“Hey Kyle! What ya doing this Saturday night!” John shouted to his neighbor.
“I’m going to a pool party at my friend’s house.” Kyle replied.
“I bet you have to be home already at 11 PM. Am I right?” John asked mockingly.
“Of course, I have church the next morning.”
“Guy, I’m sure glad I’m not in your shoes! I’m going to this big beer party which is going to last all night long.”
There is one main similarity and difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. The similarity is human nature; the difference is saving grace.
Human nature is something that every man is born with, whether elect or reprobate. The effect of human nature is that every man is prone to sin. That is, we are all dead in sin and are incapable of doing, trying, or even wanting to do any good. (Romans 3:12 states “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.”) So, by nature, we all want what is best for ourselves; we are selfishly motivated. We want to serve ourselves and not God.
So, if all mankind is born with a human nature that allows him to do no good, how are we, as Christians, different? Only by grace are we different. For it is only by grace that we can do any good. Grace is a gift of salvation, given by God to His elect people only, and He has chosen them before the foundations of the world. We, the elect, did nothing to deserve God’s grace. Election is based on nothing but God’s good-pleasure and the purpose of election is God’s glory. Election makes a new people, a people whose lives are no longer self- centered, but God- centered. Out of thankfulness for salvation, the Christian strives to glorify God. This is what makes us, as Christians, so different from unbelievers. We do everything for Christ’s sake; they do everything for selfish, worldly motivated reasons.
The first time I really noticed this difference was the summer after sixth grade when I went to Career Tec in Holland for four weeks. The first two weeks were spent in a woodworking class and second two weeks in a floral arrangement class. My transportation to and from Career Tec was on a public school bus which picked up and dropped off students at the Jenison, Hudsonville, and Holland public high schools. Not only did I ride the bus with fellow Career Tec students, but also with high schoolers who had failed classes during the school year so were now forced to spend their vacations in dreaded summer school.
This bus ride was a real eye opener for me. First of all I was the youngest person on our bus; everyone else was in seventh through twelfth grade. Not only that, but I didn’t know anyone else. All the other kids went to the public schools. So, I would sit near the back of the bus all by myself, that is until it crowded, and then I’d have to move over to make room for some big, scruffy, nasty-looking high schooler.
One would think that because it was 6:30 in the morning one could enjoy the hour and a half bus ride in peace and quiet. But that wasn’t the case. The bus radio blared WGRD and I hated rock. Also, since all the high schoolers sat behind me, I had to listen to their pathetic conversations. They would brag and joke about how drunk they had gotten at whatever wild party they had gone to over the weekend. They even fought about who had gotten the drunkest or who did the dumbest thing while intoxicated. Movies were another favorite topic. Even though all the movies they told about were disgustingly rated either R or X, the teens would go on and on about how “good” they were. I was shocked at all this. Where were their priorities? All they cared about was having a good time; they didn’t care about the results of their actions. The more “daring” they were the more they bragged about it. It was almost as if their conscience was seared.
I think the thing that bothered me the most was their language. I wish I was exaggerating when I say that almost every other word that came out of their mouths was a swear word. They continued to take God’s Name in vain, never thinking twice about the terrible sin they were committing.
It was kind of sad how pathetic their lives actually were. They had nothing to look forward to. They had no hope. One day on the bus I heard this girl, Mary, telling her friend how her dad used to beat her and her mom, so they left him. Now her mom had a live-in boyfriend and not only did this guy get drunk every night but he also started slapping her mom. Mary didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know where she could turn for help and guidance. She felt helpless and had no hope. She had no one but herself to depend on.
Another time this kid was asking everyone if he could stay at their house for a couple of weeks. His dad had kicked him out of the house because he refused to obey him. The kid went on and on, swearing at his dad and how he wasn’t going to let anyone boss him around. I could tell that more kids felt this way toward authority. They didn’t want anyone telling them what to do.
Behavior in the summer school classroom wasn’t much better. Many times while passing their classrooms I couldn’t help but notice that half the students were either sleeping at their desk or lying on the floor. They didn’t even attempt to stay awake. Saying they had no hope and reason to live, except a momentary pleasure, could sum up many of these teenagers’ lives.
How different my life is from these teenagers’ on the bus. From birth I have been taught by my Christian parents that “I am not my own but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” Yes, there were—and are—many times that I, like the high schoolers, chafed against my parents authority and wanted my own way. Like every two-year-old I, too, had a favorite word—No! And even now there are times I don’t have proper respect for those in authority or desire to seek God’s will and pleasure. An example would be the long prayer during Sunday worship service. It is much easier to blissfully nod off than to carefully concentrate on the words the minister is saying and bring true worship to God.
But the difference is that God loves me and I love God. I know that I am an important person and God has a purpose for my life. Because He saved me I have the desire to live my life to His Name’s honor and glory. One way I can do this is by not going to the movie theater. Another way I can show glory to God’s Name is by my language, not only by refraining from swearing, but by speaking only good things about others. Whenever I hear someone take God’s Name in vain, it bothers me and feels like a slap in the face.
Having compared the life of the Christian and the life of a non-Christian, one must conclude that Christ’s saving grace makes all the difference. It’s not that Christians are so much better and deserving, for by nature everyone is sinful and deserves God’s condemnation. God’s grace touches the believer’s life so he seeks not his own will but the will of his heavenly Father.
The unbeliever’s only hope is in this life, and its momentary pleasures. The Christian isn’t seeking for riches which “rust and corrupt,” but is searching for a better city whose maker and founder is God. ❖