You and I are under constant scrutiny:
We are being watched. No, I am not here talking about the growing surveillance state in the West, doing its best to keep up with Communist China in keeping tabs on our every movement. Instead I want to speak of a spiritual and biblical truth, and I begin by recalling two things from last century.
Back in my hippy and radical left days in the late 60s, early 70s, there were a lot of protests, marches and the like. Sometimes these were met with over the top police and military responses. Clubbing, tear gas, and sometimes even death occurred. Because of this we would often loudly chant, “The whole world is watching!” We wanted the media to capture what was happening. The world had to know.
The second thing has to do with a movie I often make use of when teaching at Bible colleges and the like. I refer to the 1998 Jim Carrey film, The Truman Show. You likely know about it: Carrey plays a guy who from birth has been the topic of a massive reality TV show. His whole life is being watched by millions of viewers, unbeknown to him.
So what do hippies and Hollywood have to do with a biblical devotional piece? Well, that is how my mind tends to work. I read a passage of Scripture and immediately I am thinking of all sorts of applications or illustrations and sermon material.
Reading this morning again in Ephesians, I found two texts that have to do with a global display – of us believers. The first is Eph. 2:7. It is in the context of verses 1-10:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The second is Eph. 3:10, and the context is verses 7-13:
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
In both texts the church is on display to the rest of the world. In Eph. 2 it speaks more of a future display, while Eph. 3 speaks more of a present display. And we can assume that it is the church as a whole, as well as individual believers, that is in view here. So there is a personal and a collective message being emphasised in these passages.
The main point of course is this: how we live, and the way we live, is not insignificant. We ARE being watched, be it by the world, or those who have gone before, or even spiritual beings. While Jesus gets all the praise and honour for what he does through his people, we are a part of it. We are trophies of his grace. We are being put on display, and our witness matters.
And of course that cuts both ways. We can be a lousy reflection of our Lord, and bring disgrace to his name (individually and collectively), or we can be a shining light and a real example of what our Lord is like, to his praise and glory. This involves both big things and little things.
As I also often tell my students or those I am sharing with, how we respond to little things is more important than we might realise. For example, if your non-Christian roommate manages to burn your toast and you get real angry with him about it, you are not only being a negative witness to him, but presumably to angels and departed saints as well. They are watching.
And of course if we have the opposite response, eg.: ‘Hey, thanks anyway mate. You tried and I appreciate it,’ or something like that, well, that too is being seen by more folks than you realise – by more than just your unsaved roommate.
So even the daily small things we are doing does have an impact, and is being a testimony of our faith – either a negative or a positive testimony. A much more obvious example – one that some of you know only too well – would involve how you drive.
You might get stuck in traffic or cut off by someone. If you get angry, roll down your window, and curse out the other driver, well, again, the whole world is watching – or at least part of it. Worse yet, if the driver behind you happens to notice the Christian bumper sticker on your car…. Need I say more? You sorta blew your witness there, big time.
And one more obvious example can be mentioned here. With social media all the rage nowadays, how is your witness there? Are you showing the joy and grace of God there, even as you stand up for biblical truth and engage in the culture wars? Or are you arguing with everyone, being mean and nasty, treating other believers like dirt, and generally making a mess of your Christian witness?
So we are on display 24/7. And again, not just as individual believers, but as the whole Body of Christ. The world and the spiritual powers are watching the church and seeing how it responds, how it carries on, how it displays Christ – or does not display Christ.
Related to all this, let me mention something else here: the other week I had a friend over, who shares with me an aching heart over the state of the world and the state of the church. We both would like Christ to come back quickly, as we grieve so much over what we see happening all around us.
I said that I pray daily for the Lord to come back. And I had in mind the two passages from Ephesians, and others like them. Part of what God is up to is to show the world and the principalities and powers what life is like without Christ, and what life can be like with him.
So I told my friend that part of what God is doing is showing the unbelieving world just how bad things can get when we turn our backs on God. I said that it seems to me that we have more than enough evidence already! How much more do we need?! Even the hardest non-Christian is surely starting to see how bad everything is by now – perhaps.
But if part of the delay in Christ’s return has to do with making an airtight case for the dead-end of living without Christ, it seems to me the verdict is already in. But perhaps we have to wait further, and get even more clear evidence of all this. So that at least in part might be what these verses are speaking about.
But the main takeaway here is that we are being watched – as individual believers and as the church as a whole. What sort of testimony do we have? What kind of witness are we leaving? And obviously this includes what we do when no one is watching. After all, God is always watching, along with perhaps many others in the heavenlies.
Oh, and lest you think I am getting too preachy here, I have to say all this to myself of course. My witness has been very poor in so many ways, and at so many times. So if no one else needs to hear a word like this, well I sure do. I am being watched, and I have not always been up to the task of representing Christ rightly. Pray for me.
And speaking of prayer, what I just again read Paul saying about this is something we can all run with:
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11