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Sunday, 24 August 2008

What is a Christian?

At Liberty Community Church we are spending a few weeks looking at the question “What is a Christian?”  Last week we thought of the Christian as a lover – a lover of Jesus, and a lover of others; this week, the theme was the Christian as a witness – telling others about the Gospel message.  Well, I presume that it was along those lines but I wasn’t there.  I was preaching for my former congregation of Bellshill-St.Andrew’s.  However, I decided to look at the same question there, although I had to do it in just one message. 

So, what is a Christian?  This morning, I suggested that Paul gave some very clear indications in his letter to the church in Philippi, particularly in some words near to the end of the letter: “Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again – rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything: instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ alone.” (4:4-7) 

The apostle gives three pointers in those words.  He shows that the real Christian is someone who enjoys a Presence.  And that Presence is the Presence of Jesus Himself.  Other translations use words like “at hand” or “very near” instead of “coming soon”.  And Paul may be referring to the Rapture – the coming again of the Lord Jesus.  But he may well be referring to His closeness to the believer.  Have you noticed how your behaviour and speech can change according to your company?  Who we spend our time with makes a real difference to our character.  What better company than the One Who is King of kings, and Lord of lords!? 

But a Christian is also someone who forms a practice.  Paul is writing from prison – not a pleasant experience in first-century Rome!  Yet his instruction to these Christian brothers and sisters is to “Rejoice”.  He recalls what he has gone through in his Christian walk; he recognises that the Philippians will face similar persecution; he knows that his own death, by beheading, is imminent.  Yet he still says “Rejoice!”   He advises two activities to bring about that untouchable joy.  He says that they should pray – about everything; and he tells them to praise God – for everything!  And these are good practices for you and me as well. 

Finally, he says that the true Christian is one who trusts a promise.  He speaks of the adequacy that Christ brings.  We know that, in our finances, we need to have more coming in that we spend – or we have a problem.  And this is no less so in the realm of the spirit.  I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” Paul shouts out a few sentences later.  We might paraphrase that as “... through Christ Who gives me adequate resources”.   We can meet anything that life throws at us if we are “in Christ”.  And, of course, He stills the anxieties that effect each one of us, bringing a peace that the world cannot understand – indeed, that none of us can understand. 

It’s wonderful, being a Christian in the Biblical sense of the word.  If you aren’t one, then please feel free to contact me (through the ‘comments’ facility) for some additional help.  If you are, then share it with those with whom you come into contact, day by day.  And we’ll be careful to give Father God all the honour and the glory.

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