Identifying True Christians

Once upon a time there was a great, big wolf, and he hadn’t eaten in days. His last meal was only a couple of small mice… not even enough for an appetizer. You can be sure he was on the lookout for some serious grub!

Suddenly, a flock of sheep caught his eye. As he looked at them grazing peacefully in the distance, immediately his mouth started watering uncontrollably, and his stomach growled expectantly at the thought of fresh mutton. But he was so famished and weak from hunger, he didn’t have the strength to chase down even one small lamb. What was he to do?

Then it came to him. “I know how I can get a plump, juicy sheep! I’ll dress up like one! I’ll put on a sheep skin and calmly walk in among them. They won’t even know! Then I can take my time to pick out the best!”

So the big, hungry wolf put his plan into action. He (conveniently) found a sheep skin in reasonably good shape, and spent a few awkward moments putting it on and adjusting the fit. Then he walked nonchalantly down to the flock. As he approached, none of the sheep raised the alarm. Some even greeted him and welcomed him as a new member of the flock.

It wasn’t long before he had found his sheep – a nice, fat one, more trusting than the rest. (This sheep happened to be one of the first to greet him when he arrived.) In less than a minute, he turned on the helpless creature and started devouring greedily.

At the sight of the behavior of the strange “sheep,” some of the flock were greatly alarmed and tried to warn the others, but those others just said, “He’s new to our flock. He doesn’t know our ways. Give him time to change. You’ll see.”

But the wolf, encouraged and strengthened by his success, and relishing the taste of fresh blood, began attacking other sheep at random, causing them to run this way and that.

Meanwhile, some other wolves happened to be walking by. Seeing what appeared to be one sheep attacking other sheep, one of them said, “I hate sheep! Look how violent they are, attacking each other! Peaceful creatures? Bah! What hypocrites!” So they also ran down into the flock and started harassing the sheep as well.

And so the world looks on Christians today with distain and hatred, because they see the actions of false Christians and think that’s what Christianity is all about. The lies of Satan, the great Deceiver, spread freely, and persecution results.

Real Christians are not those who say they are Christians. You can’t tell a genuine follower of Jesus by which church he goes to, how much he puts in the offering plate, which political party he subscribes to, etc. Real Christians are those who do what Jesus said, and He said things like…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 13:34-35 (ESV)

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

– Luke 6:35 (ESV)

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

– Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

True Christians are identified by love in action. This love includes doing tangible good to others, as well as warning the lost of the coming judgment, and pointing them to Jesus as the only savior from sin and hell. Some will not listen; others will slander and harm us. But when mistreated, a follower of Jesus does not respond in kind. A true Christian continues to love and do them good anyway, just as our heavenly Father continues to do them good. A Christian can do this only because he submits himself to the Holy Spirit Who enables him to do this. (Without such submission, the true Christian will have difficulty loving as he should.)

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

– Galatians 6:10 (ESV)

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:13

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

– 3 John 11

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

– 1 Peter 3:17

How To Gain Victory Over Sin – Additional Notes

Here are some additional notes that didn’t make it into the book, but may appear in a second edition. How To Gain Victory Over Sin was intended to draw attention to the most neglected, yet essential part of resisting temptation, but it isn’t the only important part. You should also spend time with other like-minded believers where you can share each other’s struggles and burdens, pray for, and encourage one another. Each member of the Body of Christ needs the others to grow.

Book location Notes
Page 4
“He begins with our need for salvation…”
Our need can be seen in Romans 2:1-6, our inability to save ourselves in Romans 3:9-20, and God’s solution to our problem in Romans 3:21-26.
Page 6
“Only after salvation…”
Another clue that Paul is saved is in verse 17: “So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.” It used to be Paul sinning, but it was no longer. This can only be said by the regenerate.
Page 7
“We all need…”
Some believers, by God’s grace, recognize from the beginning of salvation the futility of living in the flesh. They rely on the Holy Spirit right away. But this is not true of most believers. It wasn’t true of Paul.
Page 8
Footnote 13
Also remember Paul wanted to do good, and chapter 6 shows it is God’s will that we do good. So this victory is a practical one.
Page 9
Footnote 15
Some translations include an additional phrase in verse 1: “…who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” This verse begins with the word “therefore,” which always looks back to what has already been said. Paul refers back to the last time he mentioned the Holy Spirit in Romans 7:6. The verses between there and here contain a parenthetical argument showing the insufficiency of the Law to restrain sin, and hence our need for the Spirit. Also, remember this condemnation is self-condemnation (as in 1 John 3:20). Paul had just spoken of his sense of wretchedness in conquering sin, not about God judging him for his sin. Walking in the Spirit has nothing to do with justifying us in God’s eyes. That only happens through faith in what Jesus has accomplished.
Page 10
“He condemned sin in the flesh”
I take this to mean Jesus condemned sin in His own physical body. He kept Himself from sin.
Page 10
“The Mosaic law… empowers sin…”
The Law empowers sin like food empowers cancer. Food is always good, but if you have cancer, those cancer cells feed off the same nutrients as your healthy cells… and the cancer cells eventually take over the healthy cells – never the other way around. The Law does not cause sin, just as food does not cause cancer, but it does empower it. That’s its purpose, so that sin might become “exceedly sinful” (Romans 7:13).
Page 10
“…this law of sin and death that is already in us…”
Justification does not remove the sin nature. Suppose you are a kleptomaniac – someone with the urge to steal things. You go to court because you got caught stealing. If the judge pardons you, you have been justified from the crime… but you still have the urge to steal. In the same way, you still have sinful desires even though you have been justified of your sins. The Holy Spirit was given to enable you to overcome those wrong desires.
Page 11
Footnote 23
As much as we would like, the Spirit usually does not remove the lusts of the flesh. But it is sufficient that He enables us to resist them.
Page 11
“…because the mind of your natural self is an incorrigible rebel against God…”
This will seem shocking to those not familiar with Romans. The flesh will revolt against this! I’m uncomfortable with this! But that is what the following scripture (Romans 8:7-8) says.
Page 12
Footnote 24
Romans 7:18 is the point I’m getting across: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing…” Also, in Romans 7:23, Paul writes: “I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.” (Some translations say “carnally minded” in Romans 8:7. “Carnal” is the same word elsewhere translated “flesh”. Unfortunately, translating the word differently here tends to obscure the meaning.)
Page 12
Footnote 26
Be careful that you don’t view the Holy Spirit as a tool in your hands. The Holy Spirit is God. You don’t wield His power, you submit to Him.
Page 13
“While it’s certainly better…”
Resisting sin deals with the manifestations of the flesh, while sanctification deals with the flesh itself. Both are needed, but in terms of sanctification, we must place all our hope in God’s power.
Page 13
“…unless the root is dealt with, sin will keep coming back.”
James 1:14-15 says the lust (desire) of the flesh leads to sin, but sin when it has matured leads to death. This is why Paul says if you live by the flesh, you must die. It is the end result of this natural progression.
Page 13
“Just as…”
And both are appropriated through faith.
Page 13
“Your sanctification is God’s on-going work”
See Philippians 2:12-13 “…For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” Also, Colossians 1:29: “…according to His working…” Following Jesus is both easy (Matthew 11:28-30) and difficult… the difficulty lies entirely in the struggle with the flesh – putting it to death. But this the Holy Spirit equips us to do (Romans 8:13).
Page 13
“We’ll look…”
Another shocking paragraph. The “Don’t beat yourself up…” sentence is probably the most of all, but it is the logical conclusion when you consider God is the one who sanctifies us.
Page 13
“I’m not against works…”
We must learn to recognize the source of each of our works. Whatever we do, we need to ask ourselves: “Is this of the Spirit or the flesh?” If it is of the Spirit, then don’t quench or down-play it. But if it is of the flesh, it needs to be put to death by the Spirit.
Page 13
Footnote 27
Again, Paul not interrupting his topic with something totally out of the blue, i.e. the resurrection of our physical bodies. “Mortal bodies” means the bodies we are living in right now. Our resurrection bodies are immortal.
Page 14
“A chapter 6 believer…”
Some believers never even make it to chapter 6. They are the ones who presume on grace, and live like the world. Works of any kind are seen as unnecessary – even wrong. Yet, God saved us so that we could do the good works He has planned for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works do not lead to salvation, but they do procede from it.
Page 14
“A chapter 7 believer…”
If you think lawkeeping is easy, read Matthew 5:17-43. The Law primarily deals with the heart, which is desperately wicked.
Page 14
“A chapter 8 believer…”
This believer is also enabled to live up to the Chapter 6 standard. Real victory happens for him. He realizes we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, compare with Romans 7:24-25).
Page 15
Footnote 35
You will always serve a master – either the flesh or the Spirit. If you are not submitted to the Holy Spirit, then you are in slavery to the flesh. You cannot make the flesh your slave or make your fleshly mind serve you.
Page 16
“If your focus is…”
Not that trying in general is bad. It is the law-focused variety that is bad for believers because we live by faith. But law-focused trying for non-believers can be good if it leads to conviction of sin and the realization that law-keeping is impossible. Romans 3:20 says, “…through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” This is not just the knowledge of what sin is, but the revealing of the sin that is in ourselves. The Law is an essential part of the gospel (Galatians 3:24, 2:19, Romans 7:7).
Page 16
Footnote 37
“Flesh” here is easily seen not to be our carnal desires but simply our natural power, will, ability, etc. The flesh is what I can do, as contrasted with what God can do.
Page 16
“…there’s a war…”
Remember Romans 7:23 (“I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind…”). Also, Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire.” (This ties with the earlier note for page 12.)
Page 17
Footnote 38
The next verse is also important to remember: “Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.” We do not reap what we sow right away. This principle works both ways. We think because we haven’t suffered any consequences of living in the flesh right away, we got away with it, but that is not so. Sowing to the flesh will eventually come back to bite us. And as is with nature, the harvest is always greater than what was sown. (Remember these three principles of sowing and reaping: you always reap of the same kind, there is a gap in time between sowing and reaping, and you reap more than you sow.)
Page 17
Footnote 39
It is easy to focus too much on grace or too much on the Law. The Bible must be understood as a whole, without focusing on pet doctrines. For example, Jesus said not the slightest part of the Law would pass away until the end. Paul said the Law has been abolished. Both are correct, for Paul was speaking of the Law in relation to living for God’s approval – for salvation. The Law is the standard, but it is not a means. Arguments arise when each party looks at only a portion of scripture instead of the whole. You must understand that no biblical doctrine conflicts with another, so don’t set one passage against another. Instead, study to understand it so that it all harmonizes together.
Page 17
Footnote 39
Also see Galatians 2:19, 5:18. The Mosaic Law applies to the flesh. When the flesh dies, the Law is no longer needed to control it.
Page 17
Footnote 40
The effort we expend in sanctification is focused not so much on keeping commands as on denying ourselves and crucifying the flesh through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-13). Without this, we won’t be able to keep His commands. Sin is the outward manifestation of an inner problem. As long as we allow the mind of the flesh to operate, sin will result. To gain practical victory over sin, the fleshly nature needs to be addressed. Otherwise, we’re just attempting to cover up the symptoms.
Sanctification involves active dependence upon the Spirit to become aware of the fleshly mindset behind the sins in our lives (like Psalm 139:23-24). It includes confession of those areas as they are revealed, and trust in God to not only forgive those things, but to sanctify us (1 John 1:9). It involves relying on the Spirit to be able to say “No!” to the flesh – to put the flesh to death. It involves the ‘reckoning’ of Romans 6:10-11, and the ‘presenting’ of our bodies as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13, 12:1). It involves relying on His power to obey. All of this requires some effort on our part, but it is the Holy Spirit who grants the success in these efforts. As such, keeping Jesus’ commands is the result of walking in the Spirit, not the means to walking in the Spirit.
Page 18
“It is the Spirit of Christ actually living through us…”
The Greek word for actor is ‘hypocrite’. Don’t act like Christ. Be real: Let Christ live through you by His Holy Spirit.
Page 19
“Fruit is the evidence…”
You cannot fake this fruit. No amount of self-effort will produce it. But you can produce counterfeits that might convince yourself or others.
Page 19
“We can’t do it on our own.”
Our dependence on the Spirit to live as Christians is sprinkled throughout the New Testament. Many of us (myself included) tend to gloss over the phrase “in the Spirit” or “by the Spirit” is superfluous in passages such as Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 1:8, Philippians 3:3, 1 Peter 4:6, and Romans 8:13. But we need to realize we can’t do it on our own. This takes mental discipline, which comes in the continual, conscious reliance on God’s power in us to live holy lives. There’s awareness that without Him we can do nothing, but with Him we can do all things. We must continually look to God to daily provide what is needed in us to live in the manner He desires. We never come to the point where we think we’ve matured enough to obey on our own. And we seek to avoid whatever hinders (grieves) this dependent relationship with God.
Page 20
Footnote 51
It is possible to think we have let go of the flesh when we haven’t really. Sometimes God lets us struggle on in our own strength until we truly give up on our flesh before He empowers us with the Holy Spirit. It is dishonest to intend to give credit to God for what you attempt in your own strength (Luke 18:11-12).
Page 22
“Romans 6 will no longer appear to be full of impossibilities.”
Romans 8:20 says the creation has been subjected to vanity. As a result of man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse (Genesis 3:17-19), we find our efforts in bettering and preserving ourselves continually frustrated, and ultimately unsuccessful, especially in regards to spiritual matters. (This ties with the condemnation of the Law in Romans 3:19 and the curse of the Law in Galatians 3:10.) But now we have received the “first-fruits of the Spirit” (verse 23). The Holy Spirit undoes the work of the curse, and our effort is no longer subject to frustration as we walk in the Spirit. It is now possible to successfully resist temptation. This benefit is only the beginning of what we will eventually receive, leading to the redemption of our bodies (verse 23).
Page 23
Footnote 58
A sacrifice is always of something good, not of evil. This sacrifice is not just the giving up of one or more sins, but the giving up of what you want to do to God.
Page 24
Step 1.c and 1.d
When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Outside of Christ, I can do nothing (John 15:4-5). In Christ, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Page 24
Step 3
“You don’t have, because you don’t ask.” (James 4:2)
Page 24
“God always provides a way of escape from temptation.”
Jesus told us to ask our heavenly Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Some translations say “evil one”, but “one” is not in the original language. We need God’s help to protect us, not only from the evil that can happen to us, but from the evil we can do.
Page 25
“…real fellowship with God…”
“the Spirit of truth … You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17)
Page 26
Footnote 64
If you have been born again, there should be evidence of the Holy Spirit in you. What evidences do you see in your life? Do other people notice you are becoming more like Christ? (Don’t be self-deceived into thinking you are making progress if nobody can see it.) There should be spiritual fruit developing, progress towards Christ-likeness, an increasing grief and abhorance of personal sin, and increasing love, trust, and obedience for Jesus Christ. The world should have less of a hold on you, and there should be an increasing burden for the lost. There won’t be perfection, and you may have occasional setbacks, but there should not be stagnation.
You should be able to perceive the Holy Spirit in you, just as you can perceive you are alive. One purpose of the Spirit is to testify that we are children of God (1 John 5:10, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19). The word for “know” in that last reference is eido, which means the knowledge of perception, not the knowledge of doctrine or learning. Eido means to see. You should be able to detect the Holy Spirit in you, not as a feeling, but through His work in your life.
If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, but you think you should, are you truly saved? Were you ‘saved’ as a result of something you did (i.e. agreed with a doctrine, asked Jesus to come into your heart, etc.), or because of something God did in response to your faith? Are you born of God?
Page 46 Taking on Christ’s yoke and carrying His burden implies effort on our part. However, the thing about His yoke (as with any yoke) is that it makes the work we are to do easier. Many Christians act like the yoke or burden is the Law. But Peter basically ruled this out in Acts 15:10. I understand His yoke to be the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness, and the burden to be the work God has for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Page 71
Footnote 147
The things these people did was not how they came to be Spirit-led. It was the result of being Spirit-led.

If you get a chance, I recommend some other books that may be more helpful to you in your walk with Jesus and struggle with the flesh:

Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray

The Calvary Road and/or We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

– Luke 11:13

The Blessing of Leaving All

And Jesus again answering says to them, “Children, how difficult it is that those who trust in riches should enter into the kingdom of God! … Verily I say to you, There is no one who has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, that shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time: houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the coming age life eternal. But many first shall be last, and the last first.”

– Mark 10:24,29-31 JND

How rich is too rich to enter the kingdom of God? It’s easy to look at the story of the rich young ruler and think he was over the limit, but it’s not a question of how much he had, but of how much his possessions had him. You don’t have to be in the top 1% of the wealthy for it to be difficult to go through the ‘eye of the needle’. Anyone, even the poor, can be hindered from coming to the Lord by their possessions. Whatever you are unwilling to freely give up can be your downfall. You don’t even need money to reap the evil that comes from the love of money.

The things listed in verse 29 are temporal. Yes, they’re important, but not as important as Jesus. It’s a matter of priorities. We are to love the Lord our God in a higher way than we are to love others (Mark 12:30-31). We show this love, not by what has been taken from us, but by what we have freely left to follow Jesus. James and John left their father to follow Jesus (Mark 1:20). The rest of the disciples also left all to follow Him (Mark 10:28). No, they didn’t ‘divorce’ their family… but they did obey Jesus’ call when it came. They put Him first.

Jesus promised that those who left family and possessions for His sake and the gospel would receive 100 times more in this life (…not as possessions, for we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth). Among those blessings we receive when we leave our temporal belongings is something that seems out of place: persecutions. It’s easy to think of mistreatment as a downside to our following Jesus, but it’s not. Elsewhere, Jesus said we are to view persecution for His sake as a blessing, and we are to leap for joy when it happens to us… because it means we have great reward waiting for us in heaven.

“Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from them, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as wicked, for the Son of man’s sake: rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in the heaven, for after this manner did their fathers act toward the prophets.”

– Luke 6:22-23 JND

Persecution isn’t something to fear. Jesus didn’t fear it, and neither did the apostles. Don’t you fear it either.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to go through anything His didn’t go through first. Jesus gave up all when He came to earth. He was first, but placed Himself as last, serving sinners. He was persecuted and ‘lost’ His life for the sake of the gospel. And now God has raised Him higher than all and put Him over all, and His name is blessed above every name. Let us follow Him.

Praying For Patience

Take thy share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

– 2 Timothy 2:3 (JND)

It is not our purpose to seek out suffering, but neither is it to avoid it.

It is jokingly said that one thing you should not pray for is patience, because if you do, God is going to send all sorts of calamity to try what little patience you do have. However, patience is a virtue that we need to have. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is a good, godly thing, and the only way to acquire it is to have it tried. To say, even jokingly, that you should not pray for patience focuses on the suffering rather than the goal. It cheats you out of Christ-likeness.

It is good to pray for patience, for that leads us to a greater likeness to our Master. To live as a Christian means we will suffer for Christ, and to suffer for Christ is to know Him better. Does our desire to avoid suffering exceed our desire to know Christ?

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, …

– Philippians 3:10 (JND)

Thoughts On Running The Race

Picture of older runner

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

– 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (ESV)

The way a runner runs depends on the kind of race he’s in. When the distance is small, an all-out sprint to the finish line is probably best. But when the distance is great, more self-control must be exercised.

For the best possible chance of making it to the finish line first, a runner must control his expenditure of energy such that he has just enough strength to make it across the finish line. If he runs the course with some energy left over, he hasn’t run as fast as he could have, and someone else might win. If he seeks to be the fastest at all points in the course, he exhausts himself before he gets to the finish line… and again, someone else might win. The goal is not being the fastest on the course or not being out of breath at the end. Getting to the finish line first is the goal, and sometimes that is only possible by treading the fine line between running too fast and too slow.

Paul compares our lives with running a race, but how does this control-of-energy idea play out in the spiritual realm? We don’t know how far away our finish line is (i.e. how long we are going to live), so how can we know if we should be trying for speed or endurance? What if I try to pace myself spiritually for a long life, but I die early? Or what if I go all out for Jesus, and burn out decades before I die?

Most of us don’t know how long our race is. But the writer of Hebrews tells us to assume we are in it for the long haul:

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …

– Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

We are in a spiritual endurance race, and so we must seek to make the most of the strength we do have. We must avoid stumbling blocks, making level paths for our feet. And we must seek out and remove whatever will slow us down unnecessarily.

Many of today’s athletes wear high-tech outfits designed to minimize wind resistance (or water resistance for swimmers). The tiniest detail of these clothes may make the difference between first and second or third place. In ancient Greece, runners would run naked for even greater speed advantage. They were not concerned with appearances. Their eyes were fixed only on the goal: a temporary crown of leaves.

In our race, our eyes are to be fixed on Jesus Christ. Like those ancient runners, we are also commanded to lay aside everything that hinders. The most obvious candidate for what hinders us is sin, but we must be aware that our fleshly nature will also slow us down tremendously. It’s those little details we tend to overlook that can take our prize away from us – details like false humility, love of money, apathy, jealously, and the like. We usually overlook these things because we think if we haven’t outright sinned, we aren’t hurting ourselves …but we are. These internal attitudes of the flesh will drag us down unless we deal with them as seriously as sin.

The finish line is the goal, but notice Paul does not tell us to merely make it to the finish line. He tells us to run as if there is only one prize, and you intend to be the one to obtain that prize, whatever it takes. Not knowing if our race is long or short, I believe the only right way to run this race is to rely on the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11, Ephesians 3:20-21). When we learn to rely on God’s power, we will be able to run the spiritual endurance race as if it is a sprint. We will be able to go all out, exhaust ourselves, and yet continue running on God’s power.

May you finish your race and receive your prize! (2 Timothy 4:7)

Is Jesus an honored Guest?

Today’s Christians, myself included, tend to think of God wrongly. We think of Him as the honored guest in our lives.

My wife and I like to have people over for dinner at times. Wanda likes to cook, and whenever we have guests, she’ll cook up something special – and maybe go overboard with it. And that is a good thing. It’s part of being hospitable.

We also spend time talking with our guests, and maybe we’ll watch a movie together. But eventually, it’s time for the guests to leave. We then clean up and retire for the evening.

That’s the nice thing about guests: you can enjoy the fellowship, and then enjoy getting back to your own lives when they leave. Generally, guests don’t overstay their welcome.

A guest may be greatly honored, but a guest does not have the same rights as the home owner does. A guest can’t rearrange furniture, move his stuff in and yours out. He can’t dictate what kind of food will be served and when. None of that. A guest just comes, and then leaves.

When we enter into a relationship with our heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, it is not a guest relationship. Rather, it is one where God now becomes the Owner and Master, and we become His children. He has the right to dictate what stays and what goes in our lives. We don’t have the right to kick Him out when we feel He’s overstayed His welcome – when we think He’s getting a little too demanding.

We worship God, but do we seek His will and obey Him? That also is worship.

“Have this mind in you…”

“Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

– Philippians 2:5

This phrase begins the best known hymn of the early church, a hymn of praise to Jesus who humbled Himself to the level of a slave, and died a slave’s death, to reconcile us to God. But we tend to overlook this command for all the good doctrine about our Savior that follows it. And when we consider obeying it, we think only in generalities.

Next time you spend time in the gospels reading about Jesus, frequently recall this phrase: “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Every time you see Jesus heal the sick, instruct His disciples, speak of the kingdom of God, deal with those who oppose Him, etc., ask yourself why He did what He did or said what He said, then ask the Holy Spirit to transform your mind to think the same way. Discover the mind of Christ, then have the same mind in you.

Fashion Show

(Here’s a half-developed idea for your perusal…)

In the clothing industry, big name fashion designers show off their latest designs at fashion shows. Each model wears the designer’s clothes and walks up and down a catwalk while photographers and others look on. This is so they can see how the clothing looks and fits as the model moves and poses.

Yesterday, I thought of a strange twist on this. I’m a down-to-earth guy who’s not so much interested in form as function. I’d rather see how useful the clothing is than how it looks. (My wife would rather me be otherwise.) So, I wondered how typical designer fashions would fare in real-world conditions. My idea is to have a fashion show with powerful fans blowing lots of cold air, rain, and snow on the models. I want to see how well the fashions perform in bad really weather. After all, I don’t want to wear something that can’t handle the real world!

Ok, so it’s a stupid idea, even if it would make for a cool LL Bean outerwear commercial. But, I am going somewhere with this.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, …

– Romans 13:14

When Paul told us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, he used a picture of putting on clothing. I usually take this to mean I need to put on Christ for the personal benefit of my day-to-day living in the world. But yesterday it occurred to me that we Christians are also to be like fashion show models, walking up and down the catwalk for all world to see. Like those models, our job is to draw attention to what we’re wearing, not ourselves. We’re displaying the Lord Jesus Christ.

In order to do that, before we get in the spotlight, we have to take all our raggity old clothes off, and put on the Designer’s clothes exclusively (Colossians 3:5-11). We’re here to showcase Jesus and Him only. Everything else is a distraction. (That means no prideful strutting about.) Like all fashion shows, all the glory must go to the Designer, not the models.

This show we’re in is not like any earthly fashion show or beauty pageant. It runs 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives. Instead of photographers and fans of the Designer, we’re surrounded by His competitors – His enemies. They don’t want Jesus to look good, so they throw mud and all kinds of nasty stuff. When we get hit, we mustn’t take it personally. After all, it’s not us they hate so much as Christ.

And so the show goes on. But because we’re wearing Christ, we don’t respond in kind. When they curse, we bless (Luke 6:28). When they abuse us, we intercede for them. When they hate us, we show love to them. (The garment of Christ enables us to do this.) And after all is said and done, the clothing of Christ is no worse for wear. He wears well no matter what we’ve been through!