Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Character of Christ

Attributes of Christ that Christians should strive to emulate

Christians are so named because they seek to serve Christ.  Christians should be Christ-like in their words and actions.  People should be able to tell based upon a person’s character whether or not they are a Christian. 

However, from my experience, it seems that most people have a negative opinion of Christians.

A scathing secular review of Christians:  "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." -  Mahatma Gandhi 

Unfortunately, Christians are sometimes the most un-Christ-like people.  Whether it is through self-righteousness, inconsistency, or flat-out hypocrisy, many Christians fail to live up to the name of Christ!

Matthew 7:16  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?

How many people are turned away from the church and the message of the Gospel because of the un-Christ-like behavior of so-called Christians?  If the Christians act no better than the rest of the world, why would anyone want to join their ranks?

1 John 2:6  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

Let us re-examine the character of Christ and review the attributes that we should be emulating in our Christian life. 

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

One of the biggest criticisms about Christians is that they are self-righteous, “holier than thou” types.  We've all ran across people that fall into this category.  Nobody wants to be around people like that.  Certainly, nobody wants to listen to what that kind of people are preaching!

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility.  If anyone had the right to flaunt their righteousness, it would be the Son of God Himself.  But Jesus didn’t do that.  He humbled Himself to the point that He became human, giving up the glory of Heaven to descend down to our level on Earth, becoming human in the process.

2 Corinthians 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Humble associations – Jesus didn’t talk to great rulers and politicians, He taught to the common people, proving that He is the Savior to all. 

Luke 8:1 Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.

Philippians 2:5-11  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Are we humble in our words and actions?  Do we recognize that God is the source of all righteousness and that anything that we do in this life that we perceive as righteousness pales in comparison to His glory? 

John 13:12-17 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

 Firm in the face of temptation
I think people often make the mistake of thinking that it’s unfair of God to expect us to be like Christ because Christ was perfect.  But it’s important to notice that even though Christ was sinless, He was not immune to temptation.  In the flesh, Jesus was, in fact, tempted just as much as we are.  This should be a point of comfort to us. 

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Christ was strong and stood firm in the face of temptations.  Not long after His baptism, Jesus went out to the wilderness to fast and was tempted by Satan himself (Matthew 4).  It’s interesting to note that in this account Jesus responds to the devil’s temptations by quoting Scripture.  It was benefit us to do the same.  In times of trouble we should also turn to the Word of God and draw from His strength. 

Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Are we strong in the face of temptation?  Do we turn to God in times of weakness?

1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

OK, so "prayerful" may not actually be a word, but if it were, I think we would most certainly find it to be a fair descriptor of Christ.  It’s interesting to notice that Jesus prayed frequently. 

Luke 5:16 - So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

There are around 30 accounts of Jesus praying in the Gospels.  We read of Him praying alone, in public, before meals, before doing God’s work, and in times of tribulation and despair.  Based on the Scriptures, Jesus seemed to constantly be in “prayer mode”. We also know that when Jesus prayed, He did so reverently and earnestly.  We know that while He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that He was in such anguish that He was in tears and “His sweat was as blood.”

Do we pray as often as Jesus did?  Do we take prayer as seriously as Jesus did?

Do we do as we are commended to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:17? 

John 5:30  I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

 Jesus knew what His mission on Earth would ultimately lead to.  He knew the tribulations and sufferings He would face in His human life and the agony of His cruel death on the cross.  Shortly before being betrayed and being taken away, Jesus prayed that He would not have to face the brutality of the cross.  But even in the midst of praying not to have to go through with it, He submitted His will to God’s. 

Matthew 26:39, 42  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.  ; Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Do we submit our will to God’s will?  Do we have an attitude of obedience?  Would we be faithful until death?

Revelation 2:10  Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Because of His reputation as a healer, everywhere that Jesus went, multitudes followed. 

Matthew 14:14  And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

We know from the Scriptures that Jesus healed many that had had life-long illnesses that were considered beyond treatment at that time (some of which remain so even today!).  The fact that Jesus healed them is not only evidence that confirms the deity of Christ, but also His great compassion for others.  Jesus was kind to all that He came across and gentle in His words and actions.

While we may not have the miraculous healing abilities of Jesus, we should have empathy for our fellow man and seek to serve them. 

Galatians 6:2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

We should likewise strive to be kind and compassionate with others.  The way we treat others could make all the difference in the world.  The words we use and the actions we make could be the extra push of encouragement someone needs to get up the hill and overcome their struggles, or the push that puts them over the edge, to the point of no return. 

Romans 15:2-7 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Are we kind in our dealings with others?  Are we gentle in our reproaches?  Are our actions selfless in nature?

2 Corinthians 10:1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.

Full of Grace/Forgiveness
While on Earth, Jesus not only healed the physical infirmities of the multitudes that followed Him, but He also restored their spiritual health. 

Matthew 9:2  Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

Even in the midst of being crucified by the very people that He had come to save, Jesus forgave.

Luke 23:33-34 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Are we willing to forgive others when they do evil towards us?  Are we willing to forgive even minor offenses? 

Colossians 3:13   ...Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Christ was not a hypocrite.  While on Earth He talked the talked and walked the walk.  He practiced what He preached.

Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Are we living consistently?  Are we living our lives as an example to others, without hypocrisy?

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Jesus exemplified longsuffering through His tribulations and persecutions.

Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

Are we as longsuffering as Jesus?  Do we handle our tribulations, which are minor in comparison to those that Jesus faced, with patience and submission to God’s will?

Hebrews 12:1-4 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

Jesus said in John 13:34:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another

So great is the love of Christ that nothing can separate us from it!  

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus exhibited His love for all through His ultimate sacrifice. 

1 John 3:16  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

John 10:11-17 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.  Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Do we love others enough to sacrifice everything for them?  Do we even love others enough to sacrifice our time and energy for them?  Do we love others enough to share the story of Christ and to spread His message of love and sacrifice?

Ephesians 5:2  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Conclusion:  To be a true Christian, we must follow His steps, we must put on Christ!
Christians are not merely the people who go to church on Sunday, occupy a seat on the pew, and listen to the preacher.  James 1:22 commends us to "be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

We’re not going to be perfect, but you do need to strive to be as Christ-like as possible! 

1 Peter 2:21-24  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

As Christians, we are told to “put on Christ”. Romans 13:14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

How does one “put on Christ”?  Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

To those of us who are not Christians:  What are you waiting for?  Why have you not made the good decision to put on Christ?

To those of us who already call ourselves Christians:  Can we truly say the following?  

Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment