Summary: This message brings to light several of Jesus' characteristic that we Christians should follow.
Text: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18).
What do we mean by “a real Christian”? Many people say they are Christian. Out of curiosity, I have asked people how they know they are a Christian. Maybe you have asked people the same question. If you have, you have probably heard the same response I have often heard. People say, “I am a Christian because my parents were Christians.”
Do we become a Christian just because our parents were Christian? Are we a Christian because we went to Sunday school? Are we a Christian because our friends say they are Christian? Does being baptized or christened as an infant make you a Christian?
I believe the answer to these questions is “No!”
Does a Christian possess certain Godly attributes, qualities, characteristics or traits? “Yes!” If we are truly followers of Jesus, we possess the same characteristics Jesus possessed. Those who follow Jesus call themselves Christian.
When Jesus walked upon the face of the earth, there were some who believed in Him, who believed He was the Messiah, and who walked in His footsteps. The followers of Jesus who lived during the first century were the first generation of Christians. As James puts it, they were “a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (v. 17).
When we think of “firstfruits” we think about crops when they are ready to harvest. The first ones ready to be harvested would be considered the “firstfruits”. In Jesus’ day, the first portion of the crop to be harvested was given as an offering in an act of worship. Also, the offering was a blessing for the remainder of the crop.
Paul used the term “firstfruits” in his first letter to the people at Corinth. He used it in reference to those who have died. Paul said, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20). Jesus was the first to be resurrected so He is the “firstfruit” of all those who have died. His resurrection is our assurance of our resurrection.
Let’s look at several characteristics Christians should have. People should know we are Christians by the way we act, talk and by the way we walk. There are numerous characteristics demonstrated by Jesus.
The Christian characteristics we are going to talk about are only a sample of the many Jesus demonstrated. If we are real Christians, these characteristics should be evident to those people whom we meet or make contact.
This first characteristic that comes to mind is forgiveness. Are you a forgiving person? Jesus was a very forgiving person and he demonstrated this trait as he hung on the Cross between two thieves. As bad as He was mistreated and forsaken, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He was asking forgiveness for those who were putting Him to death.
Are you and I able to forgive those who mistreat us in some manner? I don’t think any of us have ever suffered the pain, humiliation, embarrassment, harassment, or mistreatment that Jesus suffered. I am sure we have had times when someone has said something about us and it hurt our feelings and our pride. How did we react? Did we use the words of Jesus when He said, “Father, forgive them”? We probably did not, but we should have.
At times, you will hear people say, “I forgive, but I do not forget.” If you forgive, then you should forget. If you don’t forget the incident, then you haven’t truly forgiven the person. People who are hurt by the actions or words of another tend to speak evil of the person who has hurt them. I want to share a little story with you. It is titled: Abraham Lincoln and the Spy.
When the Civil War broke out, a certain man was in one of the far Southern States, and he enlisted in the Southern Army. He was selected by the General and sent to spy on the Northern Army. As you know, armies have no mercy on spies if they are caught. This man was caught, tried by court-marshal, and ordered to be shot. While he was in the guardroom waiting the day of execution, he would call Abraham Lincoln by every vile name that he could think of.
One day while he was in prison, a Northern officer came into his cell. The prisoner, full of rage, thought his time had come to be shot. The officer, when he opened the door, handed him a free pardon, signed by Abraham Lincoln. He told him he was at liberty; he could go to his wife and children.