There was a time when peoples' prime association on earth was with animals of one sort or another, for not only were they involved in animal husbandry, and were intrepid hunters they even took animals to their place of worship; and sacrificed them to their gods, and even formalised rituals where the meat and blood held important places in their ceremonies. Even true worshippers of Almighty God were not exempted from such animal rituals and volumes were written to guide them in the best ways to proceed and what to do with the meat and blood and who was to do what and when and such like. Anyone can examine how entrenched these practices were by taking a look in the Bible at a passage like Numbers 19: 1-22 for example; to see how meticulous and comprehensive were the arrangements for such rituals.
This association with animals was so powerful and the ritual of cleansing, like that involving the red heifer, so significant that the Bible gave it an importance that was unearthly for it said this:
"And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin." (Numbers 19:9) Notice that this water from the ashes of a red cow was "a purification for sin" although it was efficacious only in the physical sense; to cleanse one from contamination who had contact with a dead body.
This practice of purification for sin was done throughout Israel's history until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 and history shows that the ashes of the first red cow lasted a thousand years (until the time of Ezra) and a total of nine in all were killed and burnt to form the ashes.
Believers know and has experienced a new and better relationship to do with the "purification for sin", one that transcends the blood of any animal whether that animal be a cow, a goat or a sheep or a bird or any other creature, and the Bible puts it in beautiful words like this:
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14)
And the Apostle John made it quite clear that this facilitation was not exclusively for just a few privileged people but for all humanity when he said:
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
Nevertheless they are many who will not avail themselves of this graciousness from above and would rather cling to their sins even although they know to do so brings death. Freewill is involved and it is regrettable that knowing the right way does not always result in choosing that way for such is the tragedy of the human race. No matter how good the plan of salvation, however powerful and persuasive there are those who will always say no and go on to face the consequences.
Believers everywhere have understood this facilitation in and through Jesus Christ and this association with Jesus Christ has brought a rightness with God that has transformed the believer and brought him or her into sweet fellowship with Almighty God. It has done more than just a mere cleansing for it has brought adoption into God's family, given us a place in the heart of the heavenly family with Christ.
Paul affirmed this when he wrote to the church in Rome like this:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8:16-17)
People have a right to ask believers where is the evidence that such a relationship has taken place, what signs are there that Christians have this blessed relationship and do not moral people exhibit these same qualities without that relationship?
The answer is no.
True believers in Jesus Christ exhibit all the graces that are found in people of faith everywhere but in addition they demonstrate some things that are uniquely Christian, things that Christians encompass that tell the world Jesus Christ is their true model; things that are visible, behavioural and identifiable as Christ-like. It is these characteristics that were so compelling that the very first believers were identified as Christians in Antioch (Syria) as stated in the Bible:
"And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:26)
This is as a result of the unmistakable association that springs naturally from genuine converts to Christianity, it is unlike any other association and even believers who are not well educated or scholarly possess these same qualities as we can see from this encounter of the apostles Peter and John with the Sanhedrin Council, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13) Unlearned and ignorant these men were in the eyes of the Sanhedrin Council but the unmistakable association with Jesus Christ was what made the difference.
Believers should remember and take note that this unmistakable association with Jesus Christ will always register in the consciousness of the world because it produces at least three impressive qualities that sets them apart.
1. Like Jesus Christ, true believers are full of compassion.
Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with Holy Writ knows that no one has ever equalled, much less surpassed, Jesus Christ in compassion. His compassion was not then, and is not now, confined to the physical but encompasses the whole person; body, soul and spirit. It was his compassion that made him time and again do miracles of feeding the multitudes, it was his compassion that caused him to stop the cortège and bring the widow of Nain's son back to life, (Luke 7: 13-15); it was his compassion that at the home of Mary and Martha Jesus wept, (John 11:35); it was his compassion that caused him to be sorrowful when the rich young ruler turned down his offer of salvation, (Luke 18:22), and all through the New Testament we read, "And Jesus being moved with compassion..."
No one can be a true follower of Jesus Christ and be lacking in compassion. Compassion for those near and dear to us for sure but also compassion for one another and for neighbours and for all those chained and afflicted by Satan wherever they may reside. In spite of people's culpability and ignorance and sin true compassion must flow from the hearts of believers. If you say you are a Christian and has no compassion then you are self-delusional for you are water that is not wet, fire that gives no heat and ice that is not cold and your light has been extinguished even if you do not realize it.
2. Like Jesus Christ, true believers possess an inner Christ-like beauty.
The reason Christians bond, love and have fellowship with fellow Christians everywhere is because of this very quality. When Christ is reflected in your life it carries a beauty, a charisma and a glow that is irrepressible. When Moses came down from the mountain after being with God his clothes and his countenance glowed with radiance and the Israelis were scared. The same thing happened in the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus communed with the departed Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-2). There is something so compelling and attractive about the presence of Jesus that in truth we do not fully understand it ourselves. But it is always there and we should yearn for its full lustre as the song says: Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, All His wonderful passion and purity, Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine, Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
3. Like Jesus Christ, true believers are committed to sacrifice.
The things that believers do on a consistent basis stagger the world because genuine converts to Christianity have accepted the divine notion of a life of sacrifice, (Romans 12:1). Sometimes this means that when we see something done that is so offensive that we have to speak out or take action even if it means the end of us. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who stood up to the racist thugs and fought for justice and lost his life in the process; like Mother Teresa of Calcutta for whom it meant going into disease-ridden, unhealthy environments countless times knowing that she may not survive; like Stephen and James and Peter and Paul and lots of others not caring what happened to them personally, not counting their own lives as important, and all who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives understood only too well the character of Christ-like sacrifice.
All these characteristics in combination, and others besides, attest to the world that we are believers unlike any other faiths religions, and the reason for it is that we have this blessed association with Jesus Christ, who walked this earth and lived exemplary and died gloriously and we follow his example for we know that, "If we say we live in God, we must live the way Jesus lived." (1 John 2: 6 Easy-to-Read Version)
Believers are therefore to live in such a way that onlookers will see Christ in us, and enquire if in fact we are followers of Christ, and when they do we will have the evidence that we are walking as Christ walked; pleasing to God and in harmony with Christ in this blessed, unmistakable association.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013