When I was a young boy growing up in the Atlanta area during the Great Depression, and the Second World War, things were different than they are now.
During the Depression, most people had a hard time just trying to make a living. Jobs were scarce and many people were out of work. There was little money to be had, and as my folks used to say, "We had to scrimp and scrape just to pay the rent and put a little food on the table."
Then, America began to gear up for World War II, and jobs became plentiful. Our standard of living rose substantially, but then many products were rationed. We had stamps for sugar and other foods, stamps for gasoline, and many other items were difficult to obtain.
I recall saving up scrap metal, and even tin foil from chewing gum packages and other items, for the war effort. Americans worked together to support the war effort and we were very glad to be citizens of our great country -- the USA.
Today, we are in a deep recession, but it's nothing like the Great Depression. Things will get better.
The people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ today are all citizens of God's kingdom. Just as loyal citizens of the USA are supposed to be law-abiding supporters of our country today, Christians have a dual citizenship: While we love our country and support our government, our laws and the interests of this nation, we are also loyal citizens of God's kingdom and should diligently seek to obey the teachings of God found in the Holy Bible.
Romans 12:2 tells us: "Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." This does not say we do not support our country as good citizens. On the contrary, Christians are, and should be, some of the best citizens in our country.
Paul is saying here that Christians have to be different from secular society. Christians must submit to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and live a life that clearly shows they are faithfully following His disciplines.
I'm afraid too many of us who claim to be Christians only demonstrate living fruitful lives when in Church, or with groups of Bible-believing people. When in the world - places of work, school, play and vacation -- we look and act just like non-believers with whom we associate.
We don't have to be pious, self-righteous or "stuck-up," but we must be different from our pagan society. Otherwise, we ruin our witness and betray our Lord Jesus Christ.
Does this mean we must associate only with Christians? No, we definitely should cultivate non-Christian friends and demonstrate Christian lifestyles to them, to let them see how a Christian lives and to find the right time to tell them about Christ and His gospel.
Christians are to love one another, and this includes sinners. We can't do this by ignoring their sinful lives, or joining them in their sin and revelry. For instance, we should not gossip with them about other people, nor should we listen to smutty stories, or condone cursing, or taking God's name in vain.
I think R-rated movies and evil books, full of bad language and sexual desires are off-limits to Christians. Participating in "social drinking" in our homes or in restaurants is not wise as it sets the wrong example. We must condemn the use of illegal drugs and teach our children not to even think of using drugs, or having anything to do with those who use them.
By believing in Jesus Christ and becoming a Christian, one's mind is changed, transformed, renewed, with the loving standards of the Bible, the Holy Word of God.
Christ changes things: our minds, our beliefs, our ways of living -- and all for the best. Christianity is born of faith and trust and love in the Lord Jesus. Believe in Him and He will change your life forever!
I pray you will.