Thursday, December 31, 2009

Be A Better Christian

So the other day I was thinking about the end of the decade. I was thinking about what I could do to boost my faith a little more in the next year. What would make me a better Christian? What would make me a more proactive person of faith? Not just a "got my ticket heaven so I don't care about anything else" Christian. So I set out to find a good passage of scripture that really laid it all out. A verse that really sums up what being a Christian should mean. Most of the new testament epistles talk about what it means to be a follower of Christ. I however wanted something in the words of Jesus Himself.

After a bit of thought and meditation I felt drawn to Luke chapter 7. I felt to read the whole chapter not just a specific verse. So upon completing the 50 verses I thought "OK, that seems a little random, I don't get it." The chapter is comprised of four totally different stories during Jesus' ministry. They didn't have a common theme or message. So I read it again hoping to get some insight. The second time around things became magnificently clear. Lets first look at the four stories of Luke 7 separately.

Luke 7:1-10 Jesus healing the servant of a Roman Centurion.

Luke 7:11-17 Jesus raising a man from the dead.

Luke 7:18-35 Jesus discussing John the Baptist.

Luke 7:36-50 A woman washing and anointing the feet of Jesus.

So how in the world do these stories tell how to be a better, proactive Christian? Well lets start at the top. A Centurion was a Roman military officer in charge of about 100 men. This particular Centurion was a good master to his servant {vs.2}. He had respect for people of faith {vs.4-5}. He was a man with authority {vs.8} and respected the authority of Jesus {vs.7}. So Jesus heals the Centurion's servant because of his faith.

The next story in chapter 7 is that of a widow whose only son had died {vs.12}. Jesus comes upon the funeral precession and sees the mother weeping for her son. His heart goes out to her and tells her not to weep {vs.13}. Jesus then touches the coffin and commands the son to "get up" {vs.14}. The man comes back to life and begins talking {vs.15}.

Next we have two servants of John the Baptist coming to Jesus to ask him a question for John who is in jail {vs.18}. They want to know if Jesus is the messiah whom has been expected {vs.20}. At that question Jesus proceeds to heals many who are there and frees people of demons {vs.21}. Jesus tells the men to report back to John "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." {vs.22} Quick side note here---the word "poor" in the Bible doesn't exclusively mean lacking finances. The Greek word for poor is "ptochos" meaning afflicted, helpless, powerless, or someone lacking in anything.

After John's servants leave Jesus begins to talk to the people about the ministry of John {vs.24}. He tells them that John is not like a reed blown in the wind {vs.24}. That he is not a man concerned with things of the world {vs.25}. Jesus says John is a prophet and messenger of God {vs.26-27}. Jesus also explains the rejection they share though for different reasons. John removed himself from the worldly company and was said to have a demon {vs.33}. Jesus put himself in the company of sinners and was also rejected {vs.34}. Jesus sums up by saying that "wisdom is proved right by her children." {vs.35} Meaning both extremes had bore fruit.

The last story in Luke chapter 7 is that of a "sinful" woman. She finds Jesus eating a meal at the house of a Pharisee {vs.37}. She proceeds to fall at His feet weeping {vs.38}. She then washed His feet with her tears, kissed them and anointed them with a fine ointment {vs.38}. The Pharisees are horrified by this display because the woman is a sinner {vs.39}. Jesus points out that the woman had done what the Pharisees should have done. {vs.45-46}. It was customary in ancient times to welcome a guest into your home with a kiss and a washing of feet. I had the privilege of living in Jerusalem for 3 months in 1999. After walking around the old city for hours each day I got to see how dusty and dirty you feet get. I could have done well with a good foot washing or two.

So how do all these stories tell us to be better, proactive Christians? Look at the picture below.

So to be a Luke 7 Christian you need to be a respectable person of authority. A good soldier has disipline and leads by example. God has given us power and authority though Jesus and the Holy Spirit. With that authority we need to not fight against flesh and blood, but instead in the spirit realm. We need to have a respect for other people's of faith. The centurion was not a Jew, but he had a respect for the people and their faith. He also had a respect for Jesus. So use your God given authority to respect God, respect people and battle the enemy. Don't shame God by doing things in His name that are not edifying to others and to God.

Next we need to die to the sinful nature and raise again to a life in the Spirit. This isn't a one time thing. This should be a daily decision. Put off the old self and be alive in Christ! When Jesus raised this man from the dead he didn't just simply come back to life; the man began to talk. He was proactive in his new life. Don't be a Christian who is not proactive. Be a Christian that is alive not just living.

John the Baptist was a man that was totally committed to Christ and the message that He would bring. He was a man who live out in the wilderness separate from the society of worldly possessions. He did the work of the Lord and the Spirit testified through him. We need to do the same. Be separate for the world and totally committed to God. Speak His truth, testify His goodness, and save the lost. Stand firm in your faith. Don't be swayed in the wind by falsehood. Find the balance of being in the world but not of the world. Look at the comparison of Jesus and John in Luke 7:33-35. John had totally abstained from the world and Jesus was in the world surrounded by sinners. With God's wisdom you will know the balance by the fruit you bear. Be in the world but don't become the world. Be a new creature of light in the darkness and prepare the way.

Finally the servant heart of the sinful woman. Do you know that servanthood by default is worship to God? When we serve one another God is glorified. This service should be to one another in the body of Christ and then to the world. For how can we testify the humility and love of servanthood if we can't even get along with other believers? Get along with each other people! Serve people at your church. Serve people at your work. Serve each other in your marriage. Serve each other in your family. Then your will be a testimony in your service. Then you can reach out to the lost. This is worship in action. This glorifies the Lord! Get involved in your community. Get involved at your child's school. Get involved in anything really! Be an example of the servant heart of God and in turn worship Him. He is the reason that you have a second chance. Do all that you can to not let that go to waste.

So there you have the Luke 7 Christian. Use this as a challenge for the new year. Be proactive in your faith. Faith means two things 1} to trust in God 2} to obey God. Believe it then do it. Be a light that shines. Use your authority to edify and battle. Be alive and move forward. Be a testimony of Christ firm in your faith. Worship God and serve one another.

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