5 Symptoms of a Contagious Christian

contagiousIn 2014 fear struck West Africa and the rest of the world with the outbreak of the ebola virus. Officials scrambled to get a handle on this monstrous disease. Thousands died as the virus spread quickly. The ebola virus is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids. The danger lies in the reality someone isn’t contagious until they begin to show symptoms. By then it is often too late. They have already infected another person.

What if Christianity were that contagious. What if the news reports of West Africa and Western North Carolina included stories of how Christianity was spreading rapidly, thousands being converted as they come into direct contact with other believers. What “symptoms” are necessary for Christianity to once again be an outbreak? Here’s my list:

  1. Passion.  So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:39-42 ESV) The apostles rejoiced that they were beaten for preaching the gospel!
  2. Compassion.  And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36 ESV) Jesus was touched to the spleen (the word “compassion” is derived from the word “spleen”) by the harassed people around him.
  3. Mission.   And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49 ESV) Jesus looked at his earthly mom and dad and told them he had to follow his heavenly Father. He was a boy on a mission even at the age of 12.
  4. MessageAnd I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV) John Newton stated this succinctly, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
  5. Method.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV) There was a method to Paul’s madness. Every effective ministry has an effective method. While the message never changes, the methods must change.

If you were examined by the Center for Disease Control for being a contagious Christian, would you have all the symptoms?

Everyone in Everything

…just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:33 ESV)

Taking Scripture out of context is dangerous. If you read 10:33 without reading 10:31, you will become the quintessential chameleon–blending in everywhere you go, pleasing everyone you know, becoming whoever you’re with. So here goes verse 31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

If God’s glory is your highest aim, pleasing others can be your second aim. You will please God and others. If God’s glory is your highest goal, then pleasing others can be your second goal and you won’t become a “people pleaser.” For Paul it is a question of motive. Why does he please everyone in everything?

“…that they may be saved.” 

Paul glorifies God and pleases others hoping that it will result in the salvation of others. This is why a believing wife will respect her unbelieving husband–not seeking her own advantage–but hoping that he may be saved. This is the reason the father of a wayward child will appear to capitulate–not seeking his own advantage—but wishing that his son may be saved. This is why a friend will bend over backward to help an unbelieving friend–not seeking her own advantage–but praying that her friend will be saved.

Who is your everyone? What is the everything you can do so that he or she may be saved?

God All Sufficient

From The Valley of Vision (a book of Puritan prayers):godisable

O Lord of grace,

The world is before me this day, and I am weak and fearful, but I look to you for strength;

If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall, but on the Beloved’s arms I am firm as the eternal hills;

If left to the treachery of my heart I shall shame your name, but if enlightened, guided, upheld by your Spirit, I shall bring you glory.

Be thou my arm to support, my strength to stand, my light to see, my feet to run, my shield to protect, my sword to repel, my sun to warm.

To enrich me will not diminish your fullness; all your lovingkindness is in your Son. I bring him to you in the arms of faith. I urge his saving Name as the One who died for me. I plead his blood to pay my debts of wrong.

Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness, his sinlessness for my transgressions, his purity for my uncleanness, his sincerity for my guile, his truth for my deceits, his meekness for my pride, his constancy for my backslidings, his love for my enmity, his fullness for my emptiness, his faithfulness for my treachery, his obedience for my lawlessness, his glory for my shame, his devotedness for my waywardness, his holy life for my unchaste ways, his righteousness for my dead works, his death for my life.

Debt Free Living

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

opraiseOnce Wendy and I were having dinner in a nice restaurant, enjoying the meal, enjoying one another’s company. We got ready to leave and there was no bill to pay. The waitress told us someone had paid it. “Wait a minute,” I contested, “who did that?” I wanted to thank them. Part of me wanted to try to pay them back. There was nothing I could do. The bill was paid…in full.

When I was 15 years old I attended a revival service. That night, for the first time, I realized I had a massive sin debt that only Jesus could handle. I had broken God’s law, broken Jesus’s heart, and acted a fool in my pride. As soon as the pastor finished preaching I went forward and received Jesus’s payment in full for my sins. What a sinner I was…what a Savior he is!

In 1865 Elvina Hall penned the words that say, better than I ever could, how I feel about what Jesus has done for me. Sing them as you read them:

I hear the Savior say,
Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
and melt the heart of stone.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
Jesus died my soul to save,
my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow

O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

Jesus, the Great Equalizer

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

sycamore

A sycamore tree in Palestine

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus was short…so short he feared he wouldn’t see Jesus in the crowd. He did what any dignified, wealthy Jewish man would never do. He ran. The elite in Jesus’s day didn’t run–they walked confidently wherever they went. Zacchaeus was rich but when he heard Jesus was coming to town all of a sudden his money didn’t matter. All that mattered was seeing Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Football quarterbacks give him credit. Army Generals pray to him. Presidents humble themselves before Him. Billionaires call him Lord. Paupers call him King. All who follow Jesus die to themselves and live for Him.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree. It wasn’t just any tree, it was a sycamore tree. When we think sycamore tree, we think flaky bark and maple looking leaves. The sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed was a fig-bearing tree. As a matter of fact, poor people often climbed this tree to pick its fruit. Zacchaeus, the rich (chief) tax collector climbed the tree of the peasant so he could see Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

O Foolish Ones

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:21-27 ESV)

Was it not necessary? If anyone knew it was necessary to suffer it was Jesus. The events in the Garden of Gethsemane were not even a week old. In that garden he described his soul as “being sorrowful even unto death.” He then fell on his face praying saying, “My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Three times he asked the Father if he could pass on the Roman scourging and the cruel cross. Three times silence came from Heaven. Three times the disciples fell asleep. Jesus knew the necessity of suffering.

Jesus’s groan came before his glory. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Why was it necessary? One word: justice. Throughout the entire Old Testament, once a year, a sacrifice was offered for the people’s sins. The sacrifice didn’t sin–it was an innocent lamb offered for the people’s sins. Jesus took the Old Testament and preached Himself to them. What a sermon! I would love to have a copy of it!

Are you “slow of heart to believe?”

Stop Pushing and Get in the Car!

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11 ESV)

A young man named Sinner once received from his Father a beautiful, bright-red convertible. He named it Salvation—sparkling, new, clean, modern, powerful. It delighted the young man 1986_00005_02so much, especially because it was a gift. He could never have afforded it. So delighted, the boy even changed his name from Sinner to Saved. He polished his car every week. Took pictures of it. Sent it to friends. Looked it over—front, back, under, top, bottom, inside out. Never—never tired of telling others about the gift. “My Father gave it to me. It was free!”

Some days later Saved was seen out on the highway, pushing Salvation. An individual named Helper walked up and introduced himself and asked if he could assist.

“Oh, no thanks. Just out enjoying my new car,” as he wiped the sweat off his face. “Just had a little trouble because my bumper kept cutting my hands, especially on these hills. But then a nice man helped me. Showed me how to mount little rubber cushions right here, underneath the bumper, and now I can push this thing for hours without a blister. Also, I’ve been trying something new lately. They use it over in England. You put your back against the car, lift, and it works like a charm, especially on muddy roads.”

Helper asked, “Have you pushed the car very far?”

“Well, about 200 miles altogether. It’s been hard, but since it was a gift from my Father, that’s the least I can do in return to thank him.” Helper opened the door on the right side and said, “Get in.” After hesitation, he decided it was worth a try and he slid in on the passenger side and rested for the first time since he’d been given the car. Helper walked around, opened the door, slid behind the wheel, and started the car.

“What’s all that noise?” he said. Moments later they were moving down the highway quietly, at fifty, sixty miles an hour. He was taken aback. It all seemed to fall into place. It was even exciting! He knew he needed this Salvation Car to be admitted through the gate at the end of the highway. But somehow he felt that getting there was his responsibility.

From Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Swindoll, 1998

Worth Waiting For

How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah  (Psalm 62:3-4)

David’s quiet waiting on God is punctuated by a reminder that his enemies are real. Often the silent times of our lives reveal our deepest fears. David is in a desperate place. He likens himself to a leaning wall and a tottering fence. Leaning walls are in danger of falling. Tottering fences can easily be compromised. He is under constant attack.

Perhaps that’s where you are today. You feel like a leaning wall, a tottering fence. You wonder how much more you can take, how much pressure you can endure.

Every believer has three enemies: the world, our own sinful nature, and Satan. Our enemies combine forces to do what David describes: they only plan to thrust him down from his high position. Jesus reiterated David’s words in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” The world will allure you, your sinful nature will appease you and Satan will attack you. They take pleasure in falsehood. The world lies. Your sinful nature lies. Satan is the father of lies. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Sin always has a facade–behind it lies the smell of death.

Selah. Why would David have us pause and think about this?

Here’s why. You will appreciate your rescuer when you realize what He has rescued from. Pause today and reflect on where you would be without Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus went on to say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That’s worth waiting for.