Over the last couple weeks, I’ve observed a number of people express their feelings towards others, in a way that can only be described as un-Christ-like. The funny thing is that every one of these individuals claims to be a Christian. Therefore, I decided to remind us all what being a Christian ought to look like.
I’ve been reading the epistles of Paul to the churches at Rome, Corinth, and Galatia, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m really fascinated by Paul, and I really I love reading his letters. He was such a wonderful writer, and I see so much of my style in the way he wrote. Usually his words have me praising God in agreement and/or laughing because I just get a kick out of his use of sarcasm.
Paul intrigues me because he was a man that grew up in the church. He was incredibly knowledgeable of the Word, and practiced what he preached. He was so firm in his beliefs that when the first Christian believers began sharing the news that Jesus was the Messiah and had raised from the dead, he whole-heartedly believe they were blaspheming and attempted to snuff them out. He thought he was doing the right thing. But on the road to Damascus, his whole world was changed. He came face-to-face with Jesus Himself! The very person whom he had denied! (You can read more of his transformation, beginning in Acts 9.)
His combined knowledge of the Word and his relationship with Christ could have made Paul prideful. However, it had just the opposite effect. Paul recognized that it wasn’t his knowledge of the Word or his actions that saved him, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins.
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. (Romans 3:25-27)
Now, Paul wasn’t saying that our faith in Christ trumped the law that God established in the creation of the 10 Commandments, but was making the point that we can’t do anything to save ourselves. Jesus did all the Work!
Therefore, it angers me to see certain individuals (I’ll call them P1) believe that because they’ve lived the “right way” their entire lives (or so they think), look down on those who’ve sinned in the past (I’ll call them P2), even after P2 has accepted Christ as their Lord and savior has been allowing God to transform them day by day! The truth is, as Paul said, we have nothing to boast about, because we didn’t save ourselves! Even if we never broke any of the commandments—which only ONE individual could ever honestly claim—we were still born into sin, because sin is passed on through our father’s bloodline (Romans 5:12)!
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) [emphasis added]
How dare we believe that we are any better than any other individual, when Christ died for us all!
Okay, so that was just part one, of what I have say (lol). Here’s part number two…Just because we are saved by faith and not by works, does NOT give us the excuse to not follow the law. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)—and He actually had even higher standards (Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 5:21-48)! And Paul states in Romans that the law is not nullified by our faith, as well (Romans 3:31).
The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross is to save us from that sin, but we’re not supposed to go back to wallowing in our filth one once we’ve been redeemed of it (Romans 6:2)!
- For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
- Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
- But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)
Furthermore, Jesus and Paul, both explained to us, very clearly, that while we can (attempt to) uphold the law and have an established relationship with God, the greatest commandments aren’t actually explicitly written in the law. And ‘what is that?’ you might ask. L-O-V-E.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
This request that we love, doesn’t nullify our faith or obedience, it enhances it. The fact that God loved us in our sin enough to send His Son to die for us, reveals just how great His love is for us. Our natural response, once we come into the knowledge of Christ and establish a relationship with Him, should be to lavish upon Him with a grateful heart full of love, and obedience. And the stronger our relationship with Him grows, the more our hearts are transformed by the love of God, then the more our love ought to overflow into the lives of the people around us! (For more on this topic you may want to check out some of my other posts: Multiply: Week 3, Burning One, and All-Embracing Love)
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
A mistake that we often make, is believing that we can have faith in, and love God, without allowing God to penetrate our hearts and make any sort of change in us. Then we go around telling the world that we’re a believer, even though James explicitly states that faith without deeds is dead!
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
Basically, James says “we have a group of people, who say they have faith and believe, but where is the proof of their faith”?! He goes on to talk about Abraham who had so much faith in the promises of God that he circumcised himself and all the male members of his household (he took action!), before he even had evidence that God would accomplish all that He said He would (James 2:21-24; Genesis 17). We must ask ourselves, what do our actions and lifestyle say about what we believe?
Of course, we are also reminded in 1 Corinthians 13, that we can do all sorts of goods things in this life, but if our actions don’t stem from love, then it’s all meaningless. This is why we have to humble ourselves and allow God to change us from the inside out. Because, if we try to do things out of a desire to earn God’s grace, rather than out of love for God and people, then our faith and works are useless.
And lastly, although, He loved all, Jesus really made it a point to reach out to those in the most desperate of circumstances. He reached out to those others ignored: women, children, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, and even those who openly lived in sin. Jesus lived during a time when it was taught by the teachers of the law that those who struggled in lowly circumstances suffered because of sin in either their lives, or the lives of their parents. (Which is funny if you think about it, since practically all of Israel worshiped idols at some point or another.) But, there He was, God-in-the-flesh, meeting sinners right where they were. And what was His response when the Pharisees asked Him about His actions…”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).
Mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others.
Many believers have fallen into the trap of surrounding themselves with nothing but other believers, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. This is not completely wrong. Our closest friends, those we go to for advice, to whom we turn when we’re in need of accountability, prayer, and encouragement should be fellow believers. However, those who need to hear God’s truth don’t ever get to experience the goodness of God’s love unless we tell them and show them! We cannot completely separate ourselves from them. God calls us to shower them with love, compassion, kindness, and to show understanding as we speak Truth into their lives (**Note, that we cannot leave this last part out**).
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)
Jesus told us to go into ALL the world and preach the gospel; a command that was issued not to just a few isolated believers, but to all who believe; so that we might reach men and women from every nation, every background, and from every circumstance, showing no partiality (Mark 16:15; James 2:1-9).