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1And God spoke all these words, saying,
2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3“You shall have no other gods before me.
4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
6but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:1–7 ESV)
34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38This is the great and first commandment.
39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34–40 ESV)
Many people see Christianity as one of the many religions around the world. Well, according to my understanding, Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship. The Christian faith strongly stresses on the mutual relationship between God and humans. By means of the cross, people with faith in Christ as Lord and Savior will reconnect with God once again. Consequently, believers will have a new relationship with God.
New believers are like newborn babies, they need nourishment in order to continue to grow in their newfound faith. Regarding to Christian growth or holistic growth, there are four areas that I would like you to know, that is:
- Character; and
With the above four elements, we can check on our spiritual health or Christian growth.
The Essence of the Ten Commandments
Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? This is the question that the lawyer tested Jesus. Jesus responded by telling him that the essence of the Ten Commandments is to love God and human beings. Concerning Christian growth, we must constantly check on our relationship with God and the people around us.
The Goal of Believers
If we refer to Exodus 20:1-7 and Matthew 22:34-40, we can easily find out that the essence of the Ten Commandments is about our relationship between God and human beings. In addition, Jesus Christ clearly indicates that the essence of the Ten Commandments is about loving God and humans. Therefore, loving God and our fellow human beings should be our goal.
First, our relationship between Jesus Christ and other believers are interrelated. As Christians, we are interrelated with God and His people. We are all related as family members. God is our heavenly Father and all Christians are our brothers and sisters. Second, the Apostle John clearly points out that believers love each other because God loved us first. Our relationships with God and believers involve affection. As it is loving in nature, it is a growing relationship instead of a stagnant one.
The Way of Life
The Ten Commandments aren’t cold and rigid rules, but in fact it speaks of the loving relationship between God and His children. God wants His children to obey His commandments is part of having a loving relationship with Him. Obedience to God means trust. Obedience to the Creator is a guarantee of His protection. I must point out one thing: no one can save themselves by obeying the Ten Commandments. As for the non-believers, it convicts them of sin. As for Christians, the Ten Commandments show us the way of life. Let me elaborate here.
Many people suffer from bad relationships. After many years of dating and breaking up, a lady finally said, “I’ve found the right guy!” Likewise, many people search for the meaning of life. After trying many religions, they finally gave Christianity a try. After testing the Christian faith intellectually and experientially, they finally experience the presence and the saving power of Jesus Christ. In short, they declare Jesus Christ is the right person for them. 2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. 3 “You must not have any other god but me. (Exodus 20:2-3 NLT) According to the Evangelical tradition, Exodus 20:3 is regarded as the first commandment. The first commandment speaks of the Right Person that we must know and follow in our transient life. In the Old Testament context, this Right Person is Yahweh the Lord. According to the revelation of the New Testament, this Right Person is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of humankind. Many non-believers think all religions are of the same essence. They even quote the common saying “all roads lead to Rome.” Like I said earlier, Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship. The Christian faith is completely different from other religions. The key figure of Christianity is Jesus Christ. Let me give you an example. As setting up of electrical equipment involves precision, you need to connect the cables to the right connectors. Although I’m pathetic with wiring, I can still finish the job. Because there’s something call manual and all I have to do is to follow to its instructions. The Bible has revealed the way to build the right relationship with God, that is, by knowing and following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Let me recap: the first commandment speaks of the Right Person that we must encounter in our life is Yahweh. Based on the New Testament revelation, the Right Person is Jesus Christ.
4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6 ESV) Negatively speaking, the second commandment forbids false worship. Positively speaking, it encourages true worship or right worship. In a simple sentence, the believers and followers of Yahweh or Jesus should offer right worship to their Lord and Saviour.
Misunderstanding of Others
How would you feel if someone misunderstood you? For example, you don’t like durian, but due to misunderstanding, your boyfriend has bought you durian ice cream as dessert. Of course, you would be very angry. Likewise, God doesn’t like people misunderstanding His nature.
According to the Bible, God is a spiritual being and He abhors people turning Him into an idol. A carved image cannot represent God. In other words, people shouldn’t materialise God in any way.
Do you know many professional football or soccer players are very superstitious? As some footballers enter the pitch, they cross themselves. When they score a goal, they quickly make the sign of the cross in front of their chests. I know it’s a sign of reverence, but it’s an act of superstition too.
We don’t have any images in evangelical churches because we cannot materialise God in any way. Crucifixes are simply symbols. We don’t worship the cross, but we only serve and follow our Saviour, who reigns in heaven now.
Check on Your Worship
If you want to grow in Christ healthily, you must constantly check on the state of our private and public worship.
7“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7 ESV) The third commandment can be summed up as the right attitude of following Yahweh. As believers, we should cultivate God-honouring attitude in our life. We should honour His name in everything.
Right Attitude in Relationship
Attitude in relationship matters. Married couples should have right attitudes. Mutual respect is one of the many right attitudes. We should honour our spouse. We should treat our spouse like a queen or a king.
Misuse the Name of the Lord
7 Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name. (Exodus 20:7 HCSB) The third commandment reminds believers not to misuse God’s name. The truth of the matter is about respecting or honouring God.
Right Worship Is About Right Attitude
Right worship is all about right attitude. Beautiful prayers don’t matter much! The amount of money that we offer to God isn’t His major concern. What matters most is our attitude towards Him.
Relationship with One Another
God expects to have an intimate relationship with humankind, and He wishes human beings can cultivate close relationship between one another. From the fifth to the tenth commandment, the essence is about loving our fellow human beings. For instance, if we love our parents, we would honour them. If we truly love one another, we wouldn’t kill them. If we truly love our spouse, we wouldn’t shamefully commit adultery. If we truly love others, we wouldn’t do things to hurt them.
Your Current Relationship
If you want to know your spiritual health, all you have to do is to check on your current relational state. Are you mad with your parents now? Are you angry with someone that you don’t want to see his face anymore?
Holistic growth or Christian growth is directly linked with our relational state with God and people.
Concerning Christian growth, we must make well use of our God-given abilities, namely spiritual gifts, natural talents and learned abilities or ministry skills. First of all, spiritual gifts are God-given gifts for service. All Christians have a spiritual gift or multiple of them that we receive at conversion. With the spiritual gifts that Christians have, we build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12). One thing is that, we must discover our spiritual gifts, develop and exercise them. Let me give you an example. Romans 12:7 speaks of the gift of service and teaching. A Bible scholar states that all believers have the gift of service. Christians are servants of the Lord,” and we are called on to serve Christ and one another (e.g., Mark 10:43–45; Rom. 15:25; Eph. 4:12). Many pastors complain their flocks of being too passive. So, don’t wait for others to serve you, but take the initiative of serving others. Lack of workers or volunteers reflect the holistic health of a church. If Christians have the gift of teaching, they should do their best to understand the Bible. Believers should faithfully develop and exercise their spiritual gifts.
All human beings have natural talents that we receive from birth. If you are good at math or a qualified accountant, you can consider to become a member of the church finance committee. Some people are born with creative talents. If you are one of them, develop and exercise it so that you can bless others with your talents. Christian artists can use their artworks to share their faith with others.
Learned Abilities or Ministry Skills
As Christians, we could equip ourselves with ministry skills that we could bless others and ourselves. Take the example of learning time management. Countless people don’t know how to handle time. Time is a precious commodity that is nonreversible. Time management is the responsibility of Christians, because the Bible challenges us to redeem our time or make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16). You benefit from the knowledge of time management, and you can bless others by sharing with your insights.
What is character? The world sees character as the mental and moral qualities of individuals.
Christians should have godly character. Another term for godly character is Christlikeness. It is a very important New Testament truth. Christians should imitate our Lord Jesus, in other words, we should become more like Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 2:5). Moreover, the Holy Spirit plays an important role in making believers more like Christ. If you want to learn more about it, you can refer to Galatians 5:22-23. When a believer is constantly under the control of God’s Spirit, he or she will become more like Christ. For example, my car needs to change engine oil now. I know regular oil change is very important and is essential, but don’t do so. This is like Christians who know they need to read the Bible and be submissive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but simply don’t respond accordingly. Therefore, it’s impossible for them to grow in godly character. The third element about holistic growth is character formation. As Christians, it’s our lifetime task to become more like Christ.
Stress-related Health Issues
According to a survey, it is alarming to know that 33 percent of pastors in one European denomination were off work for stress-related health issues. It is sad that even pastors are suffering from depression and burnout.
Leaders and believers alike should maintain healthy emotion, or else, one will fall into “emotional or spiritual burnout”. As believers, we should check on our emotional health from time to time.
Occasionally, it is natural for human beings to become angry, but the Bible teaches us to control our anger. Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV) Jealousy is harmful. If you aren’t careful with it, jealousy would lead us to do great harm to others. Due to jealousy, Cain killed his own brother Abel. The Ten Commandments speak of a sinful passion or emotion, that is, covetousness.
3 Cs about Emotion
If you want to stay emotionally healthy, there are 3 Cs that you might find useful. The first C is “Control”.
8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:8–10 ESV) We must bring our anger under control, and we should control our greed too. With the help of the Holy Spirit and our determination to follow Christ, we eventually should be able to overcome harmful emotions.
The second C is “Cultivate”. On a possible note, as believers in Christ, we should cultivate healthy emotions. One of the highlights of Christ’s life is His ministry of compassion. The world needs compassion badly. As followers of Christ, we should extend our compassionate love to one another. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. If you are sad all the time, it means there is something wrong inside of you. You should seek help. The cultivation of a joyous life should be our goal in life.
The third C is “Correlate”. The Apostle Paul reminds us, 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.(Romans 12:15 ESV) As Christians, we should identify with others’ joy and suffering. That’s correlation.
Concerning Christian growth, we must grow in Christ holistically. There are at least four areas that we must pay attention to. The first area is to cultivate a healthy relationship with God and others. The second element is ability. We must make full use of our spiritual gifts, natural talents and ministry skills. The third component is the pursuit of Christlike character. Lastly, Christians should cultivate healthy emotion.