As Christians, there’s no doubt that we love Jesus. That is the way it should be. After all, we know what love is because God first loved us. However, I think that sometimes we forget that a large part of the Christian life is working towards becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. After all, given that He walked on earth with us, we have an example. 1 Peter 1 calls that fact to the forefront.
1Pe 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
1Pe 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
It is rather easy to say that we love Jesus. It is relatively easy to be sincere about that. I don’t doubt our conviction whatsoever. However, Peter seems to be calling us to something higher. It is not just loving Jesus Christ, but it is about following Him as well. It is about living our lives in accordance with the example that Jesus Christ set for us.
That certainly much easier said than done. After all, here I am talking about how that is what we need to do, and I know that I am far from perfect. Therefore, I am saying that we need to do something that I myself don’t even do. How do I have any authority to talk about something like this? Isn’t that being somewhat hypocritical?
I certainly don’t make the case that I have everything together. I know I don’t. However, that does not mean that I cannot continue on my walk with Jesus. It doesn’t mean I cannot learn more from His example.
That is what strikes me about the Christian life. We are pursuing One who is perfect; we never claim to be perfect ourselves. It is more than just saying we love Him although that is certainly a necessary part, but it is the development of a relationship. It is a process to become more like Jesus.
Hebrews 12 encourages us to remember that as Christians, we need to continue on the trail because it will be worth it in the end.
Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We’re supposed to run the race we are entered in. I used to go to track meets to watch my sister run, and when it was time for the 3000 m, most coaches were encouraging their athletes to “run your race.” In other words, they were encouraging these athletes to do their best and do what had to be done to finish the race effectively. Each runner had to run the race that was before him or her in obviously the best amount of time possible. It did not necessarily matter what the other runners around were doing.
Thinking about this then in the context of our Christian faith, it seems to me that we are a lot like that. We are all in the same race. We are all human after all, and as Christians, we are united in our desire to follow Jesus Christ. However, our individual race might vary slightly. Paul encourages us to lay aside the things that will hold us back like sin, and even though we all have a sin nature without a doubt, we do have personal weaknesses that may be slightly different.
That is why it is important to look at Jesus. Yes, we might have different experiences and life stories, and that is fine. However, we are looking at Jesus Christ and following Him wherever that leads during life because we know where it is going to lead after life.
As Christians, it is important that we encourage each other. In Hebrews 3, the author is discussing the wanderings of the Israelites and how their hearts had become so hard. The author obviously wants the church to avoid that same problem.
Heb 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Heb 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
We encourage each other every day so that we do not fall into sin. I think it is a lot easier for someone to kind of fall off the path of righteousness and into sin if they are alone. If you have people beside you who are supporting you and encouraging you, you are much less likely to fall into problems.
Therefore, there’s responsibility for all of us in this picture of the church. We have to obviously want to keep ourselves on track, but we’re somewhat responsible for our brothers and sisters as well. They make their own decisions, but we’re supposed to be involved in their lives. We’re supposed to be caring and supportive. For some people, that does not come naturally. However, this doesn’t seem to be an optional responsibility. Rather, as a family, we support each other.
That is one challenge that we see rise from the text. Today, maybe we can find someone to encourage in their walk with Christ. Maybe we can remind someone about all the hope that we have as children of God. Maybe we can remind someone about the power of Jesus. I don’t know exactly what situation will come up in anyone’s life specifically, but I do know that this is something that we can and should do.
As Paul wrote the beginning of his letter to the Colossians, he is encouraged by how well they’re doing. He has heard a good report of their faith, and he makes sure to let them know that. However, that doesn’t mean that he stopped praying for them.
Col 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
I know that we can get complacent. It has been said that the Christian life has “mountaintop experiences.” We have these experiences where we feel very close to God, and that is a great thing. I imagine we all have had them in some capacity.
However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need prayer. It doesn’t mean that we cannot remain vigilant. Paul was praying that the Colossians would continue to walk with the Lord. Even though they were currently doing it, he wanted them to remain steady.
It strikes me then that we need to be careful about this in our own lives. We might feel like everything is going great. Our friends and family are great, our job is great, our church is great and whatever else might be going extraordinarily well. However, we are still human, and we might lose our footing. We might start to trust in our own ability rather than our walk with God. We might forget where our strength comes from.
Paul knew that. He knew that we need the strength of God on a daily basis, so he prayed for the church that they would remain a force for good that they had been.
I certainly do not believe that salvation comes through our good works because if that was true, I think most of us would be in a lot of trouble. However, I do believe that good works are evidence of the Christian life. Therefore, it is not that works bring about salvation, but if someone claims to be a Christian, you would expect to see them moving in a direction of conforming to Jesus Christ. Paul speaks to that in Ephesians 5.
Eph 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
Eph 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Eph 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
We’re supposed to walk as children of light. Walking involves action. We are not supposed to simply talk about being children of light, but it seems to be the case that we’re supposed to be doing what children of light do.
This is a very difficult thing for us to do naturally. We are still human, and we’re still going to make mistakes. Nevertheless, walking in the light is what we are called to do. As a result, we need to make sure that we are moving in direction that God would want us to be moving.
How do we know what direction that is?
I was reading in my devotional the other night about three relevant questions we can ask about any decision we face. Can I thank God for it? Can I do it in Jesus’ name? Can I glorify God through it? I think that is a pretty good outline. When you combine them with praying for discernment from God to make the right decision if there are multiple good decisions, our conduct will reflect our calling in a greater capacity which is definitely a better thing.
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul refers back to Isaiah, and he speaks about how Christians need to act in relation to the world.
2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
2Co 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
2Co 6:18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
I know that the first verses are normally used to speak about marriage, but I think the same concept can apply to people who are even unmarried.
First, a clarification. Does this verse mean that we need to pull out of society and only speak to those in our Christian community? I don’t think so. How would it be possible to reconcile that with the Great Commission? It is hard to make disciples if your attitude is that you can never associate with people who are not already believers.
However, think about two oxen who are yoked together. If one of them is stronger than the other, that one will have more influence over the direction of whatever they are pulling. For Christians, if we end up in any situation where we are being pressured to do things that we know are wrong, maybe that is the time for whatever relationship it is to come to an end. The old saying that seems to be applicable. “If someone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it as well?” If you are yoked, you would because you don’t have a choice. You do not want to become so tightly committed to someone who will lead you into bad decisions. Maintaining your ability to remain your own person and make your own decisions is vital. We don’t want to be that heavily influenced by the world. That is dangerous.
Moving on down to what Paul says at the end. He quotes Isaiah, and he could potentially be seen to encourage entire separation. Again, I don’t know that that is necessarily how we ought to understand this. Think about our world today. It is such a mess that I would be concerned if Christians were identical to the world. We ought to be separate in conduct. People ought to notice that we are following a different God than they are. We are not chasing the god of image, popularity, autonomy, greed, wealth or whatever else might become an idol. We are committed to a higher calling.
Christians relating to the world is a difficult topic. Obviously we need to be part of the world. We are here; where else are we going to go? Similarly, we are called to make disciples, so we need to have interactions with those who are not of the faith. However, when those interactions lead us to make decisions that go against our Christian testimony or are not at all distinguishable from our seriously messed up world, we have a problem.
I don’t know about you, but I like to have a certain amount of control over what happens in my life. I like to have some idea of what I am going to have, and I find it much easier than having to trust other people all the time.
The Christian faith is built on trust in God. In Romans 10, we find what could be seen as a rather frightening passage if we were not able to trust God.
Rom 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Rom 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Paul goes on in this passage to continue talking about salvation, but as you read about people are creating their own sense of righteousness, I think we can do that even while we are doing things that are good things to do.
“If only I volunteer at church a few times per week, I might earn my way into favor with God.”
“If I patch up that relationship with my neighbor, God might love me more.”
“If I donate all my money to charity, maybe God will be happier with me.”
We try to create righteousness in our lives. We try to work harder in an effort to make God love us more, but the truth is that trying to establish our own sense of righteousness through good actions simply does not cut it.
Verse four lays it out for us. Jesus is the end or conclusion of the law of righteousness. Righteousness does not come from us, but it comes from Jesus Christ Himself. God loves us because we are His children; it is not predicated on our good works. God does not love Mother Teresa more than you. He loves both of you infinitely in the way that only God can. That does not diminish either one of you whatsoever; it points to the incredible love of God and His amazing capability.
This is frightening however because I have to trust that God loves me. I like to have a little checklist of things that I can do to ensure that God loves me more than the next guy. I want to make sure I am getting that righteousness. Regardless, God tells us that that is not how it works. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. God sees us as righteous because we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are not righteous because of our own works.
What implications does that have in our lives?
Having a life that is based upon the love of God and not based on earn our own righteousness ought to change our perspective on some level. When we do volunteer at church for example which is still a good thing to do, we are doing it because we want to. We are not doing it because we are trying to earn righteousness. However, something paradoxical will happen. Because we are developing our relationship with Jesus Christ, the fruit of the Spirit will continue to mature within us, and as that happens, we will actually do more good work even though we are not doing it for the reward of earnings any more love from God.
This is frightening to me. I have to let go of my own control on some level. However, it seems to be what we are called to do as a response to the love of God. Maybe you and I can work on this together.
Matthew 21 begins with Palm Sunday, and Jesus is then preaching in the Temple. The Pharisees had a question about His authority to do everything that He did, and Jesus responded with a question.
Mat 21:24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Mat 21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
Mat 21:26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
This stood out to me because I think it reflects modern society very well. The baptism of John was clearly a forerunner of the baptism in the Spirit that Jesus was going to bring. That was truly what they should have been talking about and the theological implications of each answer.
However, rather than address the topic, the Pharisees were only concerned with how they would look. Rather than pursue truth for the sake of truth itself, they were concerned with image. I feel like that is where we find ourselves today.
Christians and non-Christians can be guilty of this. We live in a universe that can be known. We can learn things about the world around us, and if we actually are trying to find out what is true about this world, we need to be concerned about that pursuit. We don’t want to get wrapped up in what our friends are going to say. Rather than try to find out what is the true nature of reality, we bow to peer pressure.
If something is really true, then we should affirm that it is true. We should build a worldview that can coherently explain the truth that is revealed in the world. As Christians, we do follow Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Truth, so this does not need to be a frightening activity for us. The pursuit of Truth is going to point towards God in the long run.
I appreciate Micah chapter 6 because God pretty much puts the ball back into the court of the Israelites. He wants to know why the people were rebelling. Obviously, God, being omniscient, would know the answer, but it is more of a challenge for the people. They have to evaluate why they are being difficult, and they are given this question.
Mic 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
This is really the Christian life. God has told us what is good. God wants us to be kind to those around us and walk with Him. It makes me think about Jesus talking about the two greatest commandments. It is a common theme throughout the Bible, and obviously we see it here as well.
Now, there are implications to this. Walking with God is a lifestyle type commitment. When I go on a walk down my road, I don’t just go a mile down the road and stop. I have to come back as well. It isn’t like I can go on half of a walk; I have to complete it in some way.
I think the Christian life is similar. It isn’t necessarily something that we can do for a little while on and off. The implication of going on a walk is that we complete it in some fashion. I know that in life people wander away from God from time to time. It can happen to really any of us, but that is obviously not what we are told to do here.
We are told to walk with God. We go with him down the road for a mile, we come back for a half a mile and then go back out for another five. We do not necessarily understand everything that God might have in store, but I think that for all of us, we need to understand that this is something that we give our lives to. It is a commitment.
As we read in Micah 4, it seems to me that we are dealing with prophecy here that is going to be pretty amazing when it comes true.
Mic 4:1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
Mic 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Mic 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Mic 4:4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Mic 4:5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
I know I copied a lot, but I wanted to give context. Verse five pretty much sums everything up. Right now, people walk in the name of their own god. That is certainly true. People have many different ideas right now, but as for us, we are going to walk with God forever.
This is exclusivism, and I know that is unpopular. In this future time that we are describing, Micah is identifying that “we” are going to be with God forever and ever. He didn’t say that everyone will be. He is self-identifying with a certain group that he is a part of. I think that that is referring back to verse two. Many nations are going to come and worship God. Don’t we see that in the Christian church today? It is a worldwide network of believers in the one true God.
I am not an expert obviously, but it seems to fit together for me. It seems to make sense that there is a later time where a certain group of people was going to walk with God forever, and we are promised in the New Testament that we can have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, I know at least that Christians are part of this picture.
Micah was obviously writing before the New Covenant, so there’s also a group of Old Testament people who are going to be walking with God as well. I think about the Hall of Fame of Faith chapter in Hebrews 11.
Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
I don’t know everyone who is going to be in this heavenly group, but it sounds like a pretty great place. To be walking with God forever is definitely where we want to be.