Walking in Truth and Honesty
How do Christians show the world that our lives have been changed through Christ? What makes Christians different from those individuals that are not saved? Well, upon salvation Christians know immediately that their lives have been changed forever, because we have the peace of Christ’s forgiveness in our hearts, as well the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we are now a child of God’s. For, once we have believed on Jesus Christ and asked for forgiveness of our sins, we are given the Holy Spirit to live inside of us and to guide us and comfort us in all ways. However, showing the world that our lives have been changed through Christ is a harder thing to do.
Showing the world that our lives have been changed is harder, because although we have a new desire in our hearts to tell the world about the new birth in us through salvation, we do not always know how to live and behave differently from the rest of the world. Learning how to live for Christ takes time and study. That is why we must commit ourselves to learning everything that God has set before us in the Word of God, i.e., the Bible, so we will know how to walk in truth and honesty. For, we need to live as righteously as possible in order to shine the light of Christ into the world. However, it is within the Bible wherein we learn how to set ourselves apart from the secular fleshly world that the devil represents. In fact, the Apostle Paul succinctly explained salvation and how we are represent our new life in Christ within the following scripture:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and world lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” -- (Titus 2: 11-14. NKJV).
Believers can offer evidence of their new faith and salvation, as well as their total commitment to Christ by putting their best foot forward for the world to see. How do Christians put their best foot forward and show the world that they are no longer the doomed unforgiven sinful person that they once were? Well, they must be a person of truth and integrity as they choose their words carefully and do godly deeds to help others and to contribute to the Kingdom of God. Living a life of virtue and integrity is the only way to show consistent evidence of their new life in Christ. Then in showing the world that they are truly living for Christ with virtue and integrity, Christians must set higher standards for their behavior or actions, as well as set higher standards for good gracious attitudes and the use of good words. Then, their kind deeds and love will reflect their love of Christ and others.
Christians are to listen to the Holy Spirit within them so they can be guided into righteous living for God and then for others to emulate as well. We are to strive to obtain all of the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. … Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” -- (Galatians 5: 22-26. NIV). In other words, the heart’s desire of the born-again Christian should be to live in such a way that when we get to Heaven, we will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
Part of living for God is to avoid hurtful arguments and to cling to the virtues that the Bible has delineated for those who are living a righteous life. Indeed, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians in which he told them that when they accepted Christ as their Savior that they were to change the way they previously lived. Paul said that “Born-again” Christians are to: “…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” – (Ephesians 4: 22-24. NKJV). This means that there are certain behaviors, actions, and even words that Christians are not to participate in or use so that we can constantly reflect true righteousness and holiness for God.
In Part I of Living for Christ and Eternity, we talked about avoiding anger and bitterness that can not only hurt the other person with words that cut deep, but that can lead to a life of bitterness and sin for the one who refuses to forgive the person that they believe has hurt them. I especially emphasized the importance of forgiving others like you would want the Father to forgive you. Today, though, we are going to focus on another of the worldly sins that can get us caught in Satan’s temptation trap. That is the sin of stealing. Stealing and coveting, though, go hand in hand, so we will touch on coveting as well. Both of these sins are listed in The Ten Commandments, so we know that God does not approve of these actions. Furthermore, we know that there will be no stealing, anger, bitterness or coveting in eternity, because only born-again Christians with their righteousness will be allowed to come before the Lord, because the Lord abhors unrighteousness. Therefore, as “saved” individuals, we are to attempt to live our lives here on earth as righteously as possible, thus setting good examples for others to be able to see Christ in our lives. We are to reflect truth, honesty, and love in all we do.
Stealing is Wrong!
God gave Moses Ten Commandments for the Israelite people to live by. God gave us all of the commandments to show us that there is a right and wrong way to live and that sin can come at us from many different directions. The eighth commandment says: “You shall not steal”. – (Exodus 20: 15. NKJV). All people understand that stealing is taking for ourselves something that does not belong to us or that we did not pay for. It can be the taking of something that we did not work for or the taking of something abstract such as an idea. But when we take from someone else something that belongs to them, we have stolen. Usually our parents teach us that stealing is wrong, but sometimes the temptation is so great that an individual succumbs to the stealing even when they know that it is wrong, such as in certain cases where stealing is for self-preservation. For someone may steal something to eat, because they have no money and they or their family are starving. Still, this justification doesn’t make stealing right or less sinful. It would be better to offer to work for the food than to take it from someone else.
For years stealing was considered to be such a terrible crime that the laws in some countries became so strict against stealing that one could have his right hand cut off for stealing, even if their stealing was just to survive. Some ethnic groups still adhere to this form of retribution. On the other hand, in certain cases one’s life could actually be taken if the person was caught stealing. In fact, even in the old west of the United States, if someone stole a horse and was caught, they would be hung as a horse thief. Fortunately, times have changed. However, a person can still go to jail for stealing a horse, but taking the person’s life for stealing is no longer allowed. Furthermore, only those countries that are considered barbaric or under Sharia law still cut off the hand of the one who stole something.
In decades past, stealing was considered to be a highly punishable crime with severe punishment. Society today, though, has allowed the virtues and values of the Bible and of previous generations laws to be circumvented or eroded away to the point that we now live in an age when stealing no longer has the terrible offense or stigma attached to it that it once had. Yes, most people still believe that stealing is wrong in most situations, and believe that people should be sent to jail for stealing. But, even though most people, at least those from age 40 and up, have grown up understanding that stealing is wrong, they have also accepted that extenuating circumstances may come into play. Although many people yet believe that it is still a sin to take something from someone else, we have also entered a time period where there seems to be a great deal of subjectiveness to what were once firm rules of law and behaviors of truth, thus creating a subjectiveness to the act of stealing. To make matters worse, some in our younger generations have not been specifically taught by their parents or teachers that stealing is wrong, so they do not have the same abhorrence of stealing that past generations have had. Indeed, some of our youth and young people now see no problem in grabbing what they want from someone else or from a store as long as they don’t get caught. That is because even if they are caught, there are the lawyers who can help them avoid jail or a fine.
What type of things can someone steal?
There are many types of stealing. Stealing does not have to involve the literal taking of a physical item from another person. Stealing can also be the taking of an idea or the appropriation of someone’s work without their permission. Corporations steal from each other, ideas are stolen from other people, and people steal in order to avoid having to do work of their own. This last kind of stealing often occurs in our high schools and with college age students who copy off their neighbor on tests. Still others find ways to get a copy of the test before they even take the test, or they buy class project papers that someone else has written so they can pass the paper off as their own in order to pass a course without doing the work.
These young people who cheat off of others or who buy papers to hand in as their own have not been taught ethics, let alone taught what constitutes stealing. Nor have they been taught how stealing not only hurts the one whose item was stolen, but it hurts the thief in the long run as well. For although the thief may have passed the class because of the stolen paper or test questions, they have not gained the knowledge needed for their future life or the knowledge which was acquired from their classmate in order to pass the test or class. Moreover, they have certainly not acquired the personal knowledge needed to pass the test on their own or to use the information in future situations. Nor have they discovered the joy of working hard to accomplish or achieve something in life on their own. Worse still, their morally deficit values will chip away at their soul. Ultimately, that is just what the devil wants too. He wants us humans to constantly be sinning so that we can’t see the truth of God’s grace and love. So, if a person has denigrated their soul by being unethical, immoral and dishonest, perhaps they will do even worse things as time goes on. Furthermore, those who steal and who also profess to be Christians are hurting the Christian faith and are keeping others from seeing the Truth and the Light of Christ.
How can a true born-again Christian steal when he/she knows that it is against God and that they are misrepresenting the Christ of their salvation? Well, we live in a fallen world and it is easy to emulate the behaviors of the society in which we live, starting with the small things in life that do not seem to be a big deal. But, Christians have to set themselves apart from the ordinary and make sure that they do not even steal small items which is easy to do and for many on their jobs is the norm. For example, stealing time from an employer to do personal things on the job is something that most employees have done at one time or another. But, Christians should hold themselves to a higher standard.
Other things like mooching off a friend for meals or borrowing clothes because the person just doesn’t want to work hard or long enough to get the money to buy their own is something that many college age non-Christian students do. Many non-Christian students have gone through college by mooching off the government for loans they probably have no intention of paying back. Then, if they can’t get the lucrative job they dreamed of upon graduation from college many non-Christian graduates will not even try to find work of any kind, but will instead go home to mom and dad and mooch living off of them. Why? Well, they have not been taught about a strong work-ethic nor have they been instilled with the desire to make it on their own even it means taking a menial job. It seems that getting something for nothing is the more common way of doing things now.
Once a person invites Christ into their heart and is saved, the Holy Spirit starts guiding them and leading them into all truth. But, it takes time for the newly saved person to fully understand what the difference is between living in a secular world that accepts the lowest of virtues and the lowest rungs of truth and honesty and in living for Christ. They need to have had a background in truth and honesty as well as having had parents who have tried to teach them right from wrong in order to grow quickly into virtuous and loving people who care about others.
Sadly, though, parents and grandparents are now reaping what they have not sown. They are reaping weeds instead of beautiful blooming plants or young people that will continue to reproduce even more beautiful blooming plants or children for God. Instead, parents and grandparents are reaping weeds that will continue to reproduce the weeds of selfishness, thoughtlessness, greed, etc., because they have not sown the Ten commandments or the virtues and values of living a truthful and honest life within their children. They have failed to set the standards for truthful and honest behavior. Moreover, they have failed to teach their children the basic difference between what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do. Although God gave parents and grandparents the responsibility of teaching values, virtues, and morals, many have let God and their children down. Furthermore, they have failed to recognize that because we are all born sinners, that this teaching of their children must start out early in life in order for it to be truly instilled within the person.
Most parents know their children need to be taught early in life that stealing is wrong, because they have seen first-hand their one and two-year-old age children or even their small grandchildren take a toy from another child without out any qualms. Unfortunately, both society and their secular parental love within their hearts tell them it is wrong to discipline a child for any reason. But, even for parents who understand that admonishment is important for wrong actions, it is still hard to do. To make matters worse, once the child is confronted with the fact that the toy is not theirs, most toddlers will even go so far as to lie and say that it is theirs. Now, the child has not only stolen an item, but has now lied about the stealing. It is at this point that the parent must take the toy from their child and give it back to the other child and then place their child in timeout for taking the item and lying about it. But, if a parent does not take action for whatever reason then the child will continue to both steal and lie, coming up with even more deceitful ways of stealing and lying as time goes on.
Most parents soon discover that the stealing is not just a one-time incident, so if they are not on top of each small stealing situation, their child will often find ways to deceive them about their stealing again and again while getting more inventive in their stories. But, if the parent is aware of their child’s “take and claim” tendency and stops it with discipline and love, the child will begin to understand that stealing is wrong. However, parents cannot just assume that their child will never steal again. For, like everything else in life, our children need a firm foundation of truth and honesty in order to not succumb to this particular sinfulness again. Certainly, they need to be taught from the Word of God about right and wrong.
Unfortunately, as children grow up, parents may begin to feel that their child has already learned what he/she needs to know about stealing and truth telling, so they no longer keep tabs on situations wherein their child has opportunities to steal and to lie about it. Moreover, the actions or inactions of the parents can greatly affect the way the child views stealing. For example, if the child or youth sees the parent bring home paper, pens, and paper clips from work that actually belong to the office where they work, the parent has in essence told the child that it is okay to steal in certain situations. Or if the parent fails to discipline the child for taking things that don’t belong to them, then the child will see no reason to stop stealing. These are just a couple of the many reasons that high school and college age students have come to believe that there is no harm in stealing. For, the parents have set an example of “no big deal” for their child.
Although God has given us the commandment to not steal along with the other nine commandments given to help keep us from sinning, there are other verses in the Bible that also address stealing. In fact, as Christians and as Christian parents, we are to emphasize all the Scriptures in the Bible that relate to our Christian walk here on earth, including the ones that relate to truthfulness and honesty. One of those Scriptures relating to our Christian walk specifically addresses the commandment against stealing. Indeed, the Apostle Paul lists not stealing within his letter about Christian behaviors to the Ephesians in Ephesus. In fact, Paul specifically states that once we are born-again, we are not to steal. For, Paul said, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.”— (Ephesians 4: 28. NASB).
Coveting is an internal or heart form of stealing that can actually lead to the physical taking of something from another. So, what exactly is coveting? Well, coveting is to ardently want what someone else has, which means that the person is burning or passionately aflame with the desire to acquire what the other person has. A synonym often used for covet is envy, however, I believe to covet or coveting is a deeper form of envy which leads to ardently wanting what the other person has. For example, one can envy someone’s car, wishing that they had a car like the one that the person has, yet they do nothing about it. Yes, it is wrong to envy what another person has and envy may cause a person to say something snide about the other person not deserving the car, or to be hateful to that person for their fortune, but they don’t usually do anything else about their envy. Yes, the envy can eat up their heart causing them to be jealous which is again against God’s laws. But, most people who envy are simply jealous of the other person’s good fortune or wealth that enables them to purchase such a wonderful car. Only in situations of extreme envy and jealousy will the person begin to covet with a passionate burning fire within that makes them then attempt to get what they want. However, when a person finally succumbs to coveting, they will take both initial envy and jealousy one step further.
Obviously, there are not degrees of sin, for all sin is sin, and sin is unrighteous in the eyes of God. However, God’s Ten Commandments specifically tells us that we are not to covet. Actually, the commandment says: “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything your neighbor owns.” -- (Exodus 20: 17. NLT). Although coveting includes envy, coveting goes so much further. For, when a person covets, they not only want what the other person has, but they are resenting the fact that the other person has what they would like to have. They do not want the other person to have the item. They want so much what the other person has that they are only focused on their desire to get it. Their coveting also can focus on resenting the other person for what they have, which can then lead to even hurting the other person to get what they want. Unfortunately, the coveting desire can be so strong for what the other person has that it can lead to stealing the item or thing from the other person in any way that the the one coveting can find to obtain it, which can even lead to murder. In these cases, this sort of desire also becomes idolatry, because the person is putting the thing that they are coveting above God thus making it an idol. Moreover, God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” – (Exodus 20: 3, 4. NIV). But, the second commandment also states, “You shall not make for yourself an idol. …” Certainly, coveting then can lead to idolatry which leads to having or placing something else as an idol above God.
It is important that we teach our children not to envy and not to covet what someone else has. For, coveting can lead to stealing or worse, murder. The Apostle Paul said, “For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting – and any other commandment – are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements.” – (Romans 13: 9, 10. NLT). When we love others as we love ourselves, we do not want to do anything to hurt them. Certainly, we would not want someone to hurt us by stealing from us or by coveting something that we have. So, why would we want to hurt another person by stealing from them or by coveting what they have, if we love the other person the way that we love ourselves. That is why it is also so important for us to teach our children and grandchildren not to steal or covet as well. For, they will grow up to be parents who set examples for their children as well, and teaching the truth of God’s Word is accomplished through each successive generation.
Having a Christ-like Attitude and Christ-like Characteristics
It is through these and other verses in his letter to the Ephesians that the Apostle Paul further explains to us that Christians are to have a different attitude and are to have different behaviors and characteristics than those people who are not Christian. Moreover, now that we have turned our lives over to Christ and have been given the gift of salvation and are living for Him, we must also change our behaviors. This means that among other things we are not to steal to get what we want. Instead, we are to work or to labor for everything that we want or that we get.
In another letter, the Apostle Paul went even a step further in teaching/mentoring the Christians that we are not to mooch off of other Christians, which is also considered to be a type of stealing. The Apostle Paul said that all Christians are to work for our food and not steal food from others, nor are we to expect others to feed us when we have not contributed to the acquisition of the food for the group. The Apostle Paul also wrote something similar to the Thessalonians saying, “Whoever does not work should not eat. Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. … we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living.” – (II Thessalonians 3: 10, 11. NLT). In other words, we are not to expect handouts, but are to work for our food and clothing. Most importantly, Christians are to set an example of working hard in every situation so that others can see that we represent what is good, truthful and honest. In doing so, we can then help others who truly have a need to have food or clothing, or who truly have a need for help; even if the help that they need is help in studying for a test. One of the best examples that we can be is to be for another person an Active Relational Christian Mentor who can be of help to those in need or who can find the help they need from another mentor no matter what the area of need is. At the same time, we are to be an example of righteous living and of honesty, truthfulness, and integrity.
Later, the Apostle Paul again wrote specifically about Christians working for the Lord when he wrote to the Colossians. It is in this letter that Paul wrote: “we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” – (Colossians 1: 9, 10, NASB).
Notice that in both his letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, Paul speaks of “laboring, or preforming with our own hands what is good”, so that we can bear fruit “in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”. Bearing good fruit in our Christian walk, means that we have not only learned how to work to receive what we need, but that we can work to help others receive what they need as well. Thus, we are bearing fruit in every good work or service to the Lord while at the same time we are “being filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
Christians then, are to walk in a manner that is worthy of representing Christ’s name to the world. Representing Christ to the world is more than just having loving, kind, and thoughtful conversations. We are to conduct ourselves in a way that will represent Christ with honor and give Him glory. We are to share the Gospel message and tell others of eternity with God through salvation. That is why it is so important to not steal and to not do anything that will dishonor Christ or His message of salvation. Indeed, it is our attitude and behaviors that allow others to see Christ in us so they, too, will want the peace, joy, and happiness that comes from personally knowing Christ and accepting His forgiveness. Furthermore, it is those same attitudes and behaviors that will allow our children and grandchildren to learn how to represent the truth and Christ to the world through their own attitudes and behaviors.
Moving from a World Wrapped in Darkness to a World Emblazoned with Light
We were all born into a world that is full of darkness. It is the darkness of sin that surrounds each of us. It is that darkness that Satan wants us to long for and not resist. Sadly, though, it is that darkness that can lead us right into eternal hell, if we do not grab onto and hold on to the light of Christ that God has offered to each of us. For years, people thought that they were helpless to escape the bondage of their sin. However, God defeated Satan, the master of this darkness and bondage, when He sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ into the world to die and then arise from the grave conquering death for our sins. How did Jesus conquer death and give us the chance to be cleansed of our sins? Well, Jesus defeated Satan and eternal death when after taking our sins upon his body and dying for our sins, he arose from the grave and its eternal darkness. It is Christ who can bring each of us into a world emblazoned with light and give us the freedom from eternal death and darkness. For, if we believe on the one and only Son of God, we can be Saved from eternal darkness and never have to fear that death again.
In being born into this world of darkness and sin, means that each of us starts out our life by being alienated from God. But, God did not want us to be alienated from Him, so in His mercy and grace, God has given each of us a way to spend eternity in a world emblazoned with God’s light, if we so choose to accept His free gift. For, if we believe that Christ is God incarnate and that He came to earth to reconcile us to Himself through His death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection, we can be saved for all eternity living forever in the Light of God. We will be immortal, because our relationship with God will have been cleansed and restored to us through Jesus’ blood on the cross, i.e., if we choose to accept God’s gift of mercy and grace.
Unfortunately, some people will refuse to believe in Christ as the living Son of God. But, God does not want anyone to be excluded from His eternal world of light and love, yet some people will exclude themselves. Why do they refuse to believe and repent of their sins? Well, their hearts have become hardened to the voice of the Holy Spirit, or they have become stubborn and refused to believe in what they cannot physically see. To make matters worse, they have come to love the darkness of this world in its words and actions and want to trust in their own wisdom rather than the Lord’s. Sadly, they have grieved the Holy Spirit to the point that he no longer reaches out to them or touches their hearts to gently call them to God.
Christians know that they have been sealed for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit. We know this, because God has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us and to guide and comfort us daily. Moreover, we know that when we die we will leave our physical bodies and exchange them for “… an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. (As Christians) We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. God Himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee He has given us His Holy Spirit… That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.” -- (II Corinthians 5: 1-5, 7. NLT).
This is why the Apostle Paul also tells Christians “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children: and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper for the saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting but rather giving of thanks.
For this you know with a certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” -- (Ephesians 4: 30-31, 5: 1-5. NASB).
Christians are to be imitators of God. If a person cannot walk in the ways of the Christ and the Heavenly Father, we must question if they are really a child of God. For, God wants His children to be lighthouses to the world, living in the light of God and shining the light of Christ on the world, i.e. showing others the way to safety and Salvation which leads to eternity with God. Moreover, the Holy Spirit living within us not only assures us of our Salvation, but born-again Christians live in submission to Him, so that as He prompts us to do the right things, we immediately respond to Him in obedience.
Are you responding to Christ in obedience to Him? Are you living an honest, trustworthy, integrity light filled life for Christ so that others can see Christ in you? Are you eternity bound? If not, perhaps you need to focus on living for Christ. Or perhaps you need to ask Christ to come into your heart through your repentance of your sins? If you want to live for Christ and be forgiven of your sins, just call out to Him in truth and honesty. Tell Christ that you want to be forgiven your sins and that you repent of all your sinfulness. Christ will hear you and you will be saved! Then tell someone that you have been saved and find a church where you can follow through with God’s commandment to be baptized by immersion. Following Christ in baptism shows your obedience to Him and tells the world that you are indeed a child of God’s. Then, it is time to listen to the Holy Spirit that is now within you and live exemplifying God’s virtues, values, and love. Also teach your children about God and Jesus Christ, so that they one day can make a decision on their own to ask Christ into their heart. Also teach them about right and wrong and show them that stealing and coveting are wrong. You can be the light for the next generation to see Christ in you.
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