What distinguishes you as a Christian?
The Holy Spirit in the past has not held a prominent role within the Church but these days people are claiming spectacular manifestations of His power. Focusing on signs and wonders believing that this distinguishes Christians from others.
Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 that the fruit of the Spirit, as in its manifestation in our lives is LOVE. From that love comes joy and peace and so forth. The hallmark for a believer is the fruit of love, we love because we are loved first.
As we become like Christ it was through His love for us that he willingly gave up his life. It was His through love that he happily gave up all the privileges of Heaven to become flesh and walk this earth to suffer and be humiliated. As Christ tells us it is by the way we show love to one another that we will be known as His disciples John 13:34-35.
Some people think the hallmark of a Christian is truth, sound doctrine, creeds and the Reformation confessions. To fight the good fight and stand firm in the teaching of the scripture. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that if he can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge but does not love he has nothing. Knowledge puffs up while love builds up therefore love trumps knowledge.
Others may say, holding true to faith alone that we are saved by justification alone, God's grace. Again Paul in 1 Corinthians says even if he has faith to move mountains, yet does not love, he is nothing.
Religious experience is key to our identity as Christians. That knowing Christ is enough as everything else is at a loss. The experience we can receive through Christ and the power of the Spirit reveals how spiritual we are and how Christlike we are. Yet, Paul argues "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal".
Service can also reveal that we are followers of Christ, service to the poor, those in need our neighbours as Jesus reveals through the parable of the Good Samaritan. Guess what, Paul declares "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing".
Here is the thing, all the people are correct, holding true to scripture, living by faith alone, having some religious experiences and works by faith are all hallmarks of what makes a Christian. Yet the core fruit the main distinguishing telltale sign that we are Christians is Love. The love and grace of God and our Love for Him and how that transforms us change our priorities and hearts as we love others with that same intentional love that seeks to build others up and to transform the culture around us to glorify God alone.
So, brothers and sisters you may be the smartest, theologically minded person, you may be able to speak in tongues and seek other signs and wonders, you may be passionate about helping others out and you may have had some great experiences as Jesus has revealed things to you through scripture and the Spirit. But if your whole motivation is not loving and for the building up of God's kingdom and church then there is nothing that distinguishes you from other people.
It is by the way you love, this reveals to others that the Holy Spirit is manifesting in your life, it is love that shows others that God is in you. It is love that will show the world that you are Christ's disciples. What, if you are truly openly and honestly reflecting, are you revealing to those around you?
Rev' Darren Dalton
St Andrews Church