Theme: Five characteristics produced by Biblical Christianity
Text: Hebrews 13:1-6 ,(NLT)
“Live good and obedient lives. Continue to love each other with true Christian love. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it. Don’t forget about those in prison. Suffer with them as though you were there yourself. Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, as though you feel their pain in your own body. Give honor to marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. Stay away from the love of money, be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That is why we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
If I understand the Bible correctly, God has delegated to you and me as believers, two primary tasks. To sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of him.
Matthew 11:28-29, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” To spread abroad to the whole world all we learn from Jesus.Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.
God has sent us forth as believers with an objective in view. That objective is to extend the Kingdom of God whenever and wherever we can. I have been given the responsibility to establish God’s Kingdom in my sphere of life and you are responsible for yours. We are to take the gospel of the Bible into our world and person by person we are to recover them for the Kingdom of God. I’m firmly convinced that to what extent the world will receive our message will be determined by what the world sees demonstrated in us. They will want to know that what we as followers of Jesus Christ offer to them is really workable and that it is working in us. When we say to them that Jesus gives us inner peace, inner joy and inner power, they fully expect it to show forth in our lives. They expect the Christian to exemplify every thing that we give witness to with our words and they have every right to expect this. Paul, writing to Timothy, said these words in relation to the believer and the unsaved II Timothy 4:12, (TLB) “Be their ideal, let them follow the way you teach and live. Be a pattern for them in your love, your faith and your clean thoughts.”
From our text I want to share for your consideration five characteristics of true biblical Christianity. These are five things that will identify God’s people wherever Christians gather on the face of the earth. Let me say, at this point, that I am not talking about denominational Christianity, because God is not interested in denominational Christianity. Nor am I talking about American, European, Russian, African nor Asian Christianity. But I am talking about biblical Christianity for that is the kind God is interested in. Biblical Christianity will work in any culture of the world and it will be recognized by every culture of the world. It will be the same worldwide. No matter what country they are from, God’s people will be recognized–not by: What they do or do not wear. Denominational labels Jesus saves or I am a Christian bumper stickers How big a Bible they carry How loud they shout or how long they pray. They will be recognized by the following five marks of identification given to us in Hebrews 13:1-6.
Chacteristic #1 is found in Hebrews 13, 1, “a love for the brethern.” It is very thought provoking I think that in the New Testament God has more to say about our relationship in the Body of Christ than he does about any other relationship. No matter what else happens in our lives when we come together as God’s people, if love for the brethern is not evident, then we have flunked out in the one area where Jesus said the world has a right to judge us as to whether we are truly his disciples or not. John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.” I John 4:7-8, (TLB) Dear friends, let us practice loving each other for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and they are getting to know him better. But if a person is not loving and kind it shows he doesn’t know God for God is love.
I’ve come to this conclusion after serving God for a number of years. Until we as the people of God come into a biblical love relationship with one another, we are not going to really affect the unsaved world around us. The world wants to see demonstrated in our walk what we are telling them in our talk.
The kind of love for the brethern that God asks us to demonstrate to the world is an agape’ and not a phileo kind of love. A phileo love is a love of the emotions. It’s a friendly love, a fondness love, an affectionate love. It’s what we would call a fickle type of love because it can be withdrawn just as quickly as it is extended. Phileo love is a love that loves because it receives pleasure from the object of its love. It makes no demands on the person loving. An agape’ love is different. It’s a love that is extended to another without expecting it to be returned. It’s a love that recognizes the worth of and ascribes value to the object loved. It recognizes the valuable qualities in the object loved.
There is a need in everyone of us to know that we have value. There is a need to know that we are worthy to be loved; that we do count for something; that our lives do matter to those around us. But tragically we live in a culture and society that is constantly teaching us to be suspicious of each other; to be afraid and skeptical of getting involved with one another in more than a courteous greeting. We build walls around ourselves to protect us from each other and not allow ourselves to be too approachable.
I don’t know how you were raised in your early Christian faith, but I was raised on the two level discipleship teaching.
- Level #1 is God reaching down to me. This level takes care of my vertical relationship toward God.
- Level #2 is my reaching out to others. This level takes care of my horizontal relationship toward my fellow man.
I was taught that not only must I learn to live at peace with God, but I must learn to live at peace with you. Not only am I in covenant relationship with God, but I am also in covenant relationship with you. My relationship with you is extremely important to my spiritual growth and witness to the world. My relationship with you as a believer is the measuring stick the world uses to measure my love, devotion, sincerity and credibility to God Love for the brethern is identifying mark #1 of real biblical Christianity.
Characteristic # 2 is found in Hebrews 13:2, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.” This means that we are to have a proper attitude toward the unchurched; those outside the church. In the Scriptures, Jesus was called, “a friend of sinners.” I ask, whose friend are we? Most of us could say that all our friends are Christians. We’re saved, sanctified and separated; a friend only to Christians.
In my younger Christian life, my religious mindset caused me to not want to be a friend to sinners. If what I was going to do wasn’t with Christians, then I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I really thought it was morally wrong for me to associate with unbelievers. I believed it would damage my Christian testimony if I was seen with them. Consequently, I won very few of them to the Lord.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. As a young Christian, my wife and I had just moved into a new neighborhood and were invited to a block party. I was told that practically the whole neighborhood was turning out for it. I asked, “Will there be drinking of alcoholic beverages?” When the answer was, yes, I quickly declined. Later though, I began to think about my response and wondered if that same person had asked Jesus the same question, would Jesus have gone? I really think he would have. Our Baptist neighbor went and a few weeks later several neighborhood families had become born again and were attending the Baptist church. God really used this experience to open my eyes to the fact that it is to those outside of Christ that he sends his followers with the Good News of the Gospel. To win them we’ve got to rub elbows with them. It’s really odd, but so often we read, I Corinthians 5: 9-11, TLB) all wrong. It reads, “When I wrote to you before I said not to mix with evil people. But when I said that I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who live in sexual sin, or are greedy cheats and thieves and idol worshipers. For you can’t live in this world without being with people like that. What I meant was that you are not to keep company with anyone who claims to be a brother Christian but indulges in sexual sins, or is greedy, or is a swindler, or worships idols, or is a drunkard, or abusive. Don’t even eat lunch with such a person.”
Now we have taken that Scripture and in so many churches reversed it completely. We have said, by our actions, we won’t put up with the immoral person of the world, but we will put up with the immoral person of the church. Listen, we need to take time as people of God to make friends, not with the world system, but with people of the world. So often, we’re guilty of trying to win the lost around us without taking the time to first be a friend with them. We fail to show real concern for them as people. They are potential converts and nothing more. We keep out spiritual “six guns” loaded and when we see an unsuspecting sinner, we have the fastest gun in the church. John 3:16, bam! Romans 3:23, bam! Romans 6:23, bam! Rev. 3:20,bam!—Glory to God, another notch in the gun, Hallelujah.
I really believe that it’s important for us to know that not only must we witness to them with the Word, but we must also witness to them with our love for them. We must be an expression of God’s love to them. If they are convinced that we really care, then our witness will be more readily received. Love expressed to them will draw them to Christ because love reaches out, love speaks to the heart and love cannot be argued with.
Characteristic #3 is found in Hebrews 13;3, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”(KJV) or “share the sorrow of those being mistreated.” God’s people will identify with and align themselves with the ill treated, the downtrodden and the oppressed of the world. Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute, speak-up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (NLT) In the past, many of God’s people withdrew from the “political arena” and shied away from “social issues” because they believed that the church should only involve itself in “religious” matters. But praise God, today, all that is changing. God is busy producing a very vocal and active people who are standing up, not only for the spiritual truths of God’s Word, but are also standing up for all those who are oppressed, downtrodden and ill treated.
God is bringing forth a people in this generation who are not overly concerned about how they are accepted by those in high places, but are causing those in high places to start getting concerned about how they are accepted by the church. All believers need to understand that human government is an extension of the divine government and the powers that be are ordained of God. Government comes from God and that means all government has a God given responsibility and that responsibility is to care for the needs of its citizens. Therefore, our Christian responsibility is not only to submit and pray for those in authority, but to also call into accountability those who do not fulfill their responsibility that God has given to them in human government.
Paul defended his rights as a Roman citizen in Acts 16:35-39, (NLT) The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” So the jailer told Paul, ” You and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.” But Paul replied, “They have publicly beaten us without trial and jailed us–and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!” When the police made their report, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city.” Paul and Silas, with no trial and no defense were thrown into a Philippians jail; brutally stripped and beaten and with no care given to them. They were locked in a cell and placed in stocks. At daybreak, after finding them to be Roman citizens, the town leaders sent officers with orders to release them and to quietly send them away saying, “We’ve made a silly mistake, but now you can peacefully go on your way.” However, Paul would have none of that.”No way,” said Paul, “You denied us our rights as citizens. You publicly humiliated us and now you want to hush it up. No way! We want those in leadership to come and apologize to us and publicly release us!” And that is what the town leaders did.
Here is a statement of truth to think about. A balance is needed by the church in our responsibility to those who are in authority over us and in our rights to call into accountability those who do not fulfill the responsibility that is theirs as a leader. My brothers and sisters, we have a right to open our corporate mouths and to involve ourselves personally when things are done that are not in line with God’s Word.
Here’s another statement of truth to think on. The people of this world will never believe that we are the church the Bible portrays until they see us taking the part of and standing up for the downtrodden, the oppressed and the ill treated peoples of the world. Sharing the sorrows of those being mistreated is identifying mark #3 of biblical Christian character.
Character # 4 is found in Hebrews 13:4, “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.” (NLT) or “Honor your marriage and its vows.” (TLB)
Biblical Christianity will produce a people who have a healthy attitude toward marriage and family. It will be an attitude far different than is found in the culture of the world where marriage is continually downgraded and mocked and sex outside of marriage is deified and found acceptable.
God is going to have a people where marriage is held in honor. Where husbands will recognize that their wives are the most precious possession in all the world. Where wives will recognize that they have a sacred responsibility to their husbands; knowing and accepting the fact that their husbands are a covering and a protection to them. In the middle of today’s loose lifestyle, where marriages are beginning to be looked upon as a relic of the past, God’s people all over the world are going to be recognized by their marriages that will endure the test of time under all kinds of circumstances like the one described in the following letter to Ann Landers.
” Dear Ann: I’m going to tell you about a love story that I witness every time I go to the nursing home to see my husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, I know first hand how this terrible illness affects family members, but I would like the world to know what love and commitment in marriage really is. I see a man who, I understand, has spent the last eight years caring for his wife who has Alzheimer’s. They have been married for more than 50 years. He cooks and feeds her every bite of food she eats. He has bathed her and dressed her every day all these years. They have no other family. She lost a baby at birth and they never had any more children. I cannot describe the tenderness and love that man shows for his wife. She is unable to recognize anyone, including him. The only things she shows any interest in are two baby dolls. They are never out of her hands. I observed him when I parked my car beside his the other day. He sat in his old pickup truck for a few minutes, then he patted down what little hair he had, straightened the threadbare collar of his shirt and looked in the mirror for a final check before going in to see his wife. It was as if he was courting her. They have been partners in all these years and have seen each other in all kinds of circumstances, yet he carefully groomed himself before he called on his wife who wouldn’t even know him. This is the kind of love and commitment the world needs today.”
Characteristic #5 is found in Hebrews 13, 5, “Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have (NLT). God’s people are going to be a contented people. God is going to produce a people who will be characterized by contentment. We need to know that contentment is not a gift but it is something learned. Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned how to be content…” Today, very few people seem to be contented. This is brought on to some extent by those who control advertisement in the media. They want you to be discontent with what you have. They seek to encourage discontentment.. It’s their job to create in you a desire for their product and for that to happen, they have to get you dissatisfied with what you have. Once they have done that, they stand a better chance of selling you what they have. It really doesn’t matter whether or not you need what they are selling. Their job is to get you to want their product and they are really good with their marketing skills. They reach out to you and I in a number of creative ways-all aimed at causing us to let down our self control in buying. They create an attitude of discontent and dissatisfaction in our lives and only their product can relieve it. So they say. It’s absolutely amazing to watch advertising today. In most cases they are selling us a new way of life. I can’t help but believe that the religion of America has become materialism.” It’s high priests are advertising people who try to sell you and I this new way of life. It’s almost like they are selling the public a “new birth.” If you’ll just buy this product, it will bring you immediate success, immediate change and immediate transformation. They are trying to sell you what you can’t afford; what you really don’t want and what you really don’t need.
Listen to what Proverbs 30:8-9, tells us. “O Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say , Who is the Lord.” or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of God.” The writer of Proverbs is saying, “Lord, let me stay in the middle of the road and I’ll be content.” I think Matthew 6:33, can help us to become a contented person if we’ll do what it tells us to do. “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” This verse is God’s cure for discontentment caused by a covetousness. Why should we covet when God has promised to supply all our daily needs?
In conclusion, let me say that God is at work today in his people to establish these five characteristics that will identify his people regardless of the culture they live in. A love for the brethern A love for the stranger Standing up for the oppressed, downtrodden and ill treated. Holding marriage in honor Walking in contentment