How Christ-like are You?

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)

When people think about being like Christ, they frequently look at the thing Jesus did early in his ministry and not his whole ministry. What did Jesus do?

  • Fed the poor and homeless
  • Cared for widows
  • Healed the sick
  • Loved the unlovely
  • Prayed
  • Sacrificed fleshly pleasure

We frequently do the first four things on our list, but fail to do the last two. Several times in the Bible it records that Jesus prayed:

During busy days, he prayed.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:6(NIV)

Jesus prayed before he began  the day.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35(NIV)

Jesus prayed for other people

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32(NIV)

Jesus prayed for all believers:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-26(NIV)

Jesus prayed that God would be glorified

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. John 17:1(NIV)

But the most important prayer was when Jesus sacrificed his fleshly desire to do the Father’s will. In fact, this was so important that he prayed the same prayer three times. Jesus was struggling with his fleshly desire.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (NIV)

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42(NIV)

So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Matthew 26:44(NIV)

The primary thing that Jesus did was to glorify the Father. To glorify the father, Jesus had to sacrifice his fleshly desire and do what the Father asked him to do.

If we are going to glorify the Father as Jesus did, we also need to pray for God’s will.  We need to sacrifice our fleshly desire so we can do the will of the Father.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26(NIV)

If we are going to feed the poor and homeless, care for widows, heal the sick, love the unloved; we cannot follow our fleshly desires. When we do these things in our own way, we are only doing a legalistic act to show God how much we love him but in reality we are seeking our glory…not the Father’s glory; we a providing an inferior  love, an inferior  joy, an inferior  peace, an inferior  forbearance, an inferior  kindness, an inferior  goodness, an inferior  faithfulness, and an inferior  gentleness, and an inferior  demonstration of self-control.

The only way that we can provide genuine, spiritual fruit is when we have sacrificed our fleshly desire and determined to do the Father’s will. Do you really want to do the Father’s will or do you want people to see how “Christ-like” you are?

NOTE: Scripture verses in this article were downloaded from Biblegateway.com.

 

Faith or Bullying?

In our desire to have everyone believe like we do, we frequently us a bullying tactic to get them to convert to our beliefs. We attempt to change their beliefs without first listening to what they believe. We want people to have our beliefs regardless of what they think.  We are trying to bring glory to ourselves. We lack faith in God.

You can tell people about your faith without forcing them to believe like you.  In fact, that is what the Bible tells you to do. It also tells us to do this in love. The reality of the situation is that the Holy Spirit convicts people of their need to change. Our job is to love them!

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6(NIV)

When we attempt to convert people by using a bullying tactic, we are demonstrating a lack of faith.  We cannot wait for the Holy Spirit to convict, we want to convict them in our timing, using our own strength.

In Matthew 17:14-21 the writer is writing about faith.

A man brings his son to the disciples wanting them to heal his demon possessed son but they weren’t able to heal him. Why? Because they were relying on their own power to heal the boy. The man was relying on the power of the disciples and the disciples were trying to use their power to heal the boy. The disciples didn’t want to bother God with their problem…They wanted to resolve it by themselves…without faith. They were concerned about their reputation; they wanted the glory.

When the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t heal the boy, Jesus said they had “so little faith.” You see, they were trusting in themselves to heal the boy.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20(NIV)

In Mark’s account found in Mark 9:14-29, he adds another phrase that I believe is very important. The phrase is found in v. 29 when Jesus said: “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

The faith that Jesus is talking about is not believing that you can physically move mountains in your own power; It is about trusting God with your mountain. Jesus is talking about faith on the spiritual plane. That is why it takes prayer. Prayer is at the spiritual plane!

Many of the problems that we face in our society today will only be resolved by trusting God at the spiritual plane! The problems are situations that God puts in our paths to show us His power and glory, but we are trying to do them on a physical plane so that we can get the glory. We are trying to bullying God into doing what we want.

This does not mean that we don’t do anything on the physical plane.  The Holy Spirit will be the one to give us the instructions that God wants us to execute. In other words, when we ask God for something like moving a mountain,  He may have us use a shovel in the process of moving the mountain, but it is God that is ultimately moving the mountain. God is the one orchestrating the removal.

There are many discouraging events happening in the United States today. We have concerns about government control, economy, our freedom, family structure, etc. As people, we have a tendency to get other people to join our band wagon as we fight for or against various issues. We argue and fight about the issues among ourselves; we try bullying others to get on our band wagon. We are just like the disciples; we are trying to make these changes in our own strength, so we can show God how hard we are trying.  Some things happen only by prayer, not by bullying or gathering opinions to support your ideas.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12(NIV)

Next time you are tempted to gather a group for your ‘moving the mountain’ band wagon, why not talk to God on your knees and let Him ‘move the mountain’. Put your faith in God, not in man.

 

NOTE: Scripture verses in this article were downloaded from www.Biblegateway.com.

Subtle Differences

When you read the scriptures, what do you look for? Are we looking for evidence that proves we are right? Are we looking for contrasts between right and wrong? Good or bad?

We tend to look for those things that separate Christians from Non-Christians. We look at things like ‘Right vs. Wrong’ and ‘Good vs. bad’; we are looking for those things that are extreme contrasts.

As we walk down life’s pathways, we want to know how we should act and what we should do.

When the non-Christian confronts the Christian, they are usually looking at those actions that seem to be opposite of what the Non-believer thinks those actions should be.

However, the real threat to Christianity today is not the extreme contrasts but the subtle contrasts that exist. We need the Holy Spirit to help us determine the subtle differences!

In 1 Peter 5:8-9 we read:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Christians need to be looking for prowling lions. If the lion is roaring, he has already caught his prey; His prowling has ‘paid off’!

In the Gospel of Matthew there are recorded several parables that Jesus used to teach the people about heaven and the future.

In the Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus is telling about heaven and is comparing it to a situation where ten virgins went to meet the Bride Groom.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13(NIV)

In this parable, Jesus is contrasting two types of virgins: five wise virgins and five foolish virgins.

At first, we may think the wise virgins are believers and the foolish virgins are the non-believers. But when we look closely we find that all ten virgins were looking for the Bride Groom; They were all wanting to go to heaven; and They were all professing Christians.

I believe this parable is addressing the modern day church congregations, those people who want to go to heaven when they die.

All of the virgins had lamps; they all fell asleep waiting; they all heard the announcement of the Bride Groom coming; they all trimmed their lamps; but only the wise virgins had jars of oil to replenish their lamps.

In our churches today, we have professing Christians singing in the choir; serving on the worship team, serve as deacons or elders, teaching Sunday School Classes, VBS lessons, children’s services ; serving on pastor search committees; they may all volunteer for working in charitable organizations, or donate large sums of money to charity, etc. but we cannot determine from their work whether or not they are true Christians. Only God has access to the Lambs Book of Life. We do not know if people have a genuine relationship with God merely by their assignment, church membership, or appearance. We must rely on leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the same way, we cannot know which virgins are foolish and which are wise merely by their actions. However, there is one subtle difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins; the wise virgins had jars of oil. In other words, they had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and depended on the Holy Spirit to light their path.

Most Bible scholars tend to agree that term ‘oil’ used in the Bible, frequently represents the Holy Spirit. Every living person has a spirit, but only those who have accepted the gift of salvation are given the Holy Spirit. In other words, wise virgins in the parable are those who have the Holy Spirit living in their lives; foolish virgins are those that are trying to get to heaven in their own strength, doing it the way that they, not God, want to do it.

When God separates the ‘sheep from the goats’, those people who are trying to get to heaven their own way, will run out of oil. Those who are trying to go to heaven God’s way, will have oil that lasts for eternity.

Do you have a jar of oil?