“Christians Become Christ”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Many people invest lots of time and money into looking good. They are focused on their outward appearance. They want to have and wear nice clothes and shoes. They want to wear the latest fashions and to be in style. And for some, obviously not me, they want their hair to look nice and to have no wrinkles on their face; and certainly that's fine. Beyond that, however, a great deal of attention is also given to where we live, what we drive, and other things that might make us look good. We want to leave a good impression with our friends, our family members, our neighbors and others. Now, that may not be the case with everybody, but for many that is a big deal. Well, have you ever wondered what you look like to God? The Bible tells us the Lord does not look at the outside of our lives, but at our hearts. He is more concerned with what is on the inside more than anything else. And out of our hearts come our words and our actions, and that is a really big deal to God. Today on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will ask some questions about what we are supposed to look like. We will let the Bible give us the answers. I invite you to join us for that study as we now open up our hearts and our Bibles to study together.
When I was a young man, I was oftentimes asked the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” People wanted to know some of my goals and ambitions. The answer I typically gave had to do with a job. It was only natural to identify with my desired occupation or career. And rarely did I respond in regards to my character or my values or my beliefs. I did not think much about who I wanted to become, but rather what I wanted to become. And that type of response might have been common for many. Well, we fast forward to today. I believe there are two questions we need to ask; which are more important than, what do you want to do when you grow up? The first one is, what do I look like to God? Christians have a very special and unique identity. God sees us as His children (1st John 3 and verse 2). He adopts us into His family as His sons and daughters (Romans chapter 8, verse 15). We know also that God sings over us. He sings loudly over us (Zephaniah chapter 3, verse 17). Yes, Christians are special in God's sight. We are loved, we are saved, we are forgiven, and that makes us feel good and we like the way we look; but, what about the inside? When God looks at us, His focus is not on the outside, but rather it is on our heart. We're familiar with that familiar passage in 1st Samuel chapter 16: <The Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.> When God looks at us, He sees our attitudes, our thoughts and our intentions. He sees the motivations behind the words we speak and the actions we do. And God notices if we are pretending to be someone we never intend to become; and that is a definition for the word hypocrite. Let me say that again: A hypocrite is one who pretends to be someone they never intend to become. Yes, God sees the secret sins, and those which are being made public. He sees and knows if our hearts are set on pursuing Him and His righteousness. God knows more about your life, and more about my life, than we will ever know about our life. We know that from the passage found in Hebrews chapter 4, verse 13: <Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.> God knows if we are really interested, or not, in being His true disciple. He also knows if we are only content to be right where we are and nothing more, the rest of our days. Oh, it is sometimes tempting to stay where we are, spiritually. We have put our faith in Jesus Christ and have acknowledged Him as our Savior. We have been born again through baptism, and with that our sin is forgiven and we receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit. No doubt many of us have experienced that. It is part of who we are. And when that happened, it was a very joyful and wonderful occasion, as we came to the process of becoming a child of God. But with that in mind, the thought might cross our mind, “Well, since I am now a baptized believer, then everything is good. There is no need to do any more.” We might be content to only say a few prayers along the way or to attend an occasional worship service. We might put a few dollars into the collection plate whenever we happen to be in town. And yet during the week we don't spend much time focused on the Lord. We don't pray very often. We don't read the Bible very often. In other words, our daily walk with God, and with His Son, Jesus, is not much of a priority. Well, Christians are to be on a never-ending journey to become more and more like God's Son, Jesus Christ. And so we look for opportunities to grow spiritually. We look for opportunities to put our faith into practice. And as we do those things, we grow as His faithful servants. None of us can rely on what we have done in the past. There is still work we can do, and we should do, as our spiritual life with God continues to grow and mature. Someone once told me, “There are no honorary members in the church.” We cannot say, “Well, I have done my work in the past and now it is time for someone else to do that. I am going to basically retire, spiritually.” That is not anywhere found in the Bible. But we are to find areas in which we can continue to work and serve the Lord and other people. We are reminded of that idea from Hebrews chapter 6, verse 1: <Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.> Yes, we are to be moving beyond the basic teachings of God's Word. We are to constantly be growing into mature disciples, and growing up as members of God's kingdom. And so, God sees what is going on in our hearts. He knows the standards by which we are living, and He wants us to be more concerned with what's happening on the inside than what we look like on the outside. He wants us to continually grow and mature into becoming more like His Son, Jesus Christ, every day. Now, if we are not becoming what God wants us to look like, then certainly we cannot become what He wants us to look like to other people. That leads us to that second question: What do I look like to other people? In our daily interactions with our family members and with those whom we meet only periodically, what do they see in us? Well, that causes us to do some soul searching, doesn't it? It causes us to ask ourselves some very hard questions. You know, we might spend a great deal of time focusing on the clothes we wear or the cars we drive, or even the home in which we live. And according to Jesus, those things are really not that important. The Father in heaven knows that we need all of those things, and He always provides. Jesus helps us understand those priorities with that familiar passage in Matthew chapter 6. Let's notice the verses that begin with verse 25. <“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”> God takes care of the birds of the air. He created them. He provides for them. There are places they can find that God has provided where they can be safe. And God knows when one of those sparrows, those small birds, falls to the ground and dies. Well, Jesus points out here, even though God cares about those birds, don't you realize you are much more valuable to God than the birds of the air, and, no doubt, He will take care of what you need? Well, with those things in mind, we then read these verses, verse 31 here in Matthew 6: <"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."> Well, that last statement is obviously true, isn't it? Every day we find trouble. Every day trouble finds us. And we can be consumed with that, if we choose to do so. Yet, Jesus reminds us that God has all of those things covered. He knows what is going on. He knows how those things affect us, and He will always provide. And therefore, we focus our attention on Him. I don't know about you, but that takes the pressure off of me. There is no need to be occupied with my stuff. It may be here today, then gone tomorrow. And with that being said and understood, that God sees and knows what is needed, my attention can now be set on pursuing Jesus Christ and His righteousness. I can focus on knowing Him as my Lord and as my Savior. When we become a child of God, the Holy Spirit begins to live within us. And the Spirit of God is a continual reminder of who we are to God, that we are special. We are important in His sight. It is the down payment or the deposit of an eternal home that God is preparing for us. And the Holy Spirit changes us and makes us what we need to be in a transformation process. We're familiar with that passage of Scripture, which reminds us of the Spirit's role. In Galatians 5, verses 22 and 23, we find these words: <The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.> That's good to know, isn't it? There is no law, there is no limit, there is no regulation on how much those nine fruit of the Spirit can be evident in our lives. And that's important to know. That we allow those spirit, those nine qualities or characteristics which come from God to be manifest or to grow in our lives so that we can become other people to Jesus Christ. As we think about those nine qualities, we focus on them instead of pursuing the things of the world. God has those things covered, and so now we focus on how God's Spirit is transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. Oftentimes people think about their reputation. They want to have a good one with others; and, no doubt, that's important. Yet there is a big difference between one’s character and one's reputation. And here's what I mean: Reputation is what people think we are, but our character is what we truly are. And our character is developed when we allow the fruit of the Spirit to become evident in our life. And when our character is right, then our reputation will follow. The Apostle Paul was not too concerned about the opinions of other people, in regards to his life. He wrote this, in 1st Corinthians chapter 4 verses 1 through 4, <“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”> The Apostle Paul could make that statement because he knew there was nothing that others would see in his life that would embarrass Jesus. And if they would not embarrass Jesus, then certainly they would not embarrass himself and other people. I wonder today if we can say the same thing. You know, if we are living by the Spirit of God then people will see and they will know Jesus Christ is living in us and God's Spirit is forming us into the people that God wants us to become. The Apostle Paul states it in another way with these words in 2nd Corinthians chapter 2, beginning with verse 14: <"Thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?"> You know, most of us do not pay attention to how we smell to others. And I realize that is a rather odd statement, but here is what I mean: We don't wear much perfume or cologne. Oh, we want to be presentable when we go outside of our home. We put on the appropriate clothing and we look the way we are supposed to look whenever we go out to a special activity. And yet, we may not pay much attention to how we smell. And yet, the closer people get to us and the more time we spend with them, the more they smell our aroma. And I'm not necessarily talking about our perfume or our cologne, but they begin to smell what we really smell like. They begin to smell our aroma. They begin to see and to understand and to observe our character of life. People see and smell the condition of our heart, and they will know whether or not we are being filled up with God's Holy Spirit, or if we are only pretending to belong to Jesus Christ. So the fruit of the Spirit is to transform our character, to the point people see and smell Jesus Christ living in us, as we become Jesus Christ to this world. That goes back to Paul's statement: Do we represent the pleasing aroma of Jesus Christ to other people? It is important for those who call themselves Christians to do something that the Bible calls upon us to do. We are to get to the point where the thoughts, the attitudes and the intentions of our heart dictate what we look like on the outside. When they do, we become Jesus to others. Well, sometimes I forget that. At times I do not like the way I look, and there are lots of flaws in my life. And there are people who identify them easier than I can identify them. And that might be true for all of us. With that in mind, I want to offer four questions for us to consider, as we evaluate what we look like or what we smell like to others. The first one: When our fellow church members look at us, do they see us as someone who is filled with pride and arrogance? When strangers look at us, do they see someone who is disrespectful and uncaring and mean? When our neighbors look at us, do they see someone who cannot be trusted or who is unfriendly? And then, when our family members look at us, do they see us as being unloving and judgmental? Well, hopefully that is not the case in any of those scenarios, but rather I trust others see us as baptized believers in Jesus Christ because that is who we really are. Oh, I hope people see us as those who have been transformed by our relationship with Jesus, and they see us as people who have received God's love; but then, we share that love with others. We are to live in such a way that we are controlled by the Spirit of God, who lives within us (Romans chapter 8 and verse 6). And we do that because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We live like that because we have been saved from sin and from Satan and from eternal separation from God. Yet, we also live like that because we are saved for an eternal home with God. We are saved for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other people. At the beginning of our lesson a few moments ago, we asked ourselves to consider two questions. Number one, what do I look like to God? And number two, what do I look like to other people? And the answer to both of those questions lies within each of us. I cannot answer those questions for you. You cannot answer those questions for me. But we have to come up with our own answer and then be accountable for the answer we give to God. If we are a changed person on the inside then we will look like someone whom God can use to make a difference in this world. We will look like humble servants who are compelled by God's love to represent Him, and we will become a blessing to those around us. And that is the goal of everyone who is seeking to become more like Jesus Christ. Let us make the commitment, today, to become Jesus Christ to this world. And that is the challenge that I leave with us, and I pray that you will look like what God wants you to look like, both inside and outside.
There are a number of different services provided by a hospital like this one. They serve people in times of emergencies. The doctors and the hospital staff minister to people who are recovering from illness and surgery. Another thing that happens in a hospital, babies are born into this world; and that is always an exciting time for the family members. They think about a name. They think about health matters. They think about raising that little boy or little girl in today's society, and all of the ups and downs that come along with that. They also think about how that little boy or girl will perhaps turn out to be like the mother or the father. As children of God, we, perhaps, think about the same thing: How can we look more like Jesus Christ, the One who saves us? How can we develop some of those characteristics of our Father in heaven, who loves us so very much? I'm reminded of Paul's words, from Colossians 3 verse 17: <Whatever you do and say, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.> And that is our goal as children of God, isn't it, to imitate our Father, to imitate the One we seek to follow after, Jesus Christ. As we are born as children of God into His family, that is to be our goal, to become more like Him. And then as we do that, we are able to represent Jesus Christ to the people we come in contact with throughout this world. I would encourage us to think about how we can become more like Jesus Christ, today.
Thank you for being a part of today's broadcast. Sometimes it is easy to forget our need to look good, not only to God but to other people; and yet, that is at the heart of what it means to become more like Jesus. If you are interested in hearing or viewing this message again, I hope you will do so. It can be found on our website at keytothekingdom.com. Other lessons can be accessed through the site as well. It does not cost anything to do so and there is no commitment required; and, obviously, they are absolutely free. Please feel free to download those which might be of interest. Through this mass media ministry, you can also find other resources. Weekly devotional thoughts and short videos are available and offer an encouraging thought for your consideration. On the website, you can also find more information about our basic beliefs. A free phone app for smart-phones can be easily accessed and it will take you directly to the website. And finally, if you use Facebook® on a regular basis, find and like us there, as well; every week, short video clips are uploaded, which are designed to offer a practical message which can be applied to one's daily life. I would encourage you to take a look and consider how those messages can bless you, also. Your interest in this program and the message we offer encourages me. Thank you very much. My prayer is that you will continue to watch the program each and every week. Please join us again next time, on this same channel, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”