In every generation, Christians undergo pressure to appear less out of the mainstream, less odd, and less peculiar. Often, the thing that makes us feel compelled to change is our perception that we won’t grow if we don’t become more like other groups that are growing in number.
But God’s people are supposed to be unique, that is, distinguishable from the world. We are not to be conformed to this world; rather, we should be transformed (Romans 12:2). Jesus said we should be as salt and light for the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt has a distinct taste; and light influences that which it contacts. They are distinctly and noticeably different from sugar and darkness. Sugar has a different taste, and darkness influences in a completely different way.
It is not, however, a matter of being different for the sake of being different. The Lord’s church is one of a kind. It is separate from the denominational churches. This latter conglomeration of churches is identified by the fact that it teaches human traditions in place of God’s commandments. Jesus condemned such traditions and said that the associated worship is vain, or useless (Mark 7:7-9).
Members of denominational churches cannot be saved from their sins. Denominations don’t even teach people what the Bible says they must do to have their sins forgiven. Why would we want to be like such groups? God’s people have the duty and mission and purpose of teaching the lost and bringing them to salvation through Christ Jesus. To accomplish these, we need pulpits that resonate with the distinctive message of Christ, the apostles, and the New Testament. If we modify the message to make it more popular and palatable, we may indeed increase our numbers, but we will not have increased the number of people who are free from their sins.
As we individually talk to people about the gospel, we must speak the truth in love. Honest searchers who have been reading their Bibles will recognize that what we are saying to them concurs with what they have been reading. They will realize that there are people who believe and practice what they’ve read about in their Bibles.
We must be careful not to leave the impression that there are Christians in many different denominations, because there are not. We must not leave our denominational friends with the impression that we are just different kinds of Christians, because there are only believers and unbelievers. “There is one body, one hope, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Think about it. If there is only one of a thing, that thing is unique, distinctive, peculiar, and in a class by itself.
Read the gospel sermons of Peter, Paul, and others in the book of Acts. The messages of the first preachers didn’t seek a common ground and ignore differences. Their messages convicted men of sin and laid down the singular means—Jesus’ blood–through which they could receive forgiveness. Those who gladly received the word obeyed, and those who didn’t gladly receive the word rejected it, fought it, and persecuted those who preached it. That pattern will continue until Christ returns.
If we want to be popular, we’ll have to forsake the narrow way. But if we want to be a part of Christ’s kingdom we must stand out from the crowd by adhering to his commandments (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus made this clear when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
In the judgment day, being distinctive will be much more comfortable than it is today. Keep that in mind.