Friday, October 18, 2013

Be a Strong Christian – 2 Tim 2:1

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (NASB)
How can we be strong as Christians? It will certainly take the grace of Jesus. Here are some of the things that are associated with being strong.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor 16:13-14 ESV)
Being watchful is one of the many things Paul has been harping on as he wrote to Timothy. He often warns us, as Jesus did, that false prophets will arise to lead people astray (Matt 7:15, 24:11, 24:24).
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18 KJV)
Being watchful also requires us to look at our own behavior, goals, and thoughts. One of the biggest reasons false prophets arise is because they think they have something that no one else does. They have something but it isn’t unique, it is too common, it is pride. In the long run, they will fall but being a strong Christian requires self-examination and renunciation of pride so that we don’t fall. Unfortunately, the world has an innate pride factor. In order to achieve in business, politics, relationships, the world teaches assertiveness, aggressiveness, and a go-get-it attitude that feeds pride. While some of it is true, you can’t be successful in these areas without work, the world seldom teaches us to do that work as servants, to put others first and humble ourselves. In fact, Jesus says that to become great, we must first be a servant (Matt 20:26) to others.
Stand Firm
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58 NIV)
We must be able to stand firm in the faith if we are going to be strong. Jesus promised us that we would be persecuted if they recognize us as Christians because Jesus is our Master (John 15:20). Living a godly life brings persecution (2 Tim 3:12) because the world simply doesn’t like to be shown its sinfulness by a person who is able to have Christ-like behavior. When we stand firm in the faith in the face of opposition, we are able to accomplish what the Lord wants.
Being strong recognizes that when we do things in the Lord, it is not futile. We are accomplishing His will and purpose in this world. We may not know exactly what He is doing or when the fruit of our labor will be revealed, but we know it will bring glory to God. Standing firm is being strong by always having the goal of bringing glory to God.
Act like Christians
Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Cor 14:20 NASU)
How many times have you told someone or been told to act your age? I like the simple command Paul gives in 1 Cor 16:13. Act like men. If you are a woman, act like a woman. Act your age. Don’t be childish in your thinking. Being strong means we need to act in accordance with the role God has given us, whether we are men or women, youngsters or seniors. I am irritated by people who put traditions or culture above living out our roles the way the Bible tells us. I’ve known Christians who excused their rude behavior because it was part of their culture. I’m not talking about differences in table etiquette, the way you use utensils for example. I’m taking about getting angry and yelling at each other. I’m talking about calling others hurtful names or gossiping; these are all things we are told to put aside when we become Christians. I’m talking about showing respect for your spouse, loving each other and submitting to one another.
Some people put a cultural adjective in front of Christian and that is totally wrong. I’m not a male Christian, I’m a Christian who is a man. Christ affects my role as a man not the other way around. When I attempt to modify my Christian behavior with an adjective in front of it, I’m conforming to the world instead of transforming my thinking and therefore my behavior to be like Christ. To be a strong Christian, I need to dig into the Word and see how I should behave and do it.
Done in Love
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 NKJV)
Being a strong Christian can’t be done without love. In fact, anyone who claims to be a Christian but isn’t loving others is living a lie because he claims to know God and you can’t be a Christian without knowing God (1 John 4:8). Jesus’ love is the standard for love if we want to be strong. We should strive for this kind of love in our lives. We won’t get there in this life, but I’ve seen some Christians who were very far from this kind of love and others who were so close you’d think they were Jesus Himself.
Jesus loved us before He came to the earth. He had to have a love that put us ahead of His own interest otherwise He would have never humbled Himself to take on human flesh (Phil 2:7). He had to give up everything that He was and had – equality with God – to humble Himself. Can we say that we have ever loved anyone like that? What do we give up daily, yearly, or even once in a lifetime to show our love? Why, most people who have one latté a day to won’t even give up one a week to help feed the hungry. The cost of a latté a week would provide a Bible a week for a spiritually thirsty soul in another nation. 
It wasn’t enough that Jesus gave up His position to be incarnated; He gave up His life to pay for our sins. He didn’t know sin. He hadn’t experience sinning and all the heartache that comes from that. He was holy and had never been defiled, feeling the guilt and pain and hopelessness of sin. He had never dreaded eternal damnation. But, on the cross, all that and more came upon Him as He became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). He had fellowship with God, His Father until He became sin. That verse doesn’t say sin was put on Him but that He became sin. He was transformed into something that was utterly foreign to Him.
There is no way we can love like that because we can’t become sin for someone else. There is no way we can become righteous by our own efforts. We can only become righteous because God imparts Jesus’ righteousness to us.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NLT)
The only way we can strong Christians is to abide in Christ. We can’t bear fruit, we can’t be strong if we aren’t daily, hourly, moment by moment living in Jesus. Andrew Murray wrote a great short book, Abiding in Christ. In says that one aspect of abiding in Christ is to take a single moment to agree to occupy your place as a branch in the Vine. Say, “Yes, I do abide in Christ.” Then each moment can be another and another until the whole day is spent abiding in Christ.[1]
Will you say yes to Jesus and abide in Him?

[1] Murray, Andrew. "At This Moment." Abiding in Christ. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2003. 93. Print.

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