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The "reality" of the real Christian life!

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What is it to be a real, true faithful follower?

What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it simply to believe in Jesus, or is there more to it?

You know in this Christian life we can become so confused about what it means to be in Christ! Now, we do know though, that we have to realize that we are sinners. In need of God's grace and forgiveness. And we need to humble ourselves, repent (ask for forgiveness) and accept Jesus into our hearts as Lord and savior (for more info click here: How do I accept Jesus?). But after we do this, what becomes of us? What is next?
The process of "sanctification"!
This is where many become confused! This is also the reason why many fall!!
Now we know as believers that we are perfected by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross:
  "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified."
                                                  (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV)
And we are sanctified:

  "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
                                                  (Hebrews 10:10 NKVJ)

But what many do not understand is that while we are accepted into God's kingdom, "sanctified" ("set apart") by Jesus' sacrifice, He is not finished working in us! He is (continually) "sanctifying" us (setting us apart) as His people. And sanctification is a process! It takes time!!
You see we are to be "molded" into Christ's image:
  "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."
                                                 (Romans 8:29 NKJV)
"Built up" into who He would have us become:
 "you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
                                                  (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV)
 And this takes patience!

Its a process by which God is "ever molding" us and changing us,
setting us apart as His people. Molding us as a "potter molds his clay".

Some fall away in this, while others "press on" and into, what God has for them. This is not a process by which it is always pleasurable. It can be quite ...well downright painful at times. But it is a process in which God "prunes" away the "dead" branches in our lives which need to be removed. Whether its pride, covetousness, idolatry, foul language, lying, lust, or whatever the areas in our lives that need to be "pruned away" (Colossians 3:8)!  This can be very painful, but very necessary:
  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
                                                  (John 15:1-2 NKJV)
And at the same time reap such great rewards! From getting rid of the problem areas in our lives, to having more fellowship with Him, to other blessings!! Such as being used more by Him. In whatever type of ministry He's called us to do.

The trials and tribulations we go through are a big part of this
 "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
                                                 (James 1"2-4 NKJV)
Whether its being pushed into a corner where we must take a stand, such as not denying Christ. Losing family, or friends because of our faith. Going through a "storm" (for more info click here: Going through the Storm!). Or whatever the trial may be. That makes us more like Him!

Now, what many do not seem to understand is that this is ESSENTIAL to our growing in Christ that, that we are "pruned" and "molded". It is the ONLY way that we can become more like Him (Romans 8:29)!

You see when we are welcomed into His Kingdom as His children, we are accepted (Ephesians 1:6). But to become the disciples He would have us be? Takes time and patience. And takes us allowing Him to prune our hearts!

If we were all honest, we must confess that within our own hearts still lurks the old "man", or "woman". The sinful part part in us we have left behind. The one we still struggle with! And as long as we are in this flesh We will always struggle with it!! But as we live out this Christian life God is "ever changing" us to prepare us for His kingdom:

  "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints."
                                              (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 NKJV)

And at the very center of this "pruning" is knowing our place in this
world as Christians. Now, this is something that we MUST understand in order for us to be able to grow and become more like Him! In order for us to "persevere" in our faith!!
And what is our place? We are strangers in this world just as Jesus was:
 "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."
                                                 (John 17:2 NKJV)

And as strangers we are not going to "fit in" with this world. Its just
a plain fact!
You see there is a difference in who we are compared to this world. When we have Christ dwelling within us, His Holy Spirit? We are not the same as this world! The world is "all about darkness". And we are "all about the light"! The two just do not "mix" together!! Jsut like oil and water!!! And as the world did not understand Him (Jn 1:5), and rejected Him (Lk 17:25). They will reject us:
  "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."
                                                   (John 17:14 NKJV)

And its something we have to learn to live with and endure! You see
just as Jesus was persecuted and mistreated, we will be also:
   “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
                                                    (John 15:18-21 NKJV)

And being mistreated does hurt! There is no doubt about this. It does not "feel good". It can be VERY painful. But just as Jesus suffered? We must also endure this also if we are to be His people! Think about all they did to Jesus. In the beginning the devil tempted Him (Mt 4:3). His brothers did not believe in Him (Jn 7:5). The people in His own
country did not accept Him (Lk 4:24). He loved, He healed, but yet they still treated Him awfully, scorned, ridiculed and laughed at Him (Mk5:40). And He was inoccent (Lk 23:14)! But yet He persevered! He was God's beloved compassioniate Son sent to deliver a sinful people that mistreated Him. He knows what it feels like. He is able to symphathize with us (Hebrews 4:15).

And Jesus promised us that they would also mistreat us if we really

You see if we are to really be who He has called us to be, what He is
molding us into. We will suffer shame and disgrace, this is just a fact of being a Christian!
We are called to it:

  "For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His *reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
                                                  (Hebrews 13:11-14 NKJV)
(Ref. Note: *Reproach =(Greek) Oneidismos =on-i-dis-mos'  =humiliation, disgrace, shame, insults (reproach).
Jesus suffered and died outside the gate, and we are also called to suffer outside the gate with Him! What is the gate? Well within the gate is the "norm". Inside the gate was the temple, where the sacrifices were made by the priests, the "norm" of the religious rituals of the day.

The sin offering that was made would be burned outside and then presented after being touched by the people it was offered up for. This was the analogy of the sin being "transferred" to the sacrifice by the laying on the of the people's hands.
Jesus Himself had our sin transferred upon Him also! The people and the religious leaders laid there hands upon Him and delivered Him up. And they killed (i.e. sacrificed) Him. He was the sin offering and this offering was offered up for the sin of all people, once and for all (Hebrews 10:12). He also was offered up outside the gate and we are also called to suffer His reproach (i.e. shame, humiliation, disgrace, etc.) outside the gate with Him! Even more so in His case as He was nailed to the cross as a common criminal. The lowest form of disgrace anyone could suffer! As it was written in the Old Testament:

  "his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God."
                      (Deuteronomy 21:23 NKJV, add. ref. Gal. 3:13)
And He was mocked, ridiculed, scorned, and made fun of:
  "And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
                                              (Luke 23:35-37 NKJV)
And just as Jesus was scorned by others we will be also! Its something that is hard for all of us to learn. But essential, if we are
to become more like Him
. And think about this, even just our message of faith is looked upon as foolishness to the world:

  "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
                                            (1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV)
And how many times has the world "laughed" at the our message? Probably more times than anyone can, or could ever count! They laughed at Him, and they will laugh at us!! And as believers we just have to get use to it. But if we learn to suffer and endure? It brings such blessings to us:
  "Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake
         Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets."
                       (Luke 6:22-23 NKJV, add. ref Mt 5:11-12)
  And it helps us to better understand who Jesus is! And to help us become more like the people He is calling us to be. It helps to mature us:
 "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
                                                  (James 1:2-4 NKJV)
And when we suffer for His sake, God is glorified:
  "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified."
                                                  (1 Peter 4:14 NKJV)
And it isn't easy for any of us to endure, but we must! And the Lord will be with us:
 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen."
                                                (Matthew 28:20 NKJV)
And He will help us. Just as He helped Paul the apostle! Paul knew that when he was at his lowest, and struggling, that the Lord was with him, helping him:
 "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
                                    (2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV)
 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
                                    (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
And as He helped Paul, and all the other apostles, and all believers over time, He will help us!
And we should take joy in our reproach (i.e. shame, humiliation, disgrace, etc.), just as the Peter and the apostles did:
 "So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
                                              (Acts 5:41 NKJV)
And the blessings that God has waiting for us are nothing compared to the suffering we may endure here:
  "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
                                             (Romans 8:18 NKJV)
So, we must ask ourselves this, where do we fit into this "calling"? The one that God is calling us all to? Do we suffer with Jesus outside the the "norm"? Or are we part of the "religious" inside the gate?
You see there is a "gauge" (if you will), we can use to tell us if we really are following the Lord to our fullest. This gauge is what Paul said to Timothy a young minister:
  "But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
                                                (2 Timothy 3:10-12 NKJV)
Do we suffer for Jesus's sake? You see we all have to look into the mirror. We have to honestly ask ourselves, "am I really following Jesus", "am I becoming more like Him?" "Do I suffer the shame, humiliation, disgrace of Christ?"
You see if we really are following Him, becoming more "conformed" to His image, we can't help, but suffer for His sake! It's just the reality of being a true follower. Jesus said, "if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 18:20).
So ask yourself today, "Am I living in the "reality" of the real Christian life?"

Rev. John Heintzman
Evangelist Non-Denominational
Any questions, comments, prayer requests?

POHOM Columbus, Ohio
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