describe-christian

Do the traits of a Christian fit a description of me?

In the middle of a two-part series for our messages at Urbanova on Sundays, I’m sharing seven traits of a Christian from 1 Timothy 6.11-16. At the end, I asked — and I will ask again next week — if, after reading these traits, someone would think of you.

We describe cars by make, model, color, options, dents, and wheels. We describe people by height, weight, color (well, if you’re not a liberal), eye color, facial features, tics, clothing, and mannerisms. So when a person describes us, do these traits observed from the Bible text fit us?

The first three traits described in the first message were:

  1. Contrast: “But” verse 11, HCSB. The Christian is different from the people of the world. His values, goals, and interests are different. Paul had written previous to this text about false doctrine, factionalism, and love of money. The Christian, however, shows “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”
  2. Identity: “man of God” verse 11. Knowing who we are helps us determine how to act. Being a man or woman of God means belonging to him and having his presence saturate our being. We don’t define ourselves by our work or human relationships, but by our relationship with God.
  3. Action: “run from,” “pursue,” “fight,” “take hold,” “keep.” These actions verbs show that the God who works in our lives expects us to work in our faith. Salvation doesn’t fall into the lap of a passive observer.

Next week, four more traits. I would have preferred doing it all in one message, but there was too much material. We try to observe our time limits scrupulously.

¶ The last couple of weeks have brought us several incidents for different members of our family:

  • a blow-out on a high-speed interstate with our daughter at the wheel,
  • lightning sending debris on top of our vehicle while your editor was in it,
  • a car back-ending our daughter-in-law with the two kids in the backseat,
  • the wife with a spell of exceptionally high blood pressure.

Material things are secondary. We’re thankful that everyone is still in one piece. We’re grateful for God’s protection. We’re more conscious of the fragility of life.

¶ As I look toward transitioning, sometime in the not-so-distant future, in my ministry, I’ve thought that, in my writings, I’d like to dedicate myself more to those areas that are given little attention among us. In the brotherhood, we do a great job in the area of doctrine, including apologetics, and Christian life. (Some people like the word “morality;” I don’t.) So much material is out there.

I’d like to write in areas where not as much is available, publishing more prayers and poetry. Yeah, I know, not many readers appreciate those, but maybe one day, someone will read.

¶ In one of his books, which I’ve not been able to finish after two attempts, Bill O’Reilly wrote, “On my tombstone I want these words inscribed: ‘He finally stopped talking.’” I found that terribly sad. A Christian might want words similar to these on his: “He is still glorifying God.”

¶ Most things hawked as free in the world aren’t. Especially if offered by a politician. And, outside the gospel, setting things right in the world isn’t so simple. Politics, special interests, man’s perversity, love of power and money, all make true progress difficult. In the church, life in Christ can be simple and pure and joyful. In the world, not so much. Beware those who make easy promises to fix what’s wrong.

¶ I’m not at all a John Maxwell fan. He has too much cultural baggage for my tastes, and too little Bible. But this quote of his is good. Really good. “Success each day should be judged by the seeds sown, not by the harvest reaped.” God wants a big harvest. He wants everyone to be saved. He desires that none perish. But the harvest is his. We just put our heads down, do our work in the field, and let God bring forth what only he can produce.

¶ Sometimes I get the feeling that my writings don’t resonate with American Christians. Is it because, after 30 years in Brazil, I don’t share as much of a perspective with Americans? Or is there some other reason? Thinking and asking God to show me. You ever have moments of introspection?

¶ Much talk these days about being a church relevant to society. As one who works cross-culturally, I’m all for relevance. But the word doesn’t justify jettisoning truth or swapping out the message for social service. A church is relevant when all members of the body assume the mission of Christ in the world and lovingly proclaim the gospel of salvation.

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet.

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2 thoughts on “Do the traits of a Christian fit a description of me?

  1. Of course, these corollary-esque posts are among my favorites from you. I’m surprised to hear that your posts don’t seem to resonate with Americans since I have always found your approach very refreshing, and, to whatever degree this makes actual sense or is even possible, more objective than many of us up here, but that’s just me. Perhaps there is a disconnect with some (or many) as a result of living in very different worlds, and local congregational flavor and culture being somewhat different. I always enjoy your poetry, and wish I had more creative space (and talent and drive) in my head to join with you. I must apologize for my lack of connection to it of late, however. A failure of mine. I am glad things are well with you and yours, given the circumstances. 🙂

    1. Hey, bro, thanks for the comment. I sense we’re often on the same wavelength. But generally I think both reasons you mentioned have to do with my feeling about disconnect, both living in different worlds and varied interests and priorities in congregations. No need to apologize, we all have families and work and brazillion (Obama: how many is a brazillion?) things to take care of.

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