).” (Philippians chapter 2 verse 12 AMPC) because you will only be asked to give account of your own life and not that of another. The reality is that we all have different God given missions and sometimes the actions of others will not make sense to us onlookers because their life is their revelation, so to speak.
From the very heart of God to yours: urging you to stay focused,