When we read the bible, we clearly see that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who have been saved by the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. There are those who have not.
Salvation is all the work of God so there is no room for boasting.
Those who have been saved should be striving to lead lives that are more Christ-like each day. This is the process of sanctification (see I Thess. 4:3). In this process, we strive for holiness, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. As this process takes place, the Christian should gradually look increasingly different from the world in which he lives.
The person who has not been saved has no ability on his own to live a holy life. He cannot fulfill the requirements of God's law because he is corrupt. Romans 1:28-31 gives us a good description of the lost person's spiritual condition. This passage says, "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
That is not a pretty picture. The lost person is not a new creation, as we read about in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
In light of this situation, here is my question: Why do we expect lost people to act like they are saved?
I frequently hear Christians talking about how terrible the world is getting, and about how people should stop acting as they do. I find myself complaining about how people talk, how women dress, what people care the most about, and how they are affecting my children.
Why do I think this way? Why do so many other Christians think this way? Why do we expect people who do not know the Lord to act as if they do?
My only answer is that we must not really believe that people (prior to salvation) are as corrupt as they are. If we really believed this, then we would realize that the lost world cannot help but act as it does.
Let me be clear here. Everyone is expected by God to live up to the standards of His law. No one is able to do this because of the corrupting power of the fall (Gen. 3). Only those rescued by God's grace are able to live holy lives. God is righteous in judging all those who reject Him and His law.
Let's return to where we were. If a lost person cannot live up to God's standards and has the wicked desires described in Romans 1, then it seems to me that we should stop expecting him to act like he knows God.
I do not know why churches spend so much time, money, and effort trying to convince our secular government to function by Christian standards. It makes no sense.
I do not know why so many churches keep telling lost folks that they need to, in essence, behave better. It is a waste of time. The lost world thinks it is all a joke. They cannot understand it because it is foolishness to them (click here for more).
So what can we do? Lost people will not listen to calls to "live better," but they will listen to a message of real hope. That is the message we have in the truth of the gospel.
A corrupt person will listen if we tell him that we have been given a great gift. He will listen if we inform him that we have a reason to get up, to live our lives, and to go to bed. He will listen to this because he has a deep desire for meaning, purpose, and hope.
In light of this, let's spend time getting to know lost people and feeling more natural around them. Let's share a message of hope rather than condemnation. Once we describe to them both the holiness and love of God through the gospel, then we let the Holy Spirit do the rest of the work.
Let's stop expecting the world to act like it is saved. Let's give them the one message they do need.
(On a related topic, we can and should expect the church to act like it is saved, but that is another issue entirely.)