Thursday, September 8, 2011

Alright I'm Special, So Now What

Yesterday I wrote on how we are special as Christians, today I want to talk about what that means.  I also want to take a little pin to any pride I may have caused in yesterday's post by reinforcing that being special has nothing to do with us. I will begin with the latter.
But no man can tame the tongue. [It is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  James 3:8-9 NKJV

So God created man in His [own] image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Genesis 1:27 NKJV
Every person who lived, lives, and will live is created in the image of God.  God establishes that reality at Creation and James reinforces it in his epistle.  We may be special, but that does not mean we have any right to look down upon or curse those outside Christ.  They are no different than we were before our salvation and the invitation is no less open to them as it was to us.  This includes everyone.  God's desire is that all should repent and come to Jesus.  We have no right under God to think or act otherwise.  I can not emphasize enough that we can not let pride enter into our hearts and think that chose us for anything that we were or anything we had done before we came to Jesus.  We were just as Hell-bound as anyone else outside of Christ.  We were just as filthy as anyone else.  The only difference is that we recognized what wretches we were and called upon the Lord.  Our job now is to share that good news with others, with no partiality, with no arrogance, and with no prejudice. 
Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Once we are in Christ, that filthy wretch that we once were ceases to exist.  We are washed by the blood of Jesus and are new creations in Christ.  That has to mean something for our lives.  The Bible tells us that all things have become new, not just those things we want to be new.  We will have a new family, new conduct, new relationships, and a new purpose.  We will no longer be bound as slaves to sin, but we have now become slaves of righteousness. We once lived to please ourselves, and we are now living to please God.  I realize that all of this does not happen instantly.  We drag that old dead wretch around with us for quite some time, and for some for all times on earth.  This is not because we are not a new creation, it is because we do not consider what that should mean for our lives or we just do not believe it at all.  We will not act like new creations if we believe we are the same old person we once were.  Jesus is not something we add to our lives, but someone who transforms our lives into something new and better.  We must believe that.  We must believe that we are a new creation in Christ.
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  John 17:14-16NKJV
That new creation we have become is no longer part of the world.  The Bible also calls us a peculiar people.  We are special and in that we are distinct from the rest of the world.  Just as Jesus was not of the world and ultimately rejected by the world, we are not of the world and will be rejected by the world for His sake.  The very idea of conforming ourselves to the world God took out us out of is anathema to the Gospel.  In fact, it is impossible.  Those Christians who choose to live worldly lives are merely pretending to be something they once were.  They are playing at being part of the world while denying the new creation apart from the world that they have become.  We must know and believe that we are no longer of this world.  We have to believe, as the Bible tells us, that we are merely sojourners traveling through this world on our way to our true home. 
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26 NKJV

So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life.  Mark 10:29-30 NKJV
Being apart from the world has many ramification in our lives.  One of the first is a new family and a different relationship with your earthly family.  This is especially true if your family does not know the Lord.  We often hear the phrase "blood is thicker than water" in reference to familial relationships being more important than friendships.  However, the blood of Christ is thicker still and the relationship we share with the others in the Body of Christ is deeper than any family or friendship we can ever have otherwise.  This is even better when our family is in the Lord with us.  Many who come to Jesus are rejected by their families and many others are distanced in that they can no longer participate in family traditions that are inconsistent with the life of a Christian.  We have a rather unique family and one our earthly families will never understand lest they too come to Jesus.  We are bound by the blood of Jesus, brothers and sisters together under our Father in heaven, joined for eternity as coheirs with Christ.  What we share now is even beyond marriage as even marriage is only until death.  The family of God transcends even that as we will share eternity together in a family under God and bound in perfect love.  No other kind of family on earth can make that claim.  What we share is unique. 
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with [his] hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Ephesians 4:28-30 NKJV
Another ramification of being apart from the world is that we no longer behave like the world.  That worldly person is now dead.  That is the old man, the one crucified with Christ.  That was a time of self, before we gave up our selves.  That was when we were slaves to sin, before we died to sin.  I love the contrast given here, it shows just how dramatically different we now are.  The thief, who once stole from others for personal gain, is now called to be a philanthropist, one who earns his own and uses what he earns to serve those less fortunate.  We are completely diametrically opposed to what we once were and by that to what the world still is.  Our conduct should be an enigma to the world.  They should see a new person with new interests doing new things, and finding joy in it.  They should not see someone who is still just like they are except that we do not sleep in on Sundays.  We once lived to satisfy the flesh, we now live to please God and through that we live to serve others.  We once lived as slaves to sin, now we are examples of the pursuit of righteousness as we live under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We once reacted with anger whereas now we return wrong acts with the grace of love of Jesus Christ. 
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NKJV
And having new relationships and new conduct, we inevitably have new fellowship.  We are better than the world.  I say that not as a matter of pride as I can not emphasize enough that we are only better than the world because of what Jesus has done for us and is now doing in us.  Please do not confuse the work of God in our lives with any kind of pride, but the fact is that we are better than the world.  We are the light of the earth, we can have no fellowship with darkness.  We are followers of Jesus, what business do we have putting ourselves in position to follow a false competitor to His throne?  We are believers, what can we have in common with unbelievers?  I am not talking about friendships.  We must be friends with sinners to lead them to Christ.  But we should not share the same or even better fellowship with unbelievers as we do with believers.  We can not possibly have the same relationship with an unbeliever that we should be able to have with a believer.  We should have little in common with someone in slavery to sin and in love with the world.  The unsaved are simply not qualified to be a best friend or romantic interest.  They can not know our Father and so they can not know us.  They do not know Jesus and so they certainly can not lead us or help us in our walk with Him.  They see things from a worldly perspective and in that any advice they give is inherently suspect.  How can they counsel us in spiritual matters?  Simply put, they can not. 
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10 NKJV
And, finally, we have a unique purpose.  As we no longer seek after self interests, but are about being about God's work, our purpose in life inevitably changes.  Whereas we once cared about taking care of ourselves and our family, we now rely on God for those things as we seek after His will for our lives.  Many have left lucrative careers under God's direction.  Some are called to leave all their earthly possessions behind for the Lord. Some are called to move away from family and friends for the Lord.  Some are called to leave even their countries behind for the sake of the Gospel.  Those good works created before us before we even existed are now revealed to us as we seek after His purposes for our lives.  This may not sit well with a world who teaches us otherwise.  This may meet with resistance from those who do not understand putting their faith in God to provide their needs.  The world is about careers, money, power, material possessions, and popularity.  We are about the Gospel with the rest being seen for the distracting trash that it is.  We are about laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven while letting the world fight for the scraps down here on earth. 

All are created in the image of God, but only those in Christ are new creations in Christ.  We are a peculiar people, distinct from the world that rejects us.   We are special and we must begin to act like it.  Please do not ever think that associating yourself as a Christian means that you are one.  Being a Christian means that you are seeking after Jesus Christ.  Being a Christian means that you are the light and salt of the earth, being examples of the righteousness of God and emissaries of the Gospel.  Being a Christian means we are, like Jesus, about our Father's business.  Being a Christian means the realization that this world is not our home and we should not entangle ourselves on our way through.  Being a Christian means we are different, we are distinct, and, by the power of God, better than the world. We must stop hiding who we are and keeping others from seeing the light inside us.  We must reach the world by preaching and living the Gospel each and every day of our lives. 
I will praise You, for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And [that] my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, [And] skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When [as yet there were] none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! [If] I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139:14-18 NKJV

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