Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to be a Good Christian: Don't just go to Church be the Church

"Yet they act so pious! They come to the temple every day and seem so delighted to learn all about Me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask Me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to hear Me. ‘We have fasted before You', they say. ‘Why aren't You impressed?' ‘I will tell you why!' I respond. ‘It's because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with Me…Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: free those who are wrongly imprisoned, lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help." Isaiah 58:2-7 (NLT)
The name "Christian" may be a noun; a title that connects us to Christ. More importantly, however, is that it should an adjective.
When we claim to be a Christian, we are identifying ourselves with Christ. We are saying we have surrendered to His Lordship and are committed to becoming more like Him, living as He lived.
This means we actively participate in living the same kind of life Jesus did while He walked this earth. He called His followers the church, and the church His body.
We are not called to be religious, following an outward set of rules and regulations; we are called to be a living and active member of the body of Christ.  
The title Christian is used so flippantly these days – merely a check mark in a box on a questionnaire. But when was the last time we gathered with other believers? When was the last time we hungered for God's word, allowing it to penetrate our hearts, causing us to be more like Christ?
I wonder if some of us would even be comfortable in a Heavenly Kingdom. Think about it for a moment: No pre-marital sexual relationships, no drinking parties, no foul music, no foul movies, unforgiveness or gossip. In contrast, there will be a lot of prayer, a lot of worship, many opportunities for studying the word of God, wholesome music, wholesome movies, and wholesome fun.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Christians that have become so zealous in their religiosity that they ridicule and criticize anyone who "has not seen the light". They are arrogant and forget who they once were. They love to claim how often they go to church and they love to point out the sin in other people, but their hearts are hard, wicked, and judgmental.
Each of us must examine our own lives and be honest with ourselves – Which category do you fall into?  Is there another option?
How can we walk in true Christianity, exercising a proper mixture of grace and truth – how can we be the church?
Over the years, three things have been a constant help to me – not that I have attained perfection, but by God's grace, I live out my faith, getting farther and farther away from the person described in Isaiah 58:2-7.
Perhaps the following can be of help to you as well.
1) Repent – Ask God to show you your sin – then be faithful to repent.
2) Remember – Before you surrendered to Christ, you too were an enemy of God.
3) Read – Study the word of God so that you will be transformed into the image of Christ.
I leave you with the following passages of Scripture – allow them to speak to you, listen to what the Lord says, and respond.
"..In view of all of this, make every effort to respond to God's promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and more excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins." 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)
"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people for every good work". 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
"How can a man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are you, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word" Psalm 119:9-16
Is Christianity a check mark in a box, or is it who you are – Don't just go to church, be the church.
Lord help us all. 

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