The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

 

Engaging Culture

Called to be Faithful Where You Are

In recent months, I have increasingly realized and observed that God pointedly uses His children in whatever platform He has sovereignly placed them. Oftentimes as believers we wrongly assume that we need to pursue a different vocational calling, rather than being faithful in our current platform within our sphere of influence. I know that I have certainly found myself praying that God would widen my platform or even provide me with some kind of  job in ministry in order that I may be an effective Christian. However, 2 Peter 1:3 clearly tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”. Therefore, we are called to be faithful regardless of where God has placed us because He has equipped us with “everything we need for a godly life”.

Engaging Culture Where You Are

In reference to last month’s post on “Biblical Worldview”, I quoted Pearcey saying that “Christian Principles are meant to saturate our lives and flow out into the world around us”. With this being said, we have been Engage Culturehonored with the privilege to be participants in God’s Redemptive Plan of making all things new–transcending over and above all boundaries. Categories which relegate things of culture(ie politics, business, law, music, the arts) as wholly sacred or secular are therefore irrelevant and unnecessary.

Lecrae states in his book, Unashamed, that “Because of Jesus, we don’t need to see culture as something to be avoided. It is something to be engaged. You cannot stomp something you’re running away from. You can’t influence something you never encounter”. In order to begin to transform culture, we need to engage culture. I believe that this starts by bringing our sacred callings into our current work environments through being instruments of God’s Mercy and Grace. Having a Biblical Worldview enables one to see the world through the proper lenses because it allows us to see that all of God’s creation is in fact good and redeemable.

In addition, when we already speak the same language of those within our workplace, our Christian Witness becomes more creditable and effective towards our co-workers. We are all strategically positioned in different job positions which should be treated as mission’s fields where we have the platform to reflect God’s greatness to those around us. There are unsaved people everywhere, some of whom are yearning to hear this precious Gospel Message. Many of these people may never enter church and your light may be the only exposure to church they will ever receive. If you and I do not share it with them, then who will? If your workplace is anything like mine, I tend to feel overwhelmed and even discouraged at times because of the sheer number of unbelievers. At the same time, I feel blessed to have been placed at a workplace with such a need for the Gospel Message to be shared. I am praying for boldness to be more vocal and intentional about witnessing at my workplace. I pray that you do the same. We should all share the same sense of urgency because time is running out and people’s souls are at stake.

Application: Living Authentically for Christ

By This They Will KnowIt is my hope that God will use you and I to engage a culture that has not known or seen the true and living God of the Bible.  After all, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them(Ephesians 2:10)”. The world should be able to notice something different about the way in which we live our lives. On a deeper level, unbelievers should be able to see the Body of Christ at work as the Church within the world. Jesus Himself tells us in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. It is this supernatural love within the Church that builds intentional relationships and is capable of reaching the lost unlike any other.

I cannot stress the importance of authentically walking out this faith which God has gifted us with. We are children of the light and God’s Spirit greatly desires to work in and through us to transform the world around us wherever this may be. But we need to be willing and this usually means stepping out of our comfort zones through taking leaps of faith. Having theological discussions about doctrinal differences and what the Scriptures teach are well and good, however it cannot and must not end here. The Gospel Message requires a responsive action on our part, which surpasses intellectual book knowledge as it extends into deep-rooted heart application. Actions always speak louder than words so I earnestly pray that we keep Christ at the forefront of our lives seeking to live wholeheartedly in our actions for His Glory.

May God continue to use His Children in their present spheres of influence to engage, impact, and radically transform the culture around them. I pray that we may all be emboldened to seek out the lost through disciple-making and that You may be glorified in and through us.

In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

“Take off the GraveClothes and Put on the GraceClothes!”

The enemy has always had a propensity to offer cheap substitutes in exchange for the glorious hope which can be found only in Christ Himself. The fleshly desires which have plagued Contentment in Himhumanity since the Fall do not satisfy simply because they cannot satisfy. The desires of the flesh are unquenchable and they will continuously demand more and more. Interestingly, the more that we feed these desires, the more that they will hunger and thirst to be filled. True, soul-satisfying contentment is not found in more money, a bigger house, a faster car, a more lucrative career, a better education, partying it up, a more attractive spouse or even religion for the matter. You will literally go insane chasing after these empty pursuits because you will always come up short! Feelings of disappointment and disillusionment will ensue every single time. There is unequivocally nothing under the sun which is capable of ever providing our hearts with full and lasting satisfaction.

Our God is certainly a compassionate Father abounding in patience desiring for all of us to come to repentance, however I do believe that there is a point of no return that deserves to be mentioned. Dabbling in sin, particularly habitual sin, is extremely dangerous territory for the Christian. A prime example of this in found when Esau sells his birthright inheritance for a single meal, directly disobeying God. Upon desiring God’s blessing, Esau is unable to repent despite the fact that he sought it earnestly.

Hebrews 12:15-17 tells us:

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

When it comes to sin in our own lives, particularly with respect to repeated, intentional and habitual sin, I fear that too many believers mistakenly believe that God’s grace somehow provides a licence for them to remain in this sin. In Romans 6:1-4 Paul reminds believers of the following:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The enemy is very cunning and deceptive with the strategy and the tactics he uses to lure us into committing sinful behaviours. What I have learnt from books as well as personal experience is that if we are not actively pursuing the Lord, then we are in effect drifting away which quenches the indwelling Holy Spirit. One of Satan’s primary weapons is to do whatever it takes to persuade us to compromise away No Compromiseour Christian convictions. It always starts with something seemingly small and innocent. As time progresses, we begin to rationalize and justify why this sin is not actually sin at all, falling prey to the enemy’s lies. Moreover, we begin to build up a threshold of tolerance where we our flesh demands more of a “buzz”. At this point, the seemingly innocent sin evolves into an addictive sinful pattern progressively pulling us further and further away from God. Our formerly high sensitivity to this sin gradually depletes and unbeknownst to the Christian, he or she has strayed so far away that it becomes exceedingly challenging to repent.

This concept of reaching a point of no return is quite controversial however I do believe that it merits discussion because Satan is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour on sight(1 Pet 5:8). 1 John 5:16-17 talks about sinning unto death below:

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

GotQuestion.org defines the “sin unto death” as “willful, continuous, unrepentant sin”. This specific passage is exceedingly complicated to interpret, however it should underscore the reality that we are living in a spiritual battleground where we need God every second of every minute of every hour of every day. We need to be consistently growing and maturing in our faith through being in God’s Word and living out an authentic Christian Life in joyful obedience to Him. We should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we need not even entertain the very thought of committing any sin which formerly held us captive.

In a like manner Ephesians 4:17-19 says,

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

It is completely illogical to re-visit our former sinful ways because of this infinitely precious and glorious gift we have in Christ Jesus Who imputes His entire righteousness onto us when we humbly believe and trust in His atoning work on Calvary! We need to crucify those old fleshly desires and “…put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”(Eph. 4:24). Jesus already paid the price in full and destroyed the power which sin formerly had over us(Romans 7) so let’s embrace this glorious freedom we have in Christ!

New in Jesus

Reference: http://www.gotquestions.org/sin-unto-death.html