Life of a Jesus Follower

What Are The Characteristics Of A Follower Of Jesus Christ?

George Wright
Jan 17, 2021    36m
Can people recognize that you are a Christian by the way you act? By answering the question, what are the characteristics of a follower of Jesus Christ, you can learn to live your life in the way that he did, with a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Oh, man, you may be seated, thank you for standing. I'm so grateful for our worship team, guiding us through such a moving time of remembering who God is and what he has done for us in Christ, and what he calls his children. We see that in today's passage of scripture that we will be walking for you in Colossians chapter 3. If you're new to Shandon this morning, we're so grateful that you're here, and we are turning our attention to Colossians chapter 3 in the New Testament. Where we've been spending some time kicking off this new year, being reminded of the change that is possible through the gift of the gospel. You may be here today saying, I need a change, and if that's you, we want you to know we're right there with you. We need a change, we are longing for change to happen in our lives, in our city, in our state, in our nation, we're longing to see change around the world.

George Wright: 01:01 And to that end, we turn our attention to the scripture. The Word of God is our source of life and truth. The Word of God shows us what we need to see, and tells us what we need to hear. And since we were just standing as I prayed, I'm going to just say today, you can stay seated. I'm going to read the opening text, not too much up and down right now, you can just stay seated. But track with me in Colossians chapter 3, and let's invite the Lord to speak into our lives through his word. Colossians 3 verse 12 says this, "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

George Wright: 02:07 Father, now we pray that your word would speak in power into our lives, as we turn our attention to that which you say. Holy Spirit, guide us, how we need to hear from you, use this time for your glory. It's in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

George Wright: 02:26 Hey, I want to remind those of you who were with us last week, and tell those of you who are new to Shandon, we are in the midst of a 21 day prayer focus. And this past week has been an incredibly encouraging week in the life of our family, and our church here at Shandon. We gathered for prayer at 6:00 AM every day this past week during the week, and we had a great group of people come and join us to pray and to cry out to God. And I am just so encouraged, and so filled with gratitude at what God is doing as his people turned to him in prayer. And so we will encourage you to stay the course, and to stay focused on this very intentional time of prayer, as we together, collectively, are crying out to the Lord. Through our daily devotions, we're being reminded of prayer prompts together as a church, and we'll be praying again, Monday through Friday 6:00 AM here in our lobby. We'd love for you to join us, if you haven't had the chance to come yet, I would encourage you to come. It is incredibly moving, it is incredibly encouraging, and inspiring as we see God at work among his people as we pray. So thank you for praying, continue to pray that we would see the hand of our God at work among his people and among this nation.

George Wright: 03:55 Now Colossians chapter 3, this is a great passage of scripture that provides a great encouragement, and at the same time, a great challenge. Last week, we walked through some very difficult verses to navigate together as we were reminded of the sin that so easily, entangles us. The scripture says, put to death the things that are earthly, take off the things that are of the world, and walk in light of the new life that has granted you in Jesus Christ. And this week, as we kind of change the course just a little bit, and change tone just a little bit, in verse 12, we are told there are things to put on. Last week, we talked about things to put off, this week we're seeing there are things to put on in the life of a Jesus follower, if you are seeking to live a life that points to the glory of God, a life that points others to his goodness and his grace, a life that points to the hope that we have in light of what Jesus Christ has done.

George Wright: 05:04 The Apostle Paul is speaking to the church here, and he says, there are spiritual clothes, put these clothes on, these characteristics and qualities that we see in Christ himself, this the life of a Jesus follower. As I was thinking about this idea of spiritual clothes this week, it just came to mind that most people, when they are getting ready to go in and do what it is that they do, they put on some kind of clothing or outfit that is appropriate for the task at hand. We're in the midst of the NFL playoffs, today there are teams that will take to the field and they will put on their shoulder pads, and their uniform, their cleats, their helmet, their mouthpiece, and they will go in to the game. You think about a fighter pilot, as he prepares to go into the air and accomplish the mission at hand, he puts on his flight suit to be ready to go and take to the air. A soldier puts on his battle fatigues, as he is preparing to battle to go and fight in the fight at hand. Really, in the same way, the Apostle Paul is saying to the Jesus follower, there is a uniform, there is clothing, spiritual clothes to put on, to go into the world, to live this mission, to live as a light of the gospel in a dark and desperate world.

George Wright: 06:41 So what are these clothes? And before we look specifically at what the Jesus follower is called to put on, let's first, see why it's even possible for us to put on these characteristics and qualities of Christ that are spiritual clothing. Colossians 3:12, just look at the beginning, the beginning of this very important verse, what does it say? It says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones." "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved." This is so important to understand, the spiritual clothing of a Jesus follower is given to us as a gift. and as a covering, from God. And please don't miss this, it's not because we deserve it, it's not because we somehow have earned it based on the way we are living. No, this is all about the grace of God. And those who are followers of Jesus, are called the very chosen ones of God. What does this mean? This means that God has called people to follow him, and to trust and receive the gift of salvation. They've been called out, they have been set apart by God himself, to shine the light in the darkness, called out of darkness, to live his marvelous light. This is all about what Christ has done to call people His own. And if you are in Christ, if you are a follower of Jesus, the scripture says you are Holy and beloved. You are loved by God, and you are covered in the righteousness of Christ, saved by grace, set apart by God, covered in the righteousness that has been imputed or granted to us through Christ himself. This is the power to live a new life, to recognize what Christ has done for us that we could never do for ourselves. And as God's people, if you are a follower of Christ, you are God's chosen, you are his son or his daughter, you are Holy, you are beloved. And as one who is called righteous, you are called to then put on these spiritual clothes to demonstrate the love of God that you have received.

George Wright: 09:20 Verse 12 again, "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." We'll stop there, and begin to see these qualities, these characteristics, that are the spiritual clothing of a Jesus follower. And notice where the Apostle Paul starts, this is very intentional, he starts with this term, compassionate hearts. We are to put on a compassionate heart. Now it's important to understand that anytime the scripture talks about the heart, the scripture is talking about the very core of who we are. It's our innermost being, it's the very core of who we are as a person, that's what the scripture is referring to when it talks about the hearts. It's very interesting to note, too, that this statement can be translated a very different way, that brings it to light even greater. In fact, some of the earlier translations of this scripture, instead of using the term compassionate hearts, would use the term bowels of mercy. "Put on the bowels of mercy." Now that's talking about, put on this mercy and compassion in the very core of who you are, in your gut, in your heart, that you would feel deeply compassion for those who are in need. So deep that you would be moved to action, feel mercy so deep inside of who you are, that when you see the need of another, you are moved to do something about that need, that's what the scripture is talking about here.

George Wright: 11:14 2020 was certainly a crazy year in so many ways, and I know every single one of us experienced the craziness and the chaos in different ways, but we all felt it. In the midst of all the chaos last year, our family walked through something that was very challenging, very difficult, very chaotic for a brief moment. At the end of last summer, my brother who's a couple of years younger than me was on a mountain climbing expedition in the state of Washington. He does this often, he's a very gifted climber, he goes on a big trip every year and he was in Washington last year and he fell, and we almost lost him. It was a life and death situation, he fell over 60 feet, he broke his neck, he tore the muscles in his chest, he had a very severe concussion. In the grace of God, when he broke his neck, he was not paralyzed. We praise God for that, but it was very touch and go. And in the grace of God, he has had a great recovery, we thank the Lord that he really has had a miraculous recovery, but it was a very sobering and scary situation. When I was in college with my brother, and right after Megan and I got married, I would climb with him a pretty good amount. And once kids came along, there was no more climbing in my life, that's that was an important decision for me. But I knew when I got the phone call that he had fallen how serious this really was, I felt it in my gut, my stomach just turned upside down to hear that my brother had fallen, and it was a close call, and he was in need, and this was not going to be easy at all. And all I wanted to do was see my brother, and all I wanted to do is get to my brother, know that he was okay, and all I wanted to do was help my brother in any way, I felt deep in my gut.

George Wright: 13:29 That's what the scripture is talking about here, and those who are followers of Jesus put on this compassion in such a way that when we see the needs of others, we're not flippant, we don't just turn and say, oh, that's so bad for them. No, no, we feel it deeply, I've got to do something, I must respond to what I see in compassion. And this is the very heart of Jesus. In fact, the gospels describe Jesus as one who is full of compassion. Matthew 9:36 is a great example of this, talking about Jesus. It says, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." This is what the scripture is referencing here, the life of a Jesus followers should have a compassionate heart, the bowels of mercy, moved to action to do something about the needs that we see in others. What are we to do? How do we respond? Well, that's where the scripture takes us now, with a compassionate heart.

George Wright: 14:49 As we put on a heart of compassion, we then see that the other articles of clothing that the Jesus followers called to put on. First, we see kindness, kindness seems simple enough, right? But I think we all could agree, kindness is woefully lacking in our culture today. I love this definition of kindness, it says the friendly and helpful spirit that seeks to meet the needs of others. Wouldn't it be great if every person who said they were following Jesus, we're to operate with kindness, to have a friendly and helpful spirit? To say, hey, I want to do what I can do, I want to do what I can to meet this need. Like how revolutionary would that truly be? Put on kindness.

George Wright: 15:44 The scripture then says, put on humility. What an important characteristic of Christ, what an essential quality in the life of a Jesus follower. I love this definition of humility, recognizing one's own insufficiency while resting in the all-powerful sufficiency of Christ. Humility does not say, hey, I've got it all figured out, and I don't need anything from you or need anything at all. Hey, I'm only strong, I don't have any weakness, hey, I'm doing great. No, that's not humility, humility says, I recognize that I am not sufficient in and of myself, and I need the all sufficient grace of my God through Jesus Christ. I love the way Pastor Timothy Keller describes humility, he says, "The essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself, or thinking less of myself, it's thinking of myself less." True gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. You see, sometimes we think humility is just to kind of beat ourselves up, and feel bad about ourselves, or feel like we can't do anything significant. No, no, no, that's not what humility is at all, that's actually self-consumed. No humility says, I'm not thinking about myself, I'm thinking of myself less, because I'm thinking of others more, that's humility.

George Wright: 17:19 Put on kindness, put on humility, and then the scripture says, put on meekness. Meekness, what an interesting word, a word that is often misunderstood, a word that that many people would say, I'm not sure I want any of that in my life. But the definition of meekness is very revealing, meekness is actually strength that is restrained or under control. Meekness is all about strength, strength that is restrained or under control. And the example that I love, is often used when talking about meekness, is that of a wild stallion. A wild stallion running through the wilderness that is actually dangerous and reckless. But that stallion then is broken, and as that stallion is broken, it does not lose its strength, but its strength is then harnessed and focused for the good of another. That way that stallion can be ridden, that way that stallion can be used for work, and something productive. The stallion goes from strong and reckless, to strong and useful in its meekness. Put on meekness.

George Wright: 18:35 And then we come to this quality that I think if we are honest, after a year like 2020, we probably would just prefer to not talk at all, patience. I mean, haven't we been patient enough, we're waiting for things to change, we're waiting for this virus to be done, we're waiting for all this chaos to end, haven't we been patient enough. And yet we are reminded of how much patience is needed, and how powerful patience truly is. The translation of patience here actually means long temper, I love this because we all know what it means to be around someone who has a short temper, right? Someone who has a short fuse, that is explosive, and volatile, and reactionary, we understand what that means. But patience is someone who is calm, someone who is steady, even in the face of opposition or division. Oh, how patience is needed among the people of God.

George Wright: 19:46 All of these qualities are qualities that reflect the heart of Jesus. And all of these qualities are qualities that are offered to the Jesus follower, in the power of the Spirit, if we will fix our eyes on the things that are above, if we will turn our eyes on Jesus, as we just sang, and if we will trust in his divine authority in our lives, we will be able to put on these spiritual clothes. These spiritual clothes that stand out in a world where there's a longing for hope.

George Wright: 20:25 And then we come to verse 13, and verse 13 really raises the stakes as we see what it says about forgiveness. It says, "Bearing with one another..." And if one has a complaint against another, make sure you post it on social media as quickly as you can. No, I'm not the Bible, I'm sorry I was reading the culture. No, the Bible says to the people of God, that you are called to, "Bear with one another, and if one has a complaint against another..." Because it's going to happen, it's probably happened today, "If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." This verse is beautiful, and this verse is challenging, and this verse is brilliant. Because think about what the Apostle Paul has done as he is calling the Jesus followers to be a forgiving people, he doesn't just talk about the importance of forgiveness, he says the call to forgiveness is the call to forgive in light of what has been forgiven you in Christ. That's powerful to consider, that this call to forgiveness is issued through the lens of what Christ has forgiven you.

George Wright: 21:57 You know, one of my favorite examples of seeing this in action, it actually happened quite a few years ago. It was at the beginning of my pastoral ministry, and I was meeting with a man in my office who was a brand new follower of Jesus. He had made the decision to trust his life to Christ at our church, and he was brand new in the faith. He literally had a story of moving from darkness to light, I mean, it was a radical change that was happening in his life. And he was excited about this new faith, and this new journey, and following Jesus. But at the same time, he was in my office because he was actually discouraged and frustrated that his wife had not made a decision to follow Jesus as well. And in fact, his wife was making it very, very difficult for him to follow Jesus. She was mocking him, she was belittling him, she was making fun of him, she was pointing out all of his flaws, and she was reminding him of all of the things he had done in his past. And she was continually tearing him down, because she wanted nothing to do with a Jesus follower.

George Wright: 23:12 This man didn't know how to respond, and he said, pastor, I'm trying to forgive her, but every time I forgive her, she does something painful again, it's really, really difficult. How much do I have to forgive her? And it's like the Spirit of God just gave me the words in that moment, and I just looked at him. I said, well, how much has Jesus forgiven you? I'll never forget this, he just hung his head and he said, well shoot. But he was a brand new believer, and he didn't use the word shoot, which made it stand out because this was in the pastor's office. I was like, this is getting exciting, alright, he's letting it fly. One day, this will be a sermon illustration, this is great. But it was in that moment, that all of the sudden this idea of forgiveness, this call to forgiveness, took on a whole new meaning for this man. Because he recognized that the call to forgiveness was a call to forgive through the lens of what Christ has forgiven us. That changes everything, see forgiveness is never easy, but forgiveness is always beautiful and always powerful. And listen to this, don't miss this, forgiveness stands out in a world that is really good at holding grudges, in a world that is really good at dividing over differences, in a world is really good at being bitter and angry, forgiveness stands out.

George Wright: 24:57 I love what Pastor Andy Stanley says about forgiveness in a beautiful book he wrote on the heart. He said, "In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another." Jesus followers are called to put on forgiveness, remembering what has been forgiven in our life. Offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us, those, we may have a complaint against, as we bear with one another, forgiveness is so powerful. If you really want to see a change in your life, take the call to forgiveness seriously, and remember that which has been forgiven you.

George Wright: 26:02 Put on the compassionate heart, spiritual clothing. Put on kindness and humility, spiritual clothing. Put on meekness and patience, bearing with one another, putting on forgiveness. And then we come to verse 14, and we're reminded of this all important call for the followers of Jesus. Colossians 3 verse 14, "Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." All throughout the scripture, the people of God are called to be a people of love, all throughout the scripture. We see the commandment of Jesus, the great commandment of Jesus, "Love the Lord your God, love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus, in fact says, "The way the world will know you are my disciple, John 13, is if you love one another." It cannot be overstated how important the call to love truly is. If anything stands out in our world today, and the chaos we are walking through, it is the love that is displayed when we recognize the love of God that we have received.

George Wright: 27:27 First Corinthians 13, you may be familiar with that passage, that is so often used at weddings that talks about the power of love and the beauty of love. Do you know what the Apostle Paul says at the beginning of First Corinthians 13, before he describes the characteristics of love? He says, "If I have all of these things, and all of this knowledge, and do all of this stuff, but I do not have love, I am nothing." None of that matters without love, the scripture says, and yet, how quickly we forget the call to put on love, as we interact with one another and interact with the world that is so desperately searching for love. This is the calling of what to put on, and how important it is to remember, especially in a week like this, in the midst of a nation that is so divided church, please do not miss this, you can have the right beliefs, but if you don't have love, no one cares what you believe. And you can do a lot of the right things, but if you don't have love, no one cares what you are doing, and you were actually very easy to dismiss and ignore. The church of Jesus Christ is called to be a people that lives love from the gift of God to the world to see that love is real. And this is not just some cheap little idea for pop songs and stupid movies, no, this is real and it is offered to us through God. That's real love, what Christ has done for us. Church, how desperate our world is to see true love, will we show them? Will we put on these spiritual clothes? Will we walk in the qualities of Jesus that have been granted to us?

George Wright: 29:46 As I close, I would just simply say this, I believe God has given us a beautiful opportunity as a church for such a time as this. Because you see, as the world gets darker, the light of Jesus Christ shines even brighter. And as the world grows more hostile and divided, the people of God standing united in the bonds of Christ, in spiritual clothing, in the love and grace of God, on the truth of his world, stands out even more. What an opportunity God has given us, don't hide in a corner, don't resort to the ways of the world. No, put on spiritual clothes, stand out as a light of hope, and grace, and mercy ,and forgiveness, and love, for this is what our world so desperately needs to see. Will we put on the spiritual clothes granted to us by Jesus himself, and stand out as a light in the dark. I just ask you, as we close in prayer today, what clothing do you need to put on? What of these spiritual articles of clothing might be lacking or missing in your life today? If you call yourself a Jesus follower, what is it, what is it that you need to put on? The calling is to put on that which has been given to us in Christ, will you be honest? Will you ask God to give you the strength and the faith to put on these spiritual clothes?

George Wright: 31:45 And if you're here with us today, or if you're joining us online, and you've never experienced what we are talking about, the hope of the gospel, the hope of forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, we would say to you today, we believe that God is pursuing you with his love even now. And there is an invitation from Jesus to you to trust your life to him, for he is our hope and he is our peace, and he is the very picture of what has been described for us here today. He is offering you the gift of salvation, if you will trust in him.

George Wright: 32:26 To that end, let me pray for us as we close this message here today, will you pray with me? Father, I'm so very grateful for the incredible gift of your love and grace granted to us through what Jesus Christ has done at the cross, the power of the forgiveness of sins that comes through the blood of Christ shed at the cross, the power of a new life that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Father, we praise you for what you have done, what you have invited us into, to be called chosen, to be called holy and beloved, what a gift. So, Lord, I pray for your church that we would remember to that which we have been called, and that we would remember the one who has called us, and what you have done for us, and we would live in this world with these spiritual clothes. So that when the world looks at the church, the world sees the true hope that we have, and the true gift of love, and grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, poured out on us through Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 33:47 I pray, Lord God, for the ones who are listening to this today, who really know they need to forgive someone, they don't want to, they've been hurt so bad, it has been so painful. And yet, Lord, I pray that you would set them free in the power of forgiveness, and let them see with greater clarity what has been forgiven in their own lives, so that they can then turn and offer this beautiful gift of forgiveness to another. Oh, we pray for healing, we pray for reconciliation, Lord God, we pray that you would do this divine work.

George Wright: 34:28 This is a big week in our nation, a week where we've seen so much anger, and pain, and division. Lord, we're praying for peace, we're praying that you would move in power, and above all, we are praying that your people would actually stand out as Jesus followers. That we would not stand out for some political stance that we're trying to take, or some earthly leader that we're trying to follow. No, we would stand out as Jesus followers, clothed in spiritual clothes, that the world might see, there is light shining in the darkness, there is hope, there is peace, His name is Jesus. Lord, use us for such a time as this, we pray.

George Wright: 35:23 And Lord, for those who are listening to this today, who've never experienced the true gift of salvation in Christ, I pray that today they would recognize this amazing grace, this beautiful love, this eternal hope, that can be theirs in Christ. I pray that you would give them the faith to say, Jesus, I am ready to follow you, I need a change, I need a divine change. Forgive me of my sin, I am trusting in you. Lord, we praise you for the gift of salvation. And as we lift our voices, we do so to be reminded of what you have said, that we might walk out of here clothed in the spirit, shining the light of Jesus Christ to the world. Oh, we thank you for your love. It's in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. Would you stand and sing with us as we conclude our time together?

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206