Running The Race Together
Updated: Feb 28, 2019
For us to truly live Christian lives, here on Earth, we need to realign our interests to the interests of others and the interests of Jesus, running the race in fearless unity.
We are to conduct ourselves "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" as Paul says in Philippians 1:27. The reality is that no matter where you are born or where you live if you are born again, you are a citizen of heaven. There are so many believers who forget their true identity as a citizen of heaven. We are to be aware of this reality, and once we are, we are to walk in a manner which is indeed "worthy of the gospel of Christ.” If we don't, we may not be considered worthy entrants through the big gates that lead to the city of our eternal King. For us to be worthy of entry, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner which is worthy. Worthy being actions that are related to, in respect to the will of the Father, as we read in Matthew 6:10, "on earth, as it is in heaven.” We are spiritual beings, yet, we sometimes forget that we are. The Greek word for conduct in this passage is πολιτεύεσθε (politeuesthe) which means, "to live as a citizen" and in Philippians 3:20, Paul says "But our citizenship is in heaven.” Now, let's begin by asking ourselves, what are the implications and demands of citizenship? Well, for starters, we are to obey the laws of the country in which we are citizens, its affairs, customs and traditions. But, this is not all: Paul is referring to our lifestyle - we are to live a life that is conducted appropriately because we are citizens, members of the church, the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner which is "worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Our speech, living plans, dealings, negotiations, all actions, within the church and without, are to be done in a way which "becometh the gospel.” We are members of the Commonwealth of Christ, it's time that we act in a manner akin to its membership. If you live in the USA, you are a citizen of heaven residing on the soil that God created, on "American" soil; Australia, you are a citizen of heaven residing on "Australian" soil. I have written "American" and "Australian" with quotation marks because, in the kingdom, there is no such thing as America or Australia, there is only one nation, Earth, filled with the creation of God who are born citizens of His kingdom. Unfortunately, some have declined the membership, but, there is still time for them to realize the opportunity of this citizenship. To be a citizen of the Commonwealth of Christ, we must act in accordance with the gospel as it is written in the word. A politician - unfortunately not always the case - is selected as a politician based on their merits as a person of character who believes and holds themselves accountable to the constitution of the country that they represent. In the same way, for us to be selected in higher places of authority in the kingdom, trusted by God for His gospel, we must hold ourselves accountable to the constitution of the gospel. That constitution is the living word of God, because, as we read in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
We are members of the Commonwealth of Christ, it's time that we act in a manner akin to its membership.
Paul continues, in Philippians 1:27, to say, "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” To conduct ourselves "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" is to strive together. There are three things mentioned here which, together, results in unity: We are, as the Church, to be in unity; first, in one spirit; second, with one mind and; third, by striving together. Paul also spoke about unity in one spirit to the Ephesians, in Ephesians 4:3, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Unity is not possible with complete similarity, but, instead, flourishes amidst dissimilarity. For example, if we look at a pit of sand, we do not see unity, we see a collection of sand which is of a similar nature. When we look at a flock of sheep, there is no unity, but simply a collection or repetition of sheep that are similar to one another. Whether the flock totals two thousand or only ten, it is still a flock. There is no less unity because there was never unity to begin with. To the contrary, Paul speaks about "unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” In other words, he is speaking of the unity of the Spirit amidst dissimilarity. The flock of sheep, for example, do not experience unity at all despite their similarities, but they do experience unity when a shepherd guides them. At that moment, they walk together, in unity, wherever the shepherd leads them. Now, with us, every single one of us is imperfect and each of us, when we are together, provides a capability in which another person is not strong. We are the body of Christ, so, if you think about a body, each member of the body is linked together. Sometimes, however, the Church doesn't think of itself as a body, and this can lead to many issues. If a part of the body is cut of - if a leg is cut off, or a tongue is torn out - the body will instantly experience a lack of unity. In that moment, something will be missing and unity will be destroyed. Now, think of unity between the members of the body, without the mind, how will the members communicate? And, without the spirit, how would the body discern where it should go? You see, no matter what pieces of the puzzle we have, if our hearts and minds are not aligned and unified, the members of the body are in disunity. It is only through the "unity of the Spirit" that our members can be bonded together. The Spirit is the similarity; we, the dissimilarity. We all have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” as we read in Ephesians 4:5 - this is the similarity between us as the body, despite all our individual dissimilarities. The "unity of the Spirit" is to be united spiritually, as one. Paul is not referring to only the fact that there is one Holy Spirit, but also, the power of unity in terms of affection and love between one another.
As we all know, such unity is hard to accomplish and is only possible through the Holy Spirit, who renews us, intercedes for us, and gives us the words to speak. The potential of discord is high when we are combined into one setting; after all, we are all dissimilar and deficient. We all have different tastes, habits, feelings, intellects, interests and levels of education. Therefore, it is only through the Holy Spirit, who produces in our hearts a deep love, and peace enabling us to love others and experience peace as a body, who enables us to experience unity. Instead of looking at Tom, and thinking, "the guy who has an annoying habit of blinking too often when I speak to him,” the Holy Spirit enables us to see him differently, to see him as God sees him, a man created in His own image. We no longer see a man with an annoying habit, but we see a man we need to honor, a man created by God. In Philippians 1:27, the word, μιᾷ ψυχῇ (sunathleó) meaning to strive with, followed by the word, πνεῦμα (pneuma) meaning spirit shows we are to be standing in one spirit, not diverted by the divided sentiments of other parties which can cause disunity. No gossip, no inclinations, no egos, simply listening to the spirit. Now, what about the mind? We are to be united by "one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The mind has the ability to think, most assuredly, so, when Paul is speaking about one mind, he is speaking about one purpose but also one plan. The mind has the ability to think in terms of what needs to be done and also the means to which it can be done. In other words, the what and the how. We obtain our "why" through the Holy Spirit and the Word. The unity of the Spirit is the why behind the what and the how. "With one mind, striving together" is speaking of unity from an emotional (purpose) and intellectual (plan) perspective. We are to be purposeful in our unity so that we may advance the kingdom, and we are to plan accordingly to make the advancement of the kingdom more of a reality over time. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” – Proverbs 29:18, however, what happens if there is a vision but no unity, and no plan to make it a reality? Yes, vision is important, but if we are not all in one mind, how will that vision become a reality? There is only two occurrences of the word, συναθλέω (sunathleó) in the entire Bible, and that is here in Philippians 1:27, and also in Philippians 4:3. In both instances, it means to strive at the same time with one another, together, as one, for something, essentially helping and assisting jointly for the same prize, goal. It means, to compete together with others, cooperate vigorously with others. The only time anyone competes is to achieve something, but what are we working together to achieve? Our goal is to "press on toward the goal.” Think of a team sport to get an idea of the picture that Paul is sharing here. Unity as a team, working jointly toward the prize. The prize being victory, or being victorious. In Philippians 3:14, we read, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” "I press on" speaks of endurance. There are many things that we are called to endure, and let's endure them "in one spirit, with one mind striving together.”
"Toward the goal" in many translations is written as "toward the mark.” Now, if we think about a race, perhaps a running competition as part of the Olympic games, there is a white mark at the end of the race. The first person to cross the mark is the winner; after that, second place and third place is available for the taking. That white mark in the Christian faith is Jesus. In 2 Timothy 2:5, Paul says, "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” Paul makes reference to the Olympian games many times in the word, sharing many phrases such as "receiving the prize" in 1 Corinthians 9:24, "the crown of life" in 1 Corinthians 9:25, "run with endurance" because we are surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12:1, but here, it is different, it's about the manner in which we run the course and run the race; the importance of doing it in a way that is not ours, but God's way. "According to the rules" speaks of the divine rules and disciplines in following Jesus. I'm not speaking here of old testament laws, and most certainly, Paul isn't either. Instead, Paul is refuting the notion of doing things our way or creating our own religions. In verse 4, it reads, "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier": Christ has enlisted us as His soldiers here on Earth, but why is it that we are so concerned about the rules of this life and not the rules of His kingdom? Sometimes, we forget that we are not citizens of the nations in which we reside, but citizens, soldiers of His kingdom. We are to neglect the rules of this world and compete instead according to the rules of the kingdom.
There are six specific things to be denoted regarding this race:
1) We are to be legally enrolled in the contest, by giving our lives to Jesus and taking on the obligations of Christian service. How well we do in the contest is up to us.
2) Some win the race and some don't. We see this clearly in 1 Corinthians 9:24, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” Our goal in life should be the achievement of perfect holiness, in other words, to become more and more like Jesus. Running the race is simply making our way to that white mark, that white mark known as Jesus. The prize for winning the race is glory, the crown of holiness, the crown of life, the imperishable crown. The mention of only one being able to win the prize out of many does not, in any way, mean or indicate that only one of the multitude of Christians can be saved. No, and most definitely not. Being saved is the beginning step known as Justification which we receive through Jesus - we see this clearly in Romans 10:9: "If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Simple, but why stop here? When you are inducted into a new job, do you just do the job to get paid, or do you work to receive that promotion, become better in your skill set and improve as you grow older and wiser? Do you stay a check out girl or do you aim to become the manager? Being the check out girl, you're in the door, you have the job, but you are not doing everything in your power to be the best that you can be for that business. It's the same with regard to the kingdom. Giving your life to Jesus is the first step and most definitely, a crucial first step. But, what about the journey moving forward, about the race that is ahead?
3) The race is not going to be easy, it isn't now and it never will be and that's why we need to be devoted and disciplined. When is a race easy? Never! Any contender in an athletic competition finds that discipline is necessary for them to achieve success. I believe, in my heart, that giving your life to Jesus is saying “my life is yours, and I'm ready to run.” Ready means that you are willing to do anything that he needs you to do and run means that you are dedicated and you are able to endure. Jesus isn't looking for a bunch of Christians going for walks, who say only "I'm ready to walk.” He wants us to "lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us" that we may "run with endurance the race that is set before us" - Hebrews 12:1. Anytime Paul speaks about the race before us; he desires that we desire success in our Christian walks, that we succeed in the race. To do this, we are to labor with energy to reach holiness; forget everything else to see only the white mark before us. There are not many that win because there are not many who are willing to run in this manner, to forget "what lies behind" - Philippians 3:13, not calling "to mind the former things,” or pondering on "things of the past" - Isaiah 43:18. It's simple, there isn't that many that are so dedicated to doing that. "Run in such a way" is a motivational statement by Paul, that "you may obtain it.” His intention is to steer us on, to stimulate us. To run, well anyone can do that, but to run well, only a few can actually do it. Let's be those Christians that run well, and lay aside those things of the world.
4) There are spectators watching us as we run. There are spectators in the stadium seats, in the Colosseum, a whole array of eyes watching us as push forward and run to "toward the mark.” I don't know about you, but when I go to a sport game, and I imagine there would be some similarities to those games in the Colosseum which Paul refers to, I am there to be entertained, to witness the strength and power of the athletes as they push through really tough obstacles and challenges that lie before them, and yet, never giving up. Any spectator looks to see exactly that. What sort of boring athletes are we sometimes? Just going to church on Sundays, and watching movies straight after, just to relax enough before a week of work comes upon us. Then, in our jobs, we are so busy "working" that we somehow forget to even tell somebody about Jesus. Before we know it, Friday comes, then April passes and then it's 2025. Come on, we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” – Hebrews 12:1.
5) This race is different; there is no limit to the amount of winners. In an earthly athletic contest, only one receives the prize; however, in a heavenly athletic contest, every man can win. If you run well, you win; if everyone runs well, everyone wins. Let's make sure that everyone wins.
6) Both athletes and us Christian athletes need endurance to win the race. We need to "run with endurance" meaning we need to run despite what life throws at us. I'll give an analogy here - I've been bodybuilding since I was 12 or so years old. A lot of people at the time as I was starting out told me I was too young, and it would be bad for my growth. I knew this was a myth so I ignored their remarks. Let me tell you, as soon as you start running toward Jesus, and you're an infant Christian who just recently submitted to Christ, you will be scorned, and there will be the odd harsh remark. Don't listen, and keep on going. I've been gymming since I was 12 and haven't stopped once. Never stop, keep on going. The thing about bodybuilding that is very important is the weight that is lifted. If you keep lifting small weights, you will stay small. You need to reach the heavier weights, and only then, will you start becoming bigger. The only way to reach the heavier weights is to endure the pain. The more pain you endure, the stronger you become; the stronger you become, the more weights you can lift; the more weights you lift, the bigger you become. I always made time to gym with a friend who was able to assist me to lift the heavier weights. That little spot when you just can't quite lift it makes the world of a difference. The Christian race is the same as going to the gym with a friend, in order to get ahead, and move forward, you need someone to push you on, somebody beside you who will "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind" with you and "strive together for the faith of the gospel.”
Its a lot harder to have endurance when you don't have someone to endure with.
So, we are to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" which means, that we are to be united together as we strive together. When we are united, we are acting "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This is already so powerful, but as we read on, in verse 28 of Philippians 1: "and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition,” it becomes a deeply compelling statement. The NIV says it even better - "without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” There are two steps denoted by Paul; firstly, we are to be united, and secondly, we are to be fearless, not alarmed or intimidated by the opponents. We are not to be alarmed or intimidated by Satan, for Christ is greater than he; the world, for Christ has overcome it; the false teachers, for Christ is the true teacher. Whatever it might be, do not be afraid or terrified. Keep on running the race. A team cannot run together if they are not united and they cannot run with endurance if they are fearful. The Christian race is like a game of Rugby, you know where you need to go, you have the ability to get there, but there are always opponents that get in the way. Let's not be afraid and fearful of the opponents that tackle us as we run, trying to stop us from becoming more and more like Jesus; instead, let's "strive together.”
Step number 1 - be united. Paul speaks on unity further in Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Unity begins with humility, which is all about lowliness of heart and the esteeming of others. Despite our inherent strengths and levels of power that we might have, let us be lowly in heart, and esteem others, and look out for their interests. Unity occurs when the church is focused on enabling others to be who they are called to be in Christ Jesus. In verse 21, near the end of the chapter, Paul says these same words again, but with a slight difference - "For all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” You would expect Paul to say again, "the interests of others" as he did in verse 4, but instead, he said, "the interests of Jesus Christ.” So, what are the interests of Jesus Christ that Paul is referring to? If we look at chapter 1:8, Paul says that he "yearns for them all (the Philippians) with the affection of Jesus Christ.” How much Paul is yearning for you and I is, in its simplest form, an expression of the affection that Jesus Christ has for you and I. From this, we can conclude that the Church of Jesus Christ, the Philippians, you and I are the interests of Jesus Christ. He is after our eternal good. Now, these interests are not the fleshly interests that humans have, such as a hobby or playing cricket on the weekend, but an eternal interest. If we look at the prayer in chapter 1: 9-11, we can see what the interests of Jesus are. He is interested in us (the Church) “being filled with the fruits of righteousness (AMP -right standing with God and right doing)” which are from and by Him, "to the glory and praise of God.” He wants us to be filled abundantly, that we may appear "pure and blameless for the day of Jesus Christ.” Jesus has, as Paul says in verse 6, "begun a good work in you" and "will complete it until the day" that he meets us. We can summarise the interests of Jesus as an interest in the Church, the good of the Church. My dear friends, Jesus is interested in your interests, sincerely interested in the interests of the Church and he wants us to focus on unity, and be interested in the interests of others because their interests are the interests of Jesus. We live for what Christ died for. Jesus died on that cross for our eternal good and he wants us to live for the eternal good of those that are around us. The interests of others are the interests of those that He died for. The interests of Jesus Christ is the eternal faith, joy and good of the Philippians, and therefore, if we are interested in the eternal faith, joy and good of the Church also, we are interested in the interests of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:24, Paul says this same thing, slightly differently, "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
Unity is love recieved, but first, love must be given.
Second, we are to be united fearlessly. Unity is great, absolutely, but a team that is united and full of fear is not going to be effective. Its great to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind" but a whole bunch of warriors standing next to one another, unified together and full of fear, will never encourage each other to "strive together for the faith of the gospel,” and will instead encourage each other to be comfortable. However, this is not right and most certainly not the interests of Jesus. He is interested in the eternal good of his people, and there is nothing good about standing still and not becoming more and more like Jesus, and avoiding the faith-filled run to the white mark, to be "pure and blameless for the day of Jesus Christ.” He wants us to be faithful, but we cannot be faithful if we are fearful. Fearless by itself is selfish; fearless unity is selfless. When you are fearless and you lack unity, you use your strength selfishly, it means we are doing things for selfish ambition, but "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" - Philippians 2:3-4. Fearless unity is a matter of endurance and love, never giving up, and never forgetting to love and care for the interests of others. If we think about Rugby analogy I used earlier, fearless unity is where you pass the ball when you see the opponent coming, and then running beside your brother that has the ball, ready to catch it when another opponent comes. We are fearless and as a result, we expect adversary but we are also united, in other words, we know when to pass the ball. Passing the ball is being of the same mind, sharing in one another's struggles. Being a family "striving together.”
"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
Let's continue, together, to learn more about Jesus, to become mature in Him, and measure up to His "full and complete standard.” He is the highest standard that we can have. He is the white mark that we run towards, that we aim to become like. Since I was a kid, there have been heroes that I look up to. The younger we are, the more heroes we have, whether they be "The Hulk" or "Captain America" or just our dads. In our minds, at this young age, we have a certain manly character with elements that we most admire and wish to imitate. But, let us not be confused by these poor copies of ideals, let us aim, at once at the highest mark. Yes, we may not reach it, but we shall obtain more than the imitation of any other hero. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ is the perfect replica, the ideal, the white mark we should run to.
Our white mark, Jesus showed us so many incredible things, and still shows us, even today, who we are to be, teaching us:
1) To be compassionate - Matthew 9:36. He never looked away from people, but instead, had compassion toward them. He sought out the needs of others, and addressed those needs. He sought out the sufferings of others, and helped them. In Luke 7, we read the story of Jesus raising a Widow's son. He went to a village called Nain alongside His disciples. As is usually the case, a large crowd was following Him into this village. Jesus saw a women's only son being carried out for burial, and immediately, in verse 13, "He had compassion on her and said to her, 'don't cry'.” His heart overflowed with compassion. The MSG translation says, "His heart broke." His compassion caused Him to take immediate action: He walked to the coffin and told the young man to stand up from the dead. In Matthew 14, just before Jesus fed the five thousand, "He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” Jesus took action, out of His compassion for others.
2) To be a servant. There is no doubt in my heart that Jesus was the best servant that has ever existed. He had no plans of advancing Himself nor did He care about His own ambitions. He wasn't selfish, but selfless. The "Son of Man came not to be served but to serve" - Mark 10:45. The strongest example in the Bible of the servant heart of Jesus is in John 13, where Jesus decided to do something that was completely unexpected, to wash the feet of the disciples. This is Jesus, the Son of God, washing the feet of the disciples. Simon Peter was rattled by the offer, and protested, "you will never wash my feet.” Can you imagine this, the King wanting to wash your feet? I'm sure that many of us would have reacted the same way, surprised by the offer, wanting to switch positions, but His message to us was clear. He gave us an example to follow, and in verse 14 and 15, Jesus said, "you also ought to wash one another’s feet" and "do as I have done to you.” In unity, we are to serve one another, to care for the interests of one another, just as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, serving them, so too, we are to serve one another, love and care for one another.
3) To love. To be compassionate or servant-hearted, you need to have love. There is no doubt that Jesus loved, and we know that there is "nothing that can separate us from the God's love" - Romans 8:31-39. In John 15:13, we read that "Greater love has one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” a depiction of an act that was done by Jesus, for us where He gave his own life in order that we might be saved. He showed us the greatest love that can be shown. A man by the name of Gareth Griffith went sky diving during his vacation in Florida. It was his first time, and therefore, jumped in tandem with Michael Costello, the instructor. The main chute didn't open, so, as an experienced instructor would do, you open the second chute. Unfortunately, both the primary and the back up chute didn't open. Both Gareth and Michael were making their way to a sure and sudden death. Luckily for Gareth, Michael showed the greatest love that anyone can show, and just before hitting the ground, he spun them around by folding his arms and legs. Michael hit the ground first, stopping the force from killing Gareth. Gareth survived and lives to tell the story of Michael's sacrifice. I love this story because it reminds me of what Jesus did for us. He cushioned the blow of death that was so surely upon us, by dying for us on the Cross. He wrapped Himself around, stopping us from being hit by our imminent death, and giving us the opportunity to have eternal life. What a great King, Who taught us the importance of love and sacrifice.
4) To be forgiving. To this day, one of the most forgiving statements ever recorded in history was the day when Jesus said on the cross, in Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” These people have tortured Him, cut open His body, and caused Him to experience excruciating pain, yes, despite all these things, He forgave them. In today's world, everyone is for personal justice, vengeance and power, but in the kingdom, Jesus is all out for forgiveness. So, lets be forgiving.
5) To exercise self-control. Jesus, before starting His ministry, was tempted by the devil in the wilderness - Matthew 4. He was hungry at the time, as anyone would who fasts for forty days and nights. The devil said to Him, "if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” He assuredly had the ability to turn stones into bread, but instead, responded with the power of the word, the two-edged sword and quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 - "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So, the Devil kept on going, and on the temptation went with showcases of food, power and even the kingdoms of the world, but Jesus had none of it. The devil is not as dumb as people think, though. The devil knows the bible very well and quoted scriptures to turn Jesus around. I know that the devil knows more scriptures than the average Christian. Jesus was also tempted when He was on the cross. We see this in Mark 15 - people walking past saying to Him, "save Yourself, and come down from the cross!" And, also chief priests saying, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” Again, we all know that He had the ability to just come down from the cross, but He didn't. He controlled His desires and submitted them to the will of the Father. When He was hungry, like all of us would have been in the wilderness, He desired food, but he had a greater desire to obey the Father. When He was being crucified, He could have come down, but His desire to obey the Father was greater than anything else. Jesus exercised self-control, so lets also, exercise self-control.
6) To commit, and commit fully. Jesus never gave up, He kept on going. Never did Christ lack commitment. He was always in the moment and committed. He knew what He was on earth to do, and He was planning on doing it, regardless of the pain and suffering that He knew He would endure. Jesus was committed to serving His father - in Luke 2:49, Jesus said, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?" Throughout the word, Jesus said that He came to do His Father's will. That was why He came and He committed everything to that. We are to be as committed to Jesus as Jesus was to the Father.
7) To be humble. There are many other things that Jesus did and was, for us to do and imitate, but I'll stop with this one which I believe is one of the most important - humility. How can we care for, or even consider the interests of others if we are not humble? Humility is the starting point of any true love toward others. Jesus was the humblest of them all. Think about it. Can you imagine having the ability to do what He did on Earth? The crazy thing is that I can imagine it. In John 14:12, Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father." We can do the same works that He did! How amazing is that? So many Christians, however, don't understand why they can't yet. It's simple - they don't run toward the white mark - there are things in this world that are holding them back, they lack self-control, humility, a servant mentality or even worse, faith. If we lack humility, and we were able to do what Jesus did, here on earth right now, we would be a bad example of Christianity because we would use the gift as a means of receiving praise or accolades. We will acquire riches and fame. Humility is very important. Jesus never lacked humility, not once. He could have, if He wanted to, demand praise and accolades for His miracles and incredible teachings. Yet, He never did. In John 6:15, we read that the crowd of 5000, who Jesus fed, wanted to make Him king, but He withdrew from them. Wow! He didn't want to even receive recognition for what He did! When I first read this, I was speechless, really! Instead of being king and being recognised, He instead focused on His mission, to save the lost, to offer forgiveness, to love, to serve, to give and more. He could have traveled the world with fine jewels and clothing, but He didn't. Paul, in Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV) describes the humility of Jesus so beautifully - "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Our Lord, the "Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Lets work on humility, together.
To finish off this message, this blog, I would like to share Jesus' teaching in His own words. If we look at His sermon on the Mount in Mark 5:3-12, we see Jesus speaking out blessing over certain characteristics. These characteristics that God proclaims blessings over are characteristics of the white mark, Jesus, for us to run toward, and to be in this life:
3God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. 6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. 7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. 9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. 10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.
12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
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