THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY
One may ask the question, 'Is it acceptable for an employer to restrict a Christian's freedom of speech if the subject of that speech is offensive to another but not to God?' Often the objector is the one who prompted the Christian's response or someone overhearing a private dialogue? Furthermore, is this kind of restriction justifiable in light of the allowance of the discussion at any time of many subjects which are truly offensive such as:
Vile stories & suggestive language?
The Lord's name in vain continuously expressed?
The acceptability of unbiblical sexuality as an alternative lifestyle?
The ridicule and condemnation of the biblical viewpoint about homosexuality?
Persistent reiteration of non-Christian beliefs and practices as the only acceptable way?
Ridicule of the biblical viewpoint as an offensive and closed minded attitude?
The answer as to whether there is a valid restriction of Christian-like behavior and the answer as to what the Christian's responsibility is must come from the only reliable and inerrant source of information about this subject: the Bible. A thorough study of the Bible strictly following the built-in rules of interpretation will reveal that God's Word, indeed, is the only completely reliable and inerrant source of information about the condition and responsibility of man.
The following topics and supporting passages from the Bible provide information as to the responsibility of the believer:
A) Seek first the Kingdom of God
C) Defend the faith
D) Take up your cross
E) Seek out opportunities
F) Oppose what the world represents
G) Walk in fellowship with God
H) Ignore your Christian Responsibility and face dire consequences
A) SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The following passages set the most important priority for the Christian's life:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
(v. 25) "Therefore I tell you, 'do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (v. 26) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
(v. 27) Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
(v. 28) And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. [spin wool]
(v. 29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
(v. 30) If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, o you of little faith?
(v. 31) So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
(v. 32) For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
(v. 33) BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(v. 35) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
" 'No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.' "
These passages teach that one is not to worry but rather to trust in God for every essential-to-life provision. One is commanded to totally trust that God is so intimately involved in one's life that He provides whatever food, drink, clothing, shelter and all essentials that one NEEDS on a moment to moment basis. As a matter of fact this passage teaches that since God is so intimately involved in the believer's life that he does not need to worry about tomorrow, relative to anything whether it be essential or not. God will provide all of the essential and nonessential details in life necessary to carry on with His purpose for the believer's life. The believer is to decide which is his priority: the world, (i.e., his job, his own self-centered happiness, his family, etc.), or Jesus Christ. Decisions cannot be made where both are served. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." (Jn 14:15) - you will serve Christ and not the world - not put the job first, ("You cannot serve both God and money.' ". Ref. Mt 6:24).
[2 Cor 4:18]:
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen is eternal."
Tim LaHay states in his book "FINDING THE WILL OF GOD IN A CRAZY MIXED UP WORLD," Zondervan publishing, 1989, p. 24:
"If God keeps watch over the dependent creatures in His world, how much MORE will He attend to the needs of His own children."
(v. 28) "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
(v. 29) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
(v. 30) And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
(v. 31) So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
This is part of a passage in which our Lord is explaining what a disciple of His will face and the cost of that discipleship. He advises them that every hair, every minute detail about them, are accounted for in God's will. Jesus goes on to say that just as every movement of the sparrow is under the sovereign will of the Father in heaven, so much the more is every movement of one of His children. Two extremely vital verses in the Book of Proverbs are to be the Ambassador's command in his daily walk with the Lord:
(v. 5) "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
(v. 6) in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."
The Amplified Translation renders the last phrase of 6b with a more precise connotation:
[Pr 3:6b AMPLIFIED BIBLE]
"and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths."
"Lean not on your own understanding" is saying that in the circumstances of life do not rely on what you understand to the exclusion of God's viewpoint, (which is now communicated through Scripture). Instead, "acknowledge Him in all your ways" and then, having trusted "in Him with all your heart" (verses 5a & 6a), your paths in life that you take will be made "straight", i.e. directed by God. This passage indicates that God will be active in directing EVERY step that a believer takes in life provided that the individual is a believer, (verse 5a), and that he is walking by faith & acknowledging God in everything he does, (verses 5a, 6a). The believer may or may not take those steps. Steps that God directs are the optimum ones for a believer to take toward spiritual maturity and rewards in heaven.
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."
In the mind of a man he thinks that he plans the steps of his life but in reality it is God Who provides those steps that the man takes whether in God's perfect will for him or not, whether for good or evil. For God decrees and is sovereign over everything that happens in His creation, (Ps 8; 18; 19; 24; 29; 33; 45-48; 50; 65-68; 77; 78; 89; 91-100; 104-108; 110; 111; 113-118; 135; 136; 139; 145-150).
B) PREPARE TO HAVE AN ANSWER
The Bible teaches that a man becomes what he practices in his thoughts words and deeds:
[Pr 23:6-7 NAS]:
(v. 6) "Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, Or desire his delicacies:
(v. 7) For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, 'Eat and drink?'
But his heart is not with you.
"For as he thinks within himself, so he is.." ? A man becomes what he practices - in his thoughts, words and deeds. So even what he dwells on in his mind evolves into the kind of man that he becomes.
"A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth,..."
A man who has an "evil eye" describes a man whose thoughts are evil and who therefore inevitably practices the evil which he thinks about in his mind.
" [O Lord, (v. 3)] Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness..."
So out of the mentality - the mind - comes the deeds of a man. Good or evil is first practiced in a man's mind. A man must have thoughts within his mind which then result in his actions; his actions determining the kind of man that he is - and the judgment that he will receive.
Even what a man says determines the kind of man that he is:
(v. 33) "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
(v. 34) You brood of vipers, [our Lord is speaking to the Pharisees who are trying set Him so they would be justified in killing Him] how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
(v. 35) The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, [his thoughts would be the only way a man can store up good in himself] and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
(v. 36) But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
(v. 37) For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
For a man's words truly reflect the kind of person that he is and that is how a man is judged: by the kind of person that he is. The problem is that all men's minds, believers and unbelievers alike, are contaminated with a sin nature which produces an evil humanistic or human viewpoint - certainly not the divine one which is reflected in God's Word, (cp Ro 3:19, 23; 7:17-23 Ps 5:5). The solution is to saturate one's mind with what God's says in His Word, replacing the human viewpoint with divine viewpoint, thought by thought. This takes an earnest lifetime study and obedience to what the Bible teaches. So the object of a believer is to train his thoughts in accordance with Bible doctrine. That is why a believer is commanded to control his thought life:
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
Once a believer has begun to develop God's divine viewpoint in his mentality then he needs to move on to preparing himself for his life as an active obedient Christian:
[2 Ti 2:15]:
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth."
The key word for Christians is PREPARATION. All Christians are to diligently study the Bible in order to understand, recall and be able to explain to others what they have learned. The discovery, development and exercising of a believer's spiritual gift(s) are critical in the faithful walk and witness of the believer. Preparation for this, therefore, includes a detailed study of God's Word, including the purpose and use of spiritual gifts:
(v. 11) "It was He [Christ] Who gave some to be pastors and teachers,
(v. 12) to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up"
[Although it is obviously possible for God to teach an individual spiritual truths without that individual making an effort, this is not God's sovereign way during the church age. In 'Old Testament' times, men taught men truths from Scripture. And in 'New
Testament' time, our Lord instructed the disciples, (Jn 3:1-21; Mt 5-7; 18-25). Consider Philip and the Ethiopian treasurer:
[Acts 8:30-31, 34-35]:
(v. 30) "Then Philip ran up to the [Ethiopian's] chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked.
(v. 31) 'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
(v. 34) The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?'
(v. 35) Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus."
So man must do his part in order for God the Holy Spirit to do His. This is in part the purpose of God's use of spiritual gifts:
(v. 11 cont.) "It was He [Christ] Who gave some to be pastors and teachers,
(v. 12 cont.) to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
(v. 13) until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
[If the believer does not do his part by studying God's Word under the teaching ministry of a pastor/teacher in order to show himself approved, (2 Tim 2:15), by presenting himself at the gathering of the elect in order to be taught by those with the gift of teacher, (Heb 10:25), so that he might be ready with an answer, (1 Pet 3:15), so that he might be able to contend for the doctrines of his faith against those who teach false doctrine, (Jude 3, Phil 1:29), then the Holy Spirit has little material in that believer's mentality to work with and the believer will lack spiritual growth and discernment, such that he will be at the mercy of false teaching leading a life of spiritual self destruction.
[Eph 4:11-16 cont.]:
(v. 14) "Then [having prepared ourselves] we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."
[So instead, believers are to make the effort to learn and obey the truth in God's Word]
(v. 15) Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him Who is the Head, that is, Christ.
[Every believer doing his part - defending the faith by speaking with agape love what is true from God's Word so that believers will grow in spiritual maturity: (v. 16) From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
[Every believer doing his part in accordance with the spiritual gift(s) that God has given him for the common good]:
[1 Cor 12:1, 7]:
(v. 1) "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
(v. 7) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."
(v. 4) "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
(v. 5) so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
(v. 6) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (v. 7) If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
(v. 8) if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
To study God's Word just for the sake of having knowledge or out of some imagined religious obligation becomes tedious and is of little value. This is especially true when God's Word is studied without the teaching of others appointed by God to aide in understanding the Bible, (i.e., formal instruction from teachers, commentaries, reference works, etc.). Yet this is the way most believers 'study'. They limit themselves to an occasional superficial reading of a few chapters from a favorite translation. They end up reading passages without much understanding - certainly without the insights into His Word that God has provided for them through the efforts of other individuals. A believer is not to study God's Word merely out of religious obligation but out of a need to prepare himself with the answers to the many questions that come up every day. Most believers - who are all ambassadors of Jesus Christ, (2 Cor 5:20) - do not even recognize questions that are to be responded to because they haven't prepared themselves in advance - to their shame when Christ comes again. So study is the method that a believer utilizes in order to develop in his mentality a grid through which his life is to be screened - a grid of divine viewpoint reasoning through which all of one's thoughts, intended speech and intended deeds are to be screened in order to enable oneself to think, say and act in the will of God. That is the responsibility - the duty of the believer. Preparation is so important that it is stated that God will be ashamed of a Christian if he is not prepared, (Lk 9:26). All believers are to regularly and earnestly study God's Word to prepare themselves for those situations which God provides requiring their accurate presentation to another of what God is saying in His Word. Most believers wilfully ignore this command to study and are purposely unprepared to respond with what God's viewpoint is when applied to everyday life situations. Many opportunities to relay God's viewpoint are therefore missed due to a willful lack of knowledge of what to say. Most Christians fear negative reaction by others around them if they respond to situations in the workplace or elsewhere with divine viewpoint. They remain silent or even voice agreement with others on that which is against divine viewpoint from Scripture. They consider that to do otherwise would put their jobs or worldly status at risk. But God's Word commands the Christian to stand up and be counted. If they do respond at all, unprepared believers respond with human viewpoint which opposes what God says in His Word.
And there are consequences for not responding properly when the opportunity arrises: The word "ashamed" in 2 Tim 1:8, 2:15 and Luke 9:26 is a key word which indicates one of the consequences of being unprepared. For once the unresponsive believer has died and gone home to be with the Lord he will truly be ashamed before God:
[2 Ti 2:15]:
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."
[2 Ti 1:8]
(v. 8) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me [Paul] His prisoner but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God; And if a believer is ashamed to "testify about" or suffer for "our Lord" then there will be consequences in heaven for that Christian:
"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
Ralph F. LaRosa states in 'The Philippine MISSIONARY REPORT', Vol 2 Issue 5, June/July, '94:
"As we renew our spiritual life daily through knowing, believing, and applying biblical principles, we confront our failures and shortcomings and make appropriate changes according to biblical standards (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:22-24; 2 Cor. 4:16; 2 Cor. 5:9). Then we are enabled to grow up in the Lord Jesus Christ, reach spiritual maturity, and be in a position to help others in an effective and biblical manner (Matt. 7:1-5; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; Gal. 6:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:2)."