Tuesday, February 22, 2011

BE A CHRISTIAN!

BE A CHRISTIAN! Part 1 1PET.3:8

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1Pet.3:8)
Introduction


Have you ever come to a point where you wondered if you are a Christian at all? This would be based on your thoughts, feelings and conduct on some circumstances. It is in order to doubt our Christianity when inconsistency rare its ugly head. How can a person lie, gossip, be lazy, and feel great that he is the most wonderful Christian ever lived? How can a Christian have bitterness with other Christians and be at peace with oneself? How can a husband be unloving to his wife and treat her in the most cruel way and still think that he is in faith? How can a wife be unsubmissive to her husband and still profess faith in Christ who has instructed that wives are to submit to their husbands? How can children disobey and rebel against their parents’ instruction and be cool?
When a Christian doubts Himself in light of the Word of God then he would be a healthy Christian. We are to try ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Many a times our conduct is unchristian and dishonoring to the Lord. Many a times we treat others as if God is not looking. We ignore Him in our conduct and in our conversation. Take Jonah, when he ran away from God, did he consider that the omnipresent eye of God was looking at him? When we conduct ourselves as if God is not near us then we are in the same danger. Our God sees and hears and will not overlook sin. We have died to sin and so we cannot live in it. We have been baptized into Christ Jesus and were buried with Him by baptism into His death, so that we might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:2-4). Therefore, if you are a Christian live as a Christian as our Lord tells us through Peter in this passage. Live as a Christian that you are before Christians and non-Christians.

1. BE CHRISTIANS TO ONE ANOTHER

We have one lesson to learn from this verse – we are to be Christians to each other. We are told by the rule of nature that birds of a feather flock together. As they flock together, they conduct themselves as their nature as birds demand. Christians are to be Christians to the other Christians and this must be evidenced by the way they live with one another from within. You realize that the injunctions given in order to produce the desired effect of how Christians are to live with one another are inward, starting with the mind which informs the person, to the heart which is the wellspring of life (Prov.4:23) that one’s soul may eternally be preserved.
a) Be all of one mind
Christians are to be all of one mind, to be unanimous in their faith, and so practice the same duties of religion. The conduct of Christians is to reflect what they profess and this is even when being persecuted. Christians should make an effort to be all of one mind in the great points of faith, in real love, and in Christian practice. They should be like-minded one to another, according to Christ Jesus (Rom.15:5), not according to man's pleasure, but God's word. This is what we are to pray for, that God may grant us to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5-6)
Singleness of mind brings unity in worship, meaningful fellowship, love, humility and self-control. We are called upon to be in agreement with one another to produce the harmony that is required in the body of Christ in which we are members. Since we have different gifts, talents and abilities in this body, we are to be governed by the Mind of Christ so that all the differences we have edify the church and not divide. Differences of mind show lack of reliance on the Word of God which is the rule of our faith and practice. Those who rely on God’s Word will come to agree. The first church, was in one accord (Acts 1:14) in gleaning from the means of grace given them by the Lord. This is the particular instruction for us – agree with one another as Euodia and Syntyche were told to agree in the Lord (Phil 4:2).
Harmony encouraged here is not an end in itself – it is meant to produce meaningful praise and worship admiration for Christ. Christ who is the prince of peace will be admired even by His enemies when His followers live in harmony with one another. We are to show that we belong to the Prince of peace by living in harmony with one another.
b) Have compassion and love for one another
Christ charges His followers to have compassion for one another, to love as brethren, to pity those who are in distress. Though Christians cannot be exactly of the same mind, yet they should have compassion, tenderhearted – a feeling coming from deep within and being expressed to others both in affections and deed. You are to love as brethren – those who belong to the same Father and have been brought into the same household, having had their sins dealt with. Remember that our brother is Christ who expressed His great care for us in that He did not want us to perish, instead He gave His life away for our sake, He did not want us to suffer in hell forever crying under the weight of God’s wrath He instead took it upon Himself and endured all the agony of God’s wrath for us. He bore our punishment, God crushed Him that we may live – He took our place as the perfect substitute and accomplished our salvation.
We are to be merciful to others so that we may receive even a higher measure of mercy from God (Matt 5:7). In saving us God has shown great mercy and compassion. Who are we that He should be mindful of us? He would have left us to rot in the deep of our sin and sorrow. But No, He came and shown us mercy, by giving His Son Jesus Christ in whom we have obtained a new life and in whom there is life for those who believe in Him. Remember that His mercies are not depleted; He is still willing to show you mercy and grace.
Christianity requires pity to the distressed, and afflicted. We are to help the needy in our midst, not by impractical piety described by James “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (Jas 2:15-16). We are to care for the orphans, the widows, the aliens and the poor. Compassion is mourning with those who are mourning and rejoicing with those rejoicing, with an end in glorifying God. Practical Christianity is not in words only but words and deeds. Action must be evident in all Christians to Christian to attract others. Love is one particular character that perfectly describes a Christian. It is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a eternal fruit. Therefore we are urged again and again to show it to others. Peter himself does not get tired in emphasizing this gift. Peter repeats himself to emphasize the need of brotherly love:
• “… obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (1:22)
• Love the brotherhood (2:17)
• Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (4:8)
• Greet one another with the kiss of love (5:14)
The negative of this charge is that we ought not to persecute or hate one another, but love one another with more than common affection – they should love as brethren. How do you show love for one another?
This charge is also clearly set in Philippians 2:2 - complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Are you increasing in love daily? This is a sure test to find out whether you are a Christian as Apostle John will tell in 1 John 3:10,11, 14, 16,23; 4:7-12, 16-19. Love is the most excellent way of showing that God’s love itself has been shed abroad in our hearts.
c) Be humble
Humility is a virtue that we all must possess just like our Master. The Lord demonstrated this great virtue when He washed His disciple’s feet (John 13:4-17). We are to have the same mind of Christ who humbled Himself to a point of death – even a shameful death (Phil 2:5-8) that we may become the righteousness of God. Humility should be our clothing (5:5), never to be removed. The manner of our calling as Christians entails among others humility, gentleness, bearing with one another in love – Eph 4:2. Humility is counting others as more significant than oneself (Phil 2:3). This means you are willing to serve others even at menial and trivial service. Humility is a character of a spiritual person.
God himself would have nothing to have with a person of haughty spirit because He resists such a person but gives grace to the humble We are therefore to humble ourselves before God and before His people that we may find favour with Him for He has clearly said that He dwells with people of humble mind and contrite spirit. This is what we find in the Old Testament:
• Psalm 51:17 – “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise;
• Isaiah 57:15 – “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite;
• Isaiah 66:2 – “this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
The New Testament reiterates the same:
James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.;
1Peter5:5, 6 – Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you”.
Matt.5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Humility is the strongest disarmament tool for Christians throughout the centuries. Face your persecutors with humility and you make them loose their defenses. This is what happened when Moses meekly did not defend himself against the accusations made by his siblings. These virtues, harmony/ peace, compassion/ tenderheartedness, love, humility serves to reflect the glory of the church for these are all facets of God’s glory in His church. These are also God’s communicable attributes which His people exhibit in order to attract others closer to the glory of God – Jesus Christ who is the express image of God (Col.1:15)
We are to cultivate these virtues for the sake of the kingdom of God in order that we may bring all the glory to God and profit to His people. Would you now ask yourself how you are cultivating and manifesting union of mind, of faith, of practice, of feeling, of brotherly love to other Christians who have gone before us, who are living in this life and who are to come? What is the impact of your life upon other brothers? Look at the past that has gone, consider people like the Apostles, the church fathers, the apostolic fathers the Christians through the many centuries and ask what is that you will be remembered about as your contribution to the kingdom. Do you think anyone will remember your love for others, or your humility or your kindness? You do not have to be countered with great preachers, but be countered as one whose life has had impact on the lives of other Christians.
The result of these injunctions is a fruitful Christian. A Christian who is peaceable, yes, the peacemaker who is called the son of God. Kindness, love, humility all form the part of the fruit of the holy spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23). To this you, I, we … have been called and so let us make our calling and election sure.

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