In the days of the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to be set apart as His chosen people. The Law was given to them to reflect God’s perfect righteousness, highlight man’s sinfulness, and set them apart from the nations around them as a picture of holiness. In all things, they were to serve as witnesses for God to the other nations.
Unfortunately, the times when the Israelites failed at this was when they tried to look or act like the other nations, instead of embracing their calling to be set apart. They failed when they did not act as God’s witnesses to the world.
As followers of Christ, we too have been set apart. According to 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are called to be God’s ambassadors and proclaim salvation in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:14-16 tells us to shine like stars in the darkness of the world to hold forth the word of life. In I Peter 2:12, Peter exhorts us to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Can you imagine living such a good life that it leads even non-believers to glorify God?
Joseph did. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned, and finally summoned to stand before Pharaoh. There he was given the chance to claim the power of interpreting dreams for himself and use it to barter for his freedom. Instead, despite everything that he had suffered, Joseph honored God, rightfully crediting God for enabling him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.
The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.”
Joseph’s witness led this pagan ruler, a servant of the myriad deities of Egypt, to acknowledge Yahweh’s power. In a similar scenario, Daniel also served as a faithful witness when God revealed to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the meaning. Just like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar responded by praising God, even though he did not yet serve Yahweh nor fully understand His might.
The king said to Daniel, “Surely, your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
And again, when Daniel faced the lions’ den for praying to God, his steadfastness and the Lord’s deliverance led King Darius to respond in praise.
“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Likewise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose death in the furnace rather than sin against God by worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. They trusted that the Lord could save them if He wished. And when the fourth man appeared in the furnace, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged unscathed, the sight of the power of God on display led Nebuchadnezzar to praise Him.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
All of these—Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—lived in terrible, godless societies. But within those societies, they lived with such integrity and faithfulness, openly honoring and praising God, that they impacted those around them and led wicked, pagan rulers to acknowledge the Lord too. Their lives serve as an incredible example for all of us.
In contrast, the Bible also provides us with a negative example. King David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he still stumbled into gross sin. In the Bible we see that those who are spiritual leaders—and David was by virtue of his position as King over Israel—have been given a great responsibility for which there will be a greater accounting, because their witness and example have a deeper, widespread impact. After David sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah murdered, the prophet Nathan was sent by God to confront him about his sin. David responded in sorrow and repentance, but Nathan told David that though his sins were forgiven, there would still be consequences because his sin had led the enemies of the Lord to show contempt for Him. (2 Samuel 12:14)
David’s sin had tragic, far-reaching consequences, but this alone was a catastrophic outcome. Can you imagine the devastation of being told that your sin had led others to show contempt for God? And yet, that is exactly what sin does. It is destructive. It seeps into every aspect of our lives, impacts everything we hold dear, and taints our witness for Christ.
In our world today, how often does the perceived hypocrisy of the Church and of Christians lead the world to hold the teachings of Christ in contempt?
How often do we personally fail to live as faithful ambassadors for Christ?
How often does our own sin—our selfishness, our pride, our personal preferences, dislikes, and desires—hinder us from being effective witnesses?
The good news is that there is grace. Wonderful, unbelievable grace. God chooses to work through us—weak, broken, feeble though we may be—because when we rely upon Him in our weakness, He is glorified.
Strengthened by the knowledge of grace, we should weigh our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of areas where we have stumbled. We should strive to follow the admonishment of Paul in Colossians 4:5 and be wise in the way we act toward outsiders.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
And from moment to moment, we should ask ourselves this question: How am I leading others to view Christ?