WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT BEING A CHRISTIAN? (part two)
Last week I asked the question, 'what's so great about being a Christian'. I focused on the fact that a Christian is a child of God. I mentioned we become a child of God through faith in Christ. Everyone is a creation of God but in order to become a child of God we need to put our faith in Christ for salvation. Then we are spiritually adopted into the family of God.
And we are privileged to be God's child. God loves everyone but as a child we receive special blessings and privileges. God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit means God has given us wisdom and power. And we can see things more clearly now and we are able to understand things on a deeper level.
We have the ability to carry out the will of God. The Spirit gifts us in certain areas so we can accomplish his plans. As a child of God we are able to be close to God and have a right relationship with him. We have true love, peace and joy. And we now have the capacity to love one another as we have been loved by God. We have a new mind that enables us to know and understand spiritual things. One that enables me to have wisdom and discernment. And we have a new heart; one that is selfless and forgiving. One that enables me to be free from bitterness, anger and jealousy.
And I realize that as a child of God I have a responsibility to act in accordance with being a child of the king. I need to grow and serve. I have work to do to try to change lives and build up the kingdom of God. And being a child of God means I can look forward to my heavenly inheritance. We have much to be thankful for as a child of God. And because I am a child of God, another thing that is so great about being a Christian is that Jesus is now my brother and my friend.
1) Jesus is my brother.
We are adopted into the family of God and with that comes a new brother-Jesus. We don't have to look into our ancestry to see if we're related to Jesus because the bible tells us he is. When Jesus resurrected and Mary clung to him he said, "go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me". The disciples weren't Jesus' biological brothers, but his spiritual brothers. And the same goes for us. Through faith we are adopted into the family of God. Therefore, we become Jesus' spiritual brothers and sisters.
Matt. 12:46-50, "While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
On the surface, it looks like Jesus is disrespecting his family. But he is using this as a teachable moment. At the time, Jesus' biological family were trying to pull him away from his mission. There was contention between Jesus and the religious leaders. His family was concerned for his safety. But Jesus made it clear that doing God's will was more important.
Our biological families are very important to us. But what if they tried to get in the way of your devotion to God? I'm not saying we should neglect our family but when it comes to doing what we know God wants us to do then no one, including our biological family, should be allowed to get in the way. If Jesus didn't allow it then we shouldn't either.
But he calls his disciples his family. He's saying, 'whoever does God's will is my family'. Some people don't have their biological family in their lives. That can be very depressing; especially around the holidays. But many people have found solace in the fact that they have a spiritual family in the church.
What are the aspects of a family that are inviting? Family accepts you as you are and you can be yourself around them. You know them well and they know you well. You can talk to them about anything. You know they are there for you when you need them. The church family is no different. We start connecting with our spiritual brothers and sisters and we develop meaningful relationships.
But think about what it's like to have Jesus as our spiritual brother. If you had a big brother growing up you may have been able to go to him for advice or protection. If someone was teasing you, you went and got your older brother to take care of him. If you needed advice about dating or help with schoolwork you could talk to your older brother because he has been there.
Jesus is all these things. He is our protector when the spiritual bullies are after us. He is the one we can turn to for advice. Because Jesus has been there and done that we can go to him to show us what we need to do or not do to get through the situation. And Jesus as our older brother is understanding.
Heb. 4:14-16, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
It's good to know that Jesus gets us. We typically have a different relationship with our siblings than we do our parents. You can be more open with your siblings because they aren't going to ground you. You're more guarded around your parents; either because you don't think they'll understand or you're afraid of getting punished or lectured.
Not that there's that dynamic between us and God and Jesus but when Jesus was on the earth what you got to see was that big brother side of God. That relatable, understanding aspect of God. Not that it wasn't there before but with Jesus being God in the flesh, he made the Father more relatable. So, we don't have to be afraid of approaching his throne because we have one who understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses.
He was tempted, just like we are; he's been there and done that-he knows how it feels. He doesn't know what it's like to sin, but he knows the full consequence of sin. And in him taking on our sins at the cross he knows the full extent of guilt. He was declared guilty when he took our sins upon himself and our punishment so he knows how terrible guilt and shame feel.
Therefore, we can go to him as our big brother with confidence; knowing we are talking to someone who knows how it feels to be tempted, along with the guilt and shame that sin brings. And so we can find the mercy and grace that we need to get through it and strive to do better the next time.
The connection and admiration we can have for our biological siblings is sometimes pretty intense. If something happens to them it happens to you. That is spiritually so for the connection Jesus has with us.
Matt. 25:34-40, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
There's that connection-what is done to us or for us is done to him. If you go on in the story you see Jesus scolding people for not helping his brothers. He said, "What you didn't do for them you didn't do for me." If we feel it; he feels it. Jesus is willing to identify with us. Even though he is perfect and we are not; he is not ashamed to call us his brother.
Heb. 2:11, "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."
Since we are born again, Jesus identifies himself with us. Did you ever have a sibling that embarrassed you? What about the sibling that had a not so good track record and a less than stellar reputation? Were you ashamed to be identified with him or her? Given my reputation in my teen years, I'm sure my brother went through that. "Your last name is Tuper? Are you related to Derrick?"
Adam contemplates whether or not he's going to acknowledge me or not. Then, he rolls his eyes and sighs a, 'yes' in reply. Although I would be understanding of my brother's response, thankfully Jesus isn't like that with us. Although he's not happy with our behavior sometimes, he's still willing to associate with us and call us his brother. But Jesus isn't just our brother; he's also our friend.
2) Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is more than just a brother; he's also our friend. Some siblings are actually pretty good friends. I had some friends who were pretty close to their brothers and we all hung out together. We can actually say we are friends of Jesus because that's what he has called us.
John 15:13-15, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."
We are still servants of Jesus because we need to follow his commands but Jesus tells us that he has taken the relationship further than that. We are friends because he involves us into his heart and mind. A typical servant just hears orders from his master. We hear more; we hear his passions, we hear his insights and wisdom. He reveals information to us about life and about people. He shows us the path to joy. He warns us of obstacles along the way. He's there for us when we need comfort and strength.
Think of all the things a real friend does for you. He's someone you can talk to and lean on. He's someone you can trust; someone that won't abandon you when you need him most. That's Jesus. A typical master doesn't care enough about his servant to spend time with him and talk intimately with him. A typical master doesn't allow a servant into his inner circle. He doesn't care enough about his servant to want to have a deep relationship with him.
But Jesus is not just any master; he's a master who desires to be more than that-he wants to be our friend. A master wouldn't hang out with his servant. But Jesus is our friend; he wants to get to know us and be around us. Some bosses hang out with their employees after work. That can be good but that can also be dangerous. It's good in that the boss becomes relatable and you can develop a relationship with him and you can have a better work relationship because of it.
However, the opposite can happen when the employee starts thinking they can slack off or when they don't take the boss seriously when he gives orders. Then a resentment ensues when the boss has to enact his authority. "Hey, I thought we were friends?" Being a boss and a friend is not easy to do. You need to be a boss first; friend second. And that needs to be established up front so there is an understanding.
Jesus has established his relationship with us. He is our master first and friend second. Just like a boss is not a typical friend because he holds a position of authority; so it is with Jesus. It's not a typical friendship because we aren't in a position where we need to obey our friends. Jesus can say, "you are my friends if you obey what I command", but we can't do that with our friends. If we try to have that criteria with people we won't have any friends.
But with Jesus it's different. That dynamic needs to be there; lest we lose perspective. If we have the attitude of, 'Jesus is my buddy', then we won't have the respect we need to have for Jesus as our master. There was a popular phrase you saw on t-shirts, "Jesus is my homeboy". That's disrespectful. Jesus is not just another one of our friends. He is our master who is also our friend. If we lose sight of that then we will lose our respect for him as our authority figure. But the important thing to remember is that even though he is our master, Jesus is also our very best friend.
3) I carry the name.
You know the expression, 'you get what you pay for'? If you want to go cheap then don't expect too much in return. However, sometimes you can get a decent product without spending a lot of money. As I said before-oftentimes you're just buying a name. But with that said, there's something to be said about a name.
One of the reasons name brands become popular is because they carry a reputation of quality. Whether it's a car or furniture or electronics, a trusted brand name brings the expectation that I'm getting the quality that I've come to know from this company. "With a name like Smuckers it has to be good". The attitude of the reputable people in top companies is that if it's going to carry the company name it better be the best. Only the best will do. Anything less doesn't deserve to have our name attached to it.
Well, the name of Christ is no different. It's the best and only the best will do. Not that we're better than everyone else but carrying the name of Jesus is pretty special. It's the name above all names as Phil. 2:9 declares.
There are certain very recognizable names in today's society; names that are associated with something significant. When you hear names like, Rockefeller, you think of money. When you hear the names Einstein or Edison you think of intelligence. And then there are the notorious names like, Hitler or Manson.
But we Christians carry the name of Christ. We are associated with someone who has no comparison. People in Hollywood often name drop to impress others. "I was having coffee yesterday with Clint Eastwood". Those in your circle are impressed that you know someone of such high status.
Sometimes people look into their ancestry to see if they're related to anyone famous. And if someone discovers that they are they make it known to their peeps. "I'm related to George Washington. We're 95th cousins." But we have the privilege of being able to drop the name above all names. Granted, we can't say we had coffee with him yesterday; but we can say we spiritually had coffee with him yesterday.
The first time we see the term Christian is in Acts. 11:26 where it states that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Adam Clarke's Commentary, "The word crhmatisai in our common text, which we translate were called, signifies in the New Testament, to appoint, warn, or nominate, by Divine direction. If, therefore, the name was given by Divine appointment, it is most likely that Saul and Barnabas were directed to give it; and that, therefore, the name Christian is from God, as well as that grace and holiness which are so essentially required and implied in the character.
Before this time, the Jewish converts were simply called, among themselves, disciples, i.e. scholars; believers, saints, the Church, or assembly; and, by their enemies, Nazarenes, Galileans, the men of this way or sect. They considered themselves as one family; and hence the appellation of brethren was frequent among them.
It was the design of God to make all who believed of one heart and one soul, that they might consider him as their Father, and live and love like children of the same household. A Christian, therefore, is the highest character which any human being can bear upon earth; and to receive it from God, as those appear to have done-how glorious the title!"
The name Christian, divinely handed down, was meant to identify the followers of Jesus as well as unify them. I used Gal. 3:26-27 last week, highlighting that we are God's children through faith. Verse 28 goes on to say, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
In the body of believers I'm not white, you're not black. I'm not American, you're not Iranian; we all are-Christians and therefore unified under one name and purpose. As Christians there's no room for prejudice; no room for hatred. No one is to think they're better than anyone else. Being unified and identified carries with it a responsibility of living up to the name of Jesus.
We don't disgrace the family name by doing things that are contrary to the nature of Jesus. To have the name of Jesus attached to us is honorable. So it's important that we treat this inclusion with the respect and dignity it deserves. We want to be a proper representative of the name of Jesus. We need to act in accordance with all that the name of Jesus represents.
A modern term that's used is, represent. When athletes score you often see them pull out the front of their Jersey, drawing attention to the team name. They're saying, 'I'm proud of who I play for'. When we do something well we don't draw attention to ourselves we point to the name on our jersey-Jesus. What is so great about being a Christian? We carry the name of Christ; it's imprinted upon us. And we are called to represent; called to draw attention to the name on our jersey.
It's not just what we are; it's who we are. It's not just a name we carry; it's a character we uphold. We are clothed with Christ. Therefore, we haven't just put his name on-we have put him on. As a child of God Jesus is my brother. Not only my brother; but also my friend. I am honored to carry his name. I am a Christian-and being a Christian is great.