A Great Christian

 

A Great Christian
Micah 6:8
 
I wonder, if I were to ask you to describe, or define what a Christian is, what would your answer be? According to a recent poll, taken by Christian research expert George Barna:
 
85% of Americans self-identify as Christians.
67% claim to be "born again"
70% claim church membership
41% say that they are committed Christians
44% say that they are moderately committedly
27% say that they are always mindful of Christ. [1]
 
Last year alone, in this country, over $4 billion was spent on Christian books, of all varieties, both fiction and non-fiction. One columnist was asked why there had been such a rapid rise in spending on Christian material, and he replied, "It seems that more and more people are seeing a need for some sort of religion, some sense of belonging, and some feeling of purpose. Many are seeking to discover what it is that defines a true "religious" person." [2]
 
We could spend our life savings on Christian literature and books to discover what "it is that defines a true 'religious' (Christian) person; yet, we would only be gleaning from the opinions, perceptions and ideologies of another man. 
 
However, God has written a book that clearly depicts, defines and describes what a "true religious (Christian) person" is supposed to be, and supposed to do. 
 
 
The story is told of the pastor, of a small country church, who tended to major on the negative, "thou shalt not's" of the Christian life. Once, after a Sunday morning service, where he had preached against everything that moved, he was invited to the home of a farmer for Sunday dinner. After dinner, the farmer said to the pastor, "I would like for you to come and meet my donkey." Not wishing to offend the man the pastor agreed, but asked, "Why do you want me to meet your donkey."
 
The farmer replied, "Well, preacher, my donkey is a Christian!" The pastor was taken back and said, "Don't be ridiculous! No donkey can be a Christian." The farmer said, "Well, according to your sermon this morning, he is a Christian. He doesn't drink; he doesn't smoke; he doesn't swear; and, he doesn't work on Sunday. So, according to your sermon he must be a Christian!"
 
We look to the Christian life as what we do; whereas, God looks to the Christian life as WHO WE ARE! We base it on performance, whereas God bases it on position. 
 
To us, the Christian life is defined by what we do with our hands; but, to God, the Christian life is who we are in our hearts. Simply put, according to God's standard, true Christianity is a matter of the heart.
 
The ironic thing is that who we are eventually shows up in what we do. It's not a case of where we are what we do; but, WE DO WHAT WE ARE! In other words, eventually what is unseen on the inside will become seen on the outside. 
 
 
Again, if I were to ask you today to describe, define and depict a real Christian, what would your answer be? 
 
The prophet Micah is writing to a generation who had wandered away from God. When he picked up his pen the doom of his native Samaria was all but assured. Everywhere he looked he saw the sins of his people calling down the inevitable judgment of God.
 
The book of Micah can easily be broken down into 3 major divisions. In Micah 1-2, we see that judgment is pronounced on both Israel and Judah. 
 
In Micah 3-5, we see the restoration and reign of the Messiah. 
 
Then, in Micah 6-7, we see divine punishment followed by divine pardon. Micah's message was short, sweet and simple. He preached retribution, restoration and repentance.
 
As you read parts of the book of Micah it almost seems as if we are looking at the front page of the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Much of what filled Micah's day consumes our day as well. The contemporary prophet of Isaiah looked around and saw spiritual brokenness, spiritual blight, spiritual bondage, spiritual battle, spiritual betrayal, and worst of all, spiritual bankruptcy.
 
In Micah 6: 8 we find what George Adam Smith has called, "the greatest saying of the Old Testament." In this one verse the Old Testament Jewish law is brought down to 3 primary components. 
 
It is a verse that clearly depicts, defines and describes God's opinion of a real Christian.
 
Last week we looked at what it takes to have a great church. This morning we look at what it takes to be a great Christian. If our church is to be great, then it must be filled with Christians, from God's standpoint, which are great.
 
What does it take? First of all, Micah speaks of: 
 
1. The COMMITMENT of a Great Christian!
 
The words of the esteemed prophet are both illuminating and penetrating. He pulls no punches, plays no games and spares no feelings. He lays it on the line when it comes to the matter of our consecration and dedication to God. 
 
General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked the secret of his amazing Christian life. Booth answered, "There was a day when I died, and I told the Lord that he could have all that there is of William Booth."
 
Like William Booth, if we are to be what God calls a Christian then it requires a commitment on our part. This commitment is spoken of in two ways; first:
 
What is SHOWN To Us!
 
Micah opens verse 8 by saying, "He hath SHEWED thee, O man, what is good." In other words, God has revealed to us the life that we are to live. It has been shown to us, time and time again, through the pages of His Word. 
 
It's interesting to note that God, throughout this passage, uses some very distinct examples to prove His point and make His case. For example, God shows us by speaking of a past deliverance. Notice verse 3. "O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me."
 
Then, in verse 4, he reminds them of a past deliverance by saying, "For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam."
 
God is reminding His people that it was Him who had brought them out of the land of bondage, bitterness and blight. He had freed them and provided for them in the wilderness. Thus, time and again, God had revealed to His people that He was their Protector, Preserver and Provider.
 
I must admit that I am always disappointed when I think of the behavior of the children of Israel. Time after time God delivered them; yet, they continued to go their own way, and do their own thing. The pages of the Old Testament are saturated with a continuous cycle between God, and His people, Israel. God would deliver; only to watch His people depart.
 
Yet, down through the years, what I have seen on the part of many Christians is a carbon copy of the Israelites. We find ourselves in the midst of turmoil, travail and trouble, and in order to soothe our 'religious' conscience, we begin to make all sorts of promises to God.
 
It is not unusual for some of God’s people in the throes of some difficulty, maybe a life-threatening illness or family tragedy to make all sorts of vain, empty promises to God to be more faithful to church, to tithe, to live right, do right, or be right. Only, a few months down the road, to watch them fall right back into the same lifestyle before tragedy struck.
 
But, I have learned this: If God is worth serving in the bad times; then, He is certainly worth serving in the good times. If He is worth loving in the valley; then, He is certainly worth loving on the mountain. 
 
Yet, for some reason it takes a disaster to cause us to turn to God, and see our need for God. Thus, God reminds His people of a past deliverance, but of also a past deception. 
 
Notice verse 5. "O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD."
 
God is reminding His people of a past event which involved a man by the name of Balak.  In Numbers 22, we read that Balak was the King of Moab, and he bribed Balaam to curse the people of God. In other words, Balak bought the services of Balaam to force him to issue a curse upon the children of Israel.
 
Thus, through a time of past deliverance, and a time of past deception God had shown His people that He was God, and beside Him there was none other. 
 
However, God not only makes His point by saying that this is something shown to us, but also that it is based on:
What is KNOWN By Us!
 
I find an interesting statement at the end of verse 5. Again, the reference is to the story of Balak and Balaam; and, we are told that this happened so, "...that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD."
 
In Joshua 13: 22, Balaam is referred to as a "soothsayer." As we travel to the New Testament, we find Balaam used as the symbol of false religion. He was a man allured by the material in order to abandon the spiritual.
 
However, although he was bribed to curse those whom God had blessed, he could not. In Numbers 23: 19-20, Balaam says, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (20) Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it."
 
In other words, Balaam had found out the hard way that what God has blessed, man cannot curse. What God has favored, man cannot fault. What God has approved, man cannot abandon.  
 
Thus, again, Micah uses this illustration so that we may "know the righteousness of the Lord." Therefore, we are without excuse. God has made His way plain, and it is shown to us, and to be known by us.
 
A life-long city man, tired of the rat race, decided he was going to give up the city life, move to the country, and become a chicken farmer.
He found a nice, used chicken farm, which he bought; and, it turned out that his next door neighbor was also a chicken farmer. The neighbor came for a visit one day and said, "Chicken farming isn't easy. Tell you what. To help you get started, I'll give you 100 chickens."
 
The new chicken farmer was thrilled. Two weeks later the new neighbor stopped by to see how things were going. The new farmer said, "Not too good. All 100 chickens died." The neighbor said, "Oh, I can't believe that. I've never had any trouble with my chickens. I'll give you 100 more."
 
Another two weeks went by, and the neighbor stops in again. The new farmer says, "You're not going to believe this, but the second 100 chickens died too."
 
Astounded, the neighbor asked, "What went wrong? What did you do to them?" Well, says the new farmer, "I'm not sure whether I'm planting them too deep or not far apart enough."
 
The truth of the matter is that we cannot plead ignorance when it comes to the things God expects of us. Ignorance is not only no excuse for human law, but it also no excuse for Heaven's law.
 
What God expects has been shown to us, and it is known by us. The problem is not that we don't know what to do; but, the problem is that we DON'T DO WHAT WE KNOW TO DO!
 
Much of the problem is due to the fact that we are living in a day where very few want to hear the truth of what God has said. 
 
Many churches would rather have Dr. Phil in the pulpit on Sunday than a man of God full of God. 
 
As a result, because preachers and churches have ceased to preach truth, we have created a society that has developed a multitude of explanations, rationalizations and justifications for all sorts of sin. 
 
Yet, all the while, God has not changed His mind one bit about the matter. We have accepted a "new" gospel, when there is nothing wrong with the "old" gospel. In fact, put it down, if it's new, it's not true; and, if it's true, it's not new!
 
God has clearly shown, and made known what we are to be, as well as what we are to do. Our problem is not one of ignorance, but of negligence. 
 
Again, it is not that we do not know what to do; but, we do not do what we know to do! Thus, if we are to be a great Christian by God's standard, then we must commit our lives to do what God wants us to do, and be what God wills us to be. 
 
Secondly notice:
 
2. The CHARACTER of a Great Christian!
 
As one examines our text verse, verse 8, there is not much room left for personal debate, discussion or doubt. The prophet Micah emphatically declares, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee..."
 
From God's vantage point, if we refer to ourselves as a Christian, and a member of His family, then there is a certain type of character that must be produced. Micah explains it by speaking of:
 
A HUMAN EXPECTATION
 
I call your attention the word "require" in verse 8. The Hebrew word is darash, and it is quite an interesting word. It is commonly used in Modern Hebrew, in its verbal form, to mean, "To interpret, or expound."   It is used in its derived noun forms for "sermon, preacher.
 
The word reminds us of what God expects from our lives. We are to take the truth of God's Word and interpret it into everyday life. We are to take the truth of God's Word and expound it through what we do, what we say, and how we live. Simply put, the Lord requires that our lives, as Christians, preach a sermon everyday.
 
Micah is informing us that, as the people of God, we are to be in hot pursuit of the things of God. We are to follow after holy things and heavenly things. We are not only to hear what God has said, but we are to heed what God has said. 
 
We must not only discover it, but we must do it! It is not a suggestion; it is a command. God not only desires it, and deserves it; but He demands it.
The simple truth is that God expects us to love Him, serve Him, honor Him, please Him, and glorify Him. He expects us to look to Him, live for Him and learn from Him. 
 
 
 
 
 
If you are a Christian, then God expects a certain type of character, and behavior from you. 
God expects you to be faithful to church. God expects you to tithe. God expects you to be a soul-winner. God expects you to live in the world, but not live like the world.
 
These are not matters that require prayer, but these are matters that require practice. In other words, we don't need to make it a matter of prayer to do these things; you need to make it a matter of practice to do these things. 
 
It is said that during World War II the British General William Montgomery was named commander of the forces in North Africa for the purpose of rescuing the Allied forces from a dreaded defeat. He met with all of his officers and subordinates and he addressed them. At the end of his speech, he said to them with great command and authority, "Orders no longer form the basis for discussion, but for action!"
 
Yet, as Christians, we have a Commanding General; and, He, too, says that serving Him is not a matter of agreement, but a matter of action. It is not a matter of decision, but a matter of duty. We are not to deny it, doubt it or debate it; we are to do it!
 
The reason there is a human expectation is because of:
 
A HOLY EXPLANATION
 
It is not an accident, nor a coincidence that Micah uses a particular, definite name in referring to God. 
 
 
He uses the name "LORD." This is the most commonly used designation of God in the Bible, used 6823 times. It is the name of God, "Jehovah," and it carries a very distinct meaning.
 
The name "Jehovah" suggests "One who is the revealer of new truth." The name depicts "One who is absolutely self-dependent." As God, He has no dependence on any other creature, being or power other than Himself. However, the primary suggestion of the name was used to mean that "He, above all else, is holy and righteous."
 
The name "Jehovah" was a name for which the Jews had a great respect and reverence. It was a name unlike any other name. It was the name "Yahweh," or "Jehovah."
 
In fact, history states that whenever the Jews would read through their ancient manuscripts they would place asterisks over the name for fear that they would blaspheme, or mispronounce the name. If a person did mispronounce the name, he was forbidden to say it again, he was to pass over it, and go on.
 
The prophet uses the name, "Jehovah," or LORD to explain why God expects a certain character in His people. God expects it because of who He is. In other words, because He is righteous, He expects His people to be righteous. Because He is holy, He expects us to be holy. Because of who He is, we are to be everything He expects us to be. We are to "be holy, for He is holy!"
 
 
 
The tragedy of our day is that the name of God is no longer revered, respected or regarded. Even in our churches you would find that the very reason that many Christians do not love God, serve God, honor God or please God is because they do not fear God. They have lost their awareness of who He really is. 
 
One could expect the world to portray this attitude, but not Christian, supposedly "God-fearing" people. Yet, there are many Christians who view God as their Heavenly buddy, the Big Man Upstairs, or a long, gray-bearded Grandpa.
 
Yet, while He is a loving God, He is also a jealous God, a just God, and a Holy God. He is not the "Big Man Upstairs," but His name is still above every name. His name is still a high name, a heavenly name and a Holy name. He is still the sacred One, the supreme One and the Sovereign One. 
 
Thus, God is saying that because He is Who He is and What He is, He expects those who lay claim to His name to be certain, and distinct type of people.
 
We read in 1 Peter 2: 9, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
 
Finally, notice that being a great Christian, from God's perspective, involves:
 
 
 
 
 
3. The CONDUCT of a Great Christian!
 
It has been said that if "it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck; then, it must be a duck." I believe the same should be said of Christians. I don't think it is being harsh to say that a Christian ought to be a Christian.
 
If one is a Christian positionally, then one ought to be a Christian practically. If one is going to confess it, then one should conduct it. If one is going to live in heaven as a Christian, one should live on earth as a Christian.
 
Psalm 107: 2 declares, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." I don't believe it is unfair to include, "Let the redeemed of the Lord dress so; let the redeemed of the Lord look so; let the redeemed of the Lord live so; let the redeemed of the Lord act so."
 
The prophet Micah clearly defines what God expects from His people. First, the conduct of our lives must include:
 
OUTWARD INTEGRITY
 
Notice again verse 8, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
 
The word "justly" is the Hebrew word mishpat. The word is used to refer to "governing in a right manner." It describes righteous actions and dealings toward another person. It speaks of our outward relationship to others.     
You will notice the active voice of the phrase, "to do justly." In other words, this is not something to be professed; it is something to be practiced. We are live, outwardly, in a manner worthy of our calling. Simply put, what we believe is to be backed up by how we behave toward others.
 
I have often said that it is impossible to be right vertically and be wrong horizontally. In other words, it is impossible to be right with God and be wrong with man at the same time. If we are right with God then that should also imply that we are right with man, or visa-versa. 
 
Is everything right between you and your family? Is everything right between you and your spouse? Is everything right between you and your co-workers? Is everything right between you and another member of this church?
 
Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 5:23-24, "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;[24] Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
 
In other words, if we come to worship God while being at odds with someone else, Jesus says, "Don't even waste your time. Leave the gift of your worship at the altar, go make things right; then, you can come back and give me your worship."
 
I believe we would greatly improve our worship of God if we would improve our relationships to those with whom we come to worship. 
 
God expects us to be people of outward integrity, as well as people of:
 
INWARD SINCERITY
 
God's next requirement is not only that we "do justly," but that we "love mercy." The word "mercy" literally means "a covenant loyalty." It refers to a loyalty to one's self. The most common usage of the mercy speaks of "loving-kindness and forgiveness."
 
In other words, we are not only to live right, we are to love right. If someone offends me, mistreats me or hurts me, my job is not to get even or get back. We are not to love the misery of others, but we are to love showing mercy to others.
 
My job, as a Christian, is to get over it, and forgive as Christ has forgiven me. Finally, if we possess outward integrity and inward sincerity, it will be because of our:
 
UPWARD HUMILITY
 
I believe that our supreme obligation is outlined in the last part of verse 8. We are to, "walk humbly with thy God."
 
As Christians, we are to walk as Enoch walked. We are to walk as Noah walked. We are to walk as Abraham walked. We are to walk with God. 
 
Someone has said that to walk with God means that "we are going in the same direction He is!" I love that definition, and I believe that is what it means to "walk with God."
 
To walk with God means that I am not going against Him, but I am walking for Him and with Him. It means that my life's goal is not to go my own way and do my own thing. It doesn't mean that I am to walk ahead of Him, or too far behind Him. But, I am to walk in step with Him. 
 
I love the old pictures of the old motorcycles that included a side-car. The passenger in the side-car was guaranteed to arrive at the same place as the driver.
 
We are not to live our lives in the front seat, or not even in the backseat; but, we're to live in the side-seat. We should be in the side car going with God, wherever that may be.
 
Having the "fear of God" in no way means that we should be spooked, or afraid of God. No! The Bible repeatedly invites us to come "boldly" before God's "throne of grace."
 
Having the "fear of God" means that I reverence Him enough that if He tells me to be faithful to church, to tithe, to witness, to pray, or to get right with someone I offended; then, I am not going to question it, or second guess it, I am going to do it. 
 
It means that I have such respect for Him that I am will do whatever He tells me to do. It means that I am to walk with Him. How? We are to "walk HUMBLY" with thy God! In other words, we are to be constantly aware of the fact that we need God much more than God needs us.
 
 
 
To be humble means that I realize that I am completely, utterly and totally dependent on God every second of every day. I realize that if God leaves me to myself, I will self-destruct in a short amount of time. It means that I realize, in the words of Annie Hawks:
 
I need thee every hour,
Stay thou nearby.
Temptations lose their power,
When Thou art nigh!
 
I need Thee, oh I need Thee.
Every hour I need Thee.
Oh, bless me now my Savior,
I come to Thee!
 
During the years of the Scottish Reformation, one man whom God greatly used was a man by the name of George Wishart. Wishart was a man of deep conviction, and made his stand in the face of harsh and stiff opposition. 
 
Eventually, as a result of His stand for God, and his belief in the Word of God, he was put to death by execution. At his execution, Wishart was tied to a stake as guards surrounded him.  He looked through the courtyard of the castle, to a street where a large crowd of both supporters and opponents were gathered to witness his death. As they prepared to ignite the fire that would consume his body, Wishart fell to his knees and cried:
 
"Christian brothers and sisters, be not offended at the Word of God on account of the tortures you see prepared for me. Love the Word which publisheth salvation, and suffer patiently for the gospel's sake. Should any be called on to endure persecution, fear not those who can destroy the body, for they cannot slay the soul. I have served Christ with gladness of heart, and I would gladly do it again!"
 
Within minutes, the flames reached his body, and George Wishart was dead. Among those present that day was a man whom George Wishart had won to Christ. The man watched as his spiritual mentor and hero was put to death for his belief. 
 
The young man's name was John Knox, and that day, because of the testimony of George Wishart's life, he vowed that the cause for which he had died would not be lost. As a result, God mightily used John Knox to shake the entire country of Scotland with the gospel. It was all because John Knox had been the witness of a man who was a 'real Christian.' [3]
 
If we were to put your family, friends, co-workers and school mates on the stand, would they give testimony that you have what you say you have; and, you are what you say you are? 
 
I wonder how many of our friends, family, co-workers, school mates and loved ones will not come to church because of the life they have watched us live?
 
It's time to stop trying to live for God on Sunday, and live like the devil on Monday. It's time to quit being a spiritual disciple at the church house, and a social drinker at the club house. It's time to be what God expects us to be.
 
 
In his book, "The Rich Variety of People," Rich Hardison gave a thorough, thought-provoking description of various types of Christians. He said:
"Some Christians are like wheels, they don't work unless they're pushed. Some Christians are like trailers, they have to be pulled. Some Christians are like canoes, they have to be paddled. Some Christians are like kites, always up in the air about something, and if you don't keep a string on them, they'll fly away. Some Christians are like balloons, always puffed up, and you never know when they're going to blow up. But, some Christians are like a good watch; pure gold, open faced, always on time, dependable, quietly busy, and full of good works." 
 
Someone has said that every Christian has 4 names: saint, for his holiness; believer, for his faith; brother, for his love; and, disciple, for his commitment.   Are you living up to your name?
 
It's not a matter of going to church; it's a matter of BEING the church. It's a matter of loving the life and living the life. 
 
If we would be people who would "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God;" ladies and gentlemen, that would produce the greatest Christians this world has ever seen.
 
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