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So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:17
If Christ took up habitation inside of you, there should be evidence of Him being there. It is similar to a maid that comes to your hotel room after you leave. There is evidence you were there.
What evidences can you point to that shows Christ is living with you? These evidences do not make you a Christian, but they do point to the reality of regeneration (See James 2:14-17).
The gospel should always grip our hearts, and we see the evidence of its grip on how we live our lives. Jesus was distinctly Christian. He was not another kind of religious person, but the kind we are supposed to be (Ephesians 4:17-24).
There were distinctions that made Him unique. These are the same distinctions that make us unique. To be a Christian is to be like Jesus. To not be transforming into Jesus is contrary to what being a Christian means.
To determine what it means to be a Christian, you must separate the singular acts of the Christians in the Bible from the repeated patterns of those Christians.
Typically, the single, non-repeatable actions in the Bible are a moment in time, rather than something you are to emulate (Ephesians 5:1). Unique events from historical figures are not considered normative, meaning they are not things you should be doing today for the same reasons they did them then.
For example, Moses threw a tree in a pond, and the water became drinkable. This act is not a recommendation for you to throw a tree in a lake and drink the water afterward (Exodus 15:22-26). They were healed. You may become sick.
Another example is when Gideon put out a fleece to figure out what to do next. This was a one time special circumstance that was not meant to be a directive on how we make biblical decisions (Judges 6:36-40).
You see another spin on this idea of decision-making in Acts 1:26 where the apostles prayed for snake eyes as they cast lots to see who was going to be in their group. I do not recommend this approach for your pastoral search committee.
Another bad idea is the prayer cloth miracle. If you give money to any person for a prayer cloth, expecting to experience healing, you will be disappointed. Maybe the Lord will provide you with common sense, and if so, that will be the best possible outcome. Prayer cloths are unique, not normative.
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. – Acts 19:11-12
If your interaction with the Lord is unique to a moment, it does not mean that is how you should do all things, all the time. Jesus told Mary and Martha that He was glad their brother had died (John 11:14-15). I would not recommend this the next time you are engaging someone who just lost a family member.
One of the keys to parenting children is to teach them discernment. The wind does not always blow the same way (John 3:8). Each person and circumstance requires a unique opportunity to engage the Lord while expecting the Spirit’s illumination on how to respond at that moment.
These pneumatic opportunities are what makes discipleship exciting. You never know what the person you are meeting with is going to bring to you, which is why you don’t script a discipleship opportunity. This kind of reliance on the Spirit is humbling and invigorating.
While one-time, spontaneous moments fills the Christian’s heart with anticipation and adventure, it is imperative for all of us to be deeply ensconced in repeated patterns that are normative for every person who follows Jesus.
Here are four that come to my mind:
Bible Mastery – We find everything we know about God in the Bible. There is no other specific revelation provided for us about God (Romans 10:17).
All other books about God find their truths in His Word. The Word of God is the only authoritative source for you to know how to live the Christian life. It has everything you need for living a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).
While other books can benefit you, the “roots of those truths” come from the soil of God’s Word. If you want to profit in life, you must be mastered by Scripture.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Paul says God’s Word does four things for you. It teaches, reproves (confronts), corrects, and trains. Note the sequence; it is purposeful and transformative.
A daily habituated pattern of submitting your soul to God’s Word positions you to experiencing the mastering effect of the Bible, which should be normative for any Christian (John 17:17).
Active Repentance – To run from your sin and to cling to Jesus should be a standard practice in every Christian’s life. This opportunity is unique and repeatable for every believer.
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. – Martin Luther, the first of the 95 Theses
The word repentance means to change. The first time you repented was when God regenerated you (John 3:7). This first change is the salvation that the Lord brings to you. It is not the sanctification change you need to be mature (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Salvation does not transform you entirely; it puts you on the track to transformation. Regeneration permits you to go to heaven, but it does not make you fit for this life. It is a good start; that is all.
This fact is why Luther talked about the Christian life as being a life of ongoing repentance. It is impossible to repent one time and be like Christ. You must be a repeat repenter, as you keep on repenting until Jesus returns.
A Christian home should be a repenting home. Each family member, who professes to be born again, should be actively owning and confessing their sins while seeking forgiveness from all those who have been affected by their offenses.
The person who is not regularly repenting is a liar. That may sound harsh–-I understand–-but it is what John said to the Christians in his day.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:8-9
Expectant Prayer – To make all things a matter of prayer is the gold standard for Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer should precede all mighty works of God. It would be better to say, “expectant prayer.”
Jesus could not function well on earth without expectant praying. He prayed often. It was His habit. There was something inside of Him that motivated Him to talk to His Father. This privilege is another unique and repeatable feature of the Christian life; you can talk to God and you should be communicating with Him.
Prayer is not a passive activity; it is an expectant activity. When my children come to me asking for something, they come expecting an answer. They do not ask and then walk away with no expectation of a response.
Prayer is an action that acknowledges that you cannot depend on yourself. It is humility and maturity rolled into an other-world dependence that expects God to do what is perfect for the situation.
The praying person is not looking to accomplish his agenda. He does not pray to fulfill self-determined desires but prays because of an insatiable passion for the doing of the Lord’s will (Luke 22:42).
Pneumatic Serving – The missional purpose of all Christian habits is to share the gospel with others lovingly. Making the name of Jesus magnificent in the world should be the primary motive for church life (John 12:32). All of the habits above point toward that one purpose.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45
(1) Being mastered by the Bible, (2) aggressively repenting of sin, and (3) spending time in active and dependent prayer is the platform upon which your Christian witness (pneumatic serving) stands.
Your serving is pneumatic in the sense that you never know precisely what God is up to in the world. The fortified Christian moves through God’s world while keeping in step with the Spirit, always aware that each step could be the chance to put Christ on display.
Christians must have Spirit-illuminated peripheral vision and depth of field. You must see what others cannot see, which enables you to be a competent servant. The world cannot perceive the things from the Spirit of God because those things are discerned spiritually (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Discerning serving opportunities and being quick to provide the assistance needed was one of the hallmarks of Jesus. He could see what others could not see (Luke 7:44).
The Book of Acts is full of people who repeatedly did these four things. And because of their active faith, the Christian message was pushed to the ends of the earth. When John Donne thought about the activity of the people in Acts and the people in his day, he wrote the following:
There are reckoned in this Book (Acts), two and twenty sermons of the Apostles; and yet the Book is not called the preaching, but the practice, not the words, but the Acts of the Apostles.
And the Acts of the Apostles were to convey the name of Christ Jesus, and to propagate his Gospel over all the world.
Beloved, you are Actors upon the same stage too. The uttermost part of the earth are your scene. Act over the Acts of the Apostles.
Be you a light to the Gentiles that sit in darkness. Be you content to carry him over these seas, who dried up one Red Sea for his first people, and hath poured out another Red Sea, his own blood, for them and us.
How do you know you are a Christian? One way to tell is if you are repeatedly doing the things the Christians in Acts were regularly doing.
Four of those things were (1) being students of God’s Word, (2) actively repenting of sin, (3) engaging in expectant prayer, and (4) pneumatically serving others so the mission of Jesus could advance.
Do these things characterize you? If not, will you talk to someone about what you just read? Perhaps you have a friend or spouse or child who is not described by these things. If so, will you ask the Father how you are to respond to them?
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