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July 25, 2010
Who Is A Christian? 2
We have looked at some of the areasin which a Christian works, such as in pursuit of Christ, in knowledge, etc., but what are some of the characteristics that a Christian should possess as an individual? Through inspiration, James gives us a good, concise description of what a Christian should be. Please read James 1:19-27.
“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”A Christian is to have a certain level of control in his attitude and actions. If one cannot control himself very well, it makes it difficult to work for God. While Paul reasoned with Felix and Drusilla (Acts 24:24-26), he placed a great deal of importance on self control; he spoke of righteousness, the judgement to come, and self-control as all being interrelated and necessary to being one who is of the “faith in Christ Jesus.” Paul also gives self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit, things which those who wish to inherit the kingdom of God must practice (Galatians 5:22,23). To our faith we are to give diligence to supply self-control along with virtue, knowledge, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These things, including self-control, must abound in us and cause us to grow. This is part of giving diligence to “make your calling and election sure” (2Peter 1:5-11).
When something is pure, it is not contaminated by a foreign substance. For a Christian to be pure spiritually, he must not be contaminated by worldly things. “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness …” is what a Christian is instructed to do; that is, to remove those things from his life that are making it impure. The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that he must keep himself pure and be an example to others in purity (1Timothy 4:12; 5:22). Purity starts in the mind. If impure thoughts are present, impure actions are the result. This is why as Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi, he told them how to occupy their minds; “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Acceptance of the Word
“Receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”Hearts and minds must be willing to accept the word of God for it to grow and supply eternal life. Many refuse to accept the grace and instruction of the Lord. Without accepting God’s word, there is no salvation. Care must be taken to accept teaching because it is the word of God, and not to accept something just because man says it that it is truth. Paul gave thanks that the Christians in Thessalonica had the right attitude about accepting God’s word. “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1Thessalonians 2:13).
Meekness and Humility
The word of God is to be received with the proper attitude — an attitude of meekness and humility, being patient and mild, not inclined to anger or resentment — “In humility.” Christ was described as being meek, and if one is Christ-like he also must develop this characteristic. The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian Christians that they were to walk in meekness if they were to walk worthily (Ephesians 4:1,2). If one is Christian, he is one of God’s holy and beloved, and is therefore to to have “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
James warns that it is not enough only to believe in the Lord. Many today teach that all that is needed for salvation is accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for the sins of man. This indeed does need to be accepted, but don’t stop there! Even the demons “believe and shudder,” but no one would dare say that they are saved! (James 2:18). Please read James 2:14-26. When the word is heard, it must be obeyed to be effective. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22-25). Jesus made the sacrifice for sins, but only those who obey can receive this benefit. “And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). Everyone who believes the word of the Lord and obeys is likened by Christ unto a wise builder; everyone who hears, but doesn’t heed will fail (Matthew 7:24-27).
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress ...”Christians are to show care and concern for others well-being. This is not to be an outward show only, but is to come from the heart — a genuine and unpretentious outpouring of compassion. Compassion is one of the characteristics of a Christian’s heart that are mentioned by Paul in Colossians 3:12. One must have this kind of heart to be a true Christian, working for God. Paul even tells those who have had a somewhat “checkered” past and are now Christians to develop this characteristic, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).
The remainder of James’ definition of pure and undefiled religion is this: “... and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” In verse twenty-one, he had instructed those who would be Christians to remove all filthiness, and now to conclude he points out that it is an ongoing way of life — keep oneself unspotted! Once an individual is cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ, he must strive to live his life in the pathway of righteousness. God’s family, the church, is made up of individual Christians. Christ wishes the church to be without “spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27), so each Christian must be spot free. How terrible for one to be a spot or blemish upon the church! Paul tells Timothy how long to remain spot-free, “... keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Timothy 6:14). Since Christians know that Christ will return, they must give diligence to remain unspotted (2Peter 3:14).
How can you spot a Christian? One way is by his character — having self-control, purity, accepting of the word of God, humble, obedient, compassionate, and unspotted. Is this my character? Is it yours?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.