Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on the theme “To Follow Christ”. Look for more articles in this series in the weeks ahead.
There are many opinions and views in the world today concerning what it means to be a Christian. Even the term “Christian,” is often supplemented (or substituted) by using terms such as “believer,” or “Christ-follower.” All three of those terms effectively describe someone who has trusted Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins. However, I’d like to take some time today to give you seven attributes of what a faithful follower of Christ looks like.
I’m going to glean these truths from the first six verses of the book of Colossians. Concerning Colossians, Paul wrote this letter as a preemptive strike, so to speak, to combat a false system of teaching that was making its way around the region. This teaching was a strange mixture of Greek philosophy and Jewish legalism. It essentially taught that salvation in Christ alone was not sufficient to save. It taught that in order to truly find God you must have Jesus, plus special mental enlightenment plus adherence to specific rules. One needed Jesus plus philosophy plus rule following. In essence, this teaching denied the sufficiency of Christ. Therefore, Paul wrote this letter to make sure this church knew that Christ was sufficient for all things.
I want to show you four gifts that the Christian receives when he trusts Christ for salvation:
The first two gifts are contingent on Jesus’ work on the cross. We have them because of what He has done.
Paul wrote, “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colassae. Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Col 1:2)
Paul describes the believers in Christ as faithful saints and brothers. This is not sainthood as we would think about in the Catholic church. This word means to be “set apart” or “made holy.” When we are saved, we become what is called “positionally” holy and righteous in God’s eyes because of Jesus. What this means is when God looks at you and your life, he sees no sinner. Instead, He sees perfect righteousness, as Jesus is righteous. When you’re saved, God imputes this righteousness to you. He mysteriously transfers Christ’s righteousness to you. Yes, we will still sin, yes we will never be morally perfect, but positionally, we are in Christ and we are righteous in God’s eyes because of Him.
Paul also describes the Christians in Colossae as being faithful. Faithfulness is a believing attitude. Those saved in Christ receive this. Faithfulness is a trusting in that thing which you believe.
The next two attributes are the outworking of salvation. They affect how we live every day. These are how and why we live because we are declared righteous in God’s sight and have believed in Him.
God gives us favor, special kindness all the time in Christ.
This is a literal peace of mind. These are all things we receive as followers in Christ that we don’t ask for! God just gives them to us. Therefore, true believers receive righteousness and faith as well as grace and peace.
Now I want to show you three actions steps that we are called to make based on these gifts that we have been given:
Paul writes in verses 3-4: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,”
Whenever he prayed for this church, he always thanked God for them. These were a group of believers that, for the most part, were living the life they should be living. They had two attributes: faith and love. This is the second time that Paul has commended them for their faith. Here was a group of believers that truly trusted Christ and His provision for them. But they also loved one another. Love for one another is a visible fruit that you are a disciple of Christ.
John 13:34-35 reads: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1 John 4:20 reads: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God who he has not seen.”
Unlike the Corinthian church, this church seemed to not be split into factions. They seemed to be unified in faith and love. This love is much more than an emotional attachment. It is self-denying, self-sacrificial love for the betterment of the body of Christ.
The second action step true believers are called to have is:
Colossians 1:5 reads, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” This hope is reserved and stored up, for us in Heaven. This hope is an inheritance; an anchor that keeps us steady.
Finally, true believers are expected to have tangible:
Paul states, “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you,” (Col. 1:5-6)
The Gospel will grow throughout the entire world. As it grows it also bears fruit. Individual believers are transformed as they grow in grace. This growth leads to new people coming into the Kingdom through evangelism.
We see this happening in the book of Acts:
Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
What does a true Christian look like? A true Christian is one who is righteous in Christ’s eyes. He is faithful to his Lord. He lives in the power of grace and peace that God gives. And then, a true Christian displays love, hope, and growth in his daily activities.
Are you displaying love? Are you displaying hope? Are you displaying growth? If you are believed Christ, these things will evident in your life.