Friday, June 17, 2016

Living the Way Jesus Wants

God loves us. His love is immeasurable and profound. God’s love, as demonstrated on the cross, teaches us how we are to love others. The entirety of God’s Law is summed up in “love God and love people.” What does love look like, practically speaking?


Love is demonstrated in how we treat others. How we treat others flows out our character. For the first twenty years of life, parents, church leaders, teachers, and role models help to form our character. For many, those external forces can lead in the wrong direction. Ultimately, only Jesus working in our lives can produce the character necessary to love others the way God would have us to love.


Peter wrote to believers who were being transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Their salvation gave them the capacity to choose love over hate, even in the crosshairs of persecution. Peter reminded them of the attributes of a changed life. He reminded them that believers are deeply flawed, ruined sinners who have been redeemed by God’s grace by the blood of Christ.


Here are the attributes of a changed life:


1 Peter 3:8-12  Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”


When I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the Pharisees. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day modeled rules, but could be horrible people. What Peter learned from Jesus and from watching the Pharisees is that Jesus was about changing hearts, not just changing behaviors.


Five Attributes of Christians




Unity is a powerful thing. Over the years, I have seen many things help create unity. Some of those unifying forces were good. When we began to believe God would be honored by starting a church in this community, that unity pushed us together to work hard and make that belief a reality.


Sometimes negative forces foster unity. Time and time again, I have seen people rally around those who have lost loved ones. This is especially true when the person died young. In difficult times like these, hundreds of people at funeral homes or in church parking lots, waiting to speak to the family at a funeral. The people are huddled into groups telling stories, laughing and crying. Many are working behind the scenes to support the grieving family. Tragic losses have a way of pushing people together. They remind us that we need each other.


Unity is not “sameness.” Unity is the willingness to cooperate regardless of the differences. We can disagree on how something is to be done. However, we should be able to agree on what must be done and why it should be done! We desire to honor Jesus Christ by worshiping him and making disciples. We do this to please and obey God!


The truth is that we were designed by God to live in groups and to be responsible and accountable to them. This is not a popular reality these days. For instance, in our community group, we discussed church discipline. Back in days gone by, the local church helped to shape the lives of the members. Sometimes, this meant knocking off a few rough edges. In our discussion, we decided that in our culture today, people often move on to another small group or church at the first sign of accountability or disagreement.


Many of us are achievers by nature. It's hard for hard-driving people to just “show up.” We want to accomplish something. Unity is achieved by just hanging out and being together, sometimes.  Jesus taught that if we love God, then we will love his people. Living in community is a mark of a Christian.


2. Sympathy


Sympathy is hard to show in our narcissistic world. If all we do is think about ourselves—our needs, wants and plans—we don’t make time to reflect on others. Selfishness is the easy road. Living out the words of Paul takes a lot of spiritual strength:


Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.


The word sympathy literally means “to feel for and with” a person.[1] Sympathy is more than feeling sorrow with another person; it also means sharing another person’s joy. Being sympathetic is an essential way to display love to someone. God’s Word teaches us to love one another. We do have a moral and spiritual responsibility not only to ourselves and individuals, but to groups of people and, specifically, our church.


3. A tender heart


Tenderness is something that has been lost today. Jesus displayed kindness as he loved the outcasts and had mercy on the broken. We cultivate compassion by becoming a living example of genuine concern for people.


The church is in need of what every football team has: cheerleaders. The cheerleader is there to tell everyone that the team is going to win. When people come to church with a broken heart or broken lives, they need someone to cheer them on and tell them that they are on the winning team.


4. A humble mind


It is difficult to be humble when we have been told from the day you were born that we were special. Many of us have been recognized and awarded trophies for the smallest achievements. Humility has been a challenge for most of us. John Chrysostom called it the greatest of all virtues.


Life has a way of humbling you. One 41-year-old lady remarked, “Getting a hysterectomy, becoming concerned about the younger women with whom my husband works, and overhearing my son say ‘No woman over 40 can ever be considered sexy’ all occurred in the same month. I realized I had become my mother. Now that is humbling.”[2] I listen to a custom radio station on my iPhone. I am a little offended when they choose to advertise denture products. Believe me; I have nothing against Polident. I just don’t need it yet.


Humility is more than getting older. There is a difference between being humbled and exercising humility. Humility is a deliberate Christian discipline. Many of us struggle to have the humility to admit that we are not as unique and extraordinary as we think we are. Each of us is a fallible human just like the next person. We aren’t as superhuman as we believe that we are.


One successful businessman said, “I have far exceeded my financial goals, but my financial responsibilities have also far exceeded my expectations. My aging mother, my single daughter with a child, my son in college, and the stockholders of my company, are counting on me. I feel like everyone is expecting me to be a god, and I realize that is what I am indirectly promising them.”[3]


Christians are called to put others first by being humble. Being humble-minded means being teachable. Too many have their minds already made up about a person or a situation. A teachable person gives the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to help his or her understanding. When a person is teachable, they put aside agendas and self-interest.


Humility, for many, has been the painful realization that no individual is god. I have seen this through the eyes of parents with a prodigal adult son or daughter. The mom and dad wanted to change their child’s course—from drugs, poor money decisions, relationship issues, etc. However, they couldn’t reach inside their child to override their will. Humility has helped many accept their limitations in provoking change within others.


Humility is difficult for people who don’t like to listen. This includes many of us.


5. Love for enemies


One of the most difficult teachings in God’s Word is that we must not only love people of the church or people like us, but we must love our enemies.


In Peter’s day, believers endured lots of suffering and persecution. At the time Peter wrote, it was probably a grassroots persecution. However, official persecution was coming quickly. Peter prepared them by giving them Jesus Christ’s action plan: love your enemies.


Christians can respond to evil three different ways. A Christian can return evil for good; this is the lowest level of maturity. He or she can return good for good or evil for evil; this is the natural level of maturity. Or, a Christian can return good for evil; this is Christian maturity. Returning good for evil is the Christian’s response. Jesus taught returning good for evil in the Sermon on the Mount.


Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”


I imagine that Peter learned to return good for evil the hard way. Peter had a difficult time keeping his temper under control. For example, he drew his sword to fight off the men who came to arrest Jesus Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane. He cut off one man’s ear! Peter learned that his calling was to do good when others treated him badly. Tradition recorded that Peter was martyred--crucified upside-down—for his faith; he felt he was unworthy to die the same way Jesus died.


These attributes remind us that Christian living is impossible without the grace of Jesus Christ. Only by Jesus living within us can we approach life with this kind of commitment. Trying to imitate these attributes without being in a relationship with God will not get you into Heaven.


The need for grace is the problem of sin, and the problem of sin cannot be solved by the efforts of man. Nothing you do can cancel out the problems of sin. Only Jesus can save you. Once he does, Jesus begins an incredible work of grace in you as you grow in your faith.


When a person truly understand what a gift health is, they try to take better care of their body. Once a person knows that a job is a blessing, they try to work hard and do their best. When a Christian understands that grace is a gift of God, they will make the choice to live the life Christ has called them to live.

[1]Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, (Colorado Springs: Victor, 2001), 412.
[2]Gary Fenton, Good for Goodness’ Sake, (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2006), 169.
[3]Fenton, 175.