I was a pastor for 15 years (roughly 1979-1994). During that time I ministered to many families, which, of course, brought me into contact with their non-Christian relatives. Through these many experiences I came to the sad realization that there was no discernible difference between the morality practiced by the Christians and the non-Christians.
Closer to home, I came to realize in my own life that the presence of God was only a theoretical concept to me. Until I began regarding the eyes of Jesus as always watching me, and my every thought mattering to Him, there was no meaningful purification of my heart. But as I began to live my life in His presence, much as Brother Lawrence suggested in The Practice of the Presence of God, I came to realize just how pharisaical my previous life had been. People pleasing is the antithesis of seeking to please God. In preaching this message to others, I have had many people confess the same realization about themselves to me. Alas, however, it has not been common for such people to “stick with it.” Or, more accurately and importantly, to “stick with Him.” May God have mercy.
Even the statistical studies done which are most favorable to Christians* do not show the kind of differential in moral excellence that we as believers in Christ would like to see. Divorce rates, pornography, pre-marital and extra-marital sex are all at disappointing levels among those who profess Christ.
Are we to throw up our hands and say, “It’s hopeless – we can’t live any better than the rest!” or are we to turn to the One who says that the most important thing is to stay turned to Him…all…the…time? The promise of Matthew 1:21 is vibrant and efficacious to those who truly heed it.
Repentance to righteousness is the call of God in our generation. I am determined to heed it. It is not as if we have faith and lack obedience. We lack both.
For more on how to live in the presence of God see Practicing the Presence of Christ.