Sunday, August 27, 2006

Friendly Fire

Let’s say you know someone that is constantly engulfed by sin and you make an effort to gently and humbly mention to this person that, if they would just change their ways and turn to God, they would get better. However, no matter how much you try to convince this person that you want what is best for them, they still continue to do what they know is wrong and, after a while, they begin listening to the lies provided to them by those who they classify as “friends” but who are really their enemies.

These “friends”, who are not really friends at all, congregate together submerged in the same sin knowing that, because everyone is struggling with the same sin, nobody will tell them that what they are doing is wrong. Because there is no correction, there is no growth. With no growth, a Christian’s walk with Christ begins to wither.

I think one of the hardest things to hear is criticism. Nobody likes to hear someone tell them that what they are doing or the way they act is wrong. One of the harsh realities of being a Christian is that we must work at being mature enough to help keep others accountable as well as allowing fellow Christians to hold us accountable. In order for us to make sure that times of accountability don’t turn into crazy confrontations, we must do our best to remain humble helpers and gentle guiders.

The Bible tells us that it is important to confront each other in a humble and gentle manner when we are trying to keep someone accountable to Christ (Galatians 6:1) The Bible also tells us that those who accept legitimate criticism are wise (Proverbs 13:18, 15:31-32, 25:12, 29:1, Ecclesiastes 7:5). Knowing this, valid criticism based upon God’s Holy Word and not our own judgments are an important aspect of fellowship with fellow believers.

When a brother or sister in Christ comes to you in a gentle and humble way and talks with you about how you need to change a certain aspect of your daily life, how do you respond? As a Christian, are you connected with fellow believers so that you can be a part of healthy accountability? While it may be hard to hear criticism, it is important that we remain mature and remember that “wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Loyalty Through Lifestyle

It is said that, during the first century, the symbol of the fish was used as a secret code by early Christians who were being persecuted in order to identify fellow believers. These Christians would draw half of a fish on the ground when they encountered a stranger and, if the stranger completed the rest of the fish symbol, then they both knew that they were in the company of a fellow believer.

For those of us who live in countries where there isn’t any major religious persecution, we are blessed with the ability to openly express our loyalty to Christ. Many place the fish symbol known as the ICTHUS (ICTHUS is a Greek acrostic that stands for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.") on their cars, jewelry, clothing, and even on their bodies. Such open expression of loyalty to the one who saves all who believe in Him is a beautiful thing; however, this declaration of allegiance should be just as obvious, if not more, through our actions and our lives as Christ-followers.

Galatians 5:22-25 tells us that, when we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, evidence of our allegiance to and love for Christ is apparent. Such evidence includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. While others might assume we have these “Fruits of the Spirit” just because we wear a symbol of a fish, such fruits can only be produced by the Holy Spirit’s help in our daily lives, not through any religious symbol.

Is your Christ-like attitude and allegiance turned off when you leave your ICTHUS branded car or when you take off your ICTHUS jewelry and clothes? If someone were to meet you for the first time, would they be able to tell that you are a Christ-follower even if you didn’t have any religious symbols nearby? It should be apparent to others that we, as Christians, serve the one true God and that we actually walk the walk of the Christian lifestyle instead of just claiming to. Communicating our loyalty to God through religious symbols is awesome, but without loyalty to God through our lifestyles, these symbols become nothing more than a false fa├žade.