Would anyone be able to pick you out of the crowd, at your place of work or in your neighborhood, and identify you as a Christian? Can people definitively say, “I know he/she is a Christian,” or “I know he/she is a follower of Jesus?” What makes you look, act, think and speak differently than those whom you work and live with? Today, the Christian faith has not only come under attack, but many Christians themselves have become complacent and too willing to compromise their beliefs.
Unfortunately, Christians are known more for what they are against than what they are for. In the U.S. in particular, we have adopted for the most part a barely recognizable form of Christianity that almost completely ignores the teachings given by the Bible by the man we say we want to follow and be like: Jesus. Here are six teachings of Jesus that followers of Jesus should be taking more seriously.
Our lack of obedience leads to our constant need for forgiveness. Scripture tells us, “Be gentle and ready to forgive never hold grudges. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others (Colossians 3:13). But forgiveness is a concept many Christians struggle with. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Our inexcusable behavior has been forgiven by God, so if we are to have the stamp of Christ on our lives, that would include forgiving the inexcusable behavior of other towards us. We must be honestly repentant and truly sorry for the hurt we have caused God and others. We must not as for forgiveness just because the Bible tells us. While this is a good starting place, we have to know and feel in our hearts that we need to be forgiven and to forgive.
On Blessing Others
The Bible tells us, “love your enemies and bless those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). While Jesus encourages us to sacrifice ourselves and speak kind words of blessings to those with disagree with most, for many Christians, that isn’t always how we respond to others. There is always new controversy taking place in the Church. This can involve one group of Christians disagreeing with another group of Christians and the outcome of this situation ends with those taking to the internet to write slanderous posts about the other. This is not Jesus’ way and is absolutely contrary to what He would do. Instead of cursing those who offend us or we don’t agree with, Jesus calls us to speak blessings over them, even if the only thing we want to do is curse them out.
One of the key elements of Christianity is being open and willing to share your faith with others, but the practical way of doing that is often a struggle. Many Christians don’t share their faith out of fear of being ridiculed, disapproved and persecuted by the world. We hesitate to share and fear-based thoughts begin to show up. How do we tell others about God in a way that is effective? Some people think of sharing their faith as a commandment enforced by knocking on doors and throwing Bibles. Fortunately, this is not what God commands. We serve a loving God who didn’t design sharing your faith as a way to condemn others. We can witness to others by spreading God’s love and approaching witnessing with the right attitude and state of mind.
Many Christians spend a lot of time addressing the people that God is opposed to and who He condemns. They also spend time addressing how to shift from a place of condemnation before God to a position of grace through believing the right things about Jesus. They will also talk about those who disagree or live contrary to their understanding of what is “righteous” as those who are under condemnation from God.
But when you take a close look at Jesus’ life and teachings, we see that He not only befriended, loving and affirming some of societies most despised and vile people, but also chastising the religious leaders who condemned for their sin. Jesus said, “I have not come into the world to condemn it but to save it” (John 3:17). It appears that Jesus spends very little time telling sinner they’re wrong or speaking words of condemnation over them, but rather extending love and grace to those who have steered off path and need God most.
On Time with God
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours” (Matthew 11:24). As Christians, we know that prayer is a key part of our relationship with God but it isn’t always a part of our regular practice. Many Christians struggle with making adequate time for God, through prayer and communication. We live in a fast-paced world and while many Christians say God is most important their life, many struggle with fitting God into their daily agendas. Our lives don’t always reflect that God is at our center. What’s special about a solid relationship with God is that when we face struggle, we know where our help comes from.
One of the clearest messages throughout all four Gospel accounts is the way that we enter the Kingdom of God is through living in obedience to the Law of Christ. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus makes very clear statements that condemn those who think they will be saved because they say the right things or do the right religious rituals. Jesus responds to those who believe they are religious and deserve Heaven by saying that their outward religiosity is detestable and the only thing God desires is that they exercise their faith is by obeying the command of God – to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. We enter His Kingdom by doing God’s will, through loving God and neighbor. Looking or acting religious isn’t a qualifier.
In the Bible, God tells us, “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 537). On your faith journey, you will take more than one detour from Jesus. But in spite of those situations, your stubbornness, your self-righteous arrogance and a litany of other short comings, God loves you. If you don’t feel as close to Him as you once did, it isn’t God that has moved, but you that has moved.
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