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Keep Christ First

Keep Christ First
By Nathele Graham

How often do we hear someone say “I don’t go to church because there’s too many hypocrites there”? That statement comes from a misunderstanding of what a Christian is. Simply put, a Christian is a sinner saved by grace. We are people who recognize our sin and are sorry for it, but aren’t yet perfect. We’ve repented and asked Christ to forgive us, and even though we aren’t perfect we are forgiven. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” Colossians 2:13-14. The fact that our past, present, and future sins have been nailed to the cross doesn’t give us a license to continue sinning. A change in your attitude should have happened the moment you realized you needed Christ for salvation and accepted His shed blood as your once for all sacrifice to take away your sin. Overcoming the sin in your life will take time to accomplish, and while living this side of Heaven we will never reach perfection. Only the righteousness of Christ is our way to eternal life. While outsiders may see a congregation of hypocrites, God sees His children learning to obey. If we keep Him first in our thoughts it will show in our life.

In order to know how to make Godly choices we need to study Scripture. Many Christians like to read the Bible through in a year. This isn’t a bad thing, but Bible reading and Bible study are two different things. Reading Scripture is like a race. You rush to get through it as fast as you can. On the other hand, when you take time to study you’ll learn to know God better and see how to make choices that please Him. Why was Noah “perfect in his generation” and saved through God’s judgment? King David is known as a man after God’s own heart, but was guilty of adultery and murder. What made him special? There are lessons to be learned from these men’s lives and you won’t learn if you rush through Scripture. Take time to study and you’ll learn that Noah’s blood wasn’t tainted by the fallen angels. You will need to look at the original language (Hebrew) to understand, but you will gain a clearer understanding of God. Noah had kept himself and his family separated from the sin around him and obeyed God, not Satan. We also need to keep ourselves separated from the sin around us. David sinned, but when convicted of that sin he was heartbroken and truly repentant before the Lord. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51:1-3. David wrote Psalm 51 when seeking God’s forgiveness. Many people today, including political leaders, see themselves as above the law. King David’s desire was to please God and when he failed he sought forgiveness. That’s an example of how we should feel when we see we have fallen into sin. As you study Scripture you’ll learn to see things from God’s point of view and apply it to your life. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 When Paul wrote those words there was only Old Testament Scripture. If you zip through the Bible in a year you’ll probably rush through Leviticus. Christians aren’t under the Law, but by studying it you’ll come to understand more about how God views sin and what Jesus accomplished for you on the cross. There is no longer a need for sacrificing animals to cover sin because Jesus is the once for all sacrifice that takes sin away. Because of His perfect love your sins are forgiven. Turn from the sin in your life and begin walking in the way of Christ. Old friends may call you a “goody two shoes”, but when you confess Christ with your lips and you live to please Him, you won’t be called a hypocrite.

Rites and rituals won’t bring salvation and are quite often done to make a show of holiness to other people. You’re only fooling yourself if you jump through religious hoops but don’t live to please God. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” James 1:26. We all come to Christ with an insurmountable pile of sins. Those sins are forgive at the moment you first truly accept Christ’s sacrifice for salvation. You confess that you’re a sinner and know that you cannot save yourself…only His blood takes sin away. You repented. That means you changed your mind and you know that sin has separated you from God. You are a new creation in Christ and it’s time to start over. The sins you once thought you enjoyed have no place in your life and should become repugnant to you. You’ve been justified by the Blood of the Lamb and it’s time to begin the sanctification process. You recognize the sin in your life and pray for strength to turn from it. It could be something as common as gossiping or using foul language. Our lips should praise our Lord not use His name as a curse. My husband had quite a vocabulary of “four letter words”, but the day he gave his life to Christ those words were gone. I was amazed and very thankful. Other things took a little longer, but he studied Scripture and prayed about his sin. He knew he couldn’t hold onto things like anger and serve Christ perfectly. His life was a testimony, and I take great comfort knowing that the day he died he was welcomed Home by Jesus. Not because Ron was perfect, but because Jesus is perfect.

Scripture lists many sins that shouldn’t be in a Christians life, but it also lists positive things that should be reflected in our life. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27. It’s easy to mouth words and put on a show of being religious. That’s what causes people to call Christians “hypocrites”. You may be the first one to arrive on Sunday morning and sit in your special pew, but if that’s where you leave your “religion” then you aren’t living your faith. We need to understand the difference. James gives the example of caring for widows and orphans. Believe me, I know the problems faced by widowhood. There are many things my husband just did because he knew how. I’m not physically nor financially able to make repairs to my home, but God always provides. Because I study Scripture I know that I can trust Him in all things. If there’s a widow in your congregation, you might start living your faith by asking her if she needs help. Is there a young child whose father has died? He needs the example of Godly men to teach him and mentor him. We know that it’s by the grace of God that we are saved and works don’t bring salvation, but our faith should motivate us to do good works. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20. Good works done in the name of Jesus should be a natural result of living a Christian life.

Many Christians have a heart to serve God and this shows in doing acts of kindness. Many of the kind acts are done for unsaved people. This is a good thing. It shows that Christians care enough to help the needy, and those acts of kindness may bring someone to salvation. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10. Study that verse. Notice that Paul says to help everyone but qualifies his words to add “…especially unto them who are of the household of faith”. In doing good works, don’t forget the struggles that fellow Christians face. Elderly people may need a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or a widower may enjoy being invited to your home for dinner. In the congregation I attend there’s a man who had some severe health issues. This winter was very cold and he needed wood to heat his home. Some members of the congregation made sure he had enough wood for the winter. What a blessing that was for the brother in need. There are probably many people in your own congregation who could use a helping hand. You’ll find that true pleasure comes from letting the love of Jesus flow through you to help others.

Jesus urged His followers to abide in Him. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Christians need to strive to live the way Christ showed us. The more we “practice what we preach”, the more joy will fill our lives. Instead of looking to the ways of the world to make us happy, try serving the Lord to find true contentment When we live out our faith our lives will bear fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23 & 25. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, but He is also our Guide. He will teach us to walk in the ways of our Lord. It isn’t always easy because we still have the fight between our sin nature and the ways of the Lord. We have to make choices. Don’t put yourself in the way of temptation, but when temptation does come along, pray. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24. Christ took your sins to the cross, now you need to crucify carnal lusts. That’s how the fruit of the Spirit will grow and flourish in your life.

We live in troubled times. As the end of time approaches, wickedness increases. We are constantly bombarded with people telling us that sin is acceptable, but with Scripture to guide us we know God’s truth. His truth never changes. As you live each day be sure you keep Christ first in your thoughts. Let His ways be your ways. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Ephesians 5:1-2.

God bless you all,
Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com
www.straitandnarrowministry.com
ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.

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