February 6, 2012

Mark of a Genuine Christian

Last week I asked about a person who was brought in to give advice and counsel in our church. The one that I asked replied with the other person’s professional qualifications. I interrupted and said, “But is he godly?”

We have all met “intellectual idiots” and people who are over-qualified for their job, yet inept. We all also know what it is like to have a good knowledge or ability in one area of our lives and totally fail in another. When it comes to being a Christian, everyone has an idea about what that should look like, but the Lord is only interested in one thing: obedience.
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:4–6)
The criteria or standard for being a Christian and knowing that I am a Christian is always Jesus. Do I walk as Jesus walked — and that does not mean “on water” but in grace, humility and the power of the Holy Spirit?. It is said of Jesus that He went about doing good. He helped people in need, not all of them for some were sponges looking for freebies, but those truly needy. Do I do that?

Do I talk like Jesus talked? That does not mean what others might call “always the right words” but it does mean speaking the truth in love, even if the truth hurts and even if I don’t feel particularly loving. Jesus said what people needed to hear. This includes the beggars and blind people, but also the self-righteous Pharisees who mocked Him. Can I speak that way? Or do I fudge when it comes to opening my mouth?

Do I think like Jesus thought? This  might be a taller order than walking and talking. All that Jesus did came from the attitude of His heart. He was obedient, but not out of fear or a desire to make His mark in the world. He did everything He did because He considered others more significant than Himself. 
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:3–9)
In my Christian walk, it is easier to compare myself with someone else than line up beside Jesus. I can always find another person who falls short and who might make me look better than I am, but even the thought of doing such a thing puts me down several notches on the scale. Jesus was not into comparing Himself with others. He obeyed God without any thoughts of how He might appear in the estimation of His friends or His critics. 

To say that I am a Christian and then ignore the standard of life set by Jesus Christ is a mockery of the faith. Because He lives in me, something of Him ought to shine through. If it doesn’t, His Word says that I am a liar, and someone so full of myself that I will not allow God to govern me. 

Every day brings challenges to obedience. It may be what seems like small things, like speaking graciously to a telephone salesperson. It may seem more important, like listening to a friend in trouble. Whatever comes my way today, help me remember that I not only belong to You, but that You set the bar for how You want me to respond. Because You live in my heart, and because the world needs to see You, help me be obedient to do what You ask and keep my selfish self out of Your way.

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