Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Makes Us Different?


There have been a LOT of preparations going on at the office this week as we get ready for the celebration of Christian Challenge's 41st anniversary! We call it Jubilee! (I know Jubilee normally means “50 years” but we like it so much we have one every year!)  I'm excited to celebrate CCI's anniversary. It always reminds me of what I like to call our "uniquenesses" - the things that make Christian Challenge different as a church. But as believers, we should also have some "uniquenesses" - things that set us apart from those who don’t believe.

What makes a Christian different from everyone else? Is it our choice of clothing? The music we listen to? Liking and sharing that post on Facebook?

What sets believers apart has to be deeper than that. Someone who has truly made Jesus Christ their Lord might dress different - they might listen to different music - and they might even share faith-related posts on Facebook. But they will also BE fundamentally different, because they’ve been transformed on the inside. There are many traits that should characterize the life of a believers, but I’d like to highlight three in particular.

FAITH IN A FAITHLESS WORLD

We live in a world of doubt and unbelief. And this is nothing new! Here are just a few humorous historical examples, taken from widely read publications of their day:

1840 - "Anyone traveling at the speed of thirty miles per hour would surely suffocate."
1878 - "Electric lights are unworthy of serious attention."
1901 - "No possible combination can be united into a practical machine by which men shall fly."
1926 - (scientist) "This foolish idea of shooting at the moon is basically impossible."
1930 - (scientist) "To harness the energy locked up in matter is impossible."

We also live in a world that likes to mock faith in God. All you have to do is look at the headlines or comments from the entertainment elite to know that they look at people of faith as “different.” It almost seems as if mocking Christianity is the latest American sport. But at the same time, even the world recognizes that our faith sets us apart!

For the believer, this is a life filled with wonder at all God has in store for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose! It is a life filled with adventure in Christ! Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter of the Bible. Heb 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” You cannot come to God without faith, because you wouldn’t come unless you believed that He existed and believed that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him! The carnal man misses it because he won't come to God - he doesn't believe He exists and so obviously there’s no reason to come to a God that doesn’t exist. So believers have faith in a faithless world.

HOPE IN A HOPELESS WORLD

If you look at the world around you through human eyes, you don’t see a lot of hope. You see a lot of fear… and a lot of hopelessness. We see that reflected in the suicide rate. We live in a broken world. People feel hopeless when they’re isolated, when they’re powerless to change their own lives, and they don’t see a future worth hoping for. Even those who are admired by others, who have accomplished great things - successful people by the world’s standards - can be hiding a sense of hopelessness inside.

As believers, we have a hope that defies our circumstances. Our hope is tied to our salvation and the work of Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:1-6, NASB)

“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Cor 15:19-20, NASB)

If there is no resurrection, then we are without hope. Our hope is not in this life only, so we can look past the circumstances that lead others to hopelessness and put our trust in the One who has overcome this world! Believers have hope in a hopeless world!

LOVE IN A LOVELESS WORLD

When you look at the headlines, you can't help but notice that we live in a loveless world. This world seems to love to hate! (Just visit the comments section on just about any newspaper article!) Our culture is dangerously defensive. Some of our leaders, both in politics and in the business world, can’t seem to disagree without being disagreeable. It’s a fractured world, and sometimes people try to put the pieces back together in their own way, with disastrous results. We have children getting involved in gangs, premarital sex and other troubles because they think they'll find love and acceptance.

The kingdom of God is built on love. Napoleon thought he could be great because he founded a kingdom on force.  Perhaps it's worth listening to his words of warning at the end of his life.  Napoleon said, "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love. And at this hour millions of men would die for him."

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13 NLT)

This is what distinguishes a True Christian from the rest, the love of God. As believers, our lives should be marked by love toward God and by the love of God flowing through us toward others. We're able to love others because we were loved first. Paul reminds us in the 1 Corinthians 13 (which is known as the love chapter) that it isn't the greatness of our spiritual gifts but the love of God in our hearts that makes us useful to God. So love is the difference-maker. And believers love in a loveless world.

When it’s all said and done, it's hard to fake being a True Christian. There are aspects of the Christian life that can be imitated, but a deep, personal relationship with God cannot be mimicked - it must be experienced. That’s why ultimately only the true believer will have faith, hope and love in a faithless, hopeless, loveless world.
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