What Kind Of Christian Are You?


October 22, 2006 ~ Westney Heights Baptist Church


1 Peter 3:8-18 - ESV - Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  (9)  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  (10)  For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;  (11)  let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  (12)  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."  (13)  Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  (14)  But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  (15)  but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;  (16)  yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  (17)  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.  (18)  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,


What kind of Christian are you? There are many different kinds of Christian. There are Christians who wouldn’t think of doing anything the Bible forbids and then there are Christians who do whatever they wish, whether the Bible allows it or not. There are Christians so committed to holiness that they are offended by all sin and then there are Christians who are so committed to love that they are offended by none. Then there are Christians who are so filled with God that His glory shines through everything that they do.


We have not all been made from the same mould. Each of us is unique and gifted by God according to His design. We are not all the same and so we cannot all be the same kind of Christian. What is right for one may not be right for an other and what is wrong for one may be right for an other. With all of that in mind I ask again: What kind of Christian are you?


There are really only two kinds of Christian. There is the Christian who is so like God that to see him is to see a reflection of God and there is the Christian who is so unlike God that he can only pretend to reflect God.


Many of us have heard the phrase: “He’s so Heavenly minded that he’s no Earthly good,” indicating, apparently, someone so committed to Heaven that he was useless on Earth. This is an oxymoron. Regardless of what kind of Christian a person is there is no way that a Christian can be useless on Earth by being committed to God. The kind of faith that would make a person useless on Earth is not faith in God but faith in self. It is not alive and vibrant, drawing others into salvation, but it is dead, a dry husk of a faith that is so ineffective as to be rubbish. This type of faith can be seen both in the most legalistic Christian and in the most liberal. It can be seen in the most holy of men and in the most tolerant. It is a faith that denies the power of God by replacing it with the power of man and teaches man that he may be saved by his own ability rather than through the blood of Jesus. The apostle Paul, late in his life, warned his protégé Timothy of such people with these words:


2 Timothy 3:1-7 - ESV - But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  (2)  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  (3)  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  (4)  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  (5)  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  (6)  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  (7)  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.


Paul appears to be describing a non-Christian quite accurately. Everything he mentions is something that no member of the Church should be doing. But the point that Paul is making is that these people will be in the Church, are already in the Church. They appear to be Godly but be seek their own glory rather than the glory that belongs to God. They are leaders deceived by knowledge, never arriving at wisdom. There would have been no need to warn Timothy that such people lived in the world, it would have been obvious to anyone. Paul was warning Timothy to be on his guard against such people because they would be in the Church, appearing to be Godly but would not be. Paul was warning Timothy so that he would not be deceived by these wolves in sheep’s clothing.


There are Christians like that today. They are with us in our churches. They appear to be just like real sheep but they are wolves. Their faith is ineffective and deceptive for it is a faith in themselves and not in the God they pretend to follow. They are not being like God but only pretending to be like God.


But there is the other kind of Christian. There is the Christian whose faith is vibrant and alive. A faith that does not need to be faked because it is real and is found upon the power of God. Paul also speaks of this kind of Christian:


2 Timothy 3:10-17 - ESV - You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,  (11)  my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra--which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.  (12)  Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,  (13)  while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  (14)  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  (15)  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  (16)  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  (17)  that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


Notice the descriptive verbs that Paul uses in verse 10: Teaching. Conduct. Aim. Faith. Patience. Love. Steadfastness. Notice also that he is speaking of himself: My teaching. My conduct. My aim. My faith. My patience. My love. My steadfastness. To most normal people this would appear to be bragging of the highest sort. This is the other kind of Christian. One of whom great things could be said. I do not believe that Paul was bragging but using Timothy’s intimate knowledge of Paul’s character for Timothy’s enlightenment and encouragement.


While I mentioned earlier that we all know Christians who’s faith is misplaced, it is also wonderfully true that we all know Christians who are to us and others what Paul was to Timothy. Men and women who are so devoted to God that God’s own beauty appears to shine through them. Men and women who care so much for God that they care for all whom God has made. Men and women who are truly glorious and jubilant Christians. Not because of their goodness. Notice that in all of his writing Paul emphasizes his own unworthiness of God and God’s unconditional love for him. Not because of a lack of trouble. Notice that Paul also speaks of himself in reference to persecution. “My persecutions,” he says. Twice. Even a casual reading of Paul’s letters and the book of Acts will show just how much Paul suffered. Because of his faith. Yet he drew people to God. Why? Let’s take a look at some of the other things he said and did to see if we can find out why.


Acts 16:23-25 - ESV - And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely.  (24)  Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.  (25)  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.


Acts 27:33-37 - ESV - As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing.  (34)  Therefore I urge you to take some food. It will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you."  (35)  And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.  (36)  Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.  (37)  (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.)


Although this is not an exhaustive listing of Paul’s activities, each of the above passages shows us that Paul was a man so committed to God that the circumstances in which he lived did not hold him down but gave him opportunity for ministry. In these two passages from Acts we see the practical effect of his behaviour where those around him were themselves affected by his confidence in God. Just imagine the impression that Paul and Silas had on their fellow prisoners by singing hymns of praise to God in spite of their being unjustly whipped and imprisoned. Or what of the sailors with Paul on a ship that had been driven by a violent storm for two weeks. What characteristics did they see in him that even after all this time that in certain fear of death they could take encouragement from his assurance that none of them would die. What had these people seen in Paul that would cause them to pay him attention?


I believe that what they saw was the outward working of his inner faith. He was a man so in love with God that everyone around him could not help but be affected by his faith. It’s kind of like this: When I was in Bible College I knew a man who was very much in love. He couldn’t keep from talking about his girlfriend. When she became his fiancé he spoke of her even more to the point where, even though they had never met her, all his classmates knew of the impact she had on him. Though they were separated by several hundred kilometers it was like she was with him wherever he went. I believe that Paul was in love with God in the same way. He was so in love with God that whenever people saw Paul they could also see God. His love for God came out in everything he said or did. Paul encouraged those who knew him to be like him in love for God so that they would be so overcome by God that nothing else would matter. Everything else would be an opportunity to win souls to Christ. Circumstances did not overwhelm Paul, by the power of God Paul was able to overwhelm circumstances.


Philippians 4:12 - ESV - I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  (13)  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.


How can we achieve what Paul was able to do? Perspective. Our problem today, especially in the West, is that we are so wrapped up in career, family, materialism and any of a multitude of other distractions that God is someone we don’t think about except on Sundays and then only during worship services. Paul did not relegate God to Sunday worship, he relegated Sunday worship and all the rest of life to God. Pay attention to these verses that indicate Paul’s attitude towards life:


2 Corinthians 4:16-17 - ESV - So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  (17)  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.


Paul knew that what ever he experienced in his earthly life paled in comparison to what was waited for him in Heaven.


Philippians 1:21-25 - ESV - For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  (22)  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  (23)  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  (24)  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  (25)  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,


It’s almost as if Paul had a choice on whether to live or die; to live and continue to help the Philippians or to die and be with his Lord. His choice to live and work with the Philippians showed his commitment to doing the work God had for him to do.


Philippians 4:4-7 - ESV - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  (5)  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  (6)  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  (7)  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Paul could encourage the Philippians to call on the Lord for all their needs because he had experienced God’s direct care himself. Paul knew that every one of his needs could be met by God, regardless of circumstance.


Colossians 3:15-17 - ESV - And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  (16)  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  (17)  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Paul was a jubilant Christian. He knew what he had been saved from. He knew that he did not deserve it. For Paul God was not an idea but a saviour. In everything he wrote Paul makes these things very evident:


-          He knew that did not deserve the salvation that God had given him

-          He was overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift he had received

-          He knew that God could meet every need


We tend to think that we need to take care of ourselves. We think that our health is something a doctor should be trusted with. We think that our retirement plans are best guided by financial advisors. We think that those who harm us are best dealt with by the law. We tend to think that the power of God was something of powerful effect during the lifetimes of the apostles but that it is of little or no effect now. But in so doing we are denying the power of God and placing our faith in the power of man.


God is concerned for our health. When we worry that our health is not restored perhaps we are ignoring the lesson of grace that God is teaching us.


2 Corinthians 12:7-9 - ESV - So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.  (8)  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  (9)  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


God is concerned for our retirement but is also concerned that His starving children have the means to live. Perhaps our retirement should be placed in God’s hands so we can feed the hungry.


Luke 12:18-21 - ESV - And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  (19)  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  (20)  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'  (21)  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."


God is concerned when we are harmed. Perhaps we should forgive rather than seek compensation.


Acts 7:59-60 - ESV - And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  (60)  And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.


God is powerful and that power is as valid for us today as it was in the days of Paul. Perhaps in failing to acknowledge this place limits on what God will do for us.


2 Timothy 3:2-7 - ESV - For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  (3)  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  (4)  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  (5)  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.


For Paul, nothing mattered more than God. Everything that had been of value to him he considered valueless so that he could know God better. He worked to rid himself of anything that would distract him from God:


Philippians 3:3-8 - ESV - For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh--  (4)  though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  (5)  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  (6)  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.  (7)  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  (8)  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.


For Paul, health was less of a concern than devotion to Christ. For Paul, retirement was not something to be considered, his future was in God’s hands and God could do with him what he pleased. For Paul, personal harm was cause for joy for if was proof of his allegiance.


In closing I want to ask you several questions. If you are offended by them then perhaps I’m striking close to home. If you can shrug them off without a second thought then perhaps you should think about them a little bit more. My hope is that each day we live we ask ourselves these questions and use them to help us better live the life that God has given us.


Have we, like Paul, given up everything as rubbish so that we can gain Christ?


Does God’s will occupy more of our thought and time than our own will?


How have we distinguished ourselves from those whose faith is not in God but in themselves?


Where Christians are essentially indistinguishable from non-Christians what makes you different?


What sets you apart from those condemned to die?


What is it about you that makes people wonder about you and want to be like you? How is Christ made evident in your life?


Does the fact that you are a child of God fill you daily with unspeakable joy?


What kind of Christian are you?


How do those around you know that you are saved?