|Vol. 15 No. 7 July 2013||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
One of the wonderful joys of Christianity is to see the Gospel penetrate and positively affect the life of another. I am always amazed and awestruck at the power of the Gospel of Christ. Of course, upon obedience to the Gospel one becomes a Christian. Interestingly, the word “Christian” is a much abused term in today’s religious circles. So then, we must ask, “What does it really mean to be a Christian?”
Firstly, a Christian is one who has been forgiven. Now notice carefully, a Christian is not sinlessly perfect! He or she has not somehow risen above temptation or trials (cf. James 1:2ff). Instead, the Christian is simply one who has obeyed a specific plan (Acts 4:12); is following a specific Person (John 14:6; 1 John 2:6) and because of that, his or her past sins have been forgiven (Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5; et al). Furthermore, every sin he commits, while walking in the light, is continuously forgiven (1 John 1:7-9). “Forgiveness” is one of the most beautiful words in the Bible!
Secondly, a Christian is one who is part of the family. How lonely would Christianity be if lived in seclusion? Can you imagine what it would be like to try to face each day without the support and strength of others with a “like precious faith” (cf. 2 Peter 1:1)? Being part of the family of God on earth (Ephesians 3:15) provides mutual support, which includes entreaty for each other (Acts 12:5; 2 Corinthians 1:11), encouragement from each other (Hebrews 10:24) and empathy towards each other (Acts 4:34-36; 1 Peter 5:9). We weep and rejoice together (Romans 12:15)! Sometimes as God’s children we fail to really lay hold of this great blessing. Some Christians “run in and out of worship” so quickly that the family aspect is never really enjoyed. Being part of the greatest family on earth is a wonderful blessing!
Thirdly, a Christian is one who has a future. Faithful Christians are “bound for that wonderful city”! Truly this is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, blessing of Christianity! Just imagine a future of no sin (Revelation 21:27), no sorrow (Revelation 21:4) and no separation (Revelation 22:4)! What a future, surrounded by God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, obedient angels, and every faithful, obedient person since the dawn of creation!
Christians are surely the most blessed of all people, not only in this life, but certainly in the life to come (John 10:10). Forgiveness, a family and a future surely brighten the darkest of days, lessen the heaviest of loads and strengthen the weakest of saints. Do you enjoy these wonderful blessings? Are you a Christian? Please consider prayerfully!
Interesting, isn’t it, what children learn to say at a young age. What joy fills the heart of a parent to hear the words “mommy” and “daddy” from their little ones. There is not as much joy, however, when close on the heels of such endearing terms follows terms like “mine!” Selfishness seems to start at an early age in life, and parents are challenged to instill the concept of sacrifice into their children, rather than allow such attitudes to go unchecked. It is unfortunate that our society seems to revel in selfishness, and many young people behave inappropriately, not having been taught and shown a more noble way to live.
As sad as this may be, it is just as sad to see this behavior in adults. In this case, it usually goes by other terms, like “I am just looking out for my best interests,” or “It makes good business sense” or “If you do not look out for yourself, who will?” Using such phrases as these, instead of saying, “I want it for myself” or “I’m being self-centered–so what?” is more socially acceptable, but the attitude of heart it reveals is no less undesirable. What does it say about a person who has become conditioned to getting what one wants, no matter the cost to others?
Sadder still is when such attitudes happen in those who are children of God. I do not know of too many Christians who would admit to being selfish. The practice of selfishness, as with any other sin, hardens the heart and anesthetizes one to its influence. We tend to rationalize such behavior, and why it is all right for us to act in such a manner. We do it often enough until we just do it and stop thinking about it. We fail to see in ourselves the motives at work or the desires that drive us. We wind up believing that getting what we want, when we want it, the way we want it is exactly what God wants for us. This deceptive element against what is right is what James warned against. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth” (James 3:14).
We can conquer selfishness if we pray for ourselves, from the heart, every day, what Jesus Himself prayed in the garden. “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Self-will must give way to God’s will, and it takes a serious dose of self-honesty to achieve it. We must be truthful about what motivates us, about how our actions line up with the Word of God. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). We must be self-controlled instead of self-willed (2 Timothy 3:2-3).
In many ways, the problems that beset us in our youth are still there for us to fight as we become adults. Selfishness, and the problems it can create for us in our relationships and in the Lord’s church, is one that can follow us all of our days if we do not allow the Word of God to transform us into the image of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Allowing our desires to motivate our actions is not Christ-like, and refusing to examine our hearts over what we say and do will not bring us to salvation. Being honest with ourselves is most difficult. Saying no to self is perhaps one of the hardest things we will ever be challenged to do. Yet, God’s abundant blessings are found only when we let go of self and cling to Christ. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). By whose will do you live?