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A true Christian is one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. His attitude of
mind and behavior are consistent with the teachings and life of Jesus Christ; he follows
God's way of life as expressed through His laws and respects his fellowman by being
concerned with "giving" rather than "getting." A Christian strives for
success in all areas of his active, abundant life.
The early disciples of Jesus Christ strove to imitate His
actions, teachings and way of life. It was for this reason they were labeled as
"Christians" (i.e. followers of Christ) by nonbelievers to whom the disciples'
way of life was obvious (Acts 11:26). During the time of the early New Testament apostolic
Church, the term "Christian" was certainly in every way accuratefor the
disciples were indeed imitators and followers of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.
But today in the 20th and 21st
centuries, the word "Christian" is extremely loosely and
inaccurately used, the description being frequently applied to any person or group that
simply Professes a belief in the person of Christ and acknowledges Him as the
Savior. The appellation "Christian" is even applied to all people, irrespective
of their religious convictions, who are simply born and reared in a "Christian"
culture. These usages are far from adequate when we consider the original meaning of the
term "Christian," which is: "one who actually follows the life and
teachings of Christ in detail." Even a cursory examination of our ostensibly
Christian culture in general and the many purportedly Christian groups in particular
brings out little dependence on the teachings of Jesus Christ and even less resemblance to
His actual life.
To be a Christian, a person must have God's Holy Spirit dwelling within
him. "Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him"
(Rom. 8:9). Before one can be baptized and receive this Spirit, he must repent of his
sins, express faith in Christ and then accept Him as his personal Savior. This deep
identification with Christ must precede the receipt of the Holy Spirit.
In addition to having the Holy Spirit, one must live and
act by the teachings and values of Christ if he is to be considered a
Christian. He must live "by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God"
(Matthew 4:4). "He who says he abides in Him ought
to walk in the same way in which He walked" (1 John 2:6). The
greatest expression of that obedience is a wholehearted demonstration of love toward God
and toward neighbor. In this regard, Christ said His disciples would be known because of
their love, especially for one another (John 13:35; 15:10-17). Ultimately, of course, it is
through the Holy Spirit that one can obey God and express love. In turn, God will give His
Spirit only to those who are willing to obey Him (Acts 5:31). Therefore, the basic
qualities of Christianity go hand in hand with being a true Christian and cannot be
Christianity is a Way of life. It is more than just believing. It is
the attitude of mind which leads an individual to follow Gods directives for social
conduct and for personal behavior. Indeed, before the name "Christian" took over
as common terminology, it was their way of life that set Christians apart as
different (Acts 9:1-2; 19:9; 24:14).
Christianity revolves around clear, demonstrable actions which reveal
the intents and beliefs of a person trying to live as Jesus lived. Mere belief in a name
or title in and by itself, as James points out, is valueless: "You believe that God
is one; you do well. Even the demons believeand shudder" (James 2:19).
A Christian is one whose whole outlook and frame of mind is in the
process of transformation from "carnal" to "spiritual." When one rises
from baptismal waters he becomes a "new man" by taking on a whole new spiritual
lifestyle, created after the likeness of God in "true righteousness and
holiness" (Eph. 4:24). Whereas before his conversion he armed himself to face life
with his own pride, ego, strength and intellect alone, the true Christian now adds the
"whole armor" of Godthe girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness,
the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the
Word of God (Eph. 6:13-17).
These fruits or characteristics of the Holy Spirit become progressively
more manifest in the life of a Christian. Hate is replaced by love, anxiety by peace,
fearfulness by faith, indulgence by temperance, and pride by meekness. All these and the
other fruits of the Spirit work together to overshadow the natural, carnal characteristics
of adultery, idolatry, strife, envy, wrath and the many other aspects and variations of
As the Christian begins to express godly qualities, he grows in the
appreciation of their superiority over his own human qualities. From this appreciation
grows the goal of expressing, more and more of the righteousness of Christ living within
him (Gal. 2:20) while he roots out, with God's help his own disobedience and self-righteousness.
He struggles to move closer to the basic essence of "pure and undefiled"
religion: an outgoing concern for others with no thought of recompense for the self: this
godly attitude is exemplified in James' admonition in 1:27: "Pure religion and
undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their
affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
The Christian will strive to avoid some of the pitfalls of close human
associations. Judging one another (Rom. 14:13), making spiritual comparisons (2
Cor. 10:12), offending those who are weak, gossiping and spreading rumors
(James 3); none have
any place in true Christianity. On the contrary, each Christian must do his or her best to
"never ... put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother" (Rom.
14:13), to compare ourselves only with "the stature of the fullness of Christ"
(Eph. 4:13), to strengthen those who are weak, and to "bear one another's
burdens" (Gal. 6:2).
Likewise, the Christian will grow in the knowledge of God's Word and
begin to express the wisdom which comes from this knowledge as understood through God's
Spirit. The Spirit of God united with the "spirit of man" within him opens his
mind to comprehend godly things (1 Cor. 2:9 ff). It gives him understanding and insight
and reorders his values and priorities so that God and His knowledge are now first in his
life (cf. Prov. 1:7).
Having God and His plan primary in one's life in no way denigrates the
physical cares and requirements of normal living. Quite the contrary, a Christian
addresses himself to these things with new understanding of their place in his goal of
following God's way in this present physical life as he strives toward gaining eternal
life and entering the God family.
The Christian knows, that one who will not provide for his house is
worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). Thus, the physical cares of life are no longer an
ephemeral end in themselves, but are a means of developing and expressing love through
giving. Christians should certainly be the greatest examples of both spiritual and
physical success. For a Christian to accomplish less in his physical life than he is able
is not only a waste of his own abilities but a neglect of his God-given potential.
The true Christian views his secular education, the establishment of a
career and subsequent professional development as vital keys for building the successful
life exemplifying the characteristics of God. Additionally, the opportunity to become
professionally accomplished and prosperous by the world's traditional standardsto
gain a good reputation in one's field, a position of responsibility, social recognition
and financial rewardsare not only good but desirable, as long as God and His laws
always come first. God wants His children to be successful in all aspects of their
physical lives. To develop the full range of our God-given human potential as responsible,
mature, effective adults is something all Christians must strive for. To do any less
neglects these God-given gifts and squanders opportunities for both physical and spiritual
growth. Indeed, a successful Christian makes a powerful witness to the practical,
efficacious veracity of God's way of life as revealed in the Bible.
A Christian life is thus in no way passive. It is full of challenges,
both physical and spiritual. It requires great resolve to obey God, to shun both the overt
and the subtle evils and influences of human society.
The true follower of Jesus Christ will strive to prove the superiority
of a godly way of life through his own example. A Christian does not debate
religion with others; he does not try to twist their arms into believing as he does, nor
does he try to "convert" them in an antagonistic manner. He is, however,
prepared and happy to answer questions about his beliefs when asked by an interested
person. As Peter stated, "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh
you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15). A
Christian strives to be a "light" to the world by allowing his actions to speak
for themselves. He knows that one who tries to love his neighbor as himself will win that
neighbors love in return and may, according to God's will, encourage that neighbor toward
following Christ as he himself does.
Thus, a Christian has many positive qualities. The most basic summary
of these qualities is to say they comprise a life of giving as opposed to getting,
of serving others instead of being served, of loving instead of selfishness, and of
accomplishing and building instead of tearing down and destroying. It is the way spoken of
by Christ in the beatitudes and in the sermon on the Mount. It is the way naturally
produced by the motivation of God's Holy Spirit. It is the way Jesus lived and acted; and
a Christian is one who follows Christ in this way.
But the requirement for a Christian to adhere closely to the principles
of Christ does not mean that all Christians must be totally identical in personality,
personal tastes or preferences. Quite the opposite is true. God, as the Creator of
mankind, was the One who designed the potential for wide differences in human proclivities
and personalities, likes and dislikes and even in our physical and mental makeup. He
intended from the beginning that differences in environment and heredity should allow (and
even cause) great variety within the human species. And God intends that these differences
should be expressed (within certain limits).
We are required to lead a life of personal responsibility and character
before God and our fellow mana life that is pleasing and obedient to our Creator and
one that enables the individual to find and reach his greatest personal potential and
God's great love for man has given man the basic guidelines for living
life which, if followed, will ensure a full, abundant physical life and the growth of
godly character in every pursuit and activity. These fundamental instructions, as revealed
in the Bible, allow for great individual variation so that all can still maintain their
own personal identity, preferences and individuality.
The two overriding principles one should consider in applying God's law
to the everyday cares and pursuits of life involve the continuing and conscious
recognition that: 1) Christianity is a way of life; and that 2) everything we do as
Christians should be done as if under the scrutiny of Christ (Col. 3:17). In different
areas of life, these principles take on different meanings.
For example, the Bible clearly recognizes the arts as representing some
of the highest expressions of man's potential. Obviously any art form which encourages the
breaking of any of God's laws is wrong, but beyond this, the Bible makes little
distinction as to "right" or "wrong" in art, music, literature,
poetry, architecture, etc., other than to emphasize positive purpose in their expression.
The application of God's laws in these areas of artistic expression is more complex today
than it was in biblical times. The key principles, applying the fundamental standards of
God's Word, are balance and beauty, elegance and harmony, inspiration and skill,
sensitivity and creativity. (Cultural differences may necessitate that certain criteria,
"beauty" and "quality," for example, be subjectively determined. What
is beautiful music to an Asian or an African might seem discordant to a European and vice
versa. The unifying principle is to be found in an affirmative answer to the question,
"Is it edifying to the individual Christian?" As in other matters, each person
must use wisdom and discretion based upon these general guidelines and make his own
decisions for himself)
A godly way of life must include the basic aspects of physical health:
good nutrition in a balanced diet, proper amounts of exercise and sleep, living in accord
with public health ordinances and principles, and taking care to avoid bodily injury.
While eschewing faddism or fanaticism of any kind, the church encourages everyone to eat
natural foods as much as possible and to avoid those processed foods and preservatives
which can have debilitating physiological effects. In this context, a Christian will avoid
the use of tobacco or illegal drugs in any form and drink alcoholic beverages only in
moderation. If illness or injury should occur, a Christian has a great advantage over the
nonbeliever; he can ask for God's help in healing, in addition to seeking the most
competent medical aid available.
In matters of dress and style, the church teaches and emphasizes the
biblical principle of modesty. Balance, good taste, quality and modesty are stressed in
the use of all clothing and bodily decorations such as hair styles and makeup. How a
person looks and what he wears is a personal matter, but an individual should attire
himself in such a way as to be presentable to Christ. We are told in
1 Corinthians 10:31:
"Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." The
church encourages its members to look "normal," in keeping with the styles and
customs of their times and places. Church members should not look overtly different from
other people in their immediate surroundings, though they should always be striving to
improve themselves, being representatives of God, in all areas of their lives. In all such
matters the members are encouraged to avoid extremes and to use common sense. This
sound-minded, temperate approach is what a Christian will develop as he grows in God's
Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7; Gal. 5:22-23). The use of balance in these areas is essential,
though the church does not police its members' personal lives.
In the area of celebration of nonreligious holidays, the Church of God
has never taken any stand against the observance of various and sundry days during the
course of each calendar year, whether they be national or personal. In all countries
around the world, our members keep nonreligious days which are special to their countries
or themselves. For example, the majority of American church members celebrate Thanksgiving
Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Washington's Birthday and
the like. Other personal days have long been commonly observed by Church of God members,
days such as Mother's Day, Father's Day and wedding anniversaries. These are commonly
observed either through the exchanging of gifts (as in Mother's and Father's Days), the
celebration over a family meal (as in Thanksgiving), or merely abstaining from work or
going on an outing (such as Labor Day, the Fourth of July, etc.).
The Church of God, likewise, has no specific statement of doctrine
concerning the common custom of the celebration or the observance of birthdays. The Bible
itself keeps careful track of the ages of the patriarchs and of the kings of Israel and
Judah (especially at the beginning of their reigns). Levites worked in the service of the
tabernacle of the congregation from thirty to fifty years old (Num. 4:23). Our society
also requires that we continually list the date of our birth in everything from job
applications to the national census.
To some families, the passage of the birthday of a child at age six is
quite an important occasion with congratulatory hugs and kisses and the sending of a proud
little boy to his first day in grade school. Perhaps, in other families, the event is
comparatively unimportant, and there is no special note taken of the passage of any
particular year. In all of our memories, it is safe to say that some birthday observances
have retained special meaning: perhaps it was a particular plateau of life at which a
certain achievement or accomplishment may have been on the horizon, such as entering into
teenage or reaching the age of legal responsibility.
Of course, these national or personal holidays should never overshadow
the observance of God's holy days. They are not on a par with, nor should they be elevated
to, the importance of the festivals of God which reveal His plan and thereby convey great
Taken all together, the Christian life is one of deep religious
conviction coupled with vigorous activity, serious accomplishment, sound-minded balance
and common sense. As he applies God's principles to every facet of his life, the Christian
strives to meet the challenges of becoming fully successful while living above reproach
before both God and man.
This publication is intended to be
used as a personal study tool. Please know it is not wise to take any man's word
for anything, so prove all things for yourself from the pages of your own Bible.
The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
P.O. Box 747
Flint, TX 75762
Phone: (903) 561-7070 • Fax: (903) 561-4141
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gospel according to Jesus Christ.