There are many a Christian that would not like what I am going to write about, but I need to write it. I filed it under self-examination.
The last few weeks I have been struggling with various issues and it just seemed to me that turning to fellow believers did not always leave me encouraged. It truly should not be that way. Two things just gnawed at me: the lack of finding encouragement in other believers and not being able to recognize fellow believers. How can we recognize true believers if the only gauge we can use is the fruit of the Spirit, that is recognizable behaviors, as listed in Galatians.
Last night, I had this thought….If we had to assess (not judge) Christians by their fruits (You shall know them by their fruit…Matthew 7:16– “the fruit of the Spirit is…Gal. 5:22-26) how many believers would do well on this assessment? Of course, I directed these questions at myself, but truly, the questions were directed at “us”, “we”, the body of Christ. How do we treat fellow believers and how should we treat fellow believers? Now, clearly the scriptures give us plenty of examples on how we are to relate to each other, but these days…in many instances the examples provided do little to move us to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with any sort of scriptural respect.
I started my own assessment by listing the fruits of the Spirit. First, we start with….
Love – How do we show/express love toward fellow believers?
Joy – Personal joy, do we have any? Define it. It’s the joy of the Lord we desire.
Peace – Personal peace – peace with God – peace with others. It’s possible, but is it probable?
Long-suffering – Can we withstand the fiery arrows of the enemy? Even if those closest to us are aiming those arrows at us?
Kindness – Do we show it only to those deserving? How do we determine who deserves our kindness?
Goodness – How do we express goodness?
Faithfulness – In all things? Or only on those things in which we have control, or serve our interests?
Gentleness – In what way do we express gentleness?
Self-control – We are capable. Do we have it? in all, the flesh, the mind, the tongue.
As believers, we should have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, or working on it.
When we walk in the Spirit, we don’t walk in conceit, we do not provoke each other, we do not envy one another.
We should not use our liberty as an opportunity for the flesh. Yet, many fly the banner “I am not perfect, just forgiven.”
Through love we should serve one another. There are many ways to serve, but I think of practicing hospitality, checking up on fellow believers.
The Lord has directed us to interact in specific ways…
Now, first of all if we find a brother or sister in Christ has been overtaken by sin we are to restore such a person in gentleness and approach the situation cautiously that we may not get caught up in the same sin.
Second, we are to carry one another’s burdens.
When we think we are something, or somehow more special than the guy next to us-We are nothing! really! We are deceived!
We should be constantly examining ourselves, our motives, our attitudes. We reap what we sow.
The scriptures tell us to do good to all (Gal. 6:10)! As we have opportunity, especially to those that are of the faith.
Still, knowing what the scriptures clearly explain, how do we treat fellow believers (starting within our circle of influence-friends, family, acquaintances, fellow church members)?
At church, do we smile and greet others and as soon as they walk away we think to ourselves, or whisper to whoever is with us some snide remark? We may refer to some attributional flaw, their demeanor, their appearance, bad breath, body odor, or even criticize the lack of use of toe nail polish.
Do we bully people, ever so subtle, or overly overt? We may shoot out hostile arrows. And try to pass it of…“Oh I am just kidding!” Or something similar.
Do we ask the question: How are you? then walk away quickly so as not to avoid any sincere response. “It’s a rhetorical question, don’t they know that?” Sunday church service is not the place to share burdens, after all.
Does the Spirit tug at us to call someone – and we just shake it off? Or ignore it by doing something that needs to be done immediately, even though its been on hold for weeks?
How many Christians do you know? How many do you keep in contact with?
How many times have we failed to call on a fellow believer the Lord hounded us to go visit, but just couldn’t bring our-self to do it?
Do we forgive, but yet never forget the wrong that others have done to us?
“I forgave him, but I do not have to like him, or talk to him, or be in the same room as him!”
Is that even scriptural?
Do we pass judgment on believers we never reach out to?
Do we avoid “toxic” people?
There are all kinds of people in the church building. Some are believers, some are not. Some are looking for meaning, some are just showing of. Some know God, some know Jesus, some are just know it all’s and they won’t hesitate to let you know it. Some know basics about God and Jesus, some know nothing, but will ask if you give them a moment of your time.
Malachi 3: 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change…”
Do we listen to others, or do we tune them in and out?
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart[a] brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
2 Corinthians 5:10-11
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the thingsdone in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can Know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”
Are we the first to cast stones rather than carry another’s burden, rather than reach out to someone in a time of need, or distress? Are we the first to speak falsely against a fellow believer…without knowledge of the circumstances, or any such information?
If we could see each other as God sees us through His Son, Jesus Christ, we would surely treat each other differently. There would be no boasting to the flesh, only to the glory of God.
When we walk by faith there are no open windows, or doors. We walk the path. We stay the course, but it’s not easy. It is much better to wear blinders as those worn by horses. They have peripheral vision, which means they can end up running off course unless they are made to remain focused. That’s just like believers. We must learn to keeping our eyes on God, on the things of God, trusting in His Son to create in us a new mind, to give us His desires.
Next: Setting up our own gates to keep us from harm (A lesson I learned from my 19 month old grandson.)