We are in contemporary world of 21st century. It is obvious that the world has really changed from what it used to be to what we can refer to as a civilized and global world.
Just like W. Armstrong remarked in his book, “Missing Dimension in Sex.” He said those fewer than thirty today know little about prevailing attitude and sexual behavior prior to two world wars. But contrarily, if a girl who died at age 22 prior to 1917 were resurrected suddenly back to life today, she would be appalled!-Even horrified at the prevailing attitude and behavior of 22 year-old ladies today.
What W. Armstrong was trying to communicate here is the extent at which civilization has changed the entire world in comparison to almost a century back.
As we consider this from a wider perspective. It is becoming a serious concern to many people, precisely Christians around the world who have followed the track of history to analyze the trends Christianity and civilization has come so far. The source of civilization, it’s positive and negative effects on Christianity in 21st century – and the way out to ensure the stronger establishment of God’s kingdom irrespective of rapid spread of civilization around the world.
This is the purpose and focus of this project. We want to see how Christians can stand in these perilous times full of perilous men brought by the uncurbed excesses of civilization.
The Scripture says, “But knowing this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (See 2Timothy 3:1 Paraphrased).
For this reason, we shall consider Christianity and civilization to see the trends and the solution.
CHRISTIANITY AND CIVILISATION
The word Christianity connotes the beliefs or practices of the people who are called Christians. They are group of people known to be followers of Christ. They were observed by the Jews from time to time, their lifestyle, teachings, practices, and works were similar to that of Christ, who once lived among the Jews and was crucified by them.
So, these observers saw the type of Christ in His followers, and because of this, they called them Christians – meaning “little Christ.” The name Christian was first given to the disciples at Antioch after they have assembled for one year with the church, and taught many people (See Acts 11:26).
Therefore, Christianity is the practice of Christians who forms the “Assembly of the people called out from the world into Christ, which is generally know as the church (See Matthew 16:18, Acts 2:41, 44-47, 12:12).
Meanwhile this project is discussing Christianity and civilization. So there is a need to know what civilization means before we address the two together.
According to Oxford English mini-dictionary, civilization is an advanced stage of social development; progress toward this; comfort and convenience. It is also the culture and way of life of a particular area or period.
In the contexts of both definitions – Christianity is the life of Christ exhibited by His followers, while civilization represents the renewed values and culture of a society at a given period. We can deduce from here that Christianity is based on God’s teachings, while civilization is subject to human decision in attempt to improve, modify and advance his social environment.
In this light, it is important to note that Christianity and civilization have contact points. We can rightly say Christianity is the light bearer of civilization. The two have great advantages over one another, yet, one is greater than the other and also determines the bound at which it must function.
In the real sense, Christianity is greater than civilization and has power to regulate the range which civilization should operate. Better still, civilization has great impact in the wide-spread goal of Christianity. Civilization is therefore progressive and subject to change, but Christianity is not subservient. It remains constant.
Arnold .J Toynbee, discussed one major reason civilization is subservient, fragile and subject to human manipulation. He said, “One very obvious and well-known reason lies in the nature of society and in the nature of man. Society is, after all, only the common ground between the fields of action of a number of personalities, and human personality, at any rate as we know it in This World, has an innate capacity for evil as well as for good. If these two statements are true, as I believe them to be, then in any society on Earth, unless and until human nature itself undergoes a moral mutation which would make an essential change in its character, the possibility of evil, as well as of good, will be born into the world afresh with every child, and will never be wholly ruled out as long as that child remains alive.
This is as much as to say that the replacement of a multiplicity of civilizations by a universal church would not have purged human nature of original sin; and this leads to another consideration: so long as original sin remains an element in human nature, Caesar will always have work to do, and there will still be Caesar’s things to be rendered to Caesar, as well as God’s to God, in This World. Human society on Earth will not be able wholly to dispense with institutions of which the sanction is not purely the individual’s active will to make them work, but is partly habit and partly even force. These imperfect institutions will have to be administered by a secular Power which might be subordinated to religious authority but would not thereby be eliminated.”
These truths clearly testify to the prophecy of Saint Paul, “That in the last days perilous times shall come” (2Timothy 3:1-12). We are really in the period when civilization is affecting people’s lives negatively. Many are subjugating Christian values for civilization. But the main cause of this is ignorance of how Christianity and civilization should thrive to achieve God’s purpose on earth.
DEFECTS OF CIVILISATION ON GOSPEL AND ITS ADVANTAGE
Civilization is an advanced stage of social development. But it is really pathetic that it is bringing along with it great defects on propagation of the gospel. We are in a time the love of many are waxing cold because of civilization. This is time everyone wants to be rich and live comfortably at all cost. The love of this world has really submerged the love of God in the heart of many people because of sudden erosion of civilization.
We understand that Christianity is constant because God’s standard never change (See 2Timothy 2:9). But civilization is subject to change because it thrives on the quest of man to improve the convenience and comfort of his social environment.
Now, the challenge we have today is that, rather than remaining constant, Christianity is playing to changing nature of civilization.
Christians are suppose to be regulating and managing civilization, but reverse is the case in the world today. It is obvious around the world today that, the more civilized a nation, the more perverse it will be. A painful example is the United States of America where gay marriage bill was passed and approved by the legislators.
It is pathetic to see the outgrowth of civilization over Christianity today which has led many to ignore God’s standard and refuse to acknowledge Him in their thinking. What can we say to a legalized abortion heralded by civilization, where it has become a legitimate act to murder and terminate the lives of the unborn children?
The rate people are abandoning Christian values to civilization dictates is very alarming.
For this reason, there are diverse effects of civilization on Christianity.
v The marriage system has been affected
v The educational system has been affected
v The governance of people has been affected
v Terrorism is growing day by day in the world
v Immorality is no longer a shameful act again
In fact, civilization has contributed great defects to the purpose of gospel on earth.
Nevertheless, the positive impact of civilization on the gospel cannot be overemphasized because of its impact on the spread of the gospel to the entire world.
Jesus in describing the end of the age said to His disciples in Matthew 24:14, “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the entire world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Although this has not been achieved, but it simply means the gospel must cover the nuns and crannies of the entire globe. Civilization has actually contributed and must contribute to the means through which the gospel will be preached in all the nations of the earth, to every tribe, tongue, and every kind of people as a witness and testimony to all.
For instance, a revelation was recorded in Daniel 12:4. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
This word is being fulfilled in our days as the world has quickly transformed to become a global village through civilization. This has made it possible for education through easy acquired process information, people and goods to be carried from one end of the earth to another end.
Thus the impact of civilization on the gospel has helped the propagation of the gospel to an extent. Its positive impacts can be categorized under the following:
v Education access through civilization.
v Transportation access through civilization
v Print/media access through civilization.
v Information and communication Technology access through civilization.
The access these four areas of civilization has given to the spread of gospel is what I want discuss here.
First, it is obvious that education is very important to the development of any people. When people are not educated, it may be really difficult to achieve reasonably the spread of the gospel amongst such people. This is really evident in the impact which education has enabled the gospel to make in Africa in the post – colonial era. When we look at the pre-colonial era it was the beginning of turning point when the British missionaries use the means of educating people for free in order to witness Christ to them and indoctrinate them through Biblical schooling.
It is no doubt that when the people were empowered with knowledge, it gave them the edge to take up responsibility, both spiritually and socially. We see someone like Bishop Ajayi crowther who was schooled by the white men but also became a strong instrument to spread gospel in Nigeria. So we cannot overemphasize the civilization brought to Africa through the empowerment of education which the source can be traced to means of propagating gospel of Christ.
Then, with the growth and development of technology, the transport system has been advanced. This has made it possible for easy mobility of goods, services and more importantly for man to move from one country to another, from one continent to another continent in a matter of minutes or hours as the case may be. Things like speed boats, ships were developed over time and this has aided movement.
Christians especially have used this to their advantage as it gives more ease to move from one place to another preaching the gospel. The breakthrough in aviation has greatly impacted positively the propagation of gospel as churches and mission organizations can own private aircrafts in order to cut across the world in a matter of hours preaching, teaching, and spreading the word of God.
Also, the mass media which is another branch and breakthrough brought by civilization has contributed immensely to the spread of the gospel. The modern technology of printing and mass media through the production of news papers, magazines, Bibles, and Christian literatures has been a great blessing in communicating the word of God to the civilized society in very easy and faster accessibility. The word of God can now be printed and distributed to all parts of the world.
Through civilization, the Bible is gaining entrance to most difficult places in the world where great hostility is being held against the word of God.
In addition, the non-print media which engages the use of radio, television, satellite has made the world a global village through civilization. People of different race, culture and religion have been able to listen to information on radio, tune their television to watch programmes that can draw them to Christ. For instance, television stations like, Trinity broadcasting network, Inspiration television, Rhema T.V to mention few can now be viewed in various part of the world just with a finger tip on the remote controller.
Christian television stations has been able to now give viewership to billions in Asia a continent which only few years ago was difficult to hold Christian programmes. But with the digital television, civilization has now made people to sit in their homes to hear the word of God preached to them from a distant country via satellite.
Furthermore, the advent of information, communication and technology (ICT) has brought great civilization to the world. The advent of electronic mail, twitter, face book, web hosting to mention a few.
Benjamin Suulola in his book, “Rise to the Top” said, “We are in a rapid changing world, the age of information explosion. He made reference to the trend of the explosion analyzed by Peter Wiwcharuck. Who rightly said that world knowledge took 4,350 years to double the first time, 1,250 years the second time. 350 years the third time, 24 years the fourth time, 5 years the fifth time, 3 years the sixth time. 1.5 years the seventh time and beginning with 1986 it has doubled every year. Now the rate at which knowledge increases goes beyond what anyone who wants to enjoy opportunities can ignore.
We are in the period when information can be accessed and sent in the corner of our room to any part of the world through internet service providers. Mobile phones are even easy tools in communication now. This development has greatly impacted the spread of the gospel. The word of God can now be preached on-line, people can watch live programmes from any part of the world in their church, homes, and offices.
Without any doubt, impact of civilization on the gospel cannot be overemphasized despite its negative impacts.
I believe the problem is not the civilization in itself. The problem is the Christians who are allowing civilization to dictate their standard rather than dictating the standard and usefulness of civilization in accomplishing the great commission of “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
CHRISTIAN ROLE MODEL
Role modeling is powerful. A person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others is a role model. When people see someone they admire, they try to imitate and copy the person’s behavior or lifestyle.
This can be in the area of self-management, dressing, talking, conduct and interpersonal relationships. In this sense, it means everybody is always a role model to at least one person. Because someone will always like something about the other person that he or she may like to copy. This shows how powerful role modeling can be through the power of sight.
Another thing about role modeling is its influential power. People in different levels and status of relationship have influence over one another. It may be community, organization, parental or peer-to-peer friendship. The way we behave and live have a powerful influential impact over others who are always around us – they may soon be affected either negatively or positively through the influence of our character.
It is also possible for role modeling to operate in transference power – this becomes possible when the mind is captured through the power of both picture and influence, through books, movies, television shows, songs and others.
This transference power is possible from any distance to make people begin to copy the lives of those they have chosen as role models in those things that have interested and captured their minds.
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN ROLE MODELLING?
Christian role modeling is showing by living Christ’s life for other people to see and imitate.
Don’t forget we said role modeling is powerful because it employs picture, influence and transference power. So Christian role modeling presents the lifestyle and conducts of Christ by practice in exemplary living to others through what they are able to see (picture), feel (influence), and mind transformation (transference).
According to Benjamin Suulola in his book, maximize your Life.”A Christian youth is not meant to be a model that capture people and shirked their minds into lust.”
This shows our lives have a way of capturing people and affecting their minds. Modeling Christian character to make people see and embrace what is proper in Christian standard and civilization dictates is what Christian role modeling means. Now, this leads us to the crucial and next question – Who is a Christian role model?
WHO IS A CHRISTIAN ROLE MODEL?
Someone other people are copying Christian life style from is a Christian role model. He or she lives by setting a standard and pattern of Christian living worthy of emulation.
Such believer is the one whose life is an epistle people are reading like Bible and they are willing to imitate his Christian blameless attitude and lifestyle.
The apostle Paul said in 2Corinthians 3:1-2, “We should not begin again to commend ourselves as some others… we are epistle written in people’s hearts, known and read by all men.”
Therefore, a Christian role model must be able to say to people, “I urge you imitate me” (1Corinthians 4:6). Because his ways of life is an open book that sets standard of Christian living which is acceptable by God – and which others can be transformed as they follow it.
So a Christian role model has a great task of impacting the lives of people through his own life. He’s a successful Christian role model that when the people see others who are behaving in the same pattern of his Christian pattern will acknowledge God through his influence.
A Christian role model is a parent whose children are learning Christ. He’s a co-worker through which other workers are copying what it means to be a believer. He’s a neighbor by whom other neighbours in the community are patterning their lives and families. He’s also a friend that is influencing other friends to follow Christ and His standard through his own exemplary Christian standards and character.
A Christian role model will be like a widow who Jesus used as an example when others were dropping offering in the temple. All the people dropped from their abundance but this poor widow gave her last penny to the Lord. She demonstrated her love, faith, and dedication unto the Lord by her action.
There are many others in the scriptures that were models of faith, love, prayer, and godly character.
Christian role modeling is the centre of Christianity. The fact that Christians have been entrusted with divine commission of going to the world to preach the gospel to every other creature require the setting of a living standard worth emulating.
We must strive to become a pattern of acceptable lifestyle approved by God. We must measure up to a standard where everyone who follows will also be approved of God.
This is the kingdom purpose every Christian should pursue which is capable of transforming our society for the Lord. As it is required of us, we are to make many disciples of the Lord by our Christian lifestyle in everything.
The principle and programme of discipleship is best achieved through Christian role modeling. In his final speech to the Philippians, the apostle Paul said, “Those things, which ye have both learned and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
This is the true picture of a Christian role model who was confident to instruct people to put to action, pattern their lives and use as model for living what they learned, received, heard, and ultimately, what they saw in his practical Christian lifestyle. In doing this, the influence of Christ-likeness in such city or society is already set in perpetuity.
Then the outcome becomes civilization governed and regulated by the kingdom of God. That is the essence of Christian role modeling in the society – civilization which is absolutely under God’s kingdom.
Now, we have to consider some of the few areas every Christian is expected to be a role model as told by Paul to his protégé Timothy in 1Timothy 4:12.
The apostle Paul admonished the young minister not to allow any one despises his youth, but he should be an example of the believers. He was saying Timothy should be a role model of the Christians before people who followed him in word, conversation, charity, in Spirit, in faith and in purity.
Let’s consider these six areas to see what it entails to be a Christian role model in this our contemporary dispensation.
1. ROLE MODEL IN WORD
Word plays vital role in communication. We make use of words in interacting with people whether at home or work. This makes it more important in how we talk and the kinds of words we use must be weighed properly in the scale of Christian values and ethics. Words are very powerful. They can build and also tear apart. The words we speak can edify and can also demoralize the listeners. That is why Christians should be role models in the usage of words. Our words should always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we must answer every one (See Colossians 4:6).
For Christians to be role models in word, the word of God must fill our minds. Since our thoughts produce the kinds of words we speak; it is important for us to renew our minds with God’s word always. As our thoughts align with God’s word, then the word that edifies listeners around us will flow accordingly.
There’s no better time than now for Christians to become role model in word. When we consider the root and cause of most devastating conflicts in the society, church, marriage and many other areas – it is always the misuse of the tongue.
The scripture made it clear in James 3:2 (Message translation). “We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.”
It is very paramount for us to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our minds and mouths in the things we utter to people. We must also be careful of things we listen to from others. The kinds of words we repeatedly hear have a way of becoming the ones we may also likely to be uttering to others. And when we consider things we hear around us every day, they may not be helpful and spiritually healthy for our ears.
This is the reason we need to be selective in the kinds of words we permit for our ears. It is helpful if we can insist on hearing words that only glorify God – whether in reading or hearing.
Although, we may not be able to shut ourselves completely away from poisonous and infectious words around us – yet, we can consciously give ourselves to words that will bring positive and graceful words out of our mouth to others.
Henceforth, let us be a good Christian role model in our word. Let words that proceeds from us all the time be a source of blessing, healing, encouragement, uplifting and edification to the hearers.
Our words should be an example of what people must always hear from a believer. Such will make us a good example others can follow in word.
2. ROLE MODEL IN BEHAVIOUR
Behavior is one major challenge of Christianity today. It burdens my heart whenever I see Christians professing Christ but completely behaving in a contrary manner. Yet, a time will never come that we will be able to separate Christianity from its fruits.
The origin of the word ‘Christian’ meaning little Christ’s was actually crafted by the people who saw the behavior and manner of life the first century believers showed (See Acts 11:26). It was their behavior, the way they comport themselves and lifestyle they kept practicing everyday among the unbelievers that earned them the title “Christians.”
It wasn’t just a title given to them because they bear Christian names, not because they were workers and pastors in the church. It was not because they were born and raised in a Christian home. No. They were called Christians because their behavior was like that of Christ Jesus when He was alive in human flesh.
But what we have today is another story entirely. We have relegated Christianity to mere name and identity of a religious group. This is exactly where the challenge is. We are in a time most Christians don’t see Christianity any longer as the people under heavenly government. This error hasn’t allowed us to see the necessity laid on us as Christians to behave and live according to government of Christ ruling over our hearts. That’s why there are many Christians whose behaviours reveal nothing about the life of Christ.
Now, if we must transform the world for Christ, our lives, behaviour, attitude and character should reflect Christ beyond mere words of mouth or the title we bear.
Christianity is a life. A Christian role model must be an example of Christ in character. It is what people see in us that will make our words to have influence on them. The way we behave among people will empower the gospel that we must share with them.
Our lives must always point people to acceptable way of living before God. We can be a role model to them as they watch our character and they are able to say this is an extra-ordinary life. We can be a role model when our character is blameless before those who follow our lives every day.
But this may require a price of standing alone for what is acceptable to God. Making sure we don’t love this world and everything it – but the only thing can see vividly in our lives is our love for God in all things.
As we do this, our lives will keep bringing glory to God every day. It won’t be long before some people will be moved to follow our pattern of life. And of course, those who follow our path will not be misled.
3. ROLE MODEL IN LOVE
God is love. His children should exemplify love in their character. The nature of God is love, that’s why His love flows from who He is into what He performs (His works).
In like manner, Christians should be good examples of love towards everyone.
But love is the missing factor and the major hindrance taking back the kingdom of God even as He desires on earth. We know that only God’s love can save the lost sinners in the world. Unfortunately, it is still the absence of it causing much chaos we are witnessing today around the world.
In the matter of Christian role modeling, we may never be able to hide our lack of love under the cloak of hypocrisy. Love is practically observed in the way we deal with our fellow human beings every day. It shows in our conversation, relationship and work with others around us.
Therefore, for us to convincingly bring people to Christ we must show them love.
Until people are convinced that we genuinely love them, it may not be possible to preach God’s love to them. In order to achieve this, we must understand what love really means. I have simply defined love as “Decision, sacrifice and commitment to meeting needs.” Let me elucidate my definition. A reasonable person is committed to taking care of his personal needs because he loves himself. We provide clothing to cover our body, we give the body food when hunger comes, and we also protect our self from dangers because we love our self. The point is: we decide, sacrifice and make commitments to meet the needs for us to be healthy, rich, happy, and secured. Why? We love our self.
Jesus gave us a commandment that covers every other commandment. This is called royal law. He said, “We should love God with our might, strength and heart. We should also love our neighbour the way we love our self. Taking the word at face value – It means we should be committed to meeting the needs of God with all our might, strength and heart. And we should also commit to meeting the needs of others, just like we do to our self.
That is what it means to love. It is our decision, sacrifice and commitment in meeting the needs (not wants) of other people. The essence of love is commitment to meeting needs.
In John 3:16, God demonstrated love by giving up Jesus to die for our sins. The love He demonstrated was His decision, sacrifice and commitment to meet the need of our salvation by suffering of Jesus. This shows that the greatest need of mankind on earth is salvation – which was giving by God. It was a demonstration of God’s love for us.
So we demonstrate our love for God when we decide, sacrifice and commit ourselves to meet His needs of our obedience, faith and absolute surrender to His will through Jesus Christ.
The love is shown to our neighbour as we decide, sacrifice and commit to meeting their needs just as we do to ourselves. It is when we make this a life style that we have truly become a Christian role model in love – an example of agape love that draws the heart of people to Christ.
The true impact of every believer’s influence lies in the fruit of love that is constantly exhibited. As Saint Paul wrote to Galatians in chapter five and verse twenty-two. “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” Note here that he didn’t say the “Fruits” but the fruit is love. Every other eight fruit of the spirit is rooted in love. As it is, love is the greatest thing on earth. The transformative tool and force that is shaping the whole world is the power of love. Without love nothing can ever work because God is love. So every believer who is already having the nature and life of God within must demonstrate God’s love to the people around him or her.
4. ROLE MODEL IN PURITY
Christians are expected to model purity. The Greek word translated purity is “Hagneia.” It literally means “Chastity.” This refers to one’s moral attitude to other people, especially towards opposite sex. It has to do with carrying out Christian benevolence task without defilement in thoughts and character.
As the world becomes more corrupt day by day, Christians have an obligation to be examples of purity. We are expected to be morally upright at home and work. There should not be any form of defilement in our relationship with people.
The best way to represent God on earth is through our character. Since our God is holy and pure in nature, we must model His nature through pure conducts and thoughts.
In the matter of relationship, especially with the opposite sex, chastity must be our standard. We must ensure that we lead a blameless life before those who are watching us every day.
Christians are the ones with responsibility to teach the world proper and godly way of dealing with an opposite sex. The people of the world may not see evil in pre-marital, extra-marital and other sexual immoralities. But Christians must reveal the standard of God as regards these issues by demonstrating through practical examples that our bodies are God’s temple.
Wherever we are, our lives must put people into check of their own lives. Those who are following us must not be finding faults with our lives. Our character must be pure in our day to day dealings. We must be confident to make our closets be without questions.
Therefore, for us to be a Christian role model in purity, we must always flee from every appearance of evil. The word of God should be hidden in our hearts instead of unholy thoughts and memories. We must be like the Psalmist that said, “Your word have I hidden in my heart, so that I will not sin against you.”
The word of God must be kept in our hearts. It must be our meditation day and night, so that our lives can be purified by it, and the world will be able to see purity in our character.
5. ROLE MODEL IN FAITH
Christians are expected to show, demonstrate and act their confidence in what they profess to believe.
The undeniable truth that distinguished the first century Christians was the strong display of their faith. They were so confident and persuaded that if anyone believed in Jesus Christ, he or she will be saved. It was the demonstration of their faith that always drew many crowds to them wherever they appeared.
In fact, all the miracles God wrought through them came through constant demonstration of their faith and persuasion in the power of God.
The Greek word translated faith is “Pistis.” This literally means a knowledge and confidence in certain divine truths, especially those of the gospel, as producing good works.
It is quite pathetic that Christians are no longer passionate about their faith in our own time. Most Christians appear in form whereby the unbelievers have to pity them. This is a serious contradiction to the faith of early Christians. Then, wherever they appear, they see every unbeliever no matter the status or position as someone who needs help. And they would be so passionate and confident to offer such person the gift of salvation.
The early church Christians went everywhere with the confidence and passion for their faith. They were not always afraid of problems and challenges because of their confidence in the power of Holy Spirit. It was this undeniable passion and demonstration of their faith that always made them to experience great power of God which would later draw multitudes to Christ.
Therefore, Christians in the 21st century should demonstrate our faith by showing confidence in God’s power and His word. What we profess must align with the way we live. The people of the world must be able to know that we have strong confidence in the power of Christ. We must demonstrate our faith in doing good works that brings glory to God. This is how those who watch our lives can be fully convinced that we are true Christians.
6. ROLE MODEL IN SPIRIT
The Spirit that operates in a believer is different from the spirit that operates in the people of the world.
The Greek word translated Spirit is “Pnuema.” It literally means to breathe, which like the wind is invisible and immaterial part of man.
The source of this Spirit is God who breathed His Spirit into us that makes man to be able to connect with God. It is this Spirit that makes man to be spiritual just as God intended from the beginning.
But when man fell in the Garden of Eden, the Spirit could not dwell in man any longer. And this is the reason why the Old Testament people of God only make the Spirit to come upon them but not dwell in them.
But this order changed after Jesus died on the cross and resurrected. Before His ascension He appeared to His disciples, told them that as the Father had sent Him, so He’s sending them. Thereafter, He breathed on them and said to them “Receive the Holy Ghost. The order was changed. This was the restoration of man to his original state after Jesus had redeemed man from sin through His death and resurrection. And the fullness of the Holy Spirit came upon them after His ascension, as they waited for this promise in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.
Henceforth, there is always a glaring difference between those who have regenerated Spirit and those who don’t have. There will always be difference between someone who is born again and filled with the Holy Spirit than someone who is not.
What makes the difference between the two is their Spirit. The one who is born again has a new spirit of life, while the unbeliever has a dead and corrupt spirit.
This is the reason why every believer must be a role model in Spirit. Christians have the Spirit of God which distinguished them from the people of this world.
Therefore, it must really be obvious in the way we live as Christians that people may be able to say just like God testified of Joshua “In whom is the Spirit” and Caleb that “he had another Spirit in him” (See Numbers 14:24, 27:18).
I want to say here that Christian role modeling is the main essence of Christianity. Every Christian must see this as personal responsibility if we are to win the world for Christ. We are Christ ambassadors on earth and God is expecting us to represent Him properly, establish His kingdom and bring others who are still lost in the world back to the Father through our practical Christian living.
HEART DEDICATION UNTO GOD
God require that we dedicate our heart unto Him. The central place of God’s dwelling is our hearts. And according to Benjamin Suulola in his book, maximize your Life. He said the “Heart” (Kardia), is the self that manifest a complex of attitudes.
Therefore, our hearts defines our lives and determines our relationship with God. So, the dedication of our heart unto God means the dedication of our totality, humanity, and the centre of our being to Him.
In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul admonished the new believers after a thorough explanation on various theological debates and expositions of condemnation of sin, the offering and substitute of grace and the justification by faith which was analyzed from the first eleven chapters.
So in the openings of the twelfth chapter he said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
In the above scriptures, Saint Paul was making pleads to the people to dedicate their lives absolutely to God as living sacrifices. He called this their spiritual worship. He told them not to conform to the standard of the world, but they should be transformed by the constant renewal of their mind. The result of this is that, they would learn to know God’s will for them which are good and pleasing and perfect.
Now, let’s consider in details the admonition of Saint Paul.
I BESEECH YOU THEREFORE, BRETHREN
The apostle Paul decided to plead to the believers based on the teachings and doctrines they have been given. He saw it as a great necessity this time not to even command the people but to entreat them. It was a great burden in his heart the kind of heart disposition the believers were having towards their faith. So he saw the need to implore, request, and plead to them.
I think this is high time we pleaded to the believers of the 21st century just like Apostle Paul pleaded to the believers to dedicate their lives to God. The ways people are taking Christianity today require a great deal of us to show our sorrow and plead to them to give their entire lives to God.
BY THE MERCIES OF GOD
We must not only plead to ourselves, but we must do so on the strong basis of the mercies of God.
The pleading of St. Paul from his heart to the believers in Rome was based on the mercies of God. The Scripture says, “It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from dead. Now we live with great expectation” (1Peter 1:3 NLT).
The mercy of God is what brought everyone back to God and delivered us from the power of death. It is on this powerful word we should also plead to ourselves. We should dedicate our heart unto God because we received mercy from Him. We should serve Him wholeheartedly because of His mercy that said no to the judgment and condemnation of death which we deserved by the reason of our sin. But by the mercies of God we have been saved.
PRESENT YOUR BODIES
We must present our bodies to God as a sign of our heart dedication to Him. To present our bodies is to voluntarily release every part of us within and without to the use of God’s glory. It is to willingly say Lord here I am, use me for whatever you desire. This is a serious plead to every believer that dedicating our hearts to God require that we also come to present our bodies voluntarily unto Him because of His mercies in our lives.
A LIVING SACRIFICE
In Jewish custom of giving sacrifice to God, they have been commanded never to offer a dead thing unto the Lord. This is unacceptable sacrifice.
Likewise, we are to present our lives to God not as dead but living, active, vibrant sacrifice. We are the people who were once dead in our sins but we have been made alive by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Therefore, we must present ourselves to God in the newness, activeness, and living as we are to God for offering. The offering here is not a symbol of an atonement again, but a symbol of thanksgiving. Our lives as living sacrifices must be an offering of thanksgiving unto God.
This should also be pleads we make to ourselves as believers in this perverse world. Because we have been made alive in Christ Jesus, we are regenerated, sanctified and pardoned – we should bring ourselves to God in that way as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving. And we must know that whatever that has been sacrificed does not belong to the giver again. The same way we must know that as we bring our bodies to God as living sacrifices, we are no longer of ourselves anymore. We can’t live the way we want and direct our lives how we want again. We now belong to God who knows what to do with the sacrifice offered to Him, which is our life.
HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE TO GOD
Holiness and God’s acceptability cannot be separated. We must present our lives to God in holiness. This is the only way we can be accepted by Him. We must live in obedience to Him and His words in such a way that our lives will be without spots, wrinkles, and blemish. Then, we will be acceptable unto Him.
Therefore, we must plead to ourselves that in achieving our heart dedication unto the Lord, holiness is required from us. We must be holy in thoughts and conducts. We must not give ourselves to any form of defilement in body and soul. It is when we do this that our lives can be acceptable to God.
WHICH IS YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE
Heart dedication to God is our reasonable service. It is our spiritual worship unto God. And when we have activated all these things required from us as discussed earlier, then, this reasonable service becomes acceptable to God and He will be glorified in our lives.
Our reasonable service comes from our mind. It is where we learn to know the will of God – in doing what is good, pleasing, and perfect to Him. And this is the reason why Paul went further to admonish us that:
WE SHOULD NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD
In his book, Rise to the Top, Benjamin Suulola said, “Conformity is a situation where someone complies with rules, standards, or convention of a particular group or society. Conformity sometimes leads to deformity. Anyone who will unleash his or her peculiarity must not conform to negative societal norms.
There are people who refuse to bend or bow but decided to conform in order to fit into the system. He said, “People are bent and bowed due to pressures. But people conform to a system because they want to copy its behavior and custom. He said, “Conformity comes when you do not see the need to be distinct where you are. Some people conform because they do not want to be different where majority adopted a system.”
Therefore, Paul admonished the believers never to conform. We cannot successfully dedicate our hearts unto God as long as we conform to the civilized standard of the society. If we want to live like the people of the world, we can never have an acceptable reasonable service unto God.
But the scripture gave us the solution to this conformity.
WE SHOULD BE TRANSFORMED BY RENEWING OUR MIND
The only way we cannot become conformed to the system of this world is when our life is transformed by constant renewing of our mind. Jesus prayed for us in John 17:17, “Sanctified them by your truth. Your word is truth.” This is the key to our transformation as believers – the truth. And the Jesus said the word of God is truth.
At this point, we should know as Christians that the world does not know the truth. They don’t know the word of God that can sanctify and made clean. This is why the world is corrupt and decaying in sin. It is the main reason why civilization has been used against the Master creator of civilization – because the world does not know His word.
But Christians knows the word. It means we know truth. Therefore, we must not conform to any standard laid down by the world. But we should constantly renew our minds by the word of God so we can always understand truth, which brings transformation.
…PROVE WHAT IS THAT GOOD, ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT WILL OF GOD
Through this knowledge and sound clarity of truth, we will learn to know the will of God for our lives, in contrast to what the world suggest for us.
To prove here means to ‘test’ and understand – We must test and understand what is good, acceptable and perfect will of God for our lives through the word of God by renewing our minds with it.
As our heart is dedicated unto God and constantly renew it with His word, then, we will be transformed. We will not be contaminated by the corruption of this world.
I believe it is possible for Christianity and civilization to thrive together. This can be achieved when Christians does not subject Christianity to the values of civilization. If Christians will uphold and stick to God’s standard. I want to conclude with the words from Arnold .j Toynbee.
“Illumination and the grace that Christianity conveys, will, while still in This World, be more brightly irradiated with the light of the Other World than a pagan soul that has won salvation by making the best, in This World, of the narrower opportunity here open to it. The Christian soul can attain, while still on Earth, a greater measure of Man’s greatest good than can be attained by any pagan soul in this earthly stage of its existence.
Thus the historical progress of religion in This World, as represented by the rise of the higher religions and by their culmination in Christianity, may, and almost certainly will, bring with it, incidentally, an immeasurable improvement in the conditions of human social life on Earth; but its direct effect and its deliberate aim and its true test is the opportunity which it brings to individual souls for spiritual progress in This World during the passage from birth to death.
It is this individual spiritual progress in This World for which we pray when we say “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
It is for the salvation that is open to all men of good will — pagan as well as Christian, primitive as well as civilized — who make the most of their spiritual opportunities on Earth, however narrow these opportunities may be, that we pray when we say “Thy Kingdom come.”
1. Benjamin Suulola: Rise to the Top: Purpose Reminder Publications, 2010.
2. Joy Ikede: Impact of Globalization on Gospel, 2010
3. Arnold J. Toynbee: Christianity and Civilization, PENDLE HILL PUBLICATIONS WALLINGFORD, PENNSYLVANIA, 1947
Benjamin Suulola: Maximize Your Life: Purpose Reminder Publications, 2009.