“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt 25:30-46)
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).
In the 2nd chapter of 2 Timothy, the believer is presented in seven characters. He is called a son, a soldier, an athlete, a husbandman, a workman, a vessel, and a servant.
With each of these characters there is a suited exhortation. As a son, Timothy is exhorted to be strong in grace. Grace goes with sonship, just as law goes with servitude–as we learn from Galatians. Then, as a soldier, Timothy is exhorted to endure hardness, and to avoid worldly entanglements; these are right elements of good soldiership. As a vessel, he is to be cleansed, separated; as a servant, gentle, patient, meek; and so of each of these seven aspects of his life as a Christian.
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:15-16)
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” (Phil 2:1-15)
- Discipleship: Discipleship is about growing and maturing – it is the process of becoming like Jesus Christ. Growing is not easy – it takes work and commitment. It requires us to examine and change the way we think, feel and act. Thankfully HE also gives us HIS Spirit and HIS Word to transform us into the image of Christ. Additionally GOD uses other people and circumstances in our lives to help us grow through trials, temptations, and troubles.
- Ministry: Ministry is all about serving and giving. As Christians we are called to a ministry in the body of believers and a mission to the world. Each of us are shaped and gifted by GOD to fulfill our part in HIS great plan. Find the blessing of losing yourself in serving Jesus by serving others. Though we are saved only by HIS grace HE also calls us to good works – not to earn salvation but to encourage and equip the body of believers. Ministry is about serving an audience of ONE.
- Fellowship: Fellowship is all about doing life together during the good and bad times. It is about being genuine, transparent and vulnerable in the things you share in confidence with others. It is about loving your neighbor as yourself. It is about encouraging others and sympathizing with their feelings. We are all part of GOD’s family and he wants us to grow in our love for others. True love is about forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Evangelism: Evangelism is about sharing the love of Christ with everyone. We are all commanded to go and make disciples. This is our mission as Christians and it is not an option. In fact, it is a profound responsibility, the greatest privilege, and the most incredible honor in the entire world. This mission is the greatest thing you can do for another person, carries eternal significance, and is the true secret of being blessed! In these sites we will teach you to share the gospel and to develop your own life message.
- Service: What does the Bible have to say about helping needy people — the poor, the homeless, the orphans, and the widows? Are there Bible passages which say we are supposed to have compassion and to be giving to the less fortunate? What biblical foundations are there for service to others?
How to care for the poor? How are we to provide for the hungry?
Here are instructions from the New Testament:
“Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” (Matthew 19:21)
“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.” (Matthew 25:35)
“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40)
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)
“So he replied to the messengers, Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'” (Luke 7:22)
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” (Luke 14:13)
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” (Luke 18:22)
“Beware of the teachers of the law . . . They devour your widows’ houses . . . Such men will be punished severely.” (Luke 20:46-47)
“‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:5)
“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.” (Acts 9:36)
“Cornelius stared at him in fear. What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'” (Acts 10:4)
“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.” (Acts 24:17)
“On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'” (Romans 12:20)
“For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:26)
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Gal 2:10)
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” (1 Timothy 5:3)
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and becomes judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” (James 2:2-6)
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
Fruits of the Spirit
Nevertheless, here are some practical guidelines to use and fruit to watch for to verify if a witness is truthful and if his testimony shows that he is walking with Christ:
1. Do they exhibit the fruits of the Spirit?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23)
2. Do they remain under the authority of the local church and its leaders?
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Heb 13:17)
3. Do they obey the laws of the nation and are they subservient and pray for the government leaders?
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;” (1 Pet 2:13)
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Rom 13:1)
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Tim 1:1-2)
4. Do they seek unity within the body of Christ?
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:” (Rom 15:5)
“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:3)
5. “Are they peacemakers or do they intentionally cause problems behind the scenes between Christian people who are clearly walking with Christ?”
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Mat 5:9)
“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (Jam 3:18)
6. Do they preach the whole gospel of Jesus Christ or do they put a larger emphasis on signs and wonders?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16-17)
“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16)
“By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (1 Cor 15:2)
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)
7. Do they promote themselves and justify themselves by virtue of signs and wonders and subjective testimonials instead of by Scripture?
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10)
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:” (John 12:37)
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:21-24)
8. Are they proselytizing church members of your church, telling them to come to their church because it is more spiritual? These are some fruits to watch for:
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Gal 6:2-5)
Why the Christian Life Doesn’t – seem to – Work
The Christian life cannot be lived out of the self-effort of approaching it as a project,
a promotional effort, a panacea, or propriety by James A. Fowler
Our naturally developed mind-set and tendencies are opposite of God’s ways. God told us that through Isaiah long ago. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isa 55:8,9).
As fallen, sinful persons we have all developed patterned tendencies to approach everything in life in particular ways. It is called the “flesh” in the New Testament Scriptures. We each have unique action and reaction patterns of selfishness and sinfulness in the soul. When we become Christians, we still have those patterned tendencies of the “flesh.” Paul explains to the Galatian Christians that “the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another” (Gal 5:17). To the Romans, Paul wrote, “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. …I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom 7:14,18).
These patterned tendencies of the “flesh” affect our individual approaches to living the Christian life. We have various patterns of thinking, with which we approach our Christian living.
Some Christians approach the Christian life as a “project.” It is a task to be completed; a job to get done. They want to see results in everything. The objective in their mind is to get it accomplished. So they decisively implement the necessary activities to achieve the objective and to reach the goal. “What are we waiting for?” they ask. “Lets get the job done…now!” They want everyone to assist and to do their part. Focused and persistent, they take direct action to perform what is necessary, and to produce the desired end-product. Should they begin to relax, they feel guilty. They work so hard to achieve what they perceive to be the desired result. They want to do it, get it done, and make a significant change in things. The project called the “Christian life” must be accomplished and be completed.
But, what happens when they cannot accomplish the project of Christian living? What do they do when all their efforts are not enough, and their greatest fear of being a failure in getting the job done seems to be evident? It is then that they might conclude, “the Christian life doesn’t work!” They often then respond by saying to themselves, “Maybe I haven’t been decisive enough. Maybe I haven’t been persistent enough. Maybe I haven’t worked hard enough. Maybe I haven’t buckled-down to get it done. Maybe I didn’t attack it with enough effort and commitment.” Back they go to approaching the Christian life as a “project” to be completed!
Other Christians approach the Christian life as a “promotional effort” to persuade everyone and to get everyone inspired. They want everything to be exciting. The Christian life is measured by the level of enthusiasm, energy and liveliness. These Christians thrive on spontaneity, emotion and zeal. They always want to be optimistic and up-beat. The objective is to be excited about being a Christian and living the Christian life, to be “on fire for Jesus.” They want everyone else to get involved and to join in the exciting programs. Everyone should be personable, out-going and friendly. Everyone should feel good. Like cheerleaders at a pep-rally, they try to motivate and enthuse by being dramatic, entertaining and communicative. They want to whoop it up and be expressive. They conceive of the Christian life as a promotional effort for excitement.
But, what happens when life isn’t always exciting? What do these Christians do when the energy level runs low, and when no one responds to the peppy promotion? It is then that they might conclude that “the Christian life doesn’t work!” Their response is often to say to themselves, “I am unacceptable to God and to others,” which is their greatest fear. “Maybe I haven’t been zealous enough. Maybe I haven’t been friendly enough. Maybe I haven’t been personable enough. Maybe I haven’t been convincing enough. Maybe I haven’t been enthusiastic enough. Maybe I haven’t been involved enough.” Back they go to approach the Christian life as a “promotional effort!”
Other Christians approach the Christian life as a “panacea.” They think that the Christian life should be pleasant and predictable. Their expectation is that the Christian life should cause everything to be peaceful and pastoral. With an aversion to conflicts and troubles, they think the Christian life should have no unexpected bumps and no curve balls. The Christian life should be consistent, conservative and traditional. For them security is found in that which is steady and stable and status-quo. In relating to others who are trying to live the Christian life, they want everybody to “get-along.” They think that everyone in the church should be amiable, accommodating and cooperative like them. Everyone should be patient, loyal, faithful and contented, in order to work together as a family and a team. The objective is to have a safe environment of fun and fellowship, for the Christian life is viewed as a pleasant and predictable panacea.
But, what happens when their Christian life is not such a stable plateau? How do they respond when problems and conflicts arise, and when their greatest fears of an out-of-control chaos seem to be realized? It is then that they might conclude “the Christian life doesn’t work!” Their response is often to say to themselves, “Maybe I haven’t been loyal enough. Maybe I haven’t been patient and accommodating enough. Maybe I haven’t been faithful enough. Maybe I haven’t been cooperative enough. Maybe I haven’t been tolerant enough of others.” Back they go to approaching the Christian life as the development of a “peaceful panacea!”
Other Christians approach the Christian life as “propriety.” They view the objective of the Christian life as proper thinking and proper action, issuing forth in correct doctrine and correct morality. These Christians want to get everything figured-out accurately and analytically. They “study to show themselves approved.” In their quest for truth and knowledge, they are conscientious about every detail. They think that if they can get everything down-pat and air-tight logically and systematically, then there should be precise procedures, techniques and formulas by which to lead an orderly and structured Christian life. In the process, they want everyone else to think like they do, and to agree and conform in thought and practice. The objective is to “do it right,” “follow the rules,” and “go by the Book.” Then the Christian life will be proper, correct and right.
But, what happens when their Christian life doesn’t go as planned and the tight structures fail? Inevitably they will find that everything isn’t “proper” in their lives. It is then that they might conclude, “the Christian life doesn’t work!” Their response is often to say to themselves, “Maybe I’ve been wrong.” They hate to admit it. “Maybe I haven’t understood it well enough. Maybe I haven’t been studious enough. Maybe I haven’t been disciplined enough. Maybe I haven’t been exhaustive enough. Maybe I haven’t been moral enough.” Back they go to approach the Christian life as “propriety.”
All Christians can see themselves in one or more of these misdirected approaches to the Christian life. We have all had a tendency to approach our Christian lives with a degree of self-effort. That is why the Christian life doesn’t seem to work, because it will not work by our “works” of self-effort.
The Christian life works alright, but not because we try to make it work in a certain way according to our selfish propensities. The Christian life works only when Jesus Christ works in us. That is the way the life of Jesus worked on earth as a man. Jesus said, “the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10). In like manner, the Christian life works, for the writer to the Hebrews prays that “the God of peace…might equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” (Heb 13:20,21). The Christian life is Jesus working in us that which is pleasing in God’s sight.
To the Philippians Paul wrote that they should “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). He did not mean that we should try to work out our Christian lives in accord with our self-oriented mind-set and approaches to life. Rather, those misguided ideas, approaches and orientations must be given up in order to recognize what Paul goes on to say, “God is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
The Christian life does not work if we try to “pull it off” by our pre-conceived agenda of patterned perspectives and approaches. Paul wrote that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). To the Thessalonians he indicated that “Faithful is He who calls you, and he will bring it to pass” (I Thess 5:23). Who is going to bring our Christian lives to pass, and effect sanctification? God by His divine action! The Christian life is really God’s business, not ours!
In his epistle to the Galatian Christians Paul notes that “it is no longer I who live…” (Gal 2:20). It is not me trying to live the Christian life by my own self-expression, and my own expectations of what it should be. No one is going to be able to sing Frank Sinatra’s song, “I Did It My Way,” concerning their Christian life. Rather, Paul goes on to say, “Christ lives in me, and the (Christian) life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). The Christian life is our receptivity of His activity.
Christianity is Christ! The Christian life is the life of Jesus Christ lived out through our behavior. The Christian life is not a project. The Christian life is not a promotional effort. The Christian life is not a panacea. The Christian life is not propriety. The Christian life is a Person, Jesus Christ. The Christian life is effected by the ontological presence and activity of the Being and Life of the risen Lord Jesus.
The Christian life is a process of allowing the Person of Jesus Christ to be lived out in us. It is not a project to get completed and finished. It is not a panacea to arrive at. It is not a promotion to get a “high” of excitement about. It is not a propriety to be properly enacted. The Christian life is the salvation/sanctification process whereby we are “made safe” and “set apart” from the dysfunction of trying to live the Christian life by our own effort and expectations, in order to function as God intended by the indwelling dynamic of the life of the risen Lord Jesus, the Spirit of Christ.
The Christian life is not static. It is not accomplishable. It is not promotable. It is not a plateau of pleasantness. It is not a systematic belief-system. The Christian life is the dynamic manifestation of the life and character of Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
In John 15:5 Jesus is recorded as saying, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Apart from Jesus Christ and His activity in and through us, we can do nothing that will effect the living of the Christian life. We must give up our naturally patterned approaches, and rely only on Him. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves, to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (II Cor. 3:5). With His divine adequacy and empowering, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13). We can live the Christian life through Jesus Christ, as He lives through our behavior.
Our argument has moved from “why the Christian life doesn’t seem to work,” to the recognition that “the Christian life works” by the out-working of the life of Jesus Christ. Christians must give up trying to make the Christian life work by their own efforts and orientations, and allow the life of Jesus Christ to be lived out through them.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29)