Summary: Do you know what a Christian should be like? It may surprise you to learn what God approves of and what He wants to take out of your character.
What is your idea of what a Christian should be like? I did a Google search using those words the other day and came with the most unbelievable site I think I have ever seen.
I won’t mention the name of the church but the page that came up was entitled: "How does God spot a Christian?" I thought - this should be good, talking about Christian character and having the Holy Spirit live His life through yours, etc.
But I want to read you parts of the quiz that followed:
(By the way - the byline of this church is: "the largest, most powerful assembly of worthwhile people to ever exist - the unsaved are not welcome.")
The site says: "The Bible teaches us that external appearances are VERY important to God. We must use extreme caution while grooming ourselves or God might not even acknowledge us! What is a True Christian? supposed to look like in order for God to be able to spot him?"
(read questions from the survey)
Suffice it to say that I don’t think that’s what God looks for - in fact:
1 Samuel 16:7 Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
So - how does God spot a Christian heart? Paul gives us some clues of things God is working into our lives, and out of our lives. The first 16 verses of this chapter can be summed up in three statements:
Live in humbleness, act in love
Be prepared to be used
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
I’m stuck under house arrest - Paul says - but you should "get out there!"
"Live a life" is literally in Greek: walk. Our life is not a sprint for Jesus - it is a marathon (sprinters tire easily and can only run short distances - you need to get set for the long haul - going slowly but surely forward)
"Worthy of the calling" Think about the kind of holy and vital life that exists with God - a life He invited you to enter in to - that’s the kind of life we are to lead - there is only one problem - its impossible for us to do it on our own - so as we saw in the first three chapters - God is doing it for us, and what we see in the first half of this chapter is the what of what He is doing.
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Five characteristics of the alive Christian are described here. Paul starts them out by saying: Be completely? (all, any, thoroughly)
Humble: Neil Anderson in his book The Bondage Breaker says humility is "confidence properly placed." It is like meekness, which Anderson defines as "great strength under great control". Humility means we know the source of our strength - Jesus Christ. Humility is not self deprecation - putting ourselves down - but it is lifting Him up. We all then are of equal weight with each other - from Billy Graham down to the newest Christian.
Gentleness or meekness - bridled strength. Since we are all equal, "don’t be hard on one another" is one way to translate that idea.
Patient: "Being willing to wait." Don’t jump up so quick when things or people don’t conform to your expectations. God teaches us that often through trials: James 1: "The testing of your faith develops perseverance."
Verse 3 is very important for body life. So often the church picks each other apart, hurt feelings lead to divisions and major problems - Paul says "make every effort." This is the outworking of the characteristics the Spirit builds in us in verse 2. Unified is the fourth characteristic.
Verse 4 & 5 - We need to recognize the oneness we are a part of goes right to the top - two sets of three "ones" followed by a final "one" in the Father. This is why we should want to preserve this unity. Our problem is we sometimes make no effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. It’s not robots God wants - "yes sir, no sir!" but it’s people who chose to put themselves aside for the good of others. So the final characteristic is selflessness.
So that’s how we are all joined - but we are also all different - with different missions and responsibilities and gifts - each one of us a vital part of building the whole.