This month, we are deliberating on the theme of Christ Likeness as a strategy for mission. This is a topic that is very personal to me, and I will explain that in a minute. This is what I begin with, in all my workshops on personality and Servant Leadership. Many of you know my own conversion story. Let me refresh it for you once more. I belonged to the Hindu faith, but was really a non-practicing Hindu, having been fed up with the rituals and corruption in Hinduism. Leslie took the risk of marrying me when I was an unbeliever. She actually went against the scriptures to marry an unbeliever. So you know who the risk taker is, in the family. After our marriage, she asked me if it is OK with me if she goes to the church. I really didn’t care and for all that mattered, she could have gone to a mosque, as far as I was concerned. So her church going re-started and as a loving husband, I used to drop her to the Church every Sunday morning and pick her up from the Church after the service, in our bike. I always used to drop her outside the church premises. In the meantime, she was quietly garnering prayers for my salvation, and the church folks started to come to our home to fellowship and just talk. Nobody really shared the gospel with me, and if they had, I would have fought with them, because I was a real hard nut to crack. Probably they guessed as much and left me to myself. However, this “breaking of ice” with the church folks coming to our home encouraged me to join their post service fellowship when I used to reach a little early for picking her up. That is really when I started to notice something. I started noticing that there is something different in these folks. I am not saying everyone was different, (because as in very church there were folks who were mere church goers as against being believers) but there were enough true believers in the church, whose behaviour aroused my curiosity. The way they handled issues, the way they faced sickness, the way they resolved conflicts, the way they hoped, all looked different to me. Again remember, it is not everyone. There was even one case where a family lost their teenaged son in an accident. A DTC bus knocked him down fatally while he was riding his bicycle. The manner in which the family faced that trauma, and more importantly how the parents met the bus driver, forgave him and brought healing to both themselves and to the driver, really touched me. My logical conclusion led me to suspect the church service to be the reason for their different behaviour. So I decided to sit through the service just to find out what makes the difference in these people. That led me to study the word, and that ultimately led me to accepting the Lord after 8 long years of resistance and arguments and doubts and study. Of course, the persistent prayers of Leslie and her church members acted in the background to make that change. The reason why I wanted to share my conversion story this morning is to emphasize the fact that is the behaviour of some Christians that attracted me to Christianity. It is the Christ likeness that I saw in some of them that led me to study Christianity and eventually accept Christ.
The topic for this month is “Christ Likeness as a strategy for mission” I would actually like to make a slight change in that topic. I would change it as “Christ Likeness as the strategy for mission”. To me, without Christ like behaviour, mission does not even start. In the past weeks, Pastor Narayanan and Pastor Albert Davis have brought about the Christlikeness aspect in Christ’s relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I would like to focus on Christ’s relationship with fellow human beings, you and me. Let us look at the greatest missionary Paul himself. In the passage that was read to us this morning (1Thessalonians 2:1-12), Paul states that they not only shared the gospel with the Thessalonians but their lives as well, and he lists some of the characteristics of the lives they lived among them to attract them to Christ. Love compassion, care, humility, boldness, without flattery, without covetousness, holy, just, blameless etc are the words that are used in this text. And you just need to read the next few verses to see the result. “1 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NKJV) For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans.” Clearly Paul’s Mission strategy worked there, and Paul’s Christ likeness is the reason for that success.
In doing all this Paul was just obeying the commands of his Master the Lord Jesus Christ himself. When I first came into Christianity, I used to feel very proud. I thought I had something great by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ and becoming a Christian. I felt I had made the right decision. I felt proud to be part of this Christian Club. That is when the Lord confronted me with John 15:16 (NKJV) You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. Let us get this straight this morning. It is not us who chose the Lord, but the Lord who has chosen each one of us. It is not by our actions that we are here, but because He wants us to be here, and He has a job for us to do, and that job is to bear fruits for his kingdom. So this was the first command that Paul was fulfilling through his life at Thessalonica. The second one is found in Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Paul was being the Salt and Light wherever he was put by the Lord. Many of us find it convenient to remember Jesus’s words about Him being the Light of the world (John 8:12, John 9:5), but conveniently forget that He has asked us to be Christ-like and be the light of the world, light up the world around us, so that others might see the true light, that is Jesus Christ. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glorify your father in heaven.
Jesus did not want his disciples and followers to lead an isolated life. In his final prayer before the cross, he prays John 17:15 (NKJV) I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. He further goes on to say John 17:18 (NKJV) As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. Do you think we have enough case for all of us to lead a Christ like life and thereby lead others to Christ?
Most of you would have seen the movie Ten Commandments. The parting of the red sea is a great special effect in that movie. And in the Bible too, it is a great miracle. One would have thought that the Israelites would have got convinced about God’s powers and might after witnessing such a miracle. But that was not the case. They went back into their own idol worshipping ways in no time at all. And not just that one time. We see this over and over and over again. This can happen to us. We can all come and listen to a good sermon, we can be lost in the holiness of this place and the worship and the message and the ambience etc, for some time. And we can all go back and lead the same life that we led before we knew Christ. That is useless religion. All our knowledge, all or religious rituals , all our good deeds, all our activities, everything becomes utterly useless unless we can live a Christ Like life outside the four walls of the church, outside the confines of a Christian group. Others should be able to able to see difference in us and thus be encouraged to ask, what is the Power that makes this difference? 1 Peter 2:12 (MSG) Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. Let me quote Chris Wright, famous theologian and Lausanne Leader . When there is no distinction in conduct between Christians and non-Christians—for example in the practice of corruption and greed, or sexual promiscuity, or rate of divorce, or relapse to pre-Christian religious practice, or attitudes towards people of other races, or consumerist lifestyles, or social prejudice—then the world is right to wonder if our Christianity makes any difference at all. Our message carries no authenticity to a watching world. Another Lausanne colleague of his, David Bennet says But if our lives do not express integrity, wholeness, freedom from corruption, if there are inconsistencies and cracks, people will not believe or welcome our message—they will reject the good news as too good to be true, or as obviously not relevant….they will not take seriously what we say about anything else—including the good news of Jesus Christ. Do you see the importance of right behaviour for us as Christians, do you see the need for us to Christ like in our day to day lives outside the four walls of the church?
And that is why BBF has its purpose statement as We are a body of believers, making a difference, as light and salt, at the workplace, and in the community, under the Lordship of Christ. This morning, as we step into the Christmas season once more, may the Lord challenge us to connect with Him and be like Christ in our day to day lives.
Let us Pray.