"The nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes." ~ Ezekiel 36:23

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

knighted with a mission

My daughter Rachel recently completed an essay for a class assignment that touched my heart and sparked a reminder of who we are, as believers, as followers of our Lord Jesus.  I asked her if I could share it with you.

They Will Know Us
Rachel Larson
December 12, 2011

Modern Christians possess the same responsibilities as they did centuries ago. Amazingly, Paul and Timothy, first century Christians, frequently and wholeheartedly took the time to encourage others, humble themselves, use their gifts, and they were cautious not to judge other people. Doing those kind and inspiring actions while faced with persecution and under the threat of death requires a person who has a strong relationship with God. It takes someone who cares. In today’s world, Christians often forget what others have suffered in the past to make it so they could worship and serve the Lord freely in the present.

 Why would Christians all those years ago do that? Along with wanting to be strong in God, was there another reason?  As many responsibilities as there are they all point back to loving others.  Paul and Timothy had a mission to save people, which allowed them to know about what kind of life they could have with God after their Earthly life was over. Shouldn't all Christians have that same mission? In order to do this, they don’t have to leave their cities or the countries they live in. Leaving their house and just helping someone is already taking the steps to begin that mission. If Christians don’t at least try, how will others know them?

Because of new perspectives and life experiences, it becomes increasingly difficult to love others as you grow older yet it is a momentous and crucial duty of a Christian. Genuine love is explained plainly and unapologetically in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 by Paul, who wanted it to be clear to the church in Corinth:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

In the New Testament is definitely not the only place to find verses that discuss love. Proverbs 25:21-22, two of the most well known verses speak of loving your neighbors can be found in the Old Testament.

"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you."

Actually, the first time a person reads this, they may think that they’re not exceptionally nice verses. On the contrary, it means that if you are kind and loving to someone that does not think well of you, they will realize you know something they don’t. Should we take heed? For Christians, this can mean leading someone to becoming a believer, but love should not be used for that sole purpose. Ministering to others is important, of course, but loving people and never hating others will also help a Christian’s relationship with God, and ultimately, make them a better and more compassionate person.

In addition to loving others, a significant responsibility for a Christian is using your spiritual gifts. At the time of your salvation, when the Holy Spirit enters you, you receive a gift that is meant to be used as a way to minister and witness to others. In Romans, Paul writes to the people of Rome about it, penning:

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:6-8)

Naturally and purposefully, God gave people their gifts to expand His kingdom. It is definitely your most important purpose. As J. Hampton Keathley III, who authored ABCs for Christian Growth, points out, “In addition to these, however, there are many natural and developed talents that people have and can use in exercise of these spiritual gifts.” If someone has a love for politics or public speaking; they could use their spiritual gift of speaking, teaching, serving, or even words of wisdom.

There are numerous talents and spiritual gifts that go hand in hand and are valuable when used together. Expanding on the subject, Keathley has yet another point, “A spiritual gift is not a particular specialty or method of ministry. The gifts of teaching may be used through radio or through writing or through the classroom.” No one should be discouraged if they do not know yet what their gift is. It is something that will be discovered as they grow in the Word and form a deeper and meaningful relationship with God. Once you understand and appreciate what you can do with the Holy Spirit, you should not just be happy about the fact you know what it is. A responsibility of a Christian is to exercise their talents and not let them go to waste! As Paul wrote Timothy, his ‘true son in faith’, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:14)  Now, while it may not be extremely relatable, maybe you do not have the gift of prophesying or you did not receive your gift in that specific way, the first part of the message is clear and should be held in the hearts of Christians. Do not neglect your gift. Clearly, using your spiritual gift once you have begun to learn about it is a vital responsibility of a Christian.

Judgemental. Unforgiving. Close-minded. This perception of modern day Christianity stems from our lack of humility and love toward “the world”. Sadly, when humility is brought up or discussed in a sermon or Bible study, it seems to be quickly dismissed. Many forget how essential being humble is to being a “good” Christian and to furthering your relationship with God and with others. After King Solomon finished constructing and dedicating the temple, as written in 2 Chronicles, the Lord appeared to him once again. In Chapter Seven, verse fourteen (7:14), God clearly states, “… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” People forget that they are no better than anyone else. There are three definitions of the adjective ‘humble’ in the Encarta Dictionary, the first being modest; modest and unassuming in attitude and behavior; the second - respectful; feeling or showing respect and deference toward other people, and the last -lowly; relatively low in rank and without pretensions.

 It should be known, without having to point it out, that people called by God should act respectful, modest, and even lowly, “valuing others above yourself” (Philippians 2:3). Along with humbleness, Christians should remember not to judge those around them. While it is not much of a secret that average secular people think Christians are judgmental and only want others to change their ways, not all Christians act that way. Judging, however, is not ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ no matter how much someone thinks that they are graciously and positively helping. Paul writes to the Rome in Romans 2:1-4, lettering,

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who have pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?"

Undoubtedly, a large responsibility of a Christian is being humble, but judging people should be left up to God.

Encouraging others goes hand in hand with being humble, using your gifts, and loving your neighbor. When you love, doesn’t that include supporting people and cheering them on? When you’re humble, won’t it bring you closer to understanding someone else and being capable of heartening them? When you use your gifts to encourage someone, isn’t that what a Christian, exercising compassion should do? Yes. In 1st Thessalonians Chapter five, Verse eleven (5:11), Paul once again writes to people, trying to encourage them, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Constantly, the people of Thessalonica, which is now known as Thessaloniki and is the second-largest city in Greece, had been true to God despite substantial , unspeakable suffering and despair but were worried for other Christians. Paul wrote them a letter, beginning the heartfelt correspondence with an earnest greeting, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father you work produced by faith, you labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” With these words, we immediately and sensitively begin to understand that the Christians of Thessalonica were strong in their faith. It is also apparent that they still needed encouragement since they were anxious. The sturdiest believer requires support and prayer, even if they don’t seem to. Several times in the New Testament Paul and a companion travel somewhere with the sole purpose of offering prayer and assistance; if a Christian so close to God travels great distances to encourage others, doesn’t that mean it is something that modern day Christians should focus on more? Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” It becomes clear that encouragement is just as important as any other responsibility, and is truthfully needed to continue being a strong Christian.

Every person who calls themselves a Christian should understand or at least having a basic idea of the responsibilities of being a Christian. Christians should think about why the responsibilities are their responsibilities? Why would God appoint us with these duties without a purpose? There is a purpose. The people of the world that follow Christ, which means following God as well, are knighted with the mission of spreading the Word of God. Expecting a person to devote and spend their lives ministering to non-Christians as foreign missionaries is not realistic, although there are those that do. Even the average Christian is capable of witnessing though, especially in their own community. In loving others, Christians can find an emotional and amazing way to minister and serve their neighbors. Truthfully, that is why love is the most important responsibility, not much of a duty once a person thinks about it, but a privilege instead; a perfect, personal privilege that should not be taken lightly nor carelessly. While love is the most significant, no one should forget about humility, their spiritual gifts, or encouragement, as each responsibility balances each other and is helpful in this world we live and love in. Hence, it is easy to see how others will know Christians. They will know us by our love.

Forster, Pam. For Instructions In Righteousness, A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child-Training; Gaston, OR. ; Doorposts Publishing; 1993.
Keathley, J. Hampton III. ABCs for Christian Growth; Biblical Studies Press; 1996
The Holy Bible; New International Version Bible; Zondervan; Grand Rapids, MI; 2011

1 comment: