Becoming a Christian isn’t something that happens by accident. The apostle Paul tells that it’s actually a two tiered system. First, even before we were born God knew which us would believe and arranged beforehand for our salvation. Next, He draws those believers to Himself through faith in Christ. Doing so for the purpose of conforming His chosen into the likeness of His Son, Jesus. For some this can be confusing. Because if God chooses beforehand who will be saved, how does free will come into play? But in Isaiah 55:8-9 God tells us His thoughts and ways are higher than our human minds can comprehend. So even though we might not understand, how both predestination and free will work hand in hand, it’s ok. Because the wonderful bottom line is that who call Jesus Savior, will become children of God, and spend a glorious eternity by His side.
1 John 3:9
When we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become new creatures, “born of God.” Adopted children of the Most High, who receive His “spiritual DNA” through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And because of this indwelling, our spiritual hearts should long for a new way of life. One that no longer yearns to walk in sin, concerned only with fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. But instead one which strives to live in God’s perfect will, freed from our old, corrupt way of life. For as John tells us, if we knowingly and eagerly live in habitual sin, we should be questioning our relationship with the Lord. As fallen beings, we all sin and fail daily. But if our hearts and lives remained unchanged as Christians, we have a problem. And if we aren’t feeling convicted, remorseful, or ashamed of our sins, we need to re-examine our faith.
One of my very favorite quotes comes from Abraham Lincoln. He famously said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” This world is filled with troubles, and being a Christian doesn’t make us exempt. In fact it may mean even more trials, suffering, and persecution. But unlike the rest of the world, we don’t fight the battles of life in our power. Instead, we stand in the power and might of God. As Ruler and Creator of all, there is nothing that can overcome God. And nothing that can overcome us when we abide and trust in Him. Each day we need to begin by putting on the armor of God. That way, we can stand strong against the Enemy and victoriously live out God’s will.
1 Peter 2:10
When describing Israel, Peter calls them a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession. And now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we too are part of God’s people. And having been grafted into His family, makes us eligible for the same mercy, the same identity, and the same blessings. Once we wandered through life alone, belonging to no one, and serving our own desires. But now, like the Israelites, we belong to God. We are all one people, one nation, whose citizenship is in heaven. And as children of God, we are called by His name, and have the right to call Him, Abba, Father. (John 1:12-13) Like God did for Israel, He is doing for us, preparing a permanent home by His side. Where one day we will all, as one family, dwell with Him for eternity. We will forever be His people, and He will forever be our God.
It is said that you can judge the character of a person by the way they treat those who can do nothing for them. Jesus uses children to hit the point home. Children are some of the most vulnerable in our society. Those who have to humbly trust others to care for them and meet their needs. And Jesus says the way we treat and value them reveals the status of our hearts. As innocents, children have no power, leading them to depend on those greater than themselves. So true believers seek to help, teach, empower, and receive them into God’s kingdom. Not for our own power or glory, but all for God’s, as we act in faithful obedience. Because Jesus calls us all to be like little children. To have a faith that is true, humble, and completely dependent on God. And most of all, our Savior came to be last and a servant to all, so when we honor and receive a child, we honor and receive Christ Himself.
1 Timothy 4:12
The world today is obsessed with youth. And instead of growing older being seen as a gift, our society fights it tooth and nail. But when it comes to wisdom, the young are usually dismissed for lack of experience. And this was the case for Timothy. As a young church leader, Timothy needed the encouragement he received from Paul to be strong, and influential to all generations by his conduct. And the same goes for us. No matter our age, we are all valuable children in God’s family. Each of us has a specific purpose in the ministry. And like Timothy, we all are to be examples of Christ with our words, actions, love, and faith. So may we seek to display those godly, fruits of the Spirit for all to see. And may we never look down on fellow believers. Because young or old, we are all precious to God, and we are called to present ourselves as godly examples in a fallen world.
We all have a spiritual walk, and are in different places on the path of faith. And as children of God, our Father expects us to help each other make the trek to becoming mature Christians. While it’s true that we all stumble, God gives us an extra warning against causing a fellow believer to fall into sin. In fact, Jesus says it would better to be drowned in the sea, than face Him and the consequences for making a fellow brother or sister fall in faith. So in light of the seriousness, we need to be extra careful . Careful about the examples we set, the words we say, and the teachings we share. We should be constantly aware of the weakness of others, and never encourage them to act in a way that the Bible specifically prohibits. God calls us to builders of faith, not demolition crews. Brightly shining lights on the path to righteousness, so that others following don’t lose their way.
1 John 3:10
John tells us that there are two kinds of people. Those who truly love and follow God, and those who don’t. And you can tell who is who just by looking at their lives. Because it’s a person’s actions, not their words, that show whether or not they are a member of God’s family. We all sin and fall short daily, but John says a true child of God doesn’t have a life marked by habitual, unrepentant sin. And a true child of God lets love lead him in all he does. Because the greatest command God gives us is to love Him fully and completely, and to love others as ourselves. For it was love that brought Jesus to pay the sin debt we owe. And love that made our redemption possible. So if, as children of God, love isn’t fully on display in our lives for all to see, we have a problem. Because as Christians, we should be both thinking and acting according to the nature of our heavenly Father instead of the nature of the fallen world in which we live.
Some wonder how a loving God could send His only Son to die an excruciatingly painful death. Why would He allow Jesus to suffer on behalf of a world of undeserving sinners? Because of His amazing, unmerited love towards us, God was willing to pay any price to call us His. In His deity, sitting at the right hand of the Father, Jesus was already perfect. Yet God sent Him to suffer on this earth to make Christ even better. But how could suffering make our perfect Savior better? Because it was through the pain and suffering Jesus endured, that He got a perfect picture of who we are. How frail, limited, desperate, and hopeless humanity is. He felt the same pain, agony, despair, and loneliness we, God’s children feel. And because of that, He perfectly knows how to help bring us to God, and transform us into His likeness. And through His sacrificial death, Jesus fulfilled God’s plan of reconciling His children back to Himself.
From childhood we are all taught the golden rule. “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matt. 7:12) Easier said than done. Because no matter how well you treat people, there will be some that will still mistreat you. The truth is, in our own strength it’s impossible to treat those who hurt, abuse, and misuse us. But in the strength of the Spirit, nothing is impossible. But why is God so insistent on us being different from the world? Why does He want us being good to all people? Because if God treated us in the way we deserve, there would be no hope. For we too were once His enemy. But God has nothing but love for all of His children. And so His greatest desire is for us to turn from our sin and receive the salvation He freely offers. And we as followers of Jesus, should want the same for all of our brothers and sisters. So we are to show God’s love and mercy to both friends and enemies, in the hope that they too will repent and be saved!