Christians should be holy. ”..God is pure and blameless; there is no sin or evil in Him. Therefore, what is true and distinct about God, should be so about His children — ‘‘Be ye holy; for I am holy…’’

Day 21:

 ‘‘But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.’’ 1Pet. 1:15 – 16

 

Additional reading: Deut. 7:6; Rom. 12: 1 – 2; Col. 3: 12; Heb. 12: 14

We are presently in the last part of this study, which is, The Christian Life and Character. And so far, we have taken a thorough look at the character of the Godhead, that is, God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. At this stage, it is expedient we study the Christian Life and Character against the backdrop of the Godhead.

 

But permit me to say this: character is a quality that makes somebody or something distinctive. Character also makes somebody or something attractive. It also gives a reputation. So when one is described as a man or woman of character, it simply implies that that person has a distinctive attribute, or is attractive, or has a reputation. In other words, that person has something different from others. So when we talk of Christian Life and Character, we are talking of those attributes of Christians that make them distinct — different from others, we are talking of the honest conversations — lifestyle of the Christian, which should witness for Christ and we are talking about the reputation — views held by those of the world about Christians.

Character could also be said to be one’s moral strength. What one exhibits at different times in life will to a great extent reveal that person’s strength or weakness. Against this backdrop, Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome said: ‘‘But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.’’ (Rom. 5: 3 – 5 CEV.) Specifically, Paul said that endurance builds character. What then should be the Christian character?

Moses in continuing his instructions to the people of Israel as directed by God pointed out some critical lifestyle of the people, which was aimed at making them distinct from other people around them because they are a people called out from the rest of the world and separated unto God. Moses said: (1) That after the defeat of the seven nations occupying Canaan, the people of Israel were to completely destroy them all by putting them to death. They were not to go into any agreement with them. (2) Their sons were not to marry their daughters, neither their daughters were to be given to their sons in marriage. This warning was given because if any marriage was contracted between Israel and others, God’s people would be lead into idolatry. (3) All places dedicated to idol worship were to be destroyed (Deut. 7: 3 – 5.)

What specific reason did Moses give for the above instructions? In other words, why were the Israelites restricted from behaving in like manner as the people of the land they were about to inherit? This is the reason: ‘‘For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD they God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.’’ (Verse 6.)

The reason given for the above instructions is very simple; that they (Israel) are a holy people unto God. He also said that they are a special people chosen by God from amongst all people on the earth. For this reason, the people of Israel were to live a life reflecting the holy nature (character) of God.

Let the truth be told that as Israel is God’s chosen people, Christians who make up the Church of Jesus Christ are also God’s chosen — called out from the world to reflect His glory. Against this backdrop and writing in a similar vein as Moses, Apostle Peter admonished the Church thus: ‘‘But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.’’ Be it the Old Congregation marching into Canaan or the New Congregation, holy is an uncompromising trait amongst God’s people.

This will help us: ‘‘But as he which hath called you is holy [hagios … an awful thing; sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated…], so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.’’

In all His ways, God is pure and blameless; there is no sin or evil in Him. Therefore, what is true and distinct about God, should be so about His children — ‘‘Be ye holy; for I am holy.’’ As God is holy, we too must be holy. God would not have asked us to be holy as He is if it were not possible. Being holy also means being set apart — consecrated. Christians are, therefore, to be set apart for God’s service and worship as it is only in holiness that we can serve and please God.

 

Meditation: Am I holy as God is holy?

 

Prayer: Father I desire to be holy as You are, because I can be holy as You are. I forsake all my evil ways and I set my life for Your use. Use me LORD in Your holiness.

 

Question: (1) Why has God asked His children to be holy as He is? (2) What are the elements of holiness?

 

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The Christian Life and Character ”…Christians just cannot live on an island. Our conduct, therefore, must be unquestionable because people who do not believe are living around us…”

Day 20

Unquestionable conduct.

‘‘Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’’ 1 Pet. 2:12

Additional reading: Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:15

Yes, it is true that the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. But I doubt if this came on a platter of gold. The disciples must have suffered a measure of abuses from those who did not believe. However, their comportment generally even in the midst of persecution the church faced endeared them to their antagonists. In the place of hate and hardships, they showed love and perseverance, in the place of scorning and cursing, they gave blessings just as their Master did. Therefore, it was not out of place for the people of Antioch to call them Christians. The unquestionable conduct of the disciples made it very easy for the people to associate them with Christ. This is an example of how to live amongst unbelievers.

To this end, Apostle Peter wrote: ‘‘Having your conversation [anastrophe…behaviour] honest [kalos…of uncertain affinity; properly beautiful; but chiefly (figuratively) good (literally or morally), i.e. valuable or virtuous…better, fair, good, goodly, honest, meet, well, worthy] among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works [ergon… by implication an act:- deed, doing, labour, work], which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’’

Someone once said, ‘‘I almost became a Christian till I met one.’’ The person whom this statement is attributed to must have met one or two Christians with good report like those of the Antioch Church. His relationship with those Christians may have encouraged him to become a true Christian. I believe that while he was in the process of becoming a Christian, he met another one Christian whose lifestyle discouraged him from becoming one (a Christian). So he said, ‘‘I almost became a Christian till I met one.’’ This sad event reminds me of yet another statement: ‘‘Your life might be the only Bible someone may read.’’ If we understand these two statements clearly, we will very well understand Apostle Peters words to the Church: ‘‘Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’’

Your conversation—behaviour must be honest—worthy in the midst of those who do not believe. Even if they see everything wrong about you, your good deeds will speak for your and God will be glorified by it. ’’having your manner of life noble among the Gentiles, so that, whenever they speak against you as evildoers, when they observe the good works, they may glorify God in the day of visitation.’’ (English Majority Text Version—EMTV.) ‘‘People who don’t believe are living around you. They may say that you are doing wrong. So live such good lives that they may see the good you do, and they will give glory to God on the day he comes.’’ (ERV.)

I do not know if there is any reserve residential area for just Christians. Assuming there is one, Christians are bound to meet unbelievers at the workplace, commuter buses, aircrafts, recreation facilities, eateries, banking halls, hospitals, etc. Most times, unbelievers provide Christians with services needed for daily living. Christians just cannot live on an island. Our conduct, therefore, must be unquestionable because people who do not believe are living around us. And we must by our conduct show that we are different from the rest of the pack as the Christians in Antioch did.

There is something wrong when Christians begin to inflate invoices or contracts. There is something wrong when Christians begin to use measures that have been tampered with as those in the world do. There is something wrong when Christians begin to manifest the lifestyle of the world, thus, allowing the world to influence them instead of them influencing the world. If no one can see me through my deeds and mark me out from others, then, I need to be converted again. If I am a Christian, then, I must manifest the lifestyle of Christ, the man to whom I am committed to. To this end the Bible says: ‘‘In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.’’ (Matt. 5:16 GW.)

Permit me to ask these questions: what is the perception of Christians in your locality by unbelievers? Can your boss entrust you with an assignment over others because you are a Christian?

Meditation: How is my conduct before unbelievers? Can my lifestyle as a Christian bear witness for Christ before unbelievers or by my lifestyle I keep those who do not believe away from accepting Him as Lord and Saviour?

Prayer: I recognize that I have fallen short of all expectations. Nonetheless, I relay on You to renew my conduct through the Holy Spirit so that in every way and everywhere, my life may shine before all so that You will be glorified.

Question: (1) What do you understand by this statement? ‘‘Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’’ (2) In what areas of life do you fall to upon the good virtues of Jesus Christ?

The Christian Life and Character ( Day 19) Just like Christ. ”If the character of a slave identified who his master is, the character of the believers gave identity to whom they believed in.”

‘‘And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.’’ Acts 11:26

 

Additional reading: Act.26:28; 1Pet.4:16

 

Following the persecution that the church faced after Stephen had been killed many believers travelled to different parts of the then world preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and converting many. While some preached only to the Jews, others from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and preached the Gospel to Gentiles and as many that believed were saved.

 

The news about the growth of the Church and the manifest presence of God in Antioch got to the disciples in Jerusalem who immediately detailed Barnabas to visit the brethren in Antioch. Indeed he confirmed all that was heard in Jerusalem. Thereafter, Barnabas went in search of Apostle Paul in Tarsus. Having found him, both men returned to Antioch and remained there for another year preaching and teaching the people about the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Then something remarkable happened within the period of spiritual revival in Antioch. The people of Antioch noticed that the disciples behaved in a peculiar way quite different from others. The people of this town saw a clear and distinct lifestyle about the disciples. They soon realised that they behaved and acted out Jesus Christ in their daily lives. For this reason, they were described as Christians: ‘‘…And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.’’

 

Let us see this statement carefully: ‘‘…And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians [Christianos…a Christian, i.e. follower of Christ] first in Antioch.’’

 

Why were believers described as Christians by non-believers? Permit me to first of all point out that this title was in the first instance derogatory — expressing criticism or low opinion about someone. In other words, the society then had a very low opinion about believers in Christ — they were simply seen as misfits — those who had no place in the society. They believed that only the poor and the least in all things should have anything to do with Jesus who called Himself the Christ and the Son of God. As it was some years back in Nigeria, those who accepted Jesus as Lord were considered as those at the low ebb of the society. Children from rich homes were either disowned by their parents or threatened in one form or the other for their faith in Christ. At that time, only a handful of the elite openly declared their faith in Christ.

 

But in later times and as it is presently, Christ — ‘ianos’ simply gives identity to adherents or devotees of Christ. The Greek suffix ianos’ was a description for slaves showing their devotion to their masters. This, therefore, showed adherence of someone to another or to a group. Christianos then means that a believer is a slave or adherent to Christ. Any person that believes in Christ is simply somebody that is committed to Jesus Christ or a follower of Jesus Christ. Christianos actually conveys the sense of intimate relationship between Jesus Christ and His devotees (followers). Against this backdrop, to say that one is a Christian is to say or accept that Jesus Christ and His word have become his supreme authority just as a slave would totally subject himself under the supreme authority of his master.

 

If the character of a slave identified who his master is, the character of the believers gave identity to whom they believed in. In this regard, the believers in Antioch were first identified as Christians — devotees, adherents or followers of Jesus Christ because of their conduct, speech, etc. I wish to state here that after Paul had made his speech before Agrippa, Agrippa quickly responded saying: ‘‘And  Agrippa said to Paul, A little more and you will be making me a Christian.’’ (Acts 26:28 BBE.), Agrippa was actually saying if Paul thought or intended to make him a devotee, adherent or follower of Jesus Christ.

 

Therefore, the conduct of the believers in Antioch in speech, behaviour and in their general daily lives made those in Antioch see them as people who lived their lives just as their Master and Saviour did. They were not in any way different from Jesus Christ. The believers in Antioch I must say were Jesus Christ personified and to this end they were described or given the title Christians.

 

Meditation: Does my daily life reflect that of Jesus Christ? Would the people I meet daily and others I may encounter once describe me as a true Christian?

 

Prayer: Help me change my ways that are not pleasing to You through the power of the Holy Spirit that in every way my daily life may reflect You and You might be glorified through me.

 

Question: (1) Who is a Christian? (2) What does it mean to be a Christian?

 

 

 

The Christian Life and Character (Day 18) You must be born again: ‘‘I can guarantee this truth: No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.’’

 

‘‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’ John 3:3

Additional reading: Joh. 3:3; Gal. 6:15; Tit. 3:5; Jas. 1:18; 1Pet. 1:23; 1Joh. 3:9

One cannot exhaust the character of the Godhead all in one study. However, I believe that what we have studied here so far will give us an insight into the attributes of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Having said this, we must go to the next step. But before this, a question must be asked, which is; how can one attain the attributes or character of the Godhead? You must realise that with the fall of man following sin, man lost the divine nature (God’s character), which he had at creation. This short encounter between Jesus Christ and Nicodemus will tell us more.

According to the Scriptures, Nicodemus described as a ruler of the Jews went to Jesus by night. If you are careful enough, you will notice that there is no relationship between verse 2 and 3. After his introduction in verse 1, Nicodemus simply began to sing praises unto Jesus in verse 2 and just at that point (verse 3), Jesus cut him short and made His very popular statement: ‘‘Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’

Just a reminder: It is recorded in John 2:23 that during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem many believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles He did. However, this did not move Jesus: ‘‘Jesus, however, was wary of these believers. He understood people and didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature. He knew what people were really like.’’ (John 2:24-25 GWT.) It is believed that Nicodemus was among these believes that Jesus was wary of—though they believed in Jesus because of the miracles, they doubted He was the Messiah. Therefore, do not be surprise that the Lord who knows what people are really like and so did not need anyone to tell Him about human nature interrupted Nicodemus the way He did. More so, Jesus is not the type to be swayed by empty praises from men. ‘‘I don’t accept praise from humans.’’ (John 5:41 GWT.)

Now, Nicodemus (Conqueror of the People), an influential and powerful member of the Sanhedrin Council made up of about 70 people, and of course, a Pharasee — well taught or trained in the Jewish law and theology, went to Jesus in the night to inquire of Him of the way to the Kingdom! This meant that though he was a teacher of the Jewish law and theology, he lacked true knowledge of God. Also, he lacked the character of God as a teacher— though well respected among his people.

Nicodemus said this: ‘‘…Rabbi, we know that God has sent you as a teacher. No one can perform the miracles you perform unless God is with him.’’ (GWT.) He seemed more interested in miracles! But Jesus answered: ‘‘…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’

What did Jesus mean? ‘‘…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born [gennao…to procreate (properly of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively to regenerate: – bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring] again [anothen…from above; by analogy from the first; by implication anew:- from above, again, from the beginning (very first), the to ], he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’’

In essence, Jesus said that for anyone to enter the Kingdom of God, such a person must experience a regeneration that comes from God—from above. This regeneration that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit has the divine ability to transform one to his original estate—at creation—the state man was before he fell short of God’s glory because of sin. That was the time God’s character was truly manifest in man. Therefore, for anyone to manifest God’s character, which is the key to inheriting the Kingdom of God, that person must be sinless as he was at the beginning.

Now read this: ‘‘Jesus replied to Nicodemus, ‘‘I can guarantee this truth: No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.’’ (GWT.) Jesus replied, ‘‘I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God’s Kingdom.’’ (CEV.) This regeneration is made possible through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit as we shall see.

If we can understand Jesus next statement, we will no doubt understand God’s New Testament message of salvation. Though a well trained teacher of Jewish law, Nicodemus still did not understand Jesus Christ, so he asked? ‘‘Nicodemus said to him, How is it possible for a man to be given birth when he is old? Is he possible to go into his mother’s body a second time and come to birth again? (V4 BBE.) Now hear what Jesus replied him: ‘‘Jesus answered, Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’’ (Vv 5-6.)

What does it mean to be born of water and of the Spirit? Water here simply means the physical birth, i.e. natural birth that comes as a result of intercourse between man and woman. While birth through the Spirit is spiritual regeneration experienced at the point of conversion made possible only through the Holy Spirit. In order words, for one to enter the Kingdom of God, there must be a spiritual regeneration experience through the Holy Spirit of God. This means that the nature of man (flesh) must give way to the Spirit. ‘‘Jesus answered: I tell you for certain that before you can get into God’s Kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit. Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God.’’ (CEV.) ‘‘The only life people get from their human parents is physical. But the new life that the Spirit gives a person is spiritual.’’ (ERV.) ‘‘A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit.’’ (GNB.) ‘‘Flesh and blood give birth to flesh and blood, but the Spirit gives birth to things that are spiritual.’’ (GWT.)

Humans give birth to their children who manifest their character. Unfortunately, the character of humans — flesh cannot usher anyone into God’s Kingdom. Only God’s Spirit can do this—‘‘…Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God.’’ Every child born of the flesh must of necessity manifest the character of the flesh. And everyone born of God (the Spirit) must manifest the character of God. To manifest God’s character (nature), Jesus declared: ‘‘Don’t be surprised when I tell you that all of you must be born from above.’’ (V 7 GWT.)
Meditation: Except I am born again I cannot exhibit God’s character!

Prayer: Now that I am born again, let my life reflect the fullness of Your nature.

Question: (1) What does it mean to be born again and why is it necessary? (2) Distinguish between birth of the flesh and that of the Spirit.

The Christian Life and Character (Day 17) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and the Counsellor: We are very weak, but the Spirit helps us with our weaknesses…

 

‘‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’’ John 14:16-17

Additional reading: Jn. 15:26; 16:13; 20:22; Act. 2:4, 33; Rom. 8:15; 1Cor. 2:14

We did mention yesterday that the Holy Spirit is eternal, thus implying that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ through the Spirit of God, (which is eternal) gave indefinite life—perpetual life to all believers. Today, we shall consider the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth and the Counsellor.

During His final days (before His crucifixion), Jesus made a remarkable promise to His disciples. He said: ‘‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’’ The whole idea is to have someone live permanently with His children that are the believers. If you recall, we did say yesterday that the Holy Spirit is eternal. Here Jesus Himself underscores that fact that the Holy Spirit is eternal: ‘‘…that he may abide with you forever…’’

In full, Jesus said this: ‘‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [parakletos … an intercessor, consoler: – advocate, comforter], that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth [aletheia … true, truly, truth, verity]; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’’

There are two basic issues here: (1.) The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, i.e. intercessor, consoler, advocate. By this, the Holy Spirit is to help and strengthen believers (Matthew 14: 30-31), to comfort in difficult times, (Rom. 8: 26-27), and to work things out for the interest of believers (Rom. 8:34) as the advocate—intercessor of believers pleading their case before the Father.

The second issue is the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth: Jesus Himself is the Truth, therefore, whosoever He is to send to testify of Him or the Father must Himself be truth. Simply put, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus testifying to the truth, expose and enlighten believers about the truth

The following as pointed out earlier will help us understand this matter better. Please read this carefully: ‘‘Also, the Spirit helps us. We are very weak, but the Spirit helps us with our weaknesses. We don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself speaks to God for us. He begs God for us, speaking to him with feelings too deep for words. God already knows our deepest thoughts. And he understands what the Spirit is saying, because the Spirit speaks for his people in the way that agrees with what God wants.’’ (Rom. 8: 26-27 ERV.)

In John 14: 16, Jesus did promise to send the Comforter in the person of the Holy Spirit. Of course, by His words, Jesus made clear the mandate of the Holy Spirit, which is to help, intercede, strengthen believers, etc. Then Paul in his letter to the Roman Church confirmed that indeed the Holy Spirit is present in the Church to help, strengthen and intercede for believers daily in the presence of God. According to him, as people living in the flesh, we have limitations (weak); our senses are limited and even when we go before God in the place of prayer we make requests for wants and not for needs. But because the Holy Spirit understands that our want is for the flesh, He begs God on our behalf to give us our need and not our want. He does this because He understands God more than we do and God understands Him. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit does this with deepest compassion for us — ‘‘He begs God for us, speaking to him with feelings too deep for words.’’ The fact is, whenever a believer speaks in tongues, he hands over his care to the Holy Spirit to align it with God’s plan and purpose for him as the Holy Spirit alone knows our need.

We do not know how to pray and even when we pray we do so out of the flesh: ‘‘When you pray for things, you don’t get them because you want them for the wrong reason-for your own pleasure.’’ (Jas.4:3 GW.) For this reason and many more, the Holy Spirit steps in to intercede the right way, to act as our advocate — plead our cause so that our desires as presented before God by the Holy Spirit will be granted.

Let me speak further on the subject of the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of truth: ‘‘The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you.’’ (CEV.) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth because He is the Spirit of Jesus, i.e. He proceeded from Jesus. He shall say (testify to) and do only the truth, show and guide all who believe in the truth and at the same time expose what is not the truth. All who worship the LORD must do so in Spirit and in truth. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in unbelievers because they do not believe in the Truth (Jesus.) The Holy Spirit is a complete stranger to all who do not believe in Jesus Christ. Please follow this Bible trend: John 4:24, 15:26; 16:13; 18:37; 1John 4:6; 5:6.

In summary, therefore, the Holy Spirit is our Comforter — to help and strengthen us in our weaknesses — ensuring that in the place of pray, we make our requests according to God’s will through the Holy Spirit. And as the Spirit of truth, He testifies of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth and leads us in all truth and righteousness.

Meditation: The Holy Spirit is my strength, helper and guide to all truth. How much do I depend on Him?

Prayer: I am completely weak and covered in darkness without You. I surrender all to You that in my weakness I may find strength and in my darkness, I may find light.

Question: Why is the Holy Spirit described as the Comforter and the Spirit of truth?