The 7 Attributes of Successful Christians (Part 3)
The Last Three Attributes:
Each of the attributes discussed in this 3-part series are exhibited throughout the Bible. Solomon extols understanding. John promotes and writes about love. Paul introduces most of his letters with grace, mercy, and peace; with peace as one of the final three attributes. However, it will take a great amount of understanding, love, and peace to come to grips with cross bearing. Modern religions do not even touch on this subject. They are all about “smooth” concepts. For instance, many teach the commandments are nailed to the cross in order to remove our responsibility to keep the Law. Others teach we are going to be whisked away in a rapture to escape the tribulation.
We live in a world where ease, happiness and luxurious living are the ultimate goal. Mega-churches with casual pastors, bulging audiences and superficial sermons, aspire to the grandiose goal of the “abundant” life with God’s blessings. However, true Christianity is the antithesis to this Satan-inspired world of deception. We will learn the truth as “It Is Written!”
Throughout the gospels, Jesus Christ is adamant about forsaking all, taking up our cross daily, leaving family members, and possibly even losing our life for Christ’s sake. Is Jesus really serious about these very demanding statements? Yes, He is! Peter, concerned with Christ’s rigorous demands, even asked on one occasion, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19: 25). There are eight passages in the gospels that are almost identical regarding “bearing your cross.” Are we to fear and have no hope because the task is too daunting? I doubt if there’s a single person reading this article who has not left someone or something to get an education, join a military unit, engage in some arduous sport or work incessantly at a job.
Consider the Tour de France. From July 4th to the 26th the cyclists travelled nearly 2200 miles of mountainous terrain to win a ‘mere’ yellow jersey. They engage the Swiss Alps, the Pyrenees (that border France and Spain), and a total of ten mountains in this 23-day event. To date, Lance Armstrong has won this prestigious event a total of seven times. These cyclists accumulate about 30-40 000 kilometres per year in preparation alone, for events like this. It is a full time job to get in shape and have the mental toughness to win. Anyone who even remotely considers the Tour has to literally give up their lives for this event. Though this is just one example, the fact is, man has engaged in many endeavours that cover the Earth and some even in outer space. So, it’s not that mankind cannot make the sacrifices Jesus requires; it is that most do not feel the need or even the desire to bear that cross.
One of Lucifer’s enticements is the offer of immediacy in satisfying our desires. We want instant results and we want to reach our goals with ease. Real Christianity is counterintuitive to this human proclivity. That is why Lucifer has been successful in deceiving the world. Lucifer has and still is ensuring that many seek an attractive life of ease, especially in religion. However, Jesus reminds us that we must count the cost of being a disciple. We cannot ignore or excuse ourselves by saying: it cannot be done so why even try.
The Unprofitable Servant in Matthew 25 confessed that he knew Jesus to be a hard man, so he was afraid. Jesus replied,
You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” (Matthew 25:26-27)
Jesus did not correct the servant’s assertion that He was a hard man, but chastened him severely for his slothfulness. He did not even try, which was at the heart of what made Jesus lash out in a burst of bitter condemnation. The servant was sentenced to the Lake of Fire. Clearly, Jesus is very serious about bearing a cross, executing responsibility, and following his directives.
Jesus will reward us with enormous responsibility. So, He wants people who will follow His plan.
To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with me on my throne…(Revelation 3:21) …and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:13) …Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10) …I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Overcoming, works, patience, sufferings, and faithfulness to the end are indeed characteristics of a cross bearer! Hardship, difficulty and patience are virtues that enhance growth. These traits are required for any great achievement. A cyclist cannot win the Tour de France without all these traits. The list of accomplishments from around the world in all facets of society demonstrates the desire and level of commitment required for high achievement and accomplishment. We, who are the “weak of the world” could easily be discouraged by the overwhelming feats of worldly champions. Even Biblical champions as Paul, Stephen, Joshua, Moses and Gideon are daunting examples of cross-bearing men to be admired by all Christians.
But, what about Christian parents who raise their children to follow in the path of righteousness and grow up, continuing in this way for generations? Are they cross-bearers? What about the couple that remains faithful to each other in marriage and to God in all ways to the end of their lives? Are they cross-bearers? What about the true ministry, the deacons, and all the servants in the church, including the writers and producers of this magazine, are they not cross-bearers? The point is, we all fight the battles that are before us in our own time. The greatest battles we face today include the fight against apathy, the lure of worldly attractions, and having an increase of goods. Having too much ease can give a person the notion they have no need for God, or the church, resulting in the lack of dedication it takes to be a cross-bearer.
We are fighting for seemingly simple tasks compared to our Christian forefathers. There is nothing overwhelming about going to church services, tithing, observing the annual Feast days or participating in charitable projects. When the desire is gone, these tasks become burdensome and left undone. Every generation has its own problems, challenges, and opportunities. In the Apostles’ time, they were all martyred for their faith. In the 21st Century, many are lured into simply walking away from their faith. Jesus repeats for our good,
And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Jesus is very clear in His assessment of what discipleship requires!
Which is more difficult? Fighting and killing a giant or fighting against the adversary that seeks to destroy us while our own carnal desires keep us from bearing our cross? One perspective is that killing a giant is over with quickly. On the other hand, our battle is in the increasing drudgery of the daily, weekly, year-after-year temptations, discouragements, and loss of purpose. Combine this with the constant tendency to slowly and gradually drift into perdition: our battle continues until we die or Christ returns. We have to become strongly committed to be true over-comers. Jesus tells us plainly the over-comers will inherit all things.
We often hear that only the incorrigibly wicked will be destroyed. However, Jesus criticized the Unprofitable Servant saying:
You wicked and lazy servant.” (Matthew 25:26)
So wickedness in the eyes of Jesus does differ from our “anything goes society” which promotes a life of ease and convenience. This creeps into our churches with ease. That is why our job as Christians is to be watching our behaviour, attitudes, and objectives.
We are to sharpen one another with loving encouragement so we don’t faint with the task and burden we bear daily. Our adversary is constantly seeking those who he can lure into a non-profitable attitude. We have to remember that sinning is missing the mark. The Servant (Jesus Christ) paid the ultimate penalty with His innocent life! So, with that in mind, we need to strive to overcome! Be prayerful, as Jesus demonstrated, and ask for strength and guidance. Take your responsibilities seriously and persevere to the end. We are created in God’s image and He wants us to reign with Him as Kings and Priests (Revelation 5:10). Let us all sacrifice as we work towards that awesome goal!
It has been said that there are two passions that will drive a man to the ends of the Earth: love and hate. For our discussion, we will address love as an attribute for successful Christians. It is interesting that God commands love. Jesus answered a lawyer about the great Commandment in the Law,
Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Let us discuss the why and how of implementing these commands of Jesus.
The why is because we are in the God family! We are created in His image as it is written in Psalms 82:6. In John 10:34 it states,
Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, You are Gods?”
This shows we are destined to be Kings and Priests in a “family dynasty.” We are inheritors and rulers for eternity.
It is inconceivable not to love our own family. It will also be inconceivable not to work in loving harmony with God as examples to society. We will carry out Christ’s plans for growth, education, and blessings to all humanity.
Contrary to that the corruption of this world’s governments, we need to learn that love is an integral part of God’s government. When His government is in play, we will forever have full employment. Hunger will be a thing of the past. All humanity will know about God and His ruling saints. Currently, we are a little lower than the angels, but when Christ returns we will be above them and they will be there to serve and assist us in our collective duties (Ps. 8). Jesus Christ and His saints will have in place what every politician, union leader, and businessmen want for themselves: full employment, fair wages, profitability, low costs, and time for family activities with a bonus of being paid for celebrating all the Holy Days. Now who would not love a system that gives you every desire in life?
It will take love to be the catalyst for inspiring the family government to continue without incident for eternity. John adds eloquently to the love issue.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
The why is rather straightforward and has true purpose and should be understood by all who know God. The how is more difficult to implement, because we now have to love God and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. It is somewhat ironic that overcoming and cross-bearing come into play in this section. For example, Paul writes in Romans 12:19, 21:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
How many incidents do we know where vengeance and getting even is the normal accepted attitude? When we are hurt, we are to forgive and let God avenge us. We are showing our love for God by obeying this command. Many fall into the black hole of bitterness by allowing evil to overtake them. The only satisfaction we should seek is in doing God’s will and trusting His Word. Our faith that God will avenge in His time and in His way helps us to develop character and overcome evil. Peter talks about how in 1 Peter 2:18-22:
Servants, be submissive to your masters … when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God… Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example… [and] committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
We learn about overcoming and love when we are chastised unjustly, gossiped about unfairly, rejected mercilessly, or taken advantage of by spouses, family or employers. Are we able to love all the people who offend and hurt us? Are we up to that challenge? Our task, as we embrace this way of love, is to return good for evil.
We have to allow hurts not to embitter us and learn to have mercy and forgiveness turning the other cheek. “Impossible!” we might say. Well, Jesus did it all the time. Christian love requires us to do right as we sting from the cold, heartless, hard attitude of the world. Love and forgiveness come when we are wronged and we hurt to the core of our being—and then we extend forgiveness and love to the offending party. That’s what makes the difference!
Traditional Christianity knows nothing about this part of life, because their message is, “Jesus did it all for us.” However, quite the contrary, Jesus set the example for us to follow, encouraging us not to take the slothful route that is common in the world and which produces no character. It takes a very strong, spirit-led person to be hurt, and still go on loving, in spite of that hurt. These are the attributes that make one fit to be a king in God’s Kingdom!
We have to remember our calling and the goal we are striving to attain. Christ suffered beyond imagination. He asked His father to forgive those who beat, berated and persecuted Him. They blasphemed, drove huge spikes into His flesh, and then hung Him up for ridicule. Yet, He forgave them. Can we, then start to extend mercy to those who do not deserve love? This is how we will learn godly love: the small challenges that confront us will teach us how to take on bigger challenges. Growing in grace and knowledge will take on new meaning for all of us. The how is very hard—but with God’s help we can do it.
The God family will be pleased they have chosen the right candidate for kingship. Perhaps the sombre words of Christ in Matthew 7:13-14 will shock us all into the reality of our need to love others as we love ourselves. We are few in numbers at the present time, but our calling, love, and determination will keep us on the narrow path to life eternal. We have a high calling in Christ Jesus and our growing love is a necessary attribute to become highly effective Christians.
There was once a commission sent out for various artists to render a setting that would depict peace and tranquility. The first artist painted a pastoral setting with a house, children playing, a stream flowing gently through a meadow with cows and sheep grazing in the lush grass. There were puffy cumulus clouds in the blue azure sky with birds flying in formation. There were outbuildings from the house and chickens could be seen wandering around a pen. A dog was running around as the children played ball on the manicured lawn. The setting was deftly painted with artistic skill that depicted peace and tranquility and was an inspiration for even the most critical judge.
The second artist painted a dark foreboding seascape with huge rolling waves and whitecaps. The entire scene was dark with hovering angry clouds and lightning strikes throughout the sky. The high waves seemed to almost touch the clouds as they roiled with rain, spewing out balls of hail the size of marbles. The waves crashed into a high rocky cliff and the wind sent the spray high up the nearly vertical cliff. Near the top of the cliff in a small crevice was a small bird sitting comfortably in its tiny nest. The noise of thunder, the flashes of lightning, the fierce winds were of no concern to the bird. The bird resting peacefully amidst the violent storm in its warm dry nest depicted the epitome of peace and tranquility.
The traditional mindset of peace, among many believers is the pastoral setting. Many smooth, soft-spoken preachers tell their audiences that success, right relationships, and salvation are just a passing cloud away from them. Their message attracts millions because there is no conflict to resolve.
Jesus did it all for us, so we can all dwell in peaceful calm and bliss.”
Millions have bought into this suave, relaxing message of, “nothing to do but roll around heaven all day!” Jesus dispels this false image by making a startling statement in Matthew 10:34-36:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’”
Jesus tells us in the next passages that if we love anyone else more than Him we are not worthy of Him. Do we see how Jesus is training us and showing us by word and deed that we will have opposition? Jesus wants to know if we are true to Him only. Jesus tells us His Father knows when a sparrow falls. Just like the bird in the seascape was undeterred by the torrential winds and lightning, we too should take heart in the comfort of Biblical passages of promise. Peace comes to us through the torrent of family discontent, the winds of doctrinal dispute, and the fiery darts of the wicked one. Think of all the people who commit suicide when financial or other disaster strikes them. This world goes mad with fear, anxiety, and trauma over life issues that the Christian need not worry or fret about. That is peace!
The Spirit of Christ in us helps us to understand that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We may occasionally feel left out due to our admonishment not to be a part of the world. But would you rather be rich and famous or become a king in the first resurrection? God has specifically chosen us to see the world for what it is and delight in striving for perfection for the Kingdom of God as Jesus told us to do (Matthew 6:33). Our peace comes through walking through the fires of distress and confusion knowing God is always there for us. Job, the most righteous man of his day, stated,
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15)
These attributes show we have a responsibility to become Christ-like. This is a daunting task. Jesus shows in many ways His determination to have a cadre of friends who believe His message and His example. He is going to have saints with Him in His government. These battle-hardened individuals will have learned through time and constant reiteration from Scripture that Jesus says what He means and means what He says. Trust develops. Love becomes apparent. Truth is constant. Camaraderie becomes contagious. But, it all takes time (a lifetime) and a tremendous effort to build a cohesive family of dedicated ones who are one for all and all for one living up to the challenge presented to them by their leader. The leader inspires trust by His personal example, engendering faith and fierce loyalty. Think how many have given up their lives for the belief they held until death. Jesus is a wise, insightful, and compassionate leader that has many adherents in His program.
Let us all use the time we have to become true followers as we witness to others. Do it with zeal and unfaltering dedication. When we become practitioners of all the dictates of our King, we are then truly His kinsmen in every sense. This staunch belief creates in each of us a calm acceptance of life’s issues that we have to continually resolve. As we see how the promises are kept, our faith and love grow exponentially. All of this creates true peace of mind.
In the pastoral setting, the slightest disruption would have been catastrophic. On the other hand, in the seascape setting, would another lightning bolt have mattered? Would more vigorous thunderclaps make any difference to the nesting bird? The scene was as chaotic as our lives can be. Just as the bird was secure in the safety of its nest, so it is with us as we too rest in the bosom of our Saviour for security and safety through prayer. Our calling demands that we trust, believe, and obey. As we do, our inner being changes and we become determined to stay with the program until death. Serenity becomes a byword among true believers. Tranquility becomes our nature. We are poised in the face of discontent and confusion.
Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.” (Psalms 119:165)
The government that is built on the foundation of the prophets, apostles, the saints and Jesus as the cornerstone, is going to grow to infinity (Isaiah 9:6-7). What a breathtaking concept the Father has invited us to participate in for all eternity. How can we be anything but inspired and eternally grateful for this opportunity? Peace of mind should come to each of us as we see the day approaching and know for certainty we will rise in the air to meet Jesus. Grace, mercy and everlasting peace to all!