We live in a day where what we claim with our lips, seems to be contradicted by our lives. Unfortunately in much of American "Christianity," no one seems to challenge that. We have so catered to the spirit of tolerance, that even in the church, we very rarely "hold each others feet to the fire." If we are honest, we would have to admit that several things hinder us from practicing Biblical Christianity - of obeying the "one anothers" of the New Testament. We are commanded to exhort one another, pray one for another, confess our faults one to another, admonish one another, forbear one another, forgive one another, be kindly affectioned on to another, love one another, edify one another, bear one anothers burdens, have the same care one for another, etc.. So what hinders us from "getting into each others lives" - caring, encouraging, challenging, reproving, considering one another to provoke to love and good works?
I think many things hinder us, but perhaps to mention a few: a fear of man, a lack of love, being consumed with ourselves, a lack of obedience to the scriptures, perhaps an ignorance of our responsibility within the body of Christ. In any case, the current spirit of indifference within the body of Christ has caused a powerless form of religion under the guise of being called "Christianity," allowing many attendees who've never had a transformation in their lives and lifestyle to feel comfortable in our churches. Church history will tell you that our Christian forefathers did not hesitate to call for "credible evidence of regeneration" in the lives of those wanting to join the church - today, you can join our churches as easily as you can join the Rotary, or Moose lodge or AARP!
I think the primary reason for this is the lack of a call for repentance - either in the lives of unbelievers, or in the lives of believers. As I study the scriptures, I find that repentance is not only something you do when you come to Christ, but something that is to continue in our lives until the day we see Christ face to face. I challenge you to examine in the scriptures and show me one person, who repented, whose life was not different afterward. Think of the New Testament - can you think of one person who encountered Jesus that was the same afterward, as they was before? Most all were changed to the good, only a few met Jesus, and decided to follow a different road - Judas Iscariot, and the rich young ruler - who went away very sorrowful because he had great "riches" and would not surrender them to Jesus, though he claimed he had been following all the commandments "from his youth up". On the other hand, the prodigal son, when he repented knew that his return to the father would involve "a change of mind that brought about a change of life." Some American theologians in our day try to take the power out of repentance, by saying that the word really only means "a change of mind." The only problem with that proposition is that the overwhelming evidence of scripture is NO ONE was the same after meeting Jesus - being "a new creation" was not merely a positional truth, it was backed by a changed life - every time!
When John the Baptist called men to "bring forth fruits worthy of repentance," and they asked him what that would look like in their lives, he gave them tangible "handles" for that change. He said, if you have two coats - give one to someone who has none, if you have extra meat, do the same. The tax collectors said, "What shall we do?" He said, do not collect more than you are supposed to (don't line your pockets with their money because of your authority). The soldiers said, "What about us?" To which he said, "Do violence to no man, don't accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages." Now, I ask you, could He possibly have been more down to earth in addressing people right where they live? In essence John was saying, if you follow God, your life will be diffferent. In other words, be sure your life demonstrates what you claim with your lips.
Just one more thought about repentance. The Greek word, metanoia is a combination of two parts - meta (change) & noia (mind) - thus the loose interpretation - a change of mind, however - you need to know that the root of the word is CHANGE! This is not the only use of this root in the New Testament. You are familiar with New Testament words like: transformed, translated, transferred & transfigured. Each of these words begins with the same Grk. word - meta. The word itself involves two key thoughts - change and movement. All the words you know involving that prefix have in them the same idea - something that is moving, something that is changing. Transportation, transmission, transpose, transact, transplant, transfusion - these all involve action, movement, change from one place to another. So, why are we afraid to call for change in the lives of professing believers?
Rom.12:2, says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind - the word - metamorphosis means Christians are to be different than the world. The J.B. Phillips translation of that verse says, "stop allowing the world to squeeze you into it's mold!" We are to be metamorphosized - you know the most recognizable illustration of that word is the transformation of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly! Oh the amazing difference between a worm crawling to advance his progress and a butterfly at liberty to fly! When the prodigal son returned to his father (which by the way, the entire of chapter of Luke 15 is about repentance) he knew numerous things would have to take place. While in the pig pen, "he came to himself"( a change of mind), he said, "I will arise" (activated his will), "will go to my father" (return from the place of rebellion), and "will say to him" (repentance involves confession), "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee"(conviction over sin), and "am no more worthy to be called your son" (attitude of unworthiness), "make me as one of your hired servants" (obedient heart to do the father's will).
I believe it is time again for us to call for changed lives if someone is going to claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The real power of God is demonstrated through a changed life. One reason why there has been no national revival in America for over 150 years is because we have stopped preaching for change! In times of genuine revival, the world sits up and takes notice because believers lives are different. Their lifestyle is uniquely noticeable, calling attention to itself, not because it is "like" the lost people around it, but because it knows the power of surrender and separation. A true believer lives for a different cause. Not money, not popularity, not worldy gain, not the deceitfulness of riches, not a lustful, never satisfied, covetous heart. A repentant believer talks differently, lives differently, gives differently, and is controlled by different viewing and listening habits. In the "unrevived" state of the church in America, we have spent millions of dollars & thousands of man-power hours trying to convince a lost community around us of their need for Jesus - much without power and to little avail. Church history records that in the revived state of the church, lost people will "climb over Christians" in an effort to get to God for salvation! 2000 years of Church history proves that the greatest times of regeneration of lost souls have come, not as a result of a direct evangelistic effort, but because of genuine revival in the lives of born again Christians. After all, the word "revive" means to live again. In order for something (or someone) to live again, they must have had life to begin with. Revival is NOT lost people getting saved, that is regeneration. Spiritual awakening (lost people coming to Christ) is a result of revival! Oh Lord, wilt Thou not revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee!