My normal computer has recently crashed, so I haven't been able to reply to any emails or work on Word for the past week. The man who's been building a new one for us has been slower to deliver than he'd said he would be. Andrew doesn't care but I hate that. I'm getting a bit frustrated and stressed. But here I am on another old computer, able to blog at least.
I've been pondering the above question of what makes a Christian show because my frustration over the computer has made me feel tetchy and not very kind. I like to type each chapter of my new story up as soon as I type them, but I haven't been able to do that and they're logging up. It shows me that it's so much easier to be happy and behave in a Christian manner when we have nothing to frustrate us. Nobody would necessarily recognise me as a Christian this week! But annoying circumstances liked crashed computers shouldn't make all that much difference in a person's outlook. Jesus said we need to let our lights shine at all times. How does this show in our lives? Accepting our saviour is such an inner, personal business, especially when we don't find opportunity to talk about our beliefs openly each day. Are there signs that identify a Christian straight off? I believe there are two.
1) They have all the fruits of the Holy Spirit operating out of their personality.
Love (as opposed to hate, resentment, jealousy and envy)
Joy (as opposed to depression and misery)
Peace (as opposed to turmoil and anxiety)
Patience (as opposed to impatience and short temper)
Kindness (as opposed to selfishness)
Goodness (as opposed to wickedness, strife)
Faithfulness (as opposed to fear and dread)
Gentleness (as opposed to harshness)
Self-control (as opposed to short temper, emotionalism, panic)
I think it's really useful to remind myself of the fruits of the Spirit every so often. When we don't, so many of the counter-fruits find room to sprout up without our knowledge. And when we look at a list like that above, we can easily see where we're beginning to get a little off track.
2) You can see that God's promises are being worked out in their lives. Their needs are being met. They are not sick, broke and needy like the rest of the world. God's will is clearly taking place on earth as it is in heaven in their lives, as they depend on His promises. They are clearly children of the new covenant.
During an altar call at church week before last, I was sitting there toying with the idea of going out the front for prayer when a quick thought occurred to me. I thought, "I shouldn't sit here, year after year wondering whether I ought to respond to altar calls." I hate to admit this. I'd never given it much thought before but I'd been coming to church for most of twenty odd years (I'd become a Christian when I was 17) with a needy mindset! I'd always attend hoping to "get something out of" the message or prayer. Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that! Christians are there to reach out to others after all. But we're not to meant to remain in that needy condition!
True Christians aren't like dry, parched trickles but deep, flowing wells. Instead of being anxious that I'm not going to have my needs met and wanting to have the reassurance of prayer from others, I should be trusting that I'm having all of my needs met by God. When I'm coming from that strong, God-dependant mindset, I'm more able to give of myself to others.
That doesn't mean we need to lapse into the trap of relying on our own good works (which might be a form of neediness in itself). When we keep giving and giving through our own strength we get dry and exhausted. I've been there. I don't think this busy sort of giving is necessarily what God intended. Proper giving is simply through being the people we are. Just living our daily lives with deep love for God and the fruits of the Spirit, and then doing what we want to do, it seems we can't help giving to others as a by-product.
I've been giving this a bit of thought this week. Hope it strikes a chord with some of you too.