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Sunday, December 25, 2016 pm                                                    Christian Index

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN (6)
The Christian and Others

 

We have begun addressing what is necessary to help a Christian grow.  We have noted some things that are necessary and we have noted some hindrances to growth.  In our last lesson, we addressed the Christian and the body of Christ.   We established that we need each other as brethren to grow.

Today, I want to address how the life of a Christian is about others.  This includes your brethren, but also being an influence within society.  So let’s take a few moments and address this topic. 

 I.            The life of a Christian is about others

a.       It’s not about me.  The life of a Christian is not to be one of selfishness.  Monasticism is not the life of a Christian.  There is too much of the Bible you have to ignore if you do try to isolate yourself.  Starting with Jesus’ prayer in John 17:14-17 – Jesus prayed to the Father, not to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 
In this lesson, we shall see that we are called upon to interact with others.  (Here in Bellflower, that has been a principal theme this year).

b.       Philippians 2:3-4 – esteem others better than yourself, let each of you look out for the interests of others.

1 Corinthians 10:24, says virtually the same thing addressing how we must consider how our actions affect others, including their conscience (10:29)

c.        Love your neighbor as yourself - Matthew 22:37-39 - The first and second commandments both deal with others.  Love God, while of the spiritual realm, He is another.   We love Him & devote our lives to Him.  A statement used multiple times in the New Testament including Galatians 5:14 all the law is fulfilled in this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
But then there is the second commandment, love your neighbor as yourself.  This within itself tells us we have a responsibility to others.   
Consider with this also Romans 13:8-10 – Love does no harm to his neighbor.
Romans 12:18 calls for us to do our part to leave peaceably with all men

d.       Who is my neighbor? Luke 10:29-37, Jesus gives us an answer to this question in the parable of the good Samaritan.  But the point in these passages is that we need to be concerned about our neighbors.  That shows we have a responsibility toward them.

e.       If we are to follow the example of Jesus we will be thinking about others – Jesus came for others.  Philippians 2:5-7 (which follows the above) gives us that example.  He himself said, “The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many.”   As this lesson progresses, we will see how He thought about others.

f.         “Others” would include those who are not Christians and those who are brethren.
  In this lesson we are going to see we have to be concerned about both.   There are some passages that apply to one or the other, and there are some that apply to all others. 
There are nearly 60 “one another” passages in the New Testament that describe the relationship between brethren – how we are and how we are not to treat each other.  In our last lesson, we addressed how we are the body of Christ and when we are each working together doing our share, the whole body (the church) grows. 

g.       NOTE: In making this point, I am NOT saying this is justification to throw caution to the wind and associate with ungodly behavior.  There are passages that warn us against such. 
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – do not be unequally yoked…come out from among them and be separate
1 Corinthians 15:33 – evil company corrupts good habits
Ephesians 5:11, Have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness
 2 Timothy 3:5 – of those who are filled with ungodly behaviors and attitudes we are told to turn away from such people. 

 II.            What are my responsibilities to others?

a.       We have to care about them. 

                                                   i.      We have already addressed our need to love our neighbor.   But why do we love them?  Because as Christians it is about caring for others.  The very idea of love (agape) implies that we care. 

                                                 ii.      1Peter 5:7 speaks of God caring about us

                                                iii.      Jesus cared –He was moved with compassion – Matthew 9:36, 14:14. 
  Many of the things Jesus did demonstrated His caring for others.  In fact, the very reason He came was because He cares about us.  Matthew 20:28 -  He came to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. 
  He wept over Jerusalem – Luke 19:41 as Jesus draws near Jerusalem, about to die, He weeps over the city.  Why?  Because He cared.  He knew its fate and it grieved Him.

                                                iv.      Paul – when you study the life of Paul you see one who genuinely cared about others.  The sacrifices he made, the travelling he did, the letters he wrote, all because he cared. 
2 Corinthians 12:14 – he was willing to “gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
1 Corinthians 9:22 – he became “all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

“Knowing the terror of the Lord” 2 Corinthians 5:11 

                                                  v.      What do these have in common?  They cared about souls. And it affected their words, attitudes and actions.
Friends, souls are dying!  Untold millions are dying untold.  One reason we don’t reach more is because we have not let this fact register in our lives. 

b.       Be an example – perhaps more than anything else, our example is the most powerful tool we have to impact others for good or bad.  In fact, we ARE influencing others in one way or another. 
Matthew 5:16 – by your example, God may be glorified.
We should try and make the gospel as attractive as possible to others. Live so that others will WANT TO consider Christ and His church.
Inherent in being a Christian is a level of hostility.  Just because you strive to follow Christ, some are going to hate and despise you.  Some are going to examine your life under a microscope looking for faults or anything they can attack.   We should expect this.  Even as Jesus said – they hated Him, so they will hate you too. John 15:18-19.  Later John would write, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.”  But we don’t have to give them cause by ungodly behaviors. 
NOTE: This does not mean that we are hiding the truth from them, nor does it mean we compromise His word for the sake of making it attractive.  But it DOES mean we will guard our attitudes and our words.  We will make sure we are NOT putting a negative light on the church - either by word, our demeanor or our behavior. 
As we have noted, right or wrong, hypocrisy will drive people away.  And while they will answer for themselves, you have to answer for you!
IF we care about others we are going to be a proper example.  1 Peter 2:12 – have your conduct honorable among the Gentiles.  We are going to be “the World’s Bible”!

c.        Help them when we can
One of the ways we are described as Christians is as servants. 
We are here to serve others – Matthew 20:26, in a parable Jesus emphasized that our greatness is in becoming servants.
Just like Jesus did - Mark 10:45. He illustrated that by washing His apostle’s feet (John 13:1-15) and specifically told them why (vs. 12-15) – that we would serve as He did.
We need to care about others, especially the needy – we may debate exactly how we need to be helping others, BEYOND our own brethren, but we cannot deny that we ought to be a benevolent people.  James 1:27, Luke 14:12-14 – a parable which notes when we give a feast, invite others. 
Sadly, far too many today hire the church to do their benevolence for them.  This is not her work.  While there are times she can be benevolent (financially), it is limited.  Consider 1 Timothy 5:16.
This is also implied in the idea of being a good neighbor.

d.       Pray for them – something we can do for others, is pray for them.
Again, this includes not just our brethren, but all men. 
James 5:16 speaks of praying for our brethren.  Ephesians 6:18 also emphasizes this.  Certainly when we study the subject of prayer we learn that brethren ought to frequently be included in our prayers.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 – we are to pray for all men. 
Matthew 5:44 speaks of praying for our enemies
IF you want to grow as a Christian, it is going to include prayers, even for others!

e.       Evangelism is about others -
One of the qualities of Christians in the Bible was their realization that they needed to reach others with the gospel.  It is part of caring as we have already seen. 
A closer look shows it is something we ought to be doing and working toward.
Acts 8:4 – the disciples went everywhere preaching the word.
I’m convinced that “Great commission” was indirectly intended for all of us (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-20).
2 Corinthians 5:11 – We must realize that souls are lost, and knowing the terror of the Lord is something that ought to resonate with all of us!
1 Peter 3:15 calls for us to be ready to give an answer for the hope in us.
Certainly, some have more abilities, and opportunities than others.  And with that they have greater responsibility and accountability.  But we ALL can do something and we should seek to do as much as we can for others. 
Thought.  How will we change this society?  It will NOT be by who we elect, legislation or judicial decisions.  It will not be by what is taught in schools (though this has an effect).  We will change society – ONE PERSON AT A TIME.  By creating godly families and by changing our neighbors (and community).

 III.            Recognizing opportunities. 

a.       As we conclude this lesson, let’s take just a moment to review some things we can do to seek opportunities to share the gospel with others both by our lives and our words. 
Galatians 6:10 tells us, as we have opportunity, do good to all…

b.       Begins with you – you have to take your faith seriously – moral purity (unhypocritical), priorities – the spiritual has to mean more than the physical, etc.  If God is as important to you as He should be, you are NOT going to want to keep it to yourself.    You heart will burn with desire to tell it – Jeremiah 20:9 – he couldn’t keep it to himself. 
Isn’t that the whole point of both salt and light as examples – we let it shine!!!

c.        You have to be looking – do you really want to make an impact on others?  Keep looking!
Walk circumspectly – Ephesians 5:15. 
John 4 is a good example of this.  Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman and turned the conversation of thirst to spiritual water and this led to his teaching her (4:7-10).
There are many examples of this: 1) When someone mentions a church, look for an opportunity to ask about it.  Can that lead to a Bible study? 2) When someone speaks of moral issues, bring the Bible in; 3) Use proper Biblical word – talk about Jesus, the church, salvation, etc.   Don’t hide your faith; 4) Can we bring God into secular topics?  Again, think of Jesus at the well.  5) Invite people to services.

d.       Pray about it – for opportunities Paul asked for prayers for opportunities to teach – Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 4:3 prayers that God would open a door for the word.

e.       Study God’s word – 2 Timothy 2:15 - the more you know, the more prepared you are to answer questions.  The more confident you will be to share it with Others. 
Furthermore, it’s on your mind, etc.  Perhaps one of the main reasons people don’t do more to share the gospel is that fear they don’t know enough.  How long is that excuse valid?  

f.                     Be willing to sacrifice – in our studies we have addressed the cost of being a Christian.  The thing about opportunities, is they often come without notice.   We have to be ready and willing to act when they present themselves.  When God is first, we will be willing to set aside trivial pursuits to further His kingdom, whether in our lives or in the lives of others.  Like Paul who said he is willing to spend and be spent – 2 Corinthians 12:15

The richness of being a Christian is developed and more greatly appreciated when we realize the part others have in our lives and faith. Let us resolve to grow and be willing to include others in the process.  How are you doing with this?  Think about it!