Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Christine Caine's new book, Stop Acting Like a Christian, Just Be One, (Regal Books, 2007).
Do you enjoy a time of worship at church on Sunday, yet argue with your spouse on the way home while reacting rudely to other drivers in traffic? Do the people with whom you interact during the week see the same you that others in your congregation see, or do they see someone who struggles with gossiping, lying, envying, or a host of other behaviors you just can't seem to overcome?
It's not enough just to try your best to act like a Christian, modifying your behavior from the outside in. You need to invite Jesus to change you from the inside out, transforming you into an authentic Christian.
Here's how you can stop acting like a Christian and just be one:
Let love – not a sense of obligation – motivate you. Don't waste time and energy trying to impress God with religious words or rituals if your heart isn't truly in them. Understand that God doesn't want you to come to Him out of a sense of duty, but out of a genuine passion for Him. Strengthen your heart – your core spiritual muscle – by staying in close communication with God through prayer and remaining obedient to His Word, the Bible. Expect that as you seek God, you will discover more and more about Him that will cause you to genuinely fall in love with Him and naturally motivate you to live in a way that pleases Him.
Guard against potential heart blockages. Combat attitudes that can block your intimacy with God. Instead of becoming bored with your faith journey, remain bold and adventurous to keep your relationship with God fresh and dynamic. Remember that there is always more for you to learn about God, and there are always more ways for you to grow into the person He wants you to become. Keep seeking God, and taking risks that He leads you to take. Don't let your familiarity with God lead you to take Him for granted. Remember that everything you have – even you next breath – is a gift from God. Express your gratitude to Him on a regular basis, and live in awe of His power. Prevent lust from blocking a close relationship with God by staying focused on God as your top priority in life. Know that this will keep everything and everything else in proper perspective so you don't become controlled by your desires. Overcome laziness that can block your relationship with God by recognizing that the good works He created you to do are not empty and dead tasks, but life-giving works that are full of purpose. Ask God to help you notice how He uses even the most mundane activities in your life to fulfill exciting purposes. Embrace His plan for your life, and decide to do your part to see that plan realized. Don't let disobedience block your intimacy with God. Remember that every small step of obedience has eternal ramifications. Whenever you sense God leading you to do something, do it. Keep in mind that if God sees that He can trust you to obey Him in small ways, He will trust you with larger assignments.
Pursue the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Realize that all true Christians should produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Don't withhold any part of your life from God; invite His Spirit to take control of every aspect of it. Seek healing for any damage in your soul that is causing you to produce bad fruit (such as anger, fear, jealousy, depression, or low self-esteem) in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your soul and empower you to live faithfully.
Strengthen your mind. Know that if you want to change your life, you must change the way you think. Recognize that the quality of your mind depends on how much of God's truth (as found in His Word, the Bible) you believe and apply to your life. Daily pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind as you read and reflect on Scripture. Don't allow negative thoughts to remain in your mind long enough for you to dwell on them and have them lead you in the wrong direction. Instead, choose to focus on positive thoughts, and let those thoughts guide you in the direction God wants you to go in life. Expect that when you fill your mind with God's thoughts, you will naturally start to act more like Jesus and experience unshakable peace and joy.
Don't just go to church on the weekends – become the church all the time. Realize that the church isn't a building; it's the group of believers who loves God and other people both inside and outside the building. Don't keep your faith confined to just a weekend worship service. Instead, live out your faith constantly. Share the Gospel message with people, respond to people's needs through loving service, work for justice, disciple new believers, and engage in other activities that God leads you to do in your community and elsewhere. Just as God is transforming you, work to transform your world. Never let complacency distract you from your core mission to help seek and save the lost in this fallen world. Ask God to help you view others you meet as He sees them, and to value their souls enough to give your best to reach out to them in love.
Shine your light into the darkness around you. As you invite God to transform your life, point other people toward the life God has waiting for them. Look for opportunities to shine the light of God's love into the darkness of the fallen world, dispelling despair with hope. Don't hide from the evil in the world or be overwhelmed by it. Instead, ask God to show you how you can overcome evil with good every day at work, in your neighborhood, at school, and wherever else you go.
Get up close and personal with other people. Ask God to help you love lost and hurting people. Realize that, while you're not called to help everyone, you are called to help certain people in certain ways – and you need to respond. Pray for God to let you know of specific ways He wants you to help meet specific needs for specific people. Don't hesitate to become involved in the lives of people to whom God calls you to reach, building genuine relationships with them. Rather than viewing them as projects to work on, see them simply as people to love.
Remain committed. Stay faithful to the ongoing process of living out your faith authentically. Realize that authentic Christians like you, when working together, wield tremendous potential to change the world for the better.
Adapted from Stop Acting Like a Christian, Just Be One, copyright 2007 by Christine Caine. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.
Christine Caine serves with her husband Nick as a pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, where they have been released to minister worldwide with their family. The director of Equip & Empower Ministries, she is also the author of A Life Unleashed, I'm Not Who I Thought I Was and Youth Ministry – Principles for the 21st Century.