Many times we wonder why we as Christians makes such a small impact in the world. We see other religions spending time with their gods, but we as Christians find it difficult to spend time with our God. When one does profess that you are a Christian, you get people saying that they would rather do business with a non-Christian than with a Christian, or that you are infatuated with your Christianity.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
The definition I want to give is as follows:
The right to enter into the presence of the LORD, without guilt, condemnation or inferiority. It is to be in the right relationship with Him the Creator. This can only be achieved when we have received an overwhelming gift of righteousness.
What and where does the word righteousness come from?
Mat. 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
We put a lot of emphasis on seeking the kingdom of God, but the second part, the righteousness of God is sometimes completely missed.
Let us look at the following passages of Matthew. Chapter 5 verses 17 to 48: “17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. 21 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. 27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. 33 ¶ Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. 38 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
The last verse of the quoted scripture is very difficult to understand if we look at the preceding verses. We have to remember that Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees. We have to also remember that these people not only had the Ten Commandments to obey, but all the other commandments found in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Jesus tried to prove to them here that it was not possible to gain eternal life by adhering and obeying all these commandments. And yet He calls on them to be perfect like their Father in heaven. But how is this achieved? Mat 5:20: “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
What is done today when someone decides to follow the LORD? How do we make people His disciples?
My experience is that people will answer an altar call, and then say a prayer and accept Jesus as their saviour. After that the person is told to not do the following: smoking, drinking, swearing, and a lot of other things that should not be done. At the same time they are told to do the following: “Work hard, pray, read the Bible, attend the services, bring your tithe, and in general just be good. The person would marry, become a helper or Sunday school teacher, have kids, retire and die.
Now you might ask me what is wrong with this? Actually, quite a lot. We read in Acts one verse eight that we will receive Power from the Holy Spirit. Where is this Power in the afore mentioned life of a believer? Your life is empty without this Power. Let us look at our own lives. Do we still suffer from sins like pride, gossip, jealousy, own righteousness, and an intolerable spirit that you cannot get rid of? How do we overcome this? Read the Bible. Listen to tapes and watch videos promising us that we will be able to overcome it. If this doesn’t help we go for counselling and are told to fast and pray. What does the Bible teach? Mat 10:38 “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
The Bible does not tell us that we are going to have a whale of a time. No, it is going to cost me something. My life. It will cost me to lay down my life at the cross, pick up the Cross of Jesus, and following Him. We always see the cross only as something that Jesus died on and where He fulfilled the first covenant. But we rarely see the cross as something where I have to go and lay my life down, and then to follow Him. Just remember you cannot be born again if you don’t die first. It is impossible to be born again while you are still alive. No, you must lay down your life, your self-righteousness at the cross first, and then be born again. Then your prayer won’t be: “LORD, I bring all my sins to you for forgiveness and thank you that I am a new creation now.” No, your prayer will be: “LORD Jesus I cannot save myself. I trust you for it. I now lay down my life and receive your life in its place. Do with me as you please. Thank you for saving me.” Before you died, everything you did was religion, but now you live a life to glorify our Saviour, the LORD Jesus Christ.
How do I now that I have died? Let us look at a number of aspects that we either want to hear or that we do not want to hear. The religious person wants to reign, but he does not want to suffer. He wants to go to heaven, but he still wants to do as he pleases. He wants the LORD to bless him, but he does not want to give up anything. He will travel for miles to listen to messages of blessings, power, eternal life, spiritual gifts or similar subjects, but he does not like messages of self-denial, subjection, and holiness. Why? I want to stay in control of my life.
The saved person says “Not I but Christ”. Why? Let us examine Luke’s version of the same passage. Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” This version tells us that it is a daily thing. I cannot assume that because I died yesterday that I am still dead to sin today. No, I must take up my cross daily and follow Him. I must die on a daily basis. If I don’t die, I cannot live forever. When I have eternal life, death no longer has a hold on me. When I ask someone what their relationship with the LORD is like, I am not interested in what it was 20, 10 or 5 years ago, No I want to know what He did for you today. Did He just reveal a passage in scripture for you, or maybe he sent someone across your path that you really missed. Or maybe He answered a prayer for you.
I mentioned earlier that you had to die. What do you have to die from? Man consists of a body, a soul and a spirit. Your soul, in other words your emotions, will or thoughts are used to doing certain things and accept certain reactions as normal. Your spirit on the other hand does not know a lot about the will of God and does not know who God is. When I change my will for His will, it is necessary for me to change my habits, which are part of my soul, to habits that glorify Him. This means that I must crown the LORD as King in every facet of my life, and this is done by receiving a new heart capable of doing His will and following His commandments, a heart of flesh.
I must understand what it means for Him to be my mediator. He is the one interceding for me daily at the Father. So instead of the Father seeing me, He sees me washed in the Blood of the LORD Jesus Christ. Similarly there are other areas where I have to crown Him as King in my life. Areas like healing, advocate, and as my redeemer. Every new area where I discover and make Him King of builds my faith. The Bible also tells us that it is not possible to please God without faith, so I have to take every aspect of my life to cross, in order crown Jesus King of that area of my life.
You might ask me what this is all about? At the start of this article I quoted the scripture that told as to be as perfect as our Father in heaven is. How is this achieved? We have seen that we have to die, and this is where the start is of how to be perfect like our Father in heaven. We then have to move on to the new covenant. Let us look at the history of what covenants were, and how they were administered.
The first covenant we read of was between God and Abraham. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of all believers, and was given a sign, the circumcision of all males. This covenant was confirmed again by the LORD with Moses prior to the exodus of Israel from Egypt. Here they were told to come under the blood of the year old lamb they had to kill and eat the night of the Passover. But what is the new covenant? We hear people talk about the new covenant, but do we really understand what a covenant is? When we examine this subject we find that when entered into between two parties, many items of clothing as well as oaths were made between the two parties. Our covenant with Jesus left us with the following:
He gave us his coat symbolising His nature and character.
His belt gives us His strength and power
The mixing of the Blood means we receive forgiveness of sins
We receive His Name, and with it we receive His reputation and authority, whilst giving us the Cross as a permanent agreement
We also receive His possessions, and through this we receive eternal life
We eat together at Holy Communion a meal of the new covenant
The last sign of the covenant is the blood stained cross at Calvary. If He did not die for us, we would not be able to receive eternal life.
How do I become part of the new covenant? Through the baptism of the believer and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which denotes the death of the old man, and the resurrection of the new man. I have to choose to become part of the covenant, no one else can decide for me if I can become part of it. I have to go and lay down my life at the cross. John 3:5-6: “5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Roman 6 is a chapter in the Bible telling us exactly what baptism means in our lives as Christians.
“1 ¶ What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When we realise what the new covenant means to us, we will also start moving in the Power that is lacking in so many Christians, and will we do what He commands. This Power is the same power we read of in Matthew 28 verse 18, where Jesus declares that all power in heaven and on earth is given to Him. It is this Power that raised Him from death, and this is the Power that we as Christians get as part of the new covenant.
Let me use an example to illustrate this point. While driving the other day, Hettie had to get something from her purse and found our passports in her purse. I asked her to look at when our passports will expire, and suddenly a whole different scenario opened up in front of me.
As South Africans, every one in my family has South African passports. This entitles any one of us to go any where in the world and be representative of our country. It also entitles me to certain rights while in a different country. In the process of getting a passport, the government of the day in South Africa is entitled to investigate my affairs to find out if I can and have been a good ambassador for my country. This allows them to retract my passport in the event of a major crime against the state, as I am then not allowed to represent my country, as I have transgressed against the laws of the country. The same applies to my representation of God’s Kingdom. I first have to apply to represent His Kingdom, and if successful, must represent His Kingdom in a manner acceptable to Him. Only the LORD can appoint me to represent His Kingdom. No church group or individual has the right to issue a passport, meaning no membership of any church group allows me to say that I am a born again believer. The moment I enter into a covenant relationship with the LORD, I will also receive the right to represent His Kingdom, and this is always accompanied by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This entitles me to represent the Kingdom of the LORD. With a passport, or in Gods Kingdom the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I can represent His Kingdom on earth. Without it, I can do nothing. But, I also have to remember that if I don’t do justice to my membership of His Kingdom, that my passport will be retracted. This can happen without any notice to you, as He has the right to do it. Do we always act as His representatives?
Jeremiah declared twice that Jesus would be our righteousness. Jeremiah 23:6 : “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.. Jer 33:16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.”
Father I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ my LORD and Saviour. Father I come and lay down my life before you and declare that only You can save me. LORD forgive all my sins and transgressions I did before knowing You. I now lay down my life and receive Your life. Wash me as white as snow, and grant me the Power that Your Word declares I will receive. I clothe me with Your righteousness that You prepared for me through Jesus Christ. I declare also that I am only able to declare that I am Yours because of what You have done through Jesus Christ, Your Son. I also declare that through the offer of Jesus Christ I am entitled to represent Your Kingdom on earth and move in the Gifts of Your Spirit. Therefore I ask you to baptise me with all the Gifts of the Spirit in order for me to represent Your Kingdom. I also declare that I will represent Your Kingdom as a honourable citizen, and that if I should transgress, that You have the right to retract these gifts. Thank you that you are saving me. Amen.