Christians first

We Are Christians First

Are you a Christian? If you are, that relationship to God should govern everything you do about everything all the time. When you first obeyed Christ in baptism, you were making the commitment to be a Christian and to be a Christian first.

You have a job, but you are a Christian first. Everything you do as an employee should be governed by your higher calling. “…obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God,” (Col. 3:22).

You are a neighbor, but you are a Christian first. Your treatment of your neighbor should be based on your love for the God who made your neighbor (Jas. 3:9; Matt. 22:36-40).

You are a member of a local church, hopefully, one that exists and works with full respect for the teachings of Scripture. Your ultimate loyalty is to Jesus Christ, the head of the universal church (Eph. 1:22-23). If there is ever a conflict between the group and the Head, your commitment is to the Head (Col. 2:19).

You may be a citizen of the United States, but you hold higher citizenship in Christ’s kingdom (Col. 1:13; Phil. 1:27, 3:30). Our higher citizenship should rule over all our involvement in our American citizenship. Everything we do as good citizens here should be a function of our higher citizenship.

In all that we do, we are Christians first. Our relationship to God through Jesus Christ ought to empower and enable all that we do from baptism until death. Our first identity is, a Christian.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” Matt. 6:33.

Unseen & Seen

Unseen and Seen (1 Jno. 4:12-21)

“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Observe in this passage first, what is unseen and what is seen. “No one has ever seen God,” but John says “we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.” We’ve all heard people say, “I won’t believe it unless I can see it.” (By the way, if that claim were consistently applied – nobody today would believe that Abraham Lincoln existed, or anyone else before you opened your eyes!)

John emphasizes the value of testimony. Though we have not seen God, the testimony given by the apostles was accompanied by such powerful signs and evidence, we are justified in believing that there is a God and more to the point here: He sent His Son to be the Savior.

Believing that and acting in response to the Savior, we can know the Father’s love, exhibit that love in our lives and know that God abides in us. We haven’t seen God, but “we have come to know” Him, His love and to accept our obligation to love.

“…for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: who loves God must also love his brother.”

About your forefathers

Are you disappointed or disenchanted

with your forefathers?

I was privileged to grow up in a family where one Book was the center of our attention. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Involvement with the local church was a constant. Prayer and good influence was our environment. Outside the home I was surrounded by good role models. I am so thankful today for all those early advantages.

But I also became acquainted with imperfection and witnessed people develop their spiritual journey in such a way as to move beyond those imperfections. If there was any effort to shield me from sinners and apostates, it didn’t work. I knew people who were flawed. In the neighborhood, at my dad’s workplace, among the parents of my friends and yes, in the church, there were spiritually and morally defective people.  

Hypocrites – when their true colors are made known – always disappoint us. And while we often pay tribute to our forefathers, we know they were not perfect just as we are not perfect. And some of them were just corrupt. Every generation must wrestle with this reality.

I must not let that reality become a juvenile excuse for any cynicism on my part today. And I must guard against blaming the previous generation (however many or few) for my current waywardness. We are warned of that in Ezekiel chapter 18. I have framed these questions that might help.

1) Have you changed during your lifetime? Are there ideas or attitudes you had earlier in your life as a Christian that you have since rejected? You may be like some of your forefathers in that regard?

2) What will your descendants say of you? When your great-grandchildren speak of you, will they remember any flaws you had? How do you want them to react to flaws they see in you today?

3) Were all your forefathers “rotten to the core?” Come on. Some were but not all. When we get into that mode of being tempted to justify ourselves because of our perception of a “tainted” past experience with hypocrites, we sometimes paint with a broad brush. Admit they were not all bad.

4) Shouldn’t we learn from our past, even if there were some bad people? The Bible is loaded with good and bad examples. Both have a purpose to train and warn us today.

5) What would your forefathers – even the messed up ones – want you to do today?

6) And THE QUESTION IS — What does God want you to do now? Does He want you to sit around in disobedience expressing your cynical memory of all the bad people in your past, in your family or church? Will this justification hold up when you stand before Him?

God will deal with each person on the merits of his own actions. And the only way that reckoning can have a good outcome is, if your actions are based on obedient faith in Jesus Christ. We can stand before God alongside our flawed forefathers if they and we have been obedient to Jesus Christ, walking in the light as He is in the light. Our forefathers hold no power to redeem us or condemn us. Neither can we redeem ourselves. Remember, “It is God who justifies,” (Rom. 8:33). And, “…we will all stand before the judgment seat of God,” (Rom. 14:10).

Worldliness –

(See source below)

The Bible defines worldliness by centering morality where we intuitively know it should be. Worldliness is the lust of the flesh (a passion for sensual satisfaction), the lust of the eyes (an inordinate desire for the finer things of life), and the pride of life (self-satisfaction in who we are, what we have, and what we have done).  Worldliness, then, is a preoccupation with ease and affluence. It elevates creature comfort to the point of idolatry; large salaries and comfortable life-styles become necessities of life. 

Worldliness is reading magazines about people who live hedonistic lives and spend too much money on themselves and wanting to be like them. But more importantly, worldliness is simply pride and selfishness in disguises. It’s being resentful when someone snubs us or patronizes us or shows off. It means smarting under every slight, challenging every word spoken against us, cringing when another is preferred before us. Worldliness is harboring grudges, nursing grievance, and wallowing in self-pity. These are the ways in which we are most like the world. 

Dave Roper, The Strength of a Man, quoted in Family Survival in the American Jungle, Steve Farrar, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 68.

Holy Restlessness

Holy Restlessness

Warren E. Berkley

The ancient religious writers often identified a virtue they called “holy restlessness.” It was a concept that often became lost in monasticism but needs to be “restored.”

Certainly, there is a kind of restlessness that is not productive. Becoming occupied with something only long enough to find a level of boredom, then moving to another activity before completing the first, etc. Performance and excellence is not achieved or enjoyed when we never settle down to good tasks and see them through. This common restlessness can become a way of life and rob us of blessings that flow from good work (see Matt. 13:21, “only for a while”.)

There may be another kind of restlessness that holds some value. Not willing to relax deeply and lovingly into comfortable routines; anxious to find good new methods; working our way from complacency to zeal and diligence and excellence – is a type of restlessness that can spur good work for the Lord. This might be called a healthy or holy restlessness that propels us to the next good thing we ought to be doing. Perhaps we should ask God to help us defeat the destructive restlessness and help us find this holy restlessness of good conscience and zeal.

“…not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” (Rom. 12:11).

Who God Is, therefore …

God is Love (1 Jno. 4:7-12)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 Jno. 4:7-12

The Holy Spirit makes it very clear. Who God is must be reflected by His people. In our minds, speech, lives, interactions and worship. God is merciful and that mercy should be seen in us. God is faithful. God is good. God is patient. Who God is should be reflected by His people. Like father, like child.

John wrote that “love is from God.” It is not from the world. Not from a dictionary. Movies and media are not dependable determinants of love. “Love is from God.” And one powerful and obvious evidence of His love is that He “sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

So, where does this line of thought take us? “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Belief Forbidden

Do Not Believe! (1 Jno. 4:1-6)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. – 1 Jno. 4:1-6

Scripture consistently urges us to believe. But this “belief” is not generic, vague or open-ended. It is belief in God, belief in Jesus Christ and belief in what the Holy Spirit has revealed, including this passage in First John.

Here, readers are told NOT TO BELIEVE: “…do not believe.” This is like the wisdom we have heard frequently: Don’t believe everything you hear. In our modern age of digital media, it can actually be said – don’t believe everything you hear, read or see! (Photographs and video images can be manipulated!)

John is talking about false teachers. They do not wear name tags (Hello, my name is _____ I’m a false teacher.) No. We bear the responsibility to test or verify what we are taught or told, by be fluent in truth. If I know what the Bible says, and/or if I will check what the Bible says when I’m taught something, that is the safeguard; that is the test.

In John’s time, there were some who would not confess that Jesus came in the flesh. John said, in essence, “therefore you know they are not from God.” John said – about himself and the other apostles – “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us…”

We are accountable to “listen” to the apostles today by becoming students of the New Testament. One purpose is to “test the spirits” and know “the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

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Give Me An Example

If you don’t understand what others are saying, it is not only proper but also prudent for you to ask them to give you an example of the point. If they cannot do this to your satisfaction, it may be fair to suspect that they themselves do not fully understand what they are trying to say.

— Source: Mortimer J. Adler, HOW TO SPEAK, HOW TO LISTEN, p. #155.