Have you ever been around somebody who was just the real deal?
Their public persona and their private character lined up and you could tell that everything about them was genuine.
I love being around those type of people. They don’t just share Christian anecdotes and pithy sayings. They actually walk out this following Jesus thing day in and day out.
In the first century, Paul wrote a letter to a church that was known for being the real deal. They didn’t just claim to be followers of Jesus, they also bore fruit. They bore fruit in such a way that everyone heard about it, including Paul.
Look at the passage with me.
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, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. – Colossians 1:3-5a
Reading this mail a couple millennia later, we can learn something about what it looks like to be a true Christian. According to Paul it’s not all that complicated.
Paul was giving thanks to God the Father for the church in Colosse because of three things they were exhibiting:
1. Faith in Christ Jesus
This is the bedrock of Christianity. Our faith in Jesus is the proof of our salvation. Our sin has separated us from a perfectly holy God, and the blood of Jesus spilled for us on the cross reconciles us back to Him (something Paul unpacks for the church in Colosse later in the chapter). By putting our faith in this sacrifice and committing to follow Jesus as Lord, we are saved.
But according to Paul, this isn’t the only mark of a genuine Christian.
2. Hope in Christ Jesus
So, the first one was pretty easy for me personally. I have been attending church all my life, I put my faith in Jesus as a young child, and despite battling doubt and curiosity throughout seasons of my life, my faith in Jesus as my Savior has not really waxed or waned.
But hoping in Him?
That sure has.
As we are walking through the Advent season (an especially hectic one at that), I’m reminded that this time of the year is not just reflecting on the future work of God through the nativity of Jesus, but also the future work of God at the end of the age.
As followers of Jesus, our hope for life should flow out of our knowledge of Jesus.
But when we look at our actions, motivations, schedules, bank accounts, and desires, our hope is not often in Christ. I confess that too often I try and find the hope to carry on via Netflix, comfort food, golfing, friendships, reading, writing, etc. Now, all of the above are good things when done in moderation and thanksgiving, but when I turn to them for hope that life is going to be okay, not only is that stupendously ridiculous, it’s also sinful (Fighting God On #7).
Where is your hope found? I was reflecting the other day about just how much of the New Testament is about putting one’s hope in Jesus. The early church was known for this. They were known for their hope.
When people observe the way you live, do they see hope in Jesus?
Paul has one more thing to share as a characteristic of a Christian.
3. Love for All the Saints
When I recently journaled through this book, I wrote in the margins “this is lacking in me!”. And in the last week or two, there hasn’t been an abrupt change.
Let’s be honest guys.
This is hard.
I mean, there is no caveat or exception or asterisk. We are called to have a love for ALL the saints that is noticeable to the surrounding culture.
Loving those who look like us, vote like us, think like us, worship like us, and have hobbies like us is pretty easy. As soon as there is discrepancy however in these areas (amongst others), loving the way that Jesus has called us to love becomes a whole lot tougher.
Loving all my brothers and sisters in Christ is something I pray that God grows in me. I love teaching and preaching but loving is tougher for me. In fact, my last counseling session was all about that.
In closing, don’t fret if these three things are not vibrantly pouring out of your life. Neither Paul nor myself are trying to call your salvation into question.
Rather, I want to encourage you to pray for and practice these things.
Cause if you do,
You’ll be the real deal.
In His Name,