Christ-like Christians

intensify-christlike In Acts 11:26, the Bible says the disciples or the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” at Antioch. Historical evidence suggest that it was a derogatory term given by unbelievers. Today the term is used to describe anyone who has even a loose association with the teachings and character of Jesus or to describe one who has made an authentic profession of faith. For some, the term “Christian” is merely a political label, used to distinguish those who advocate a certain political agenda. For others, the term is used as a synonym for church membership. For years, I thought all church members were Christians! It wasn’t until I became a church leader that I discovered that was not the case! But, even though all church members are not Christians, all Christians should be church members!

So, the problem today is an age-old one. Many who claim the name “Christian” have caused the name to be dishonored and cursed. There are just so many un-Christ-like Christians! It is because of these un-Christ-like Christians, the name of God, is as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:24, blasphemed, or spoken evil of, among unbelievers. I think the real problem many unbelievers have with Christianity is not so much with Christ, as with those who profess to be followers of Christ! By and large, those of us who claim to follow Christ have not been very good representatives of him.

For many people, Christians are considered to be narrow-minded, bigoted, judgmental, and hateful. To those people, I would say: “Please don’t judge the Father by the short-comings of his children!” Real Christians are by no means perfect people, they are just people who have been perfectly forgiven! And often, they forget that just as they have been forgiven, they have been commanded to forgive others. A real Christian is a works in progress; unfinished, still in the growing process.

But what is the difference between a real Christian who is a work in progress and a person who is not a Christian at all, but just is merely claiming the title? Well, for the real Christian, there was a definite point in time when their lives were transformed by the power of God. At some point in time, God transformed their lives and His Spirit took residence in their hearts. At that point they were “born again” and the growth to spiritual maturity began. The person who is merely trying to act like a Christian has not had this experience.

But my purpose is not to discuss the differences between those who are Christians and those who are not. What I want to point out is some of the un-Christ-like attitudes and actions that even genuine Christians might from time to time perform. For instance, there has been so much talk since the death of Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA. Many so-called Christians have used the occasion of his death to demonize him and his legacy. Truth is; Eddie Long was not a perfect man! (But neither are any of us perfect people!) He made his share of mistakes, but he also did a lot of good things. While I did not personally agree with his theology and many of the things he did, I dare not defame him or his memory. The Apostle Paul asked in Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master, he stands or falls.” (Rom. 14:4 NET) No matter what any of us think of Bishop Eddie Long or anyone else, in the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter! We don’t have a heaven or a hell to send anyone to! And besides that, we should also remember; the same rule we use to measure or judge others, we will be measured and judged by!

Even in the matter of obvious sins, we should be careful that we don’t attempt to usurp the authority of God in judging people. We often quote John 3:16, but very few people remember John 3:17 which says: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (Jn. 3:17 NLT) If we call ourselves Christians, that means we are Christ-like or like Christ. Well, if Jesus wasn’t in the business of judging people and we’re supposed to be like him, then why are we so quick to be judge, jury and executioner? Now, I hear somebody saying: “Preacher, I’m not judging, I’m just telling the truth!” That might very well be, but the Bible teaches that we are not to use the truth as a weapon to harm others! Ephesians 4:15 teaches us to speak the truth in love. In other words, our motivation for speaking the truth shouldn’t be to tear others down or to belittle them, but rather to lift and build them up! Now, this doesn’t mean that we are not to condemn sin. No, we are to love the sinner and hate the sin! Just because you may point out someone’s sin, that doesn’t mean you’re being judgmental or hateful. In fact, if it is done correctly with the right motivation; it is an act of love! It is a mean and hateful person who sees me headed for destruction and does not say anything to warn me! It’s a poor parent that doesn’t say anything to a toddler who is about to tip boiling hot water on its head because the parent doesn’t want to hurt the child’s feelings!

I didn’t mean to go off on a rant, but I felt compelled to write this in view of all the hateful, mean-spirited, words that are being spoken and written by those in and out of the church today! The bottom line is this: If we claim the name “Christian,” the least we can do is act Christ-like! Do we honestly think Jesus would say some of the things we say and act the way we act? The Bibles says, the same mind that was in Christ Jesus should be in us. Let us pray that as we live our lives, we will be shaped into the image of Christ and be strong enough to resist the temptation to try to shape Christ into our image. Let us pray that we will truly be “Christ-like Christians.”

Some Thoughts on the Death of Bishop Eddie Long

michael-harrisThe following is a “guest post” from Michael Clayton Harris, M. Div. Harris is a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and pastor of the Acts of Faith Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA. He is also the son of the Rev. Dr. Michael Neely Harris, the recently retired pastor of the historic Wheat Street Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA.

This is a reflection by Pastor Harris concerning reactions to the death of Bishop Eddie L. Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Lithonia, GA taken from his FaceBook page with permission:

“I tried to avoid writing this but I just couldn’t sleep on it so here it goes. It’s a shame that people are so heartless and hateful that they would vilify Bishop Eddie Long on the day that he died because of his alleged past indiscretions. Additionally, it’s very important in thought plus spirituality to have the mindset that if you prayed for Eddie Long while he was sick and now pray for his family and church family now that he has passed, then that suddenly means you have no compassion and have stopped praying for the young men who were the plaintiffs in the highly publicized scandal.

I must admit, I’m livid by how people can attack the deceased and have no respect for at least the loved ones of the deceased. I guess Eddie Long’s family deserves hearing him or reading about him be crucified on the day of his death even though they didn’t have anything to do with his alleged actions? As people talk about the victims whose lives have been forever changed mentally, emotionally, and let’s not forget financially (since they settled the case out of court allegedly for millions of dollars), where’s the deep compassionate talk for his widow and his children whose lives have forever been changed because of the scandal being publicized, plus the hurt & shame they have encountered because of the alleged actions of their loved one, plus the hurt & pain they have experienced through watching their loved one’s sickness and now dealing with their death? I guess they deserve whatever comes their way because of being related to someone who allegedly committed such a heinous act? I guess praying for family members whose lives have also been forever changed not because of what they’ve done shows support for Bishop Long’s alleged actions as well? I guess the family members don’t have to wrestle with anything like the alleged victims?

I highlight this side because I’ve seen first-hand on year before last the damage from the scandal that has been done to one of his children who in a public setting was very anti-social and insecure because of the fear of not knowing what other people felt or thought about them because of the alleged actions of their father which were made public. Imagine trying to live your life in the shadow of one of your family members indiscretions for the rest of your life? Imagine hearing people pull out all of your deceased loved ones baggage and skeletons in the closet as you begin to mourn your loved one’s death? Would you be cool with that? Should there not be any prayer and compassion given to a family member whose innocent from any wrong doing but forever will live under the dark cloud of a family member’s indiscretion for the rest of their life? FYI, if you haven’t discerned there are way more victims in this whole matter than just the young men.

May God grant #BishopEddieLong‘s family & the #NewBirth Church family a double portion of His love, peace, comfort, strength, & healing! May God bestow upon some people more love and compassion to respect the deceased and their family members as they grieve, in Jesus name!”

Thanks to Pastor Harris for his prolific insights and for allowing the reproduction of his thoughts on this page. Your comments are welcomed.

I Don’t Need A New Year: I Need A New Me!

new-year-pic

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing”                                                                                                                                Romans 7:18-19 ESV

 “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”                                                                                                                     2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”                                                                                                                                      2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV

 When we were much younger, we used to be really excited about the new year!  Perhaps some of you still are! I mean, after all, it is a time when everybody is on the same page.  We are all thinking about making a fresh start!  We are all thinking about starting all over again!  We are all thinking about setting goals and making this new year better than the last year! But wait a minute! Weren’t we all doing the same thing this time last year? And the year before?  And the year before that?  Haven’t we all been doing the same thing every year, for as long as we can remember? Perhaps the reason some of us are not as excited about the new year as we used to be is because we have lived long enough to experience the disappointments of countless new year’s resolutions that are never kept!  For no matter how excited we were and no matter how good our intentions were, not matter how determined we were, by the middle of January, and if not then, certainly by Valentine’s Day, the thrill, the excitement, the determination, the resolve that was present on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day was long gone! No! Some of us are not particularly excited about the New Year because we have discovered that what is needed is not a new year, but rather a new person!  No! I don’t need a new year; I need a new me!

This is exactly the experience that the Apostle Paul shares with us in the Roman text.  Now we look at Paul’s experience, I would like to suggest to you that Paul is not relating a pre-conversion experience but rather, this was a post-conversion experience for Paul.  Some think that what Paul shares in Romans 7 is the struggle he experienced before he was saved, but a careful look at the text will prove otherwise.  Let me prove my point: First of all, when we look at the grammatical structure of the text, we note that Paul does not use the imperfect or the aorist tenses to describe this ordeal, but rather he consistently uses the present tense.  Paul is not describing what he used to go through, he is talking about the struggles that he is presently experiencing.  Secondly, the person who is not saved, has no real struggles with trying to do the right thing! It is not even on his mind to do right! Doing wrong is so natural, that doing right doesn’t even cross his mind.  Now there are some who would appeal to the fact of the conscience. But even the conscience of an unsaved person doesn’t want to do right.  The Bible says that there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.  Paul says later on, in this same letter, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

So, Paul says, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Now, the flesh that Paul is referring to is not his physical body, but rather the unregenerate sin-nature that was present within him.  You see, when we are saved, God does not eradicate or remove our sinful nature, instead He places His Holy Spirit within us, which is His very own nature.  One of the purposes of God’s Spirit within us is to empower us to bring our sinful nature under control. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. “But, walk (live according to) by (the power of) the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Paul said that he died daily. Everyday, the flesh (the sinful nature) has to be crucified. Crucifying the flesh is not something that God does for us, we have to do it ourselves by the power of His Spirit that dwells within us.

Therefore, Paul says, there is a struggle that is going on within me! The will to do is present within me! I want to lose weight! I want to come to Sunday School every Sunday! I want to become more active in my church! I want to be more than just a bench-member at my local church! I really want to; the willingness is there, but the how to and the actual doing of it, is absent! Not only do I struggle to do the things I want to do, but the things I don’t want to do seem to over-power me! I eat too many neck-bones and too much pork! I eat too much and don’t exercise enough! I talk about folks instead of praying for them! Oh! Sometimes I don’t even like myself, because the things I really want to do, I don’t do them and the things I really don’t want to do; I end up doing them! That’s why I’m not really very excited about this new year! Because unless I do things differently, this new year is going to be just like last year and the years before that! I don’t need a new year; I need a new me!

Well, before we get all depressed and give up all hope, there is some good news! Paul said that though it is a struggle, there is an answer to our dilemma! The answer is found “in Christ.”  He said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away: behold, all things are become new.” Yes! That’s the secret to success for the new year! You must be “in Christ!” What does it mean to be “in Christ?” The term, “in Christ” was a favorite expression of Paul used over seventy times in the Pauline writings.  It refers to status and position. It’s a good place to be! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ! We have been justified freely by the grace that is in Christ. God causes us to always have the victory in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ.  We are all the children of God by faith in Christ. We shall all be made alive in Christ. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Yes! Everything we need is in Christ!  And so, if we abide in him and his word abides in us, we can ask what we will and it will be done unto us.  In Christ is a good place to be! Paul says, here in this text, that if any many be in Christ, he is a new creation! That is, if you are in Christ, you are a new you! The answer to the dilemma is to translate the position into experience! I am a new me in my position in Christ and through the power of the Spirit of God that lives within me, I can be a new me in my experience in life!

And, if you are a new you, you really don’t need a new year to start something new! For I heard Paul saying on another occasion that though the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day! Do you see that? The new you don’t need a new year to make a fresh start because the new you is being renewed everyday! Yes! That’s why I don’t really get excited about the New Year, because I get excited every morning! Every morning when I wake up and find myself not dead, that’s like New Year’s Day to me! Every morning that I’m able to get up out of my bed and dress myself; that’s like New Year’s Day to me!

So, if you really want to have life and have it more abundantly, don’t wait until the New Year to start over again! It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, if you just meet Jesus, and get in him, he will make you a new creation! He will make you all over again! He will fix whatever is broken, he will mend all of the broken promises and dreams! When you’ve met him, you really won’t need a new year because he will make you, a new you!