Ugly Christians

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Beauty captures our attention.  When I drive by a home with neatly maintained lawns and tended flower beds, I notice. When I see a restored vehicle (like I did yesterday in the parade) I admire the craftsmanship that made an old thing new!  A job well-done demonstrates real effort that is noteworthy and appreciated.  And yes, it is true that those persons who are actively pursuing Jesus, who are learning how to love deeply, serve faithfully, who understand that following Him involves more than a Sunday morning visit to a church building, are beautiful in my eyes.

Even those who are outside of the faith can tell the difference between an ugly, undeveloped Christianity and a true disciple of Jesus. Let’s be clear about one thing here.  Beautiful Christians are not flawless and they do not  wear spiritual make-up to cover the imperfections. They are authentic, heart surrendered, life-given people who overflow with the Spirit.

Paul reminds us that becoming beautiful for the Lord does not just happen.  There is a process involved. I hear your objection.  “Jerry, that’s religion. I’m saved by grace.” And, indeed, you are. There is not a single thing you can do to earn God’s favor or make Him love you or cause Him to give you eternal life. But, there is a lot for all of us to do to let that life of the Spirit bloom into full maturity, evident in our day to day lives.  “Dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” (Philippians 2:12-16, NIV)

What are some things we do to ‘work out’ the implications of having Christ Jesus as our Savior? How do we become beautiful Christians?  In no special order, let me mention a few things I learn from His Word.

Because we belong to Jesus, we readily forgive! Yes, we refuse to drag around those resentments, that bitterness, those moments when others apparently failed us, for the sake of Christ.  We forgive completely, because we are forgiven, Jesus said.

Because we belong to Jesus, we no longer feed the sinful nature.  “Would I bring Jesus here? Would I speak in this way if I were talking to Him? Would I do this if I were accompanied by the Lord?”  Perhaps that strikes you as naïve or silly.  It is not.  While fewer Christians treat such questions with much seriousness these days, they remain important to those who desire to become beautiful Christians.  The fruit of the Spirit  – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – cannot grow in the life that is cluttered with love of money, undisciplined sexuality, selfish ambition, hatred, filthy speech, or just plain love of the world of which we are a part.  A pure heart is a thing of beauty and must be cared for with attentiveness and intentionality!

Because we belong to Jesus, we always think of ourselves first as belonging to Him.  Asking God, our Father, for guidance and actually concerning ourselves with His will, marks us in a culture that loves self-expression. Jesus invites us into discipleship that encompasses every part of life – “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” (Luke 9:23-25, NLT)

Let’s not think about this kind of life, about working out the implications of His gift of salvation every day, as a hardship! It is a refining process, to be sure, but He works in us to create a person of incredible beauty, full of love, overflowing with His Spirit, and who understands, in deep way, the world that misleads and the purpose of the Father that draws us to mature faith that is more than word or creed.  The best part of all this is not just our sense of fulfillment, but that we, ourselves, are eclipsed by His beauty radiant in us, causing others to thank God.

Our word from the Word comes from Isaiah, the preacher of Judah.  The Spirit inspired him with these poetic words that describe the actual beauty of the blessed.  Is this your desire?

“To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness,
they will be like great oaks that the Lord
has planted for his own glory.” (Isaiah 61:3, NLT)

___________

Build My Life

(HouseFires sings about a beautiful life)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

 Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You  We live for You

 Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

 I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett
© 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited)
Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Bethel Music Publishing CCLI License # 810055

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