Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Mark of a True Christian

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Saturday, November 9, 2013: Ezekiel 20:1-49

11 And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, which, if a man does, he shall live by them. 12 Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.  Ezekiel 20:11-12 (NKJV)

19 I am the Lord your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; 20 hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. Ezekiel 20:19-20 (NKJV)

How do you know if someone is a real Christian -- a true believer -- a genuine follower of Jesus?  What are the marks of a Christian?  Are there any Scriptural indicators of a genuine faith?  How should believers in Jesus stand out as different from the non-believing, hell-bound world surrounding us?

In the Old Testament, there were three indicators of being a genuine covenant-keeping Israelite.  These three became huge issues in the life of Jesus and in the early church.  They were circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath-keeping.  For Old Testament believers, these were the signs, the markers of legitimacy.  

God set it up that way.  In making covenant with Abraham, He prescribed circumcision for every male as a seal to the agreement (Gen. 17:10-11).  It was the sign of covenant fidelity.  Refusal to be circumcised constituted rejection of the covenant.  

Similarly, in Leviticus 11, God lays out a detailed list of kosher and non-kosher food items.  Violation of these rules was considered an abomination (Lev. 11:10).  This was then and is still today a mark of Jewishness.  

The third Old Testament sign of fidelity is the most mis-understood.  Because Sabbath-keeping is included in the Ten Commandments, confusion has persisted about how, why, and when this law is the be observed -- if at all.  Among the reasons God tells Israel to keep the Sabbath is so that they will stand out against the un-believing world.  This became more important during the days of Babylonian captivity.  The Sabbath was not only a needed rest for God's people, it was also a sign to the world of genuine faith (Ex. 31:13, Ez. 20:12, 20).

These were the signs in Old Testament times.  Are they the signs of true faith today?  Must a man be circumcised in order to be a covenant-keeper?  Must dietary laws be kept to avoid defilement commensurate with abomination?  Is Sabbath-keeping the indicator of intimacy with God?  

On a broader scale, are there any outward rules that define covenant relationship with God?  I believe it is obvious that one may keep virtually every law and yet still be devoid of faith.  Substitute any rule.  Does going to church make you a Christian?  Does paying tithes indicate real faith?  Does moral purity prove bona-fide discipleship?

Herein is a major change in the marks of covenant fidelity.  It is actually harder under the New Testament to measure true faith than it was under the Old.  The singular marker Jesus used was agape love -- the God kind of love (John 13:35).  He severely rebuked the best rule-keepers of His day, the Pharisees.  He commended the forgiven prostitute who loved much (Luke 7:47).  

No longer will the world watch our religious observances and be impressed with our spirituality.  Instead, the Spirit of the Living God resting on us in humble acts of loving service will testify to the world that God is truly in our midst.  

Jesus' kind of martyr love.  That is the mark of the Christian.

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