Reflecting the Gift-Giver
The BEST Christmas present you can give... is not found in a store or ordered from Amazon.
There is something to be said about a gift that is not easily obtained. A profound and rare present that takes great effort to give is precious.
What is this gift, you may ask? Messiah-likeness that behaves like and reflects His character to everyone you encounter.
Have you ever met someone and thought to yourself, "this person reflects Jesus; they must be saved." Or, on the other hand, have you met anyone who told you they are a believer, yet their actions did not reflect it? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when people tell you they are a Christian?
What is the Biblical definition of a Christian? A Christian is someone whose behavior and heart reflect Jesus Christ. A Christian receives Jesus as his Savior and accepts the way of salvation unfolded in the gospel.
A Believer is — one who gives credit to the truth of the Scriptures as a revelation from God.
As Christians (someone who has put faith and trust in the redemptive work of Messiah through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection), our behavior mirrors Christ. We are to be gracious and merciful to others. We forgive, love, and pray for our enemies or those who bully us.
Messiah-likeness also takes on these forms:
Welcoming and serving the marginalized, the "least" among us
Caring for the sick, needy, underprivileged, widowed, orphaned, poor, abused, and vulnerable—those who are last—mirrors and reflects the Son of Man
Striving for justice
These behaviors resemble and magnify Yeshua. But it's not simply good works that make someone a Christian. Being a follower and disciple of Yeshua extends beyond our outward behavior and includes the condition of our heart.
Have you heard the saying…show me your treasure, and I'll show you the heart?
When we put our faith and trust in Messiah, and when we commit our lives to serve Him and others as He served us, our behavior and mindset reflect the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Yeshua is with us and in us. We are new creations! 2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
Our old way of thinking should be gone. Our motivation, desire, and purpose are replaced with delight in the things of God. The joys and pleasures of our lives are exponentially enhanced through our relationship with Yeshua. And our selfish and worldly pursuits are exchanged for a desire to honor God.
Life in Yeshua is not a life of "I don't get to do what I like." It's not a life of loss. Instead, it's a life of abundance, where what I used to like and desire pales in comparison to what my heart now desires is to be more like Him. Christians see, feel and experience the world in a different way; a much grander, deeper, and more meaningful way.
It's not as if we haven't been given example-after-example of what our behavior and attitude need to reflect. God's Word is filled with instruction! We don't have a logical excuse for not acting right — so why then do we continue to do things that go against who we are in Messiah?
I recently met someone who said they were a Christian. My spirit jumped with joy to know that I would be around this person every day and anticipated what a pleasure it would be to be a part of this new friendship. I think we all have experienced that. All of a sudden, we have an instant connection BECAUSE of Yeshua. But as each day went on, I was confused and baffled at the ungodly behavior I observed in this person day after day.
"Wait a minute," I said to myself, "something is not right here."
Watch for Distortion! Have you been to the house of mirrors as a child? The mirrors are meant to distort your image. Some make you tall, some short, some wide, and some narrow. Their distortions are intended to make us laugh. But being distorted is no laughing matter. Life can cause us to become distorted, so it's up to us to continue seeking the face of the One we choose to reflect. The mirror reflection we all seek to emulate is Yeshua alone, every day.
We should share a sense of camaraderie in striving to be more like Yeshua. That's not to say we can or should even try to be perfect because the only ONE who was flawless died for us! However, I am saying that mirroring Yeshua requires that consistent intention to be higher and a little more like Him every day. His Spirit delights in our willingness to change ungodly behavior, crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit.
Some Christian character traits to aim for—Integrity, honesty, responsibility, respect, compassion, love, joy, peace – all must be in total agreement with the teachings of God's Word. Every item on a list of Christian character traits must be the objective.
This situation with my new friend compelled me to write about my experience and share it with you. I believe that as we enter the upcoming season of Hanukkah and Christmas, our behavior and example will be the BEST present we can give to others.
I don't share this to imply we walk around in judgment of others solely based on outward experience because we don't know the content of their heart. Yeshua said we would know them by their fruits ("them" are those to profess Yeshua as Savior). I am talking about striving to be a reflection of Yeshua every day, a mirror! When we look like Him, we bear fruit for all to taste and see from our outward expression of His love.
Don't fall into the trap of allowing the bad behavior of those who say they are Christian to disappoint you. Simply pray for them, and through you, continue to let His character, actions, and love testify to them. Yeshua is the Judge; we are not. He is serious about this!
Matthew 7:1-5 TLV "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
What I have learned from this experience (it has not just happened once but a multitude of times lately) is that God has called me to pray for these folks who say they are Christians. He has called me to be a testimony and example to them, but my time around them is to be limited. Why? Because God has boundaries. Some genuinely want to change every day, and progress must be evident. When you sense release from someone who will not change, move on. We only have so much time in a day, and it's essential to keep our priorities straight, so we make the most of our impact for the Kingdom as He leads us.
Romans 12: 1-2 "I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect."
So, I would say that 'Tis the Season to give the best present you can give, the gift of who you are in Messiah, a True Believer! Let our Messiah-likeness be an example to others without even opening our mouths.
Philippians 1:27-29 "Only live your lives in a manner worthy of the Good News of the Messiah. Then, whether I come and see you or I am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit—striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the Good News 28 and not being frightened in any way by your opponents. For them this is a sign of destruction, but for you salvation—and that from God. 29 For to you was granted for Messiah's sake not only to trust in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"
This Holiday season, be it Christmas or Hanukkah, let us all strive to be mirrors of His character.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What do others see? Are you a reflection of your Father? Hold up the mirror and ask yourself, who am I? What do I reflect?
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! May the Light of the World shine brightly through you, and have a blessed New Year.
Love, Joyce & Harlon
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Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved