What Does It Really Mean To Be A Christian?

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

This question has been asked and answered by many, with a variety of answers. Many people believe that they are a Christian based on the mere fact that they live in America. This is is based on the idea that the United States is a Christian nation. While this may be true at least foundationally, this is obviously not the case in actual practice. What does the bible say? What does Jesus say?
Is it going to church?
Is it living a moral life?
Is it treating people right?
Is it living in America?
Is it keeping a list of rules?
Since the very beginning man has been seeking to cover himself by his own means. Lets first take a look at Genesis chapter 3:

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Gen.3:7-10)

Here’s what it is. Man has been seeking to cover himself by his own means ever since. We have our own ‘fig leaves’ that we use to cover our sin in an effort to put or keep ourselves in God’s ‘good graces.’ Whatever looks right and feels right must be alright, and God must approve of it–right? Not so fast. Before we fall into the world’s mindset and believe that God is a happy, tolerant, higher power who just wants us to be happy in whatever makes us happy, we must first search the scriptures. There we will find truth.

Those seeking to be justified by the things they do, by default, usually wind up saying things like the following to show that they are saved, or that at least they have a place in heaven:
But I’m educated
But I’m a member of the church
But I give to charity and feed the poor
But I’ve been baptized
But I give to the church
These are all works. These are all false hopes of salvation. But what does the bible say? For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph.2:8-9). When a person becomes a Christian, they enter into a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. As for the aforementioned actions deemed to be good enough to make one righteous, the bible says that there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the way thereof ends in death (Proverbs 14:12).

The Case of Nicodemus

Nicodemus was a good, religious and upstanding citizen. When I say ‘good’, I mean that at least he was considered good by the people. Being a Pharisee automatically placed him in the upper echelon of their community–and they knew it. They were, for the most part looked upon in favor by the people. Jesus however, saw them in a different light. While the Pharisees, almost to a man, looked upon themselves as righteous and accepted in God’s sight, Jesus told them the truth about themselves. Listen to Jesus’ own penetrating words:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)
Nicodemus may have also thought like the majority of the other Pharisees, that he was better than others. Here is a sampling of the Pharisaical mindset:
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Luke 18:9-14)

I am sure that when Jesus came on the scene, and Nicodemus heard him, while as stated, he may have had this particular mindset concerning himself, Jesus words arrested him. The Holy Spirit began His convicting work in Nicodemus’s heart. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night because he knew that there would be backlash aimed in his direction had his Pharisee brothers known that he had come to question Jesus concerning the things He spoke. Though Nicodemus had probably thought that he was righteous based on his status and the things he did, he now realized that something was missing. He came to Jesus to find out what it was. Jesus obliged him telling him that he needed to be born again.

The Case of Cornelius

Here was a man, by all intents and purposes, who, if you did not know the intricacies of what a Christian is, would be your model of what a Christian should be. Read his profile found in Acts 10:1-2:
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Cornelius was doing things that some Christians don’t even do regularly! He was devout and respectful, and he had reverence for God. He was that type of person who would cross himself each time he walked past a church, cathedral or temple. Cornelius also had a heart for the poor, as scripture here says that he gave ‘much alms’, that is, charity to the less fortunate. Also, Cornelius did not just pray, he prayed always. In all he did, God saw his heart and knew his heart–but still–Cornelius was not saved. Had he died in that state, I shudder to think where he would have spent eternity. But God is gracious. God dispatched an angel to Cornelius who instructed him to seek out Peter who would in turn, speak words to him that would bring salvation to his soul, and as instructed by the Holy Ghost, this is just what Peter did. Cornelius and his family were saved, even before Peter could finish speaking!

In each case, both Peter and Jesus make it absolutely clear that becoming and being a Christian have nothing to with the good or righteous things we do. Being a Christian is not about turning over a new leaf, or deciding you’re just going to be better. Being a Christian means having a living, breathing, one on one relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many people believe that just by going to church over a period of time, or listening to gospel music of some kind–and enjoying it, or because they actually ‘like’ God, and try to do the best they can when they can, qualifies them as ‘Christian’.  Here is the bottom line: when your life changes from the inside out, and not from the outside out; when His Word becomes what you do rather than just what you hear; when your sin, more than anyone elses, becomes an affront to you, and prompts you to run to His throne for mercy, then you have entered into relationship.

In closing, please allow me one final thought. Please stay away from religion. It will kill you spiritually and eventually send you off into eternity without ever knowing Jesus personally. It will also drive a wedge between you and God and give you a false sense of security. It’s what the Pharisees were. It’s what Cornelius was. The mercy and grace of God bought them out. When they placed faith in Christ, He in turn, gave them new life. There it is. The Christian life is about living a new life. His life, in us. 

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John14:6)
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

To Christmas or Not To Christmas? That is the Question

JesusIsTheReasonForTheSeason

Rudolph. Santa. The elves. The lights. The tree. The toys. The songs. One popular song touts it as being ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. Yes, obviously I’m talking about Christmas. As a child all these things and more, were a staple around my house. And all those cartoons! I can still remember them all! And ‘The Yule Log’! Just sitting and watching that fire burn as the music played, or just having it on in the background as you moved around the house. I enjoyed it all so much!

As a child growing up, I knew nothing about Jesus. I remember going to church on Easter a couple of times, but that’s about it. When I got saved at the age of fifteen, everything changed. Christmas took on a whole new meaning. Now I really understood what Linus was talking about at the end of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ I learned what a manger was from that song and I found out that the three wise men may not have been just three after all. And now, on a more serious note, I began to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Call me naive (though I don’t think I am), but up until several years back, I thought all Christians celebrated Christmas in one way or another. I was surprised to find out that this is not the case. The reasons many Christians don’t celebrate it varies. They range from ‘It’s not in the bible’, and, ‘Jesus never told us to do it’, to ‘Christmas is a pagan holiday,’ and ‘Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.’Allow me to briefly address each; not so much theologically (though I will use scripture), but from a more practical standpoint.

So, is Christmas in the bible? I think it depends on what you mean. Will you find any of the trappings and traditions the world embraces there? No. Will you find the word ‘Christmas’ there? No. What you will find is the birth of Jesus Christ, including the events that led up to that magnificent event. The Holy Spirit through the writers go to great lengths to describe and capture the mood of the times, along with the various people groups involved. Mary and Joseph. Herod the King. The shepherds. They all played their part in this wondrous story. His birth matters.

But in spite of all this, should we celebrate this birth? First, let’s define the word:

celebrate=to publicly acknowledge a significant or happy day or event…to commemorate; observe; to honor, keep or remember

Isn’t this event worthy of all this, seeing that it centers around our Saviour, Jesus? The wise men thought so. They came a great distance to do so. They unabashedly proclaimed to Herod, ‘…for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him’ (Lu.2:2). We read further that when they saw the star that they followed, standing over where young Jesus was, they responded by rejoicing with exceeding great joy (Mat.2:10). This means that they were absolutely enthralled beyond measure over what had taken place! Is this not cause for celebration? And what about the angels? Lu.2:13-14 says,’…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

If the angels, who wish to look into these things, because they have no understanding of salvation and its implications (1Pe.1:12), can honor Him in this way, based on His mere presence, ladies and gentlemen I believe I ought to honor, praise, worship and celebrate the fact of His coming! I am a recipient of the results of His grace!

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Jn.1:14)

As to Christmas being a pagan holiday, I am very well aware of this argument. I will not take the time to go into detail, but whatever the reasons those involved did what they did, it has nothing to do with me now. I know many don’t see it this way. I am not guilty of trying to take something evil, wrap it up in good, and make it alright. I believe the birth of Christ ought to be celebrated; along with His life, His death, and His resurrection. I know I won’t change anyone’s thinking on the matter, and that’s not my purpose, but if we could all take into account that these are things that we should remember daily, not just a couple of days out of the year, and that He is so worthy of it all! Even if your mind revolts against the word ‘Christmas’, celebrate Him. Of course we know Jesus was not born on December 25th (shepherds would not be out in the field with their sheep on a winter night), but if I choose to honor Him on this day, or any other day or days for that matter, I do not believe my Lord takes me to task for this. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Col.2:16).

Each year around this time, we hear the usual rants from various churches, and individuals, warning us about the ‘evils’ of Christmas. We know the history. Ad nauseam. What I want to know is, what do you do with His birth then? Ignore it? Downplay it? Treat it with scorn? Tell people they are sinning if they acknowledge it? No tree. Fine. Away with Santa (after all, Santa is ‘Satan’ spelled sideways, sort of, right?). No problem. And don’t get caught up in all of the commercialization. Good job. But–do not forget Jesus. I know folk praise and worship Him ferociously for this and that, jumping, shouting and the like and rightfully so, but you cannot then turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the greatest miracle we’ve ever known; that is, the Incarnation. Our very salvation was made possible because of it. Unfortunately, folk get so caught up in keeping the letter of the law, that they step over the spirit of the law. Celebrate Jesus! 

In the final analysis, you can forget the fact Christmas means nothing more than a few days off from work for some, or an opportunity to embarrass oneself at the annual office party. That’s the world. I stand for Jesus. If He did not come, I would not be here; or else I would be here with no hope.

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Cor.9:15) That’s Jesus. Praise Him!

What grace is this that brought my Savior down,
That made Him leave His glorious throne and crown.
The one who made the earth, the sky and sea.
Who put the stars in every galaxy!
What condescension, Oh how can it be!
What shame He suffered oh what agony!
And then the death He died,
For sinners crucified,
What grace is this! What grace is this!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

The Art of Sight: Not Looking at What You Can See-And Seeing What You Can’t

temporary2

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor.4:18)

So there it is. You’re faced with what looks like an impossible situation. There is no way around it. No need to downplay it. The situation is bad. It is a bonafide crisis. It feels as if things couldn’t get any worse. The more you think about it, the more it brings you down; and you can’t help but see it, because it just won’t go away.

Whether you’re seeing what looks like insurmountable circumstances, an onslaught of too many bills and not enough money, or just dealing with unsaved loved ones, there is a greatly overlooked principle in scripture, that if gotten hold of and applied by faith, will bring peace and a great measure of relief from whatever it is that you just can’t seem to get around.

The apostle Paul held no punches when it came to speaking about the things he had suffered for the name of Christ. He was never ashamed about it and did not become bitter concerning his trials. Rather, he considered himself blessed and humbled that Christ would use him the way He did.

What were some of the things Paul suffered while laboring for the advancement of the gospel? Let’s take a look at 2 Cor.11:23-27: Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Did you get all of that? This man was beaten eight times, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked three times, and it goes on and on. How was your day? The things this man endured were unparalleled when compared to others, and yet for all of this and more, this is what he had to say: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (2Cor.4:17). Light affliction? Really? Is that what he calls it?  You see, Paul knew that nothing is as bad as it could be, because he knew he was in God’s plan and in God’s hand. He’s saying that hard times won’t last forever and that they are producing in us something greater than what we can comprehend. How was he able to see everything in the light of eternity? Paul had mastered the art of sight. He was able to see the things he couldn’t and not see the things he could. Yes, you read that right. An art is defined as ‘a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice’. Paul had learned through repeated trials and testings, not to see the difficulties before him. He did not ignore them or keep his head in the clouds as if they did not exist. He simply did not allow the things he saw to remove his vision from that which was greater. Look at what he said: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: Paul surmised that what he could see was only temporary, and he would not be deterred by them. The things which were not tangible, but real nonetheless, were the things he chose, and needed to focus on. Things like God’s grace, mercy and power. We cannot put our hands on these things, but by faith we grasp them and do not let them out of our sight.

The art of sight. Have you mastered it? Have I?  At the time he wrote 2 Corinthians, Paul had been in ministry for over thirty years. For him, it had been a nearly life long process.  I cannot imagine it would be any different for us. As we go through difficult times, our prayer should be, ‘Lord, strengthen me to keep my eyes on you.’

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace!

That’s The Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Sincerity.

honesty-sincerity-integrity

Written by guest blogger Stephanie Isidore

1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Everything evil that is done, the devil has a hand in it somewhere. I was looking at David and why he went out to number the people…

God did not request that His people be numbered. They were not going to war. But the devil stood up like a prickle on a rose, provoking David to number the people.

God gave David three options of judgment for the sin he committed. When David sees that regardless as to how he looks at it, judgment would be too much for him to bear, he decided to opt out of choosing one himself–he let God choose for Him. He did this because:
1. he knows that God would choose the best option, and
2. at some point in time God would have mercy on him, as opposed to him being left to the enemy’s hands & will.
God chose the shortest of the three options (even in judgment God is still righteous); He could have chosen one of the other two judgments but He chose three days of suffering.

Just as God’s commanded destruction begins, God sees David on his sackcloth and repents; God stops and turns the punishment around and causes a cease-punishment to occur. In those days a sacrifice was made for the forgiveness of sins. Today we have the holy name of Jesus and His blood that was shed so that we no longer have to make sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. After the sacrifice was made, in God’s eyes, he was forgiven. Then David saw the angel returning the sword back into his sheath which meant that God had forgiven David and ceased from continuing His punishment.

Why did this happen? Because David had integrity. He had spoken in essence, ‘Lord, deal with me and me alone because it was my fault and not anyone else’s. Don’t let others perish because of me.’ That struck God’s heart to the core, if I may say, because the majority of the time we would still plead and say, ‘But Lord, this person or that person also had a part’, and not fully own up to our own mistake.

After reading this portion of scripture, it has shown me that despite how you fall into error, God will always give you a way out before completing the error so it does not become an error, but once the error is accomplished, own up to your mistake. God is aware of all those who took part but everyone’s judgment is different will take place at a different time. God is a personal God, which is why He said in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me; and in the following verse”…For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

If you’ve accepted the true and living God, accept Him fully and completely knowing that in return He accepts you fully and completely, giving you individual and intricate detailed attention to your life from beginning to end.

Not leaving out a punctuation or word unedited but ensuring your story is one pleasing for Him to keep on writing because you are just that special. Yes, even in the midst of millions of other people God can and will do just that.