Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Signs

I held a Bible study at our local nursing home today and spoke about three signs that identify someone as a Christian. They are humility, repentance and obedience. There are many more identifying characteristics of a Christian but those were the three that I focused on today.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
What Jesus is saying here is that happy is the person who is humble. A true Christian is a humble person not a puffed up, full-of-themselves person. A humble person is one who puts others before themselves. A person who considers their position in relation to God and finds that they are lower than He is. It is a person who realizes that without God he is nothing.

Look at the example God's Word gives us of two people, one humble and one not. Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

The Pharisee was a learned, religious man but he was not a Christian. He thought his good works would earn him a place in Heaven, but Jesus taught that there is no other way to the Father but through Him. (John 14:6)

The second identifying characteristic of a true Christian is repentance. Matthew 5:4 says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted". Here Christ is speaking of those who have genuine sorrow over sin. He is not talking about someone who is sorry about their sin just because they got caught. That isn't a genuine sorrow or repentance. Rather He is talking about someone who realizes that it was their sin that was paid for on the cross. Someone who knows that Jesus took the punishment for the sins we have committed. Look at Psalm 51:17 ---"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;“a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God looks at our heart and He can tell if we are truly repentant or not. He loves the one who is repentant and turns to Him for forgiveness. That is a true Christian.

The third sign of a true Christian is obedience. Matthew 5:5 says "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth". So many people think that 'meekness' means 'weakness' but it doesn't. In fact it means the direct opposite. Meekness is strength under control. The true Christian is submissive to the will of God for their life. In simple words, they do what God wants them to do rather than what they want to do. Jesus Himself was meek. Matthew 11:29 says  "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls".

Jesus was meek but He was not weak. Look at what He did to the dishonest money changers in the temple: John 2:15-16:  "Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” That certainly wasn't a weak person, but rather Jesus had righteous anger, anger at sin. We all need to be angry at sin, not the sinner. The sinner is lost and doesn't know any better, but we can be angry at their sin and help them get free of the trap they are caught in.

There are many more identifying characteristics of a true Christian, some of them are listed in Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Since we live in a sinful world, we will always have confrontations that we have to deal with. But it is how we deal with them that show the world that we are true Christians. Proverbs 15:1 says: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." In and of ourselves we are not naturally prone to react this way to confrontion but with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, we will find ourselves reacting in a Christlike manner more and more.

A true, born again, Spirit filled Christian will be humble, repentant and obedient. They will not be perfect, this side of Heaven, but they are on the road to being there and choosing each day to die to self and choose to live for Christ.

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