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On the Outside Lookin’ In


On the Outside Lookin’ In

 

1224-a

The missionary was stunned. He had been teaching the natives a series of lessons on the character of God. He had carefully taken a theological treatise on God's nature and tried to translate it into language they could understand. It wasn't easy. So many words were different in their vocabulary. So many concepts didn't carry over into their understanding.

He had just completed a look at the patience of God, when a dear old man who had been sitting through all the classes came to him with big tears in his eyes. "I do not understand", the man uttered in his native tongue. "I do not understand. You speak of a God who is slow to anger, but when your children say something you do not like, you get angry fast. Is He different in heaven than He is in you?"

The man had no answer. He had been struggling for days to come up with the right words so he could express who God was, and what God was like; but it never dawned on him that they were not hearing what he said, they were seeing how he lived. That, they surmised, must be what God was really like.  Many a child has had a difficult time accepting the love of God and the holiness of God and the peace of God, because the only framework he or she had to measure by was that of their parents, who claimed to have God resident within them, and they didn't measure up to the lessons they were hearing.

This, of course, is a hard subject; but then we have been plagued with hard subjects these past few lessons. We have been sitting across the desk from the Apostle Paul, applying for positions of leadership in the Christian church. He has developed an application blank with a series of questions for us to answer; and it seems as though the intensity of what he is asking never lets up. He has talked to us about character (who we are) and about self-control (how we behave). Now he is zeroing in on how we stand the test of time... how kind the years are to our witness and how consistent the transformation is in our lives. If we thought the tough questions were behind us, we must think again.

The remainder of our look at Paul's application for greatness will take the form of three questions:

"How does the world see you?"

"How does your family see you?"

"How does the church see you?"

The family issue will center around two phrases: "hospitality" and "one who rules his own family well". The church issue will focus on two phrases as well, "not a novice" and "apt to teach". In this study, however, we will look solely at one statement Paul makes about the godly man. It reads like this:

''Moreover, he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil.''

This is one of the few phrases in this passage that carries with it a specific distinct warning. It doesn't just say "God's man ought to be like this. It says, “If he isn't, there are grave consequences.”  The demand is for a "good report". The audience is "those who are without" (those outside the church). The potential consequences involve "falling into the condemnation of the devil". Even on the surface, the gravity of the results alone indicate that this is a word from God which cannot be taken lightly.

In today's study, we are going to look at what that phrase "good report of them without" really means, and we are going to attempt to see some specific examples from Scripture that we can use to measure our lives by.

Our title and our outline is: “On the Outside, Lookin’ In”.

I- On the Outside, Lookin’ In

II- The Character of God and the Christian

A- The Patience of God and Anger

B- The holiness of God and Habits

C- The Righteousness of God and Ethics

D-The Word of God and the tongue

E- The Sovereignty of God and Submission

F- The Love of God and the Deeds of Man

On the Outside, Lookin’ In

The passage we are looking at teaches one of the most basic truths about our Christian witness mentioned in Scripture, but it is one of the most overlooked. The word "moreover" indicates that this is a statement that is primary in the context of the passage and must not be overlooked. The phrase "have a good report" is the key. The word "report" is the Greek word (marturian) meaning the testimony of one's reputation. The word "good" is a word meaning that which is excellent or worthy of respect, because it is a reflection of the nature of God... The phrase "them which are without" means those outside the Body of Christ; unbelievers; those who are "on the outside, lookin' in" so to speak.

That's where this lesson gets its name. It is a study of how the world, skeptical though it is, yet searching as it is for real truth, views the life of the man of God from its perspective. There is a great misunderstanding of the Christian's responsibility in the marketplace. There are those who believe that when Jesus said "they hated Me; they will hate you... the servant is not above his master", Jesus was inferring that we, as believers, have a responsibility to be rejected. We have missed the point. Our lives are to be "blameless"; "above reproach". There is to be nothing in how we behave that would cause someone to stumble in coming to know Christ. It is the Gospel that offends; not the life of the believer. Your holiness may convict someone and thus appear to be an offense. I Peter, chapter four indicates that's his problem. But never is the way we conduct ourselves to be the offense.

The other extreme is one that says you never proclaim the Gospel to those around you, lest you create an offense. That would make Jesus' life of no effect. That's all He did. No, the balance is that we live before the world blamelessly, so that when we share the reason for the difference in our lives, they will be clearly deciding on the life of Christ, not stumbling over ours.

The literal meaning of this admonition by Paul is "God's man needs to have a blameless testimony with those outside the church". When his name comes up, there should be a sense of awareness that this man is different. And I believe the inference is that men who strut around the marketplace wearing their Christianity on their sleeve or on bumper stickers or with tracts, but who do not typify the nature of God by how they live, are doubly accountable. They are advertising themselves to be representatives of the King, while reflecting attitudes the King does not have.. So the key to this passage is: "How does your life look to those who are 'on the outside, lookin' in'."

The Character of God and the Christian

Perhaps each of us needs to re-read Colossians, chapter three every week. It reminds us of some very crucial facts that ought to affect our Christian walk. Let me share a portion of it with you:

If then, you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

...therefore, put to death... fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness... put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language... do not lie...

...you have put off the old man with his deeds

and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge

...therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

bearing with one another, and forgiving one another...

...but above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

and let the peace of God rule in your hearts

...and whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Here you have a vision of the Christian life. It is a series of choices, by which the old man (the flesh) is replaced by the New Man, (the Spirit's control) which results in behavior that is radically (not marginally, radically) different.

A life characterized by immorality, idolatry, anger, blasphemy, filthy conversation, and a lying tongue becomes a life noted for mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love, and peace. These are not subtle changes in personality. These are total changes of character. And these character changes are not due to some kind of special education or training. They are the result of an inner transformation that occurs because God indwells you and changes you from the inside out. And those on the outside lookin' in cannot help but see the change.

Total change. How? Because you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. The "you" the world used to see is dead. And dead men can't do the things they used to do. Now Christ is alive in you, and when He lives through you, nothing is the same.

Your new behavior, then, is nothing more than the character of God, who now lives in you, radiating through you. And those on the outside lookin' in, who are looking for God, can see how God behaves in a human body by watching Him behave in you.

Therefore, every difference in how you live reflects a part of God's nature. It is His nature in you changing you. And the world cannot help but notice the change.

The Patience of God and Anger

That means that a world that has heard of the longsuffering of God, but has never seen it, is looking at your life to see how patient God is. That is why you are to "put away wrath, anger, and all malice" according to Paul. You must do that to put on the "longsuffering" mind of God.

When you lose your temper on the job, you are saying to your fellow employees, "look at the longsuffering of God. This is how it looks." They see you lose your composure, scream, yell, react with hostility and vengeance; and they say "this isn't the God he's been telling me about." They don't know which to believe.. what you say, or what you do. Chances are, they'll believe what you do. And you will have become a huge stumbling block to the very people you desired to win to Christ. That is why Paul has been so intent on saying that the Christian man who is either aggressively hostile or who is retaliatory when confronted is not fit to lead the church. The world is on the outside lookin' in, and they measure God's patience by ours.

The Holiness of God and Habits

Likewise, a world that is looking for the holiness of God cannot see it if those who claim to possess His holiness do not demonstrate it. Men who are piously spiritual at church, but who enjoy the dirty jokes and the suggestive remarks at the office have no testimony with the world. You may convince yourself that you don't want to be "holier than thou", but that won't fly. Either you are the temple of the Holy Spirit or you're not. If you are, the things that defile that temple have no place in your life. The other guys can talk that way or go to those places or do those things, and they may even make fun of you for not doing so. But no matter what they say, they expect you to be different. Not condescending but different.

 



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