Musings on Christianity 19

Musings on Christianity 19

Does God Accept Me For Who I Am?

The short answer is no. It sounds brutal and cruel, but that’s just the way it is. Neither is it true to think that Christ doesn’t turn people away. We want to think that He wouldn’t. We want to believe that we can do whatever we want (no matter how sinful) and Christ will just be “cool with it.” But, I say again, that just isn’t true.

There are many who might be outraged by this fact. They will talk about how Christ loved us and Christ died for us. Indeed He did. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to Heaven. I want to put a pin on that last clause long enough to finish this first, and most important, thought.

The words of Christ Himself:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Readers, if you are under any sort of impression that the simple lip service of “Christ is king,” or “I believe in Christ” is in and of itself enough, you are under the incorrect belief. Those of who you think Christ “doesn’t turn anyone away,” needs to read that entire chapter of the Bible much more closely. 

Who then will he not turn away? Christ gave the answer in the above passage: “ … the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.”

Sin is not in any way a part of God’s will.

Why then do we want to pretend otherwise? The answer is in the sin that you love. As a Christian, I want to seek out those sins I’m coveting. Those sins I love more than God. They exist. All people sin. The Christian seeks sanctification. The lost live in their sin.

“No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:6)

I’m of the opinion that we live in a world where we want to be able to sin and still get to Heaven. We want to pervert the love of Christ to mean, “He’ll let me do whatever I want and still take me.” 

It’s a very terrifying moment to realize that’s not true. It was for me. So the next thing people tend to do is try to minimize sin. They try to make some sins more terrible than others, and there are indeed sins God hates more than others, but that doesn’t make the other sins acceptable.

Our human rationalization is, “My sin isn’t all that bad, so I should be OK.”

Sin is bad. You’re not OK. If you live in sin, whatever it is, you don’t know Him, and you haven’t seen Him (see the above verse).

So, let’s go back up to that statement I mentioned above.

Assertion: Not everyone is going to Heaven. I think most would agree. I think if I talked to 1 million people, not one of them would claim everyone is going to Heaven.

But if you’re willing to acknowledge that not everyone is going, you have to then also acknowledge that Christ does indeed turn people away. Who then does He turn away? Refer back to the first passage I quoted in this chapter. Any who doesn’t do the will of the Father, will be turned away.

I’ve said several times that sin is sin. I even tend to not focus on any one sin. It’s just too volatile. Why? Because there are people who love their sin more than their brother (which is actually another sin). There are people who love their sin more than God (yet another sin).

So what happens is mortals rationalize. They say sin is sin from one side of their mouth, and then live in their sin as if that’s justification. Such actions then imply that one can do whatever he wants because sin is sin, but no rational person believes this.

To allow this mental debate to have a resting place, let’s pick a sin that no one fights for the right to do: murder. I’m not even talking about how Christ further defined murder in Matthew 5:21-48. For the sake of this mental experiment, I’m talking about the actual, physical murder of one person by another. I’m fairly confident no one is going to try and justify this act to me in any way. (Of course now some one is going to try some round about manner of justification such as the death penalty or self defense. Please just acknowledge then that all you’re doing is arguing for the sake of dissension and move along.)

I’ve never once seen a social media post or campaign topic that tries in any way to make it OK for people to kill, so I’m sticking with that to avoid more common, more politically acceptable sins.

  If saying, “I believe in Christ,” is enough to get into Heaven in and of itself, then do you believe that a man, a serial killer, could claim such and then continue to kill whomever the thrill of it called him to kill? Of course not! I’d venture to assert that even if a man had killed a hundred people and genuinely repented, falling down on his knees to beg Christ for forgiveness, paying for his crimes by turning himself in and accepting his punishment (You see, punishment by a court of law isn’t murder, those dissenters referenced above), never killing again, you would still want to condemn that man to Hell.

This is because killing is wrong. It is. It’s a sin, but so is the sin you’re holding on to. So too is the sin you want to keep and justify in doing so because that sin is more socially acceptable.

The truth of the matter is the angels rejoice over that murderer who repented and turned away from his sin. They do so more over him than the (self) righteous person who’s never killed a person, but committed several “lesser” sins, believing he is above the need to repent and turn away.  (This is a personal paraphrase of Luke 15:7.)

In my life, I’ve thought about people I wanted to go to Hell. They’d done things no one would argue are evil. I wanted wrath for that sinner and that sin. Then, I wanted grace and forgiveness for my own sin. Am I God that I should choose who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t? No, and neither are you.

Just as man can not condemn another man for their sin, neither can man declare another man righteous. We are not the way to Heaven; Christ is. (John 14:6) 

We only have the written word to guide us, but we need to pay attention to it. We can’t fall into the belief that lip service is enough. We can’t say we believe in Christ and continue to do all the things he said are wrong. We can’t do that any more than an abusive husband can claim to love his wife and continue to beat her. We can’t do that any more than an addict can claim to love her child and then lose him while drugged out of her mind. Even if those people mean what they say, and those statements have some immeasurable truth to them, they can’t argue they love their loved ones more than the sins they commit. No one in Heaven or Earth would believe them.

So then where is this leading to? I beg you to remember the two most important commandments given to us by Christ Himself:

“And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27. See also Matthew 22:36-40 and Mark 12:28-31)

Therefore, anyone who puts any sin above God, whatever that sin is, is in violation of what Christ says are the most important two laws. We have to cast aside our sin for the God we claim to love just as we have to do for our neighbors.

This explicitly tells us we do in fact have to change for those we love. If we refuse to change, we are in fact, showing how little we love them. How contrary to popular philosophy and self-help books that statement is! 

But don’t we do that? Don’t we break up with the boyfriend or girlfriend who wont’ give up smoking or some other undesirable habit? Don’t we leave the relationship where the person is selfish? 

So if we on Earth know to turn away those who refuse to love us enough to turn from the wrong they do, so don’t we also realize Christ will do to us?

And now for those who feel this truth is a little on the “unloving” side. All the cases I used above were clearly things anyone would accept as reasonable. But what about that guy who never, ever, puts the lid to the toilet down. What about that wife who works a bit more than you’d like and doesn’t have time to help around the house or even just offer time for affection that you’d like?

Well, this is where forgiveness and Christ’s infinite love comes into play. We mortals have all sorts of deal breakers. Think about this. We have several (sometimes difficult to understand and/or explain) things we will immediately end a relationship over. We want to do that, but imagine a God who would be OK with anything? How does that even make sense?

However, where we would summarily end any relationship over any number of deal breakers, God, through Christ, is much better than all of us. You see, Christ is forgiving. For those who repent and turn away, there is no deal breaker. There’s no crime so great one can commit that Christ’s blood can’t wash away. This, is how glorious he is. And in that grace and mercy, Christ understands us. He advocates for us. (1 John 2:1)

That means that murderer is indeed forgiven, even if you don’t like it. That means anyone can be forgiven, if he but accepts Christ into his heart and repents of his sins. He did this for a thief on a cross who minutes before was ridiculing Christ. (Luke 23:43)

Sin is sin. There is not greater or lesser sin you could choose to live in and do continually that Christ, in his perfect, righteous glory as king of kings, would ever accept.

However; Sin is sin. There is no sin Christ’s blood can’t wash way. We may stumble, but Christ knows our hearts. He knows our desire to change and be more like Him. Those who accept Him and obey Him are among his elect. Those who strive to live as He lives and do as He does will be welcomed.

Consider this as you look at your life and the sins you carry. I’m not beyond this scrutiny. I look at the sin in my life and it horrifies me. Some sins fell away, but it seems like sin is some sort of hydra, popping up with two heads more each time I turn from one sin. The goal is the keep growing. The goal is to aspire and live to be more like Christ. Then His grace and mercy will be with you, and nothing will take you from God’s hands when you are His. (Romans 8:39)

For our panel: How does one turn from sin? What does it mean if I repent of a sin (whatever it is) and then succumb to it? Is backsliding a real thing? Does being a Christian mean being perfect?

Musings on Christianity 16

Musings on Christianity 16

How Do I Know I’m Bearing Fruit?

In previous chapters, I talked about how discouraging it can be to notice the sin in your life. But if we are still in sinful flesh, how can we know we’re saved?

“So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased true bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:17).

If we are bearing good fruit, this is a great indicator of our salvation. The Bible has several references to the work our redeemed lives produce. The parable of the sower goes into pretty great detail (Matthew 13:1-23). 

Galatians 6:7-10 also discusses this. But this brings the question, “What is good fruit?” “What should I see in my life?”

In searching for the things you should see, the first list that comes to mind is a pretty simple cross-reference. If Paul says to bear good fruit, what is the good fruit? In that same book of the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23), he’s kind enough to give us a list:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.”

Now, there is actually another list, a far more convicting list. There is the list of things a redeemed life should not have. That is the list of things that defile a person, which can be found in Matthew 15:19. Straight from the mouth of Jesus, he tell us what we should purge from our lives:

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

I’m not in the mood to argue what some of those terms mean. That’s the list from the mouth of Christ. I didn’t make it up, nor am I going to try to justify my savior’s own words. If a word on this list gives you pause, it’s not because the word is on the list; it’s because that word being on the list convicts you. If you feel defensive over any one of those terms, don’t defend yourself to me. I’m not going to condemn you. Instead, look in your own heart and ask yourself why the presence of that word on the list makes you feel defensive. 

When I train my students at DINFOS for informational videos (some might call them spots or commercials), I tell them that one thing that frustrates me is someone who shows a commercial of what not to do. What I mean is they show a Sailor in a bad uniform or pretending to do bad things. I don’t want to see bad examples, I want to see good examples. It’s not the same as saying, “don’t do this.” In the above reference to things that defile a person, Jesus simply states the things that defile a person. Again, he doesn’t portray the things they do, he just states them as wrong.

So what I want to do is focus my life and my efforts on the fruit of the Spirit? Why? Because if I bear good fruit, I have to be a good tree. A bad tree can not bear good fruit (Matthew 17:18-20).

Therefore, my hope is that if I focus on bearing good fruit, the rest will take care of itself. The Spirit’s work will be made manifest in me.

While thinking on this, I decided to actually delve deeper. Lists are fine and good, but  I don’t want to have love the way I think love works. I want to have love the way Paul (the author) meant it. Once more, Paul was very kind to offer us a description of what love is or, even more accurately, what love does.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Now I have something to work with. For me, that’s a very convicting list. I’m known for all the wrong things (irritable, resentful) and I am not known for very many of the right things.

To combine thoughts in previous chapters, does this mean I am not saved? No. Why? Because my spirit mourns these faults. I can repent and be loving. I want to work at this. I want the love of Christ to work through me to bear this fruit.

And that is the crux of sanctification. An unrepentant, unredeemed person looks at his life and does one of two things: He says, “I’m not worried that I’m not very loving, I donate to the church every week, and so I’m good.” He says that or something to that effect, justifying his sin by pointing out his works. The thing is, our works aren’t what save us. Instead, we should seek out the work God does in us. The other thing an unrepentant, unredeemed person may do is give in because it seems like too much. You can’t be perfect, but what you should do is strive to that effect.

Christ’s righteousness, his perfection, is credited to us if we are in him. This isn’t a direct quote of 1 Corinthians 1:30, but it is what I base this faith on.

However, that only applies to those who seek Christ’s sanctifying work in their lives. All people sin, but the believers in Christ have forgiveness through Christ. His Spirit works in our lives to sanctify us. But the unrepentant live in their sin, showing their love of sin is greater than any lip service or token demonstrations of faith in Christ.

So though I may be convicted by that verse, I am encouraged that I have been shown the way, and I can now focus my thoughts on things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).   

This is my current commitment, and I encourage all who seek Christ and to be more Christ like to do something similar. Don’t hide from the verses that make you feel guilt. Seek out the Lord’s discipline, for he disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6-11). 

If we accept it and grow, we’re bearing the very fruit our lives should bear. There are more ways to bear fruit, but this is an area I felt I could improve in tremendously. As I grow, I hope to embody more and more attributes of Christ. I want to grow in Him and reflect Him more each day. This is just the latest manner I’ve chosen to do it. 

For our panel: What are some other fruits we could pursue? What should one do, or how should one react if they realize they’re not bearing good fruit? How do people go about changing? What are some things people like myself can do to help themselves be more loving?

Musings on Christianity 11

Musings on Christianity 11

How Should My Life Change Upon Salvation?

In a previous chapter, we discussed salvation, and I promised we’d talk about how a life should change later. Now that we’ve discussed Salvation and (to a degree) repentance, this seems like a good time to tackle this question.

When someone is saved, there should be an immediate change in life style. We are commanded to cast ourselves aside, pick up our cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23).

But the amount of change one must make is probably dependent on how far one was from Christ and/or how steeped in sin he was. Each individual just needs to focus on the above=referenced verses. How much of what you were doing was about you, and how much of it was about Christ? 

When one becomes a Christian, the key aspect of this is the casting off of self. This is where that life change is visible. When one sees an unredeemed individual, the obvious traits include:

A self-centered lifestyle with no or very little (lip service) direction toward Christ. This is an individual who never spends time with Christ, never (or hardly ever) spends time in prayer, never serves (evangelizes, helps a brother or neighbor.  This becomes more complicated because a person can be looking like he’s doing those things, but if he’s not doing so to honor God, and isn’t directing the attention from himself (or herself) to God, then his actions may be beneficial to man, but they are not done to the glory of God. We aren’t called to judge a person’s motives, but a careful look at a person and his habits are an indicator. Anyone spending the bulk of his energy to pursue his own goals and agenda may not be redeemed.  When this person turns and begins instead to purse Godly things or begins to transition from looking for credit for himself and giving it to God, that is one visible life change.

A sinful life. You can proclaim Christ till he returns, but if you’re still living in sin, you’re not redeemed. Christ never knew you (Matthew 7:21-23). In another chapter, we’ll talk more closely about living in sin rather than being sanctified in Christ. Here, the point is a guy who’s observable actions are sinful isn’t redeemed. That’s not to say that everything he does is Biblically sinful, but he (or she) may have several sins they covet and hold onto rather than turn from.  Some redeemed take more time. All redeemed still sin, but are more prepared to accept discipline than one lost in his sin. These are those who say, “Oh, I know it’s wrong, but Christ will forgive me.” Please beware dear people, that if you you feel what you have is a blank check to sin without cost, you are lost (Romans 6:1-4). Where an unrepentant or unredeemed person who hasn’t truly sought Christ for forgiveness would simply go on about his sinful life, a repentant person would mourn his sin (Matthew 5:4), and strive to stop their life. They wouldn’t say what the unrepentant above would say. Instead, they would say, “I’m ashamed of this sin, and I need help turning away. Pray for me! Thank God, who grants me forgiveness through the son he sent to die for my sins.”

Contrary to the popular phrase, God does not at all love us for who we are. He loves us despite of who we are. But this righteous God, this just God, our loving God will not change for us. Rather, he demands we change for him.

Some of our sins fall away quickly. Other fade, like an echo of a scream. Whichever happens, it should be obvious that a person’s sin is falling away. No one is prefect, but a repentant person is seeking to decrease his sin. He’s certainly not sinning without regard or remorse. 

I could probably expand this list. I think one concerned with this should study Matthew 25:36-40 closely. Are you doing the things Christ asks you to do or not?

I’ve thought for a while about the question, “Well what about you?”  Then something occurred to me while reading “The Heart of Anger” by Lou Priolo. That question is in itself a manipulative question smelling of the same accusatory questions the Pharisees used to attempt to convict Christ.

That question comes from the heart of one who wants to compare himself to other men, which we’re not supposed to do (Galatians 6:4-6). To you I say, it isn’t about me. This isn’t a challenge to compare yourself to me, but rather a plea that you look to your own life and seek to change that you may be blessed.

Now, for those of you who say, “But I’m trying! How can I know that I’m truly being sanctified? What happened in your life?” You my brothers, are seeking fellowship. Where the above person seeks to inflict guilt, this second set of questions seeks to find guidance. This is important. They’re different hearts, and the heart is what matters.

To you I say that I still have sins I struggle with. My greatest conflict is with the very pride I warned you about earlier. I’m striving to check myself. I’m striving to weigh my anger righteously. And I angry on behalf of God or myself? Am I disappointed that I didn’t get my way, or trusting in God’s sovereignty? I pray for help in this. I have brothers and sisters in Christ whom I discuss this with and seek their rebuke to guide me. There are sins that I haven’t committed in a long time. I word that carefully because what I’m not trying to do is pridefully say that,  “I’ll never do that again.” We must remember, we’re mortal, and our flesh is susceptible to sin. If we do slip, we have an advocate who speaks for us (1 John 2:1). How we respond to that sin matters.

As for a life change. Look at this blog. This time I choose to spend on God could be given to any other pursuit. Instead, I choose to give God this time. It’s not always … easy? What I mean is at this moment, there’s  a football game on. I don’t really care who wins, but I love football.  I’m tempted to “take a break” and watch the game. Is it a sin to watch football? Not at all. However, to love football more than god is to make it an idol. Then, it becomes sinful. Instead, I discipline my mind and body, working to give this time to Christ, who gives us entertainment tat we may rejoice and praise him. 

So what I chose to do to address this is to 1) remind people that it’s not to accuse me or justify yourself by comparison and 2) offer one example each of lifestyle change not as evidence of my salvation. Only God can make that judgement anyway.  Instead, it is there to offer encouragement to others.   

For our panel: How can one cast off their sin? What does one do when he struggles to let himself go? Should we simply give up if we don’t change by a certain time? Do we as Christians have authority to declare someone redeemed or unredeemed based on our own observations? if not, why do we look at the fruit people bare?

Musings on Christianity 7

Musings on Christianity 7

I’ve Repented! Why Am I Not Like Christ?

A man decides he wants to be in shape. He brings a bag to work with him. After work, he hits the gym. He does this for a week. The next week, he takes off his shirt in the bathroom and looks in the mirror.  The gut is still there. He gets on the scale, he’s only lost one pound.

Why isn’t he skinny? Most would answer simply. It takes time and commitment.

Sanctification is no different. When one repents, accepts Christ as his savior, and even gets baptized (which is a symbol of salvation, not a requirement), he’s just filled his metaphorical gym bag. No human in the flesh will ever achieve perfection because he’s still made of sinful flesh. Therefore he’s literally composed of sin. His heart is born in sin (Psalm 51:5).

Just like that man who’s realized he needs to live a healthier life, so to a repentant sinner  is one who’s realized he needs to live a more spiritually healthy life. Just like that man in the gym, so to does the man who’s just repented needs to realize that it takes time and commitment.

Paul is an amazing source of encouragement for sanctification. Whenever he talks about growing in faith, he talks like the beefiest muscle man speaking to that wimp who’s just decided to hit the gym. 

He teaches us to discipline our bodies and keep it under control (1 Corinthians 9:27). He teaches us to see the day of Christ’s second coming as the goal, to run for it, to finish (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Another great stumbling block for me (and some others I know) is the discouragement that comes when you’ve dedicated your life to Christ, and then you sin. You begin to mourn, but an unaware Christian can fall prey to the Devil’s schemes by beginning to believe that God has forsaken him.

Have you ever thought, “I can’t stop sinning! God must not want me”?

I have. I’ve had sins I’ve struggled with that made me feel ashamed and weak. I have sins I struggle with that make me feel foolish and slow. That’s when this tiny verse from 1 John comes to mind. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1 partial).

If you stop there, your discouragement only grows. Read the whole verse, and even the rest of the second: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2: the rest of 1-2)

This isn’t a message saying, “don’t worry if you sin, God doesn’t care.”  To complete this picture, we need one more verse that is typically (even by me) misunderstood.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Remember that sadness and remorse I mentioned above? That’s a good thing. The difference between the redeemed and the unredeemed has a pretty simple measuring tool (there are a few, but I’m focusing on this one): The unredeemed don’t mourn their sin. They don’t feel guilt. The most painfully misguided think their sin is like some sort of unlimited credit card that Jesus will pay off. Let’s think about this realistically. 

A father gives his son a credit card with which he should buy some food. The son proceeds to buy whatever he wishes, choosing not to purchase any food, but instead using it for women, drink and debauchery. When that father receives the bill, do you think he’ll simply pay it with no complaint? Won’t he instead say, “Son, I gave you that card for things you need, and you just used it to put your life into a deeper pit.” Would that father, no matter how much he loves his son, choose to still pay that bill? Now you could run off on this tangent, but the truth is the father (even if he really wanted to, which I affirm he wouldn’t) would ether be unwilling or unable.

When we mourn our sin. When we strive to change our lives, we stumble. Like the person who’s just started working out, we pull muscles. Our commitment fades for a moment (usually because of discouragement, which could deny them the spirit necessary to push through, or because of a true unwillingness to put forth the effort, which shows the person never wanted to change in the first place).

But if we remember what Jesus said, we can seek that comfort, and there is much comfort to be found. This comfort doesn’t brush our sins aside as if they don’t matter. They lovingly tells us we’re forgiven. They tell us to rise again and trust God, who’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

This is all to help one realize becoming Christian in no way makes you perfect or sinless. It’s the beginning of the journey, and the end comes when you finish the race. Run! Sprint! If you fall, get back up and keep running! The Lord is there waiting for you! He’ll wrap you in his arms and welcome you. You just have to keep running.

For our panel: Do you ever feel discouraged? What do you do if you do feel discouraged? How does one address any critics who may become aware of a sin you’ve committed? I guess that question is in regard to people who want to call you a hypocrite. When you stumble, in whatever way, how do you maintain that you are indeed saved even though you’ve just sinned? How should a person respond if they sin? Does a person’s sin immediately mean he’s not saved? Are you willing to share a sin you may have struggled with even after salvation?

Musings on Christianity 2

Musings on Christianity 2

What Does It Mean To Be A Christian

Growing up, I was exposed to people who would block my path on the street.  “Do you know you’re going to hell?” the representative would ask.

“But I’m saved? I believe that Christ died for me,” I replied.

“So what church do you go to?” he asked.

“I don’t go to a church,” I replied. The last church I went to told my mom to forgive her child-molesting husband and maintain the marriage.  Their exact words were, “Get over it and keep your marriage.”  So I had some issues with church.  That memory played in my mind as I answered the representative.

“If you don’t go to church, you’re not saved.”

What?

I’ve seen pictures of protesters at a Soldier’s funeral. The protesters held signs that read something like, “God killed your son because he was a … ” they used a derogatory f-word implying the Soldier was homosexual. There was no evidence available regarding the Soldier’s actual sexual orientation.

What?

Is that what Christianity is? Is that how Christians should act?

I’ve seen protests, and honestly believe peaceable protest is a critical freedom for our country. But listening to the comments and reading the signs caused me to wonder, “is that what Christianity is about?”

This was a huge stumbling block for me to my faith. Regrettably, that was a very common thing in my home town. That was the norm. So, from my point of view, that was what Christianity was.  But is it really? What does the Bible say about how Christians should work?

For my part, I want to start with the obvious. The name Christian is derived from the name Christ. So a Christian is most simply put one who acts like Christ and/or believes in Christ. The book of Acts called early Christians followers of The Way. What way? The book of John has that answer: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).

So again, the simplest answer is those who follow Christ. So what does it mean to follow Christ.  How should Christians act? A further look into scripture provides a few (what I call) checklists. One who claims to be a Christian should be one who tries to embody these traits.

From Matthew, the Beatitudes: 

Be poor in spirit.

Be mournful of your sin.

Be meek.

Hunger and thirst for righteousness (in yourself).

Be merciful (that’s not the same as tolerant).

Be pure in heart.

Be a peacemaker (the best peace you can make is through evangelism. Make peace between God and his children).

Be encouraged when you are persecuted and reviled for Christ’s sake.

Now that last one sometimes encourages people to do the things like I spoke about above, but this section isn’t about evangelism or spiritual warfare (both are interesting topics, but not the one we’re discussing today).

The idea here though is you should strive to embody all of these traits. But there are more we can see.

Romans 12 offers more guidance:

Don’t be transformed by the world. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Think with sober judgment.

Let love be genuine.

Abhor what is evil.

Hold fast to what is good. (Jesus summed these last two up well above by the phrase pure of heart.)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Be fervent in spirit.

Be patient in tribulation.

Be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Paul continues to support Christ’s Beatitudes with some phrases:

Bless those who persecute you. Do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another (in this context, Paul is talking to other Christians. I’m not stating we should be at animosity with others, but the hermeneutics demand I explain that point.)

More traits from Romans 12:

Do not be haughty.

Do not be wise in your own sight.

Repay no one evil for evil.

Never avenge yourselves.

This wonderful segment concludes with one of my favorite verses. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We must also look at the very commandments God gave to Moses. Some people will honestly argue, “That’s the Old Testament.”  There is an honest belief to some who think the New Testament overrules the old. We’re certainly under a new covenant. We’re not judged by the law. That’s a good thing too because we’d all be doomed. However, the New Testament doesn’t in any way negate the old. Jesus taught us this. “Do you think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

We therefore must acknowledge that a Christian must strive to obey these commandments, first given to us in Exodus chapter 20:

You shall have no other gods before me.

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.  You 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. 

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

In Matthew 5, Jesus even goes on to expand those commandments. Once more, he doesn’t dissolve them. Instead, he revealed how deeply those commandments apply.  He expands on adultery and murder. 

Anyone who angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder in the eyes of the LORD. (Matthew 5:22)

Anyone who looks lustfully at another woman is guilty of adultery. (Matthew 5: 28)

If you’re like me, you may be wondering, “How on earth could ANYONE do, or avoid doing, all of these things?” In point of fact, I got angry today (as I typed this).

No one is perfect. Remember that new covenant we are under? We are saved not by the law,  indeed all the law does is condemn us. We are saved by grace. (Romans 3:24)

Now, if you’re like me, you probably then think, “Oh, so I can sin all I want because Christ died on the cross for my sins.” Nope again! Paul asks that question and then answers it in his own beautiful debate-style of writing. “By no means!” (Romans 6:2)

So, looking at this scripture as a whole, we learn that Christians follow Christ. They believe he died on the cross and was raised. They then turn from their sin (repent) and follow him (sanctification).  God knows our sinful flesh is incapable of following that law perfectly, so his grace, and the blood of his only son Jesus Christ, saves us (grace). 

So we are left to hold true to the faith that saves us and strive to bear fruit and be sanctified. Our salvation grants us the Holy Spirit, who instructs us so we are better able to follow the commands above and reflect those traits above.

For our panel: How can we apply these concepts to our daily lives? Would you care to expand on any of these concepts? What aspects of being a Christian did I leave out? How can one best pursue a life that reflects these things?

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Sonnets For My Savior 45

Sonnets For My Savior 45

Faith, Not Fear

Grant in me a heart that is bold.
Let my faith in You never waiver.
When You speak, let me have the faith to do as I’m told,
for obedience to Your will comes before Your favor.

Your will, LORD, not my own.
Let me walk your path always, straight and true.
When You call, let me answer without a grumble or moan.
Guide me to put myself aside for You.

Let my thoughts be on Your wisdom, not my fear.
Let my heart be filled by Your spirit, not my desires.
Let obedience to You fill my heart with cheer.
Let Your will reign and my own expire.

Let my faith and trust be ever with You.
Place in me a heart that is willing to do whatever You ask me to.

 


 

To Him Be True

Action behind speech.
Deeds to support every claim.
If you would gather others and teach,
do not practice sin, lest you lie against His name.

Stand in the light.
Avoid standing in darkness.
Seek to do what His word says is right.
Live as He lived, and testify as a witness.

To be true to thine own self,
places one’s self on the throne.
Instead set aside yourself.
Make your heart His and His alone.

Practice righteousness and avoid practicing sin.
This is the way to be true to Him.

 


 

Every Day

Let Your word reside within me.
Let Your commandments delight me.
Let Your peace be upon me.
Let Your grace be with me.

Let me contemplate Your word every day.
Let me pray for Your wisdom every day.
Let me seek to serve You every day.
Let me be pleasing to You every day.

For Your word is my path.
Your Light is my salvation.
Your grace is all that saves me from Your wrath.
Your Son died for my redemption.

Regardless of whatever I may go through,
let my mind, heart, and soul always belong completely to You.

 


 

His Freedom

Even if every sin were as a feather,
the weight of mine was as a mountain.
My sins became a gripping tether;
they formed a cage I was trapped within.

So numerous, they overwhelmed me.
So vile, they disgusted me.
So deep, they comprised me.
So convincing, they deceived me.

Jesus Christ set me free.
Jesus Christ made me clean.
Jesus Christ helped me see.
Sin was the disease; Christ is the vaccine.

There is no chain He can’t break.
There is no person he can’t remake.

 


 

It Cleanses

His blood cleanses it all.
It cleansed a thief on the cross.
It redeemed the apostle Paul.
It purifies all transgression regardless of the severity or cost.

Repent, all you killers, and you will be clean.
Repent, all you adulterers, and you will be clean.
Repent, all you liars, and you will be clean.
Repent, and trust in His blood, and you will be clean.

Do not hold back for fear of how severe your crimes were.
Do not hold back for fear that you can’t be redeemed.
Seek Him, and He will give you succor.
Seek Him, and you will find more than you’ve ever dreamed.

The filth you carry can be washed away.
All you need do is call on Him, so do it now; do it today.

 


 

The Sick

Oh LORD, be with the ill.
Heal  them, and they will be healed.
Their bodies can be cleansed if you will.
For our trust is in you and the great power you wield.

Let them seek your face
and turn from their wicked ways.
Then offer them your mercy and grace.
Let your peace be with them for the rest of their days.

You created the body, and you can make it whole.
You created the heart, and you can let its beat continue.
You created man and breathed into them him a soul.
You made all things, and you can make all things new.

If it is Your will, let this cup pass from the afflicted.
Let their bodies become whole and their hearts be uplifted.

 


 

Remember

You were redeemed,
but you are not perfect.
You were never as good as you may have seemed,
nor are you as holy as you may project.

Beware the desire to call out the sins of others.
Public shame is not fellowship.
We are called to judge our brothers,
but don’t pretend righteous judgment while committing self worship.

There is no one who is good.
Not even one.
Your redemption doesn’t permit you to do as you would;
It is a commission to do as Christ has done.

Do not publicly scoff at the sins of others to elevate yourself.
It is written, “he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.”

  

Sonnets For My Savior 44

Sonnets For My Savior 44

Suddenly

I prayed night after night,
asking God why he turned His ear from me.
I thought myself just and right,
blind to the need I had to be set free.

I prayed for myself,
unconcerned with God’s will.
I treated God like a tool to be placed on a shelf,
seeking happiness in an accomplishment or cheap thrill.

Suddenly, I saw my life was empty.
Suddenly, I realized I was not my own master.
Of material things, I had plenty,
but my spirit only fell faster and faster.

Suddenly, I saw my desperate need,
so I turned from myself, and dedicated my life to Thee.

 


 

Forgive

Turn the other cheek,
though their actions are cruel and sinful.
Be humble and meek,
though the world wants you to be full of pride and boastful.

Treat others as you would be treated.
Respect, even if you’re disrespected.
Be giving, even if you feel cheated.
Maintain a loving heart, even when you feel dejected.

Be like Christ, who walked in peace.
Be like Christ, who walked in love.
Be like Him, and receive a grace that will never cease.
Be like Him, and know your treasures are stored above.

Put yourself away;
pick up your cross, and follow him every day.

 


 

My Shield

Protect me from whom I fear most.
Guard me agains his clever schemes.
Do not give the enemy a reason to boast.
His plans haunt my thoughts, and his evil haunts my dreams.

Defend me, LORD,  for my trust is in You.
Change my enemy’s heart to your will.
You are my shield for every trial I go through.
No matter what comes, you are with me still.

Save me, please, from this foe face.
He plagues me night and day.
Fill his heart with your loving grace,
and help him, LORD, to change his ways.

I confess when I ask for protection from him,
I speak of the prideful sinner who lives within.

 


 

To Glorify God

Words of praise are only the product of wind and thought.
They only require the time and energy of a moment.
Do men measure other men by what they say or what they’ve wrought?
How many men spend moments to praise God but cast Him aside for enjoyment?

Commitment isn’t shown by talk, but by action.
What a man says is worthless compared to how he lives.
Let God be the whole, and not a fraction.
He who would receive must be the one who gives.

Glorify Him by reflecting His character.
Glorify Him by obeying His commands.
Glorify Him now and hereafter.
Glorify Him through all the work you do with your hands.

Rather than talk of how you love Him,
simply live a life that honors Him.

 


 

You

Let my heart, mind, and eyes be on You,
for Your kingdom and righteousness should be what I seek.
Let the praise of your name be the reason for all that I do.
Let my heart, mind, eyes, and soul be Yours to keep.

When thunder crashes around me,
and enemies surround me,
Your mercy comforts me.
You grace encourages me.

You are the creator of everything.
All things belong to You.
There is no comparison to the joy You bring.
Against every trial, You will never fail to bring me through.

Let Your will be in my heart for all time.
In joy or suffering, be always on my mind.

 


 

Answers

I was confused,
frustrated by people who said they knew the way.
Rather than teach, they only ranted and accused.
Their pride in their opinions led me astray.

Then I sought His Word,
knowing that was the true source.
It was only then that my faith was stirred.
The more I read, the more confident I was in my course.

Wise teachers lead students to resources.
Wise travelers look for directions.
For questions on religion, the Word is the first recourse.
The Word shows the way and provides correction.

I sought the Bible for all the questions I had to bare.
Low and behold, all the answers were there.

 


 

Answer

Many are called; answer.
Few are chosen; listen for for the call.
Blessed are those who heard and answered,
but those who didn’t hear or answer will fall.

If you hear, seek, and you will find.
The Word will lead you to the right place.
He can bring sight to the blind.
Run to him; run to finish the race.

If you’ve answered, remembered you were chosen.
You did not choose Him; He chose you.
It doesn’t matter your level of devotion;
if He hadn’t called you, there would have been nothing you could do.

If you hear the call, you are already blessed.
Answer, and you will receive more than you ever could have guessed.