Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where's the Change?

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.                 James 2:14-17  NKJV
When we began to look at the last words from Peter, Paul, and John, we found they all gave the same warning of false believers infiltrating the Church in the last days.  We looked last week at the statement Jesus made at the end of the Olivet Discourse where He warned that at the time of judgment, many would claim to be believers yet be condemned because in His words, He never knew them.  With that in mind, I thought today we would look at the subject of how we can look at ourselves with the idea of knowing for certain that we are indeed, followers of Christ.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.    2 Corinthians 13:5  NKJV
The first thing I notice about this passage from Paul is that he instructs us to examine “ourselves”, and not others.  How often do we turn a critical eye on others to see if they measure up to our standards of behavior when truth be told we should be looking in the mirror at our own reflection to see if we are exhibiting the image of Christ who lives inside of us?  In the Greek, both “examine” and “test” are verbs, which indicate action in that we are expected to put our claim of being believers to the test by looking for the actions which are proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

To many, the best test is to look for examples of actions which not only reflect the indwelling Holy Spirit, but also would probably not occur if not for the presence of the Spirit inside.  There is a big difference between doing something you would normally do anyway, and doing something “out of your comfort zone” as a result of the leading of the Holy Spirit.  In a world where putting our own interests before those of others is the norm, and looking after number one is the catch phrase of society, having a servant spirit is a very good way to tell if a change has taken place.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4  NKJV

Lowliness of mind is not just saying to ourselves that others are truly better than we are, but acting on that belief by serving others and putting their needs before our own.  This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult attitudes a believer is called to possess, especially in a world where selfishness and pride in personal gain is not only expected, but often glorified.  As true believers we deal with the problems of pride and selfishness by first adopting the attitude that everyone else is better than we are, and then secondly by asking ourselves if we spend more time taking care of someone else’s needs rather than our own.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  Philippians 2:5-7  NKJV

If anyone ever had a good reason to consider himself a little better than everyone else it would have been our Lord.  Yet He chose to not only give up His position at the right hand of God the Father, He also made the choice to be a servant to mankind.  I like how Ray Stedman explained this passage in one of his teachings.
“But having all this, the argument goes, He did not count all these things to be held onto at all costs, but he emptied Himself. He did not empty Himself of his deity-he couldn't do that, just as we could not empty ourselves of our humanity no matter hard we tried, because we are human, and all we do is an expression of our humanity. When Jesus entered this world, stepping out of eternity into time, He could not empty himself of his Deity. That needs to be made clear. What He could and did do was empty Himself of every expression of Deity. He did not come to manifest what God was like. He came to show us what man ought to be. He did not give up His rights as God. He gave up his right to enjoy the rights of God. It began in his mind with this thought, Paul says, that the enjoyment of these things is not the most important thing to me. In other words, He did not insist on His rights, but laid aside the right to have His rights, and emptied Himself.” 
Did you notice the phrase “He did not insist on His rights”?  I believe this is where the true test of a believer lies, and where it will be manifested by testing.  How do you react when you encounter a difficulty with someone else?  What do you feel and how do you respond when someone else treats you in a manner you believe is unfair as a result of a disagreement?  Humility is made evident at this point when believers give up their “right” to respond and accept the indignation in the same manner Christ accepted the unfair persecution and ridicule which resulted in His own death.
Jesus made the decision to humble Himself even unto death with the knowledge that the end result would be His resurrection and glorification in the presence of the Father.  So too, should we as believers look forward to our reward in Heaven, rather than the temporary rewards of personal gain we might enjoy here on earth by putting our own needs before those of others.  True believers are changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which then produces a spirit of humility along with an attitude which puts the needs of others first and accepts the consequences no matter what they are.
Keep watching.