TRIAL OF THE CENTURY
It has been just over nineteen years since the trial of the century captivated the lives of so many Americans. Glued to their televisions, millions of people heard the famous words iterated that changed the entire complexion of the trial. On September 29, 1995, during his closing arguments, Johnnie Cochran uttered seven simple words; “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” In the most watched trial in history, OJ Simpson’s lawyer convinced a jury of his peers that he was not guilty. Based on circumstantial evidence related to a glove that was found at the scene of the crime, a jury of his peers found OJ not guilty. Although he walked free that day, he was convicted in the court of public opinion. Albeit shortly after the verdict was delivered, our country was sharply divided – mostly along racial lines – on the decision of the jury, today 83% of Americans believe that the overwhelming evidence in the OJ Simpson trial, regardless of any circumstantial details, could only mean one thing.
As I was reading a passage of scripture from 1 John 3 recently, it hit me. Regardless of what our peers think, or even what the court of public opinion might have to say about the way we are living, our lifestyle can only mean one thing. In a pericope that some have incorrectly interpreted to suggest that we are meant to live a life of sinless perfection, 1 John 3:8-10 offers a critique on the lifestyle of early Christians, that is still applicable today. St. John was emphasizing that our lifestyle is a very clear litmus test of our current status in Christ. In other words, our actions are a reflection of what is going on from the inside.
OUR LIFESTYLE CAN ONLY MEAN ONE THING
St. John insists that a person whose lifestyle is characterized by sin – an ongoing commitment to certain habits that are a deviation from the image of God – “is of the devil.” (1 John 3:8a) I know these might seem like harsh words but just think about it. Monkeys – for instance – do not behave like penguins. Why?? Because they’re monkey’s! They have no idea what it means to be a penguin. Their minds don’t operate like those of penguins because they don’t come from penguins. They come from monkeys!
St. John goes so far as to say that the purpose Jesus Christ, “the Son of God was manifested, [was] that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) God did not become human so that humans could feel better about being deviants, but He did so to destroy death and sin. That means that if our lifestyle is characterized by sin, it can only mean one thing.
One of the biggest disadvantages that many Christians have is that they know the scripture well enough that, if they really want to, they can find circumstantial evidence to justify their own lifestyle. Of course we may pass the eye test in the court of public opinion, but we really know better. If we are sincere in our pursuit of walking with Christ, we will have the integrity to examine ourselves and stop justifying behaviors based on what the jury (of our peers) thinks.
The Truth of the matter…Our lifestyle can only mean one thing. “9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:9-10) In other words, our lifestyle exposes us for who we are and to whom we belong.
Lots of people have been living in such a way for so long that they are completely confused. Want to do a better job of examining “yourselves as to whether you are in the faith?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Here are five keys that should help you get started:
1. Sincerity: Although it will not get you very far on its own, you won’t even know where to start looking without being genuine about really wanting to look in the hard places. Once you start noticing some not so nice things, you’re going to need help!
2. Accountability: Being answerable to another person (spiritual father / mother, parent, Sunday School teacher, Church elder, etc.) about what is happening in life will prevent you from being a rogue Christian and will offer you some much needed guidance when you get stuck.
3. Transparency: in a culture where image is everything, this may be more difficult than you might expect. Two questions that will cross your mind:
- What will the other person think of me?
- Doesn’t this just put more pressure for me to change my lifestyle?
That’s exactly the point of transparency. Now you’re getting somewhere!
4. Humility: When you receive spiritual advice or read something that is convicting, you will either put up your dukes, ready to fight, or willingly surrender. Any guess which one I’m advocating for?
5. Commitment: I saved the best for last! So many of us have started diets, exercise routines, reading plans, and (of course) the annual New Year’s resolution. You may not always like how you feel, what you see or what you’ve been told but if you have resolve in your resolutions, it will be a game changer in your life.
Questions to Consider:
Which of the five keys do you think will be most difficult for you to personally follow? Why do you think that is?
If you were to add a sixth key to success, what would you add? Explain.