Holistic part 2
Living for an Audience of One
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 19, 2010

How can I live a holistic Christian life? That’s the question we’re trying to answer in our current message series. We’re calling the series “Holistic”, and last week we talked about why we’re calling it that. If something is Holistic, it’s all encompassing. It affects everything. You usually hear it in reference to treatment of a medical condition. In a holistic treatment, the treatment doesn’t just address the symptoms or the biological condition, but the treatment addresses the emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual aspects, too.

So in the sense we’re using the word, we’re talking about living a holistic Christian life where your faith… your relationship with God… is reflected in every area of life.

For many people, their faith is not holistic. For them, it just deals with an hour on Sunday. They think that going to church and throwing a few bucks in the offering are all there is to living the Christian life.

The Bible talks about how living for Jesus is so much more than that. Here at Sunrise, we’re about Real-life Christianity. That means that we believe our faith should impact everything we say, think and do, everyday. We have a practical faith, and we live it out daily. We see how the Word of God applies in the real world.

It’s an all encompassing faith. It’s holistic. It involves every area of life… how you spend your time, how you spend your money, how you perform your work, how you interact with others, how you treat people, the words you say, the things you do, the thoughts you entertain, the way you react when you’ve been mistreated, the way you treat others, especially the marginalized and disadvantaged in our society, it’ll affect your marriage, your family, your friendships… a holistic faith permeates every aspect of your life.

Last week, we looked at a diagram for this… we saw how living a God-centered life means that God is at the center and everything else revolves around Him. And everything else in our lives is under His influence… under His direction.

Next week, we’re going to talk about how a holistic faith affects your schedule. The week after that, how it affects your finances. And then the week after that, we’re going to talk about our relationships.

But today, we’re going to talk in more general terms about what it means to live holistically. Instead of living segregated lives, where God has His spot and money has its spot and relationships have their spots and work has its spot, how can we live so that everything works together in a holistic God-honouring way?

If you have your notes, you can follow along and fill in the blanks as we go. Okay?

In Order to Live Holistically…

1.    Live to please God and God alone

The apostle Paul is known as one of the greatest Christians of all time. He’s the man primarily responsible for spreading Christianity beyond the Jewish community. He wrote about half of the books in our New Testament. He is someone who lived to please God.

But that wasn’t always the case. When we’re first introduced to Paul in the book of Acts he was watching and condoning the mob execution of a Christ-follower named Stephen. Paul was very much opposed to the early church and made it his mission to arrest or even kill as many Christians as he could.

At that time, he wasn’t known as Paul. He was going by the name of Saul. And Saul was a very religious person. He had studied under the leading rabbi of the day, and he was careful to follow all the religious laws and was quite proud of his religiosity. And as he travelled around trying to wipe out the early Christians, he gained the approval of many of the Jewish religious leaders and Roman officials who felt threatened by this newly forming Christian Church. And so he did all he could to continue to please them.

“Until the one day when this fellow met the Saviour, and he knew that He was much more than a myth. It was then He gave his life to Jesus, chose to live for him alone.”

From that point on, Paul ticked off a lot of people. In fact, he even received death threats, had rocks thrown at him, was arrested and imprisoned, and eventually he was killed for his faith. Check out what he wrote in Galatians 1:10…

Galatians 1:10 (NLT)
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

So if you’re not living to please God, then you really can’t even call yourself a Christian or a Christ-follower.

In Acts 4, the apostles Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and were brought before a council including all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law. They ordered Peter and John to stop spreading the message about Jesus. But listen to how they responded:

Acts 4:19-20 (NLT)
But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

Now, this isn’t an excuse to rebel against authority and break laws and thumb your nose at authority. But it is a great example of choosing to please God regardless of the consequences. Peter and John could have been thrown back in prison, and they could have even been killed, but they resolved to obey God rather than any authority that would tell them otherwise. They were going to please God in each and every circumstance.

When I was a teenager I used to listen to the Christian Rock group Petra, and there’s a song they used to sing based on that verse right there. It was called “Godpleaser”, and in it Bob Hartman wrote these words:

So many voices telling me which way to go,
So many choices come from those who think they know.
There’s a way that seems right to a man but it only brings him death,
I wanna go the way that leads to life, till I draw my dying breath.

I just want my life to glorify His Son,
To Make my Father proud that I’m His child before I’m done.
No need to pat me on the back or stop to shake my hand,
I just want to hear my Father say, “Well done, well done.”
~ Godpleaser performed by Petra, written by Bob Hartman

If you’re going to live a holistic Christian life, you’re going to live with that singular purpose… to please God.

It’s going to affect how you spend your time… yes, you’re going to be here on Sundays to worship Him and that’s going to be a priority for you, but you’re going to live to please Him everyday. You’re going to use your time in God-honouring ways.

It’s going to affect how you use your money… yes, your going to tithe and give to God through the Church because that’s what He has asked you to do, but you’re going to use the rest of your money in God-honouring ways, too.

It’s going to affect your relationships, your recreation, the way you do your work… in every day in every way, you’re going to live to be a God-pleaser.

The second key to living a holistic Christian life is to…

2.    Live a life of harmony

No, this has nothing to do with music. It has to do with living a life that is consistent. Where your words and your deeds and your thoughts are reflective of your heart. Every aspect of your life lives in harmony with each other because there’s a consistency there.

Remember, God sees all and knows all. Now, God is not a cosmic killjoy. He’s not watching with the intent to zap you anytime you mess up, but He is watching. He sees your deeds, and more importantly He sees your heart. He knows your thoughts and your motives. Nothing is hidden from Him. So you can’t fake it with Him.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God sees not just what you do but who you do it. There’s going to be an integrity there. You’re not going to say one thing and be something else.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT)
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Okay, so God sees and knows everything about you and me. So what is He looking for? He’s looking for our character to reflect His character. He’s looking for humility and devotion and selflessness and holiness. He’s looking for the fruit of the Spirit to be developed in our lives. And what’s the fruit of the Spirit?

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If you’re going to live a holistic Christian life, those character traits are going to be evident in every area. He’s not looking for part-time followers; He’s looking for disciples who are completely committed to Him and His ways.

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT)
The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

The third key to living holistically is…

3.    Live in private like you live in public

How many times have people been caught living hypocritical lives? Almost anytime you turn on the news, you’re going to hear about someone who has been found out. They were living a lie. They were living one way in public, but in private they were something very different.

There’s a series of things Jesus says in Matthew 6 about the importance of living with integrity even when no one’s watching. Let me read them for you…

Matthew 6:1 (MSG)
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding.”

Matthew 6:3-4 (NLT)
“But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:16-18 (NLT)
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

In other words, don’t brag about the good things you do. Don’t draw attention to the fact that you are praying, fasting, or giving to the needy. Don’t do things just for the recognition you can get for it. If you do, then their recognition is all the reward you’ll get. You’ll have your 15 minutes of fame. Instead, live so that God’s recognition is all that really matters to you.

Now, sometimes people will recognize what you’re doing, and that’s okay. As long as that’s not your motivation. Make it your primary motivation to serve God out of love and obedience whether anybody else ever finds out about it or not.

You have a choice. When you give to the needy, when you pray, when you fast, when you serve… (and by the way, it’s “when” you do these things, not “if”)… do you do it for the applause you can get from others or do you do if for the applause you can get from the Audience of One?

“God is our audience of One, and we are all part of the band. We are not here to entertain or impress people, but to worship God.”
~ Peter Thomas, minister of Brentwood Baptist Church, Essex, UK

Let me give you a challenge for this week: this week, find a need that you can meet — someone you can pray for, someone you can serve, some opportunity to be generous, some opportunity to live out our faith — and then do it. But do it in a way that they’re not going to know about it, and neither is anyone else. Make it your goal this week to serve someone without gaining any recognition or praise in return.

Now, since you’re going to do it without gaining any recognition, I’m not going to find out about it. So this is on the honour-system. So it’s up to you… will you live in private like you live in public? Even when you don’t get recognition for it, will you still be generous and act with compassion and do good deeds?

And number 4, if you want to live holistically, you’re going to…

4.    Continually reflect and evaluate

Because it’s so easy to fall back into performance mode. You’re concerned about what God thinks? Great. But be careful, because you can easily slip back where you’re more concerned about what people think. So every day wake up determined that you are going to live for God and serve Him only.

1 Timothy 4:16 (NLT)
Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

Regularly reflect on your life and evaluate where you’re at. Are you doing things out of love and obedience to God, or are you more interested in the affirmation and approval of the crowd? Are your thoughts, attitudes, words, actions, and motivations consistently reflective of how God wants you to live?

Ephesians 5:8-10 (MSG)
You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You're out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true--these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.

When I’m working on the computer, I’ve learned to save my work often. And I do periodic backups, too. Because there’s nothing worse than losing hours of work to a computer crash. (Well, there are probably a few things worse, but I can’t think of any right now.) When I’ve put a lot of time and energy and effort into completing something, I don’t want to have to start all over. I don’t want to lose what I’ve accomplished.

That’s true when I’m working on a computer and it’s true in life. When I’ve focused so much on building a relationship with Jesus Christ and I’ve worked so hard at serving Him and pleasing Him, I don’t want to lose it all by slipping back into my old ways.

I have a friend who has told me about his struggle to quit drinking. He’s told me about how he’ll do really well for a while but then he’ll give in and have a bottle of rum. Then he has to start all over again. In order for him to experience freedom, he needs to commit each and every day to stay sober and not give in to that temptation which will bring him temporary pleasure. Instead, he wants the permanent pleasure of overcoming that addiction.

Well, in order for me to live holistically, I need to commit each and every day to focus on pleasing Him and living for Him, no matter what. And that means I need to regularly look at my life and evaluate how I’m doing. And every once in a while I may discover that the applause and approval of others has become more important to me than the applause and approval of God. And when that happens I need to refocus.

The overwhelming desire of my life is to please my Saviour. And that may mean that I need to do some things or say some things that are unpopular and that even offend, but that’s okay. Because while I’d like for everyone to be happy with me, that’s not my main focus. I want to first and foremost please my God.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca