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WHAT DOES A CHRISTIAN LOOK LIKE?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
13 MARCH 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
The Preparation: (Revelation 3:20-21)
20. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.
21. ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.’
What does a Christian look like?
Yes; what does a Christian look like?
I suppose that a Christian could be either a man or a woman.
Yes; we can safely say that.
We could also say that they could be young or old, couldn't we?
That also is logical.
They could be tall or short, or fat or thin, and come in a variety of colors.
Yes; all that is true also.
Then if all that is true, how can we tell a Christian from everyone else?
Aha!!! Now we have hit upon the reason for today’s sermon; for if we cannot distinguish a Christian from everyone else, there may be something wrong.
Let's take a much harder look.
Perhaps you have heard the expression: If an animal has feathers, wings, webbed feet, a flat bill like a mouth, and quacks and likes to swim in water, people will believe that it is a duck; and they will more than likely be correct.
So, if a person, who says that they are a Christian, behaves like the world, talks like the world, participates in the things of the world, and dresses like the world, they will be perceived as being of the world and not a Christian.
This is exactly what God was trying to tell the Israelites through Jeremiah
in our Old Testament lesson verses from Chapter 17 for this morning. Let's begin
by looking again at verses 5 and 6.
5. Thus says the Lord.
"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6. "For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
This message is not being spoken to the nations of unbelievers; it is directed to the Jewish people.
This message is for a people who should understand. It is a message for the Christian Church as well.
We also make the mistake of putting our trust in mankind.
We all too often have followed a particular person and hung onto his words, rather than following the Lord and His Word.
Then when one of these people who have attracted many followers falls into sin, many of the followers lose faith and find themselves in a desert waste land.
And even though both of these groups of people, the ones who have fallen into sin and the ones who have lost faith because of it, call themselves Christians, which they also may be, they are not what Christians should look like.
Pray for these people, but do not judge them harshly, lest we also be judged accordingly. These people, most assuredly, are judged by their standards. We have all seen this in recent months.
Note what it says in Deuteronomy 7:9-10.
9. "Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
10. but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.
One who is not a Christian may seem to be able to get away with almost anything, and God may just allow this to show the difference.
As we said before, these passages of Scripture are speaking to the believer. The believer should look like a believer. But when a so-called believer speaks out as a believer, but acts the opposite, then God seems to repay that person to his face.
Now look at what Jeremiah writes at the Lord's command in 17:7-8 about those who do their best to walk with God:
7. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
8. "For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
Here we begin to see what a Christian should look like.
When those around begin to have problems, fall away, dry up, and worry about every little thing, the Christian remains calm.
The Christian can remain that way because his feet are firmly rooted in the living water of the Word of God. Thus when others become helpless, he will still bear fruit and bear it abundantly.
Christian, if you don't feel this way, I can almost say with certainty that you are not reading your Bible consistently on a daily basis.
No matter how firmly a tree may believe that it is planted, without water, it will soon die.
It all boils down to the intent of one's heart. Note how the Lord expresses this in Jeremiah 17:9-11.
9. "The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
10. "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.
11. "As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid,
So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly;
In the midst of his days it will forsake him,
And in the end he will be a fool."
This happens because we follow the flesh and not the Lord.
Let's take a look at Galatians 5, beginning at verse 16, and see the difference between what a Christian should and should not look like.
16. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.
Why do we need this? Note verses 17 and 18.
17. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Therefore, we are under grace.
What will we look like if we follow the flesh? Note verses 19-21.
19. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20. idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21. envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Before we end today’s sermon, we will be taking another look at our New Testament lesson verses from Matthew 7. Keep this last verse in mind until then, but first let's look at what a Christian should look like, as we continue in these Galatians verses.
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
26. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Thus Christians begin to look like Christ Himself.
As we look at the world around us, and all the horrible things we humans do to our fellow human beings and to billions of animals every year, particularly so-call food animals, we see no evidence of Christ-like living.
There is no way that people can do these horrible things and have the fruit of the Holy Spirit within them, and even resemble a true Christian, for they look like the world.
Each and every one of us needs to truly look at ourselves and the way we live according to the guidelines of these Galatians verses, and continually work at living in the fruit of the Spirit, as an example to the world around us.
Now let's take this back and apply this to what Jesus is telling us in Matthew 7:13-27.
13. "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.
14. "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
There is an attraction to be part of the crowd and to do the things that they do, but the believer should not be concerned with such things.
Unfortunately, God's way is not the most popular way, but it is nevertheless the best way; and most importantly, it is the only way to get to the place where most people really want to go.
The world's problem is that they would rather believe the lie than the truth.
Because they are listening to those who tickle their ears with the things they want to hear, and not the truth; for sometimes the truth hurts, but it is nevertheless the truth. Hence, the following warning:
15. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?
17. Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
19. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20. "So then, you will know them by their fruits.
It's not the things that people say that make them Christians. A Christian will live a life that reflects Jesus Christ.
21. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
22. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
23. "And then I will declare to them, '1 never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'
24. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.
25. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the wind blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.
26. "And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.
27. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall."
What kind of life are we building?
What do we truly look like?
I pray that it's Jesus Christ.