I recently discovered some of the works and thoughts of the Russian writer, novelist and philosohper Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He was an Orthodox Christian with a deep faith, a faith which had «a strong emphasis on giving Christian love a social application». But what I really have treasured have been two quotes that I have found in his writings. I share these with you this morning:
And the 2nd one:
This morning I want to talk about the challenge of authentically being a Christian.
Of walking the talk:
Not simply believing «I am saved» and «I am a Christian» – but actually taking that identity out into the world with us each day.
There is only one person that you can control – yourself.
There is only one person that you have the power to change – yourself.
There is only one person that you can submit to God’s will – you!
And there is only one person that you need to truly worry about how they are showing up in the world each day – and you, as a Christian, can allow your identity «I am a child of God» to be a catalyst of transformation, through the continual renewing of your mind! You can choose to align your thoughts, your words and your actions with this identity.
But faith — without works — is dead.
This morning we read from Proverbs 22:1:
«A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.»
Is your good name – your reputation – that of a good Christian? When you are having your worst day – would others still describe you a good Christian? Or would they have other words to describe you? When you are at your worst – what shows up? Does God’s love still shine through?
And what about the two verses from our reading this morning from James 2:
v. 10 — For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point
has become accountable for all of it.
v. 14 — What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith
but do not have works?
Can faith save you?
James challenges us: What is the purpose of having faith without works? Faith, without works, is dead. If you say that you believe, that you are a son or daughter of God, but your actions do not align with these words, with that faith – do you really believe? Or are you, as Dostoyevsky describes us «lying to yourself».
You say that you believe that God is all-powerful… Are you complaining to God about how big your problems are, or are you telling your problems how big God is?
When you look in the mirror each morning – do you see yourself as God intended you to be? Or do you see yourself as small and insignificant? Powerless? Hopeless?
You say you love your neighbour as Jesus commanded… How does that express itself in your words and actions? Which neighbour do you love? When do you love them? How does this show up when they pull out of you recklessly on your way to work? How does this show up when they cut you off in traffic? How does this show up when they have a different faith? a different lifestyle choice? a different economic background?
Who are you?
- What does it mean to you to be a Christian?
- To be strong in Divine Law and the power of the might of God?
- To put on the armor of God? Do you wear a belt of Truth? Do you have on a breastplate of rightness? Are you feet walking the path of peace? Are you shielded by faith? Are your thoughts protected by the clarity of who you are as a child of God?
- Do you know how to hear the voice of God?
- To walk with the Spirit? To bear the fruit of the Spirit?
Or does being a Christian just mean showing up to Church on Sundays?
How you do anything – is how you do everything.
Do you do EVERYTHING as a child of God – as a Christian? Or is your life segmented – this is Christian and this is not…
Do each and every one of your thoughts reflect your faith as a Christian? James says – faith without works is dead… but I would challenge you that it is more than just this. If you say you have faith, but that faith does not show up in the way that you control your thoughts, your faith is dead.
Do each one of the words out of your mouth reflect your faith as a Christian? Let me hear your words… and I will know what you really believe!
Does each thing you do, daily, habitually – reflect your faith as a Christian? Faith without action and deeds – is dead! It’s no faith at all.
A story is told of a man who sits brooding at his desk on evening. Earlier that day, he received his dismissal notice from a company that he had served for more than 20 years.
He’s busy despairing on the difficulty of getting a new job – at his age – the impossibilities of living on his income – the shock of finding himself dispensable in the world!
A little spider was walking across his desk at that moment, and he unconsciously brushed it off.
Immediately he found himself watching, in awe, as this tiny creature took this disaster – of being swept into the air and off its path, and spun a tiny strand to bear its weight and gracefully swung down to the floor.
That little spider – was perfectly in touch with all the power and talents that God had given to it. When faced with a trial and tribulation – it simply swung down gently and continued on its way – knowing that it had everything that it needed to be safe.
Are you living in that strength and power as a child of God? If that spider – a tiny creature – can get into the flow of using all its talents and natural resources and deal so creatively and gracefully with a crisis – why can we not do the same?
Does your faith show up in actions?
Are you lying to yourself about any part of your identity as a Christian?
Is everything in your life in alignment with your faith?
And if not – what needs to improve?
What needs to change?
Who are you in Christ?
And possibly the most important question that I could ask you this morning: Do you see yourself as God intended you? Do you look in the mirror each morning and see yourself with the love that God has for you, with the talents & gifts that God gave you, with the potential and best possible person you can be? Living your purpose on earth?
Faith – without works – is dead.
What is the roadmap that you are following in your life? What is the purpose you are living for?
When you are living according to your strengths – everything that God created you to be – everything that you were intended for – when your best self is shining through – what are you doing?
Are you living that life today?
Are you respecting yourself as a Christian? Do you have clarity of purpose of who you are meant to be?
Your power simply lies within your respect for yourself.
When you are true to yourself – true to your description of yourself as as a «child of God» – you will respect that.
Others are compelled to respect that as well.
I started this morning by quoting Dostoyevsky:
To love someone means to see him as God intended him.
To love yourself – means to see yourself as God intended you to be!
What does it mean, to you, to be a Christian?