What makes something Christian?

May 17, 2010 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I have been in a few discussions lately that have completely boggled my mind. While I will readily admit that this isn’t hard to do, it didn’t happen because the depth of the discussion went over my head or because the words being used were too big. This happened basically because of some of the things that self-proclaimed “Christians” said during the discussion. The discussions took place on a page set up for a Christian radio station. If you’ve read my blog on Contemporary Christian Music, then you already know that this discussion didn’t start out good. The main topic of discussion revolved around the recent return to music of Jennifer Knapp.  For those of you that may not know, Jennifer Knapp, a Christian artist who decided to take a 7-year hiatus from music, has made her return to the music scene. Unfortunately, she isn’t the same person she once was. Ms. Knapp has made it known to the entire world that she is a lesbian and has been in a homosexual relationship for a few years now.

This announcement sparked a bit of a dialogue on the radio station’s page. There were questions as to whether or not the station should or would play her music anymore. This is where my adventure began. To me, this is a no brainer. Ms. Knapp, while possibly singing about God before, is no longer living a lifestyle that glorifies God. Because of this, the radio station should no longer play her music. If they did, it would look like the radio station was supporting her lifestyle and could confuse new Christians or mislead people into thinking that homosexuality is supported by the church. Then the discussions began.

A few people started posting how much they loved Ms. Knapp and her music and how “uplifting” it was. They talked about how Christian music isn’t about how many times a song mentions God or Jesus, instead it’s about “the deep emotions, the struggle, the quest to find God, live in God’s word, worship God, and be at peace”. Many of the participants overlooked her sin (because we’ve all sinned) and instead focused on the gift that God has given her and how she should be able to use it for His glory. People were upset that some would “judge” her or her lifestyle because we’re not supposed to do that. Others equated anything said against her as “hate”. They said that we need to “build her up” instead of “tearing her down”.  Others said that pastors, teachers, singers, and preachers should not be held to a higher standard than the rest of us because they face the same temptations that we do (even though it says that they are held to a higher standard by God…). The only time scripture was used in the discussion was when people wanted to remind others that we shouldn’t judge or “throw stones”.  There were even comments about how “one religion is no better than another “and how “all opinions should be respected”…on a CHRISTIAN music station’s page!

All of this got me mad, and then it got me thinking about some things. First, it made me sad that so few Christians seem to have an understanding of even the most basic of Christian doctrines. What exactly is being taught today in the church? Second, it made me think about what makes something Christian? What is it that determines whether or not something is Christian? Today, in churches, on Christian discussion boards, and all over the place, there are people talking about things being Christian; but what makes it Christian. Is it Christian because we decide that it is? What happens if we decide five years from now that it’s no longer Christian, does that mean that it’s not? Should we go by our feelings to determine if something is Christian? What if our feelings change? Is it not Christian anymore? Is the Christian faith built upon such a wishy-washy, flimsy foundation as whims or feelings? NO!

What makes something Christian has nothing to do with how we feel about it, or whether we like it, or even agree with it or not. Something is Christian because God said it is. Please stop and read that again. If something is Christian, it is because God said it is. Here’s what I mean. God Himself has determined what Christianity looks like. Jesus is the complete and perfect embodiment of Christianity. If something claims to be Christian and doesn’t match that embodiment, then it’s not Christian; no matter how strongly we desire it to be otherwise. This goes for people, doctrines, teaching, and everything else. Man has somehow gotten it into his head (I think this first happened in the garden) that he can come to God however he desires and God will be ok with it. He can live his life the way that he wants and give God lip service and things will be just fine. It has become so bad that some “churches” believe that a person can follow the doctrines of Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, or even atheism and still be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. As long as they follow the tenets of their chosen religious system, they are good to go.

Man has been trying this ever since the beginning and it has never worked. God has ordained specific ways that He wants things done and they are to be done that way or they are wrong. In the book of Genesis, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the garden but one. God even told them what would happen to them if they disobeyed. In chapter 3 we see Eve and Adam both thinking that they could disobey God without consequence. They ate the fruit, and they ushered death into the world.  In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu were killed on the spot for offering strange fire. God had laid out for them a specific way that they were to offer incense to Him and when they didn’t do it the way He prescribed, God killed them. In Numbers 20, the people were grumbling about not having water to drink. Moses went to God to seek guidance for what he should do. God told Moses to speak to the rock at Horeb and it would bring forth water. Moses gathered Israel together and then took the rod and struck the rock twice. Because they disobeyed God, both Moses and Aaron were unable to enter the Promised Land. Numerous times in the Old Testament Israel followed after other gods instead of remaining true to the one true God. Because of their disobedience, God punished them with famine, plague, invasion from other countries, and even captivity.

As I said above, God is the one who defines Christianity (not man) and He has chosen to do so through His Son Jesus. God has determined that for someone to be born again, they need to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. He has determined that Christians are not to condone sin, immorality, or impurity. They are not to look or act like the world but should be more and more like Christ. They are to be making disciples and preaching the true gospel. They are to be teaching others to observe exactly what Jesus commanded us. Unfortunately, the church tries to imitate the world in a horrible effort to try and lure non-Christians in to church. They seem to think that those people will enjoy the worldliness of the “church” and will stay long enough to hear about Jesus (if they even hear about Him at all). When the non-Christians leave the church (and they will), it will be for one of two reasons. Either the church’s efforts to mimic the world are so bad that they can’t stand to sit there and watch; or, they have been deceived into “making a decision for Christ”, “accepting Jesus into their heart”, or “trying Jesus” and were let down when the promised better life didn’t come. Not only have they not been saved from sin and hell, they are now inoculated against the truth because of their experience.

The entire focus of the Bible revolves around one person…and it’s not you. Or me. It is Jesus. We are to pattern our lives after the scriptures that have been written down for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. The scriptures show us exactly how we are to live and not live. It shows us how we are to treat God, others, and even ourselves. It warns us of temptation, sin, pride, wrath, and hell. It encourages us to live lives that are worthy of the gospel. This and more come from scripture and scripture alone. And the church pushes that to the side in order to chase after hollow, “relevant”, worldly endeavors that will mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Until the church gets back to the biblical definition of Christianity, it will be filled with squishy, shallow, “feel-good” Christians who build idols of Christianity that suit them and their egos while offering no lasting hope or firm foundation.

Do they apply?

March 8, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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It seems that in the American church’s rush to appease the lost and the non believers (I was going to say pagans but that would probably offend someone), or their effort to bilk trusting, tested Christians of all the money they have by “sowing their seed”; the church has forgotten one of its greatest tools. Ok, I don’t think that they’ve forgotten it as much as they’ve tossed it aside for church growth plans and light-hearted, shallow events that bring people in based on their greed and have them leaving the same way (if they’re lucky). Now, any pastor can pick whatever they want to say and then go traipsing through the scriptures and cherry-pick whatever verses they want to support their “sermon”. To do this, of course, they have to twist the scriptures until they squeeze every last drop of life out of them; but the ends justifies the means even if the means completely destroys the foundation upon which the “sermon” should be built on.

This attitude bleeds to the flock of the “shepherd” over time until the entire group goes through the Bible picking out “life verses” and “claiming” specific verses as “theirs”. After awhile, the church is full of puffed up men and women who expect everything from God because they can string together a group of verses that have no real connection and then muster up their most faith filled voice to command Him to bring it to pass right now because they deserve it. Mix in the idea that we have to look blessed (whatever that looks like) and act blessed even if we don’t have two nickels to rub together and you’ve got a large portion of America’s churches.

So, what is this missing tool? What is the thing that would stop all of this nonsense? Hermeneutics. Continue Reading Do they apply?…

Looking for Ezras

June 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I was reading a section of scripture last night that got me thinking about something. The passage that I read was Ezra 6-10. In it, the Israelites are coming out of captivity and returning to Jerusalem. As they return to their homeland and begin to resettle, something is brought to Ezra’s attention that causes him to tear his garments and weep for Israel. The leaders of Israel come to Ezra and tell him:

 

“The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness.”

Ezra’s response is to tear his garment, pull out some of his hair and sit appalled (stunned/devastated). Scripture says that everyone who trembled at the word of God sat with him. They did this until the evening offering. At the time of the evening offering, Ezra gets on his knees before the Lord and prays. In his prayer he expresses embarrassment and shame in regard to the way the leaders of Israel have acted. He cries out because of the guilt of iniquity that Israel still walks in. The people who feel the same as Ezra gather with him weeping as well. They then decide to call an assembly in Jerusalem. This assembly was mandatory and would result in being cut off if you didn’t show up. They gathered in the open square before the house of God in heavy rain trembling in fear of God. Ezra then stands up before the people of Israel and tells them that they have added to the guilt of Israel by disobeying God and marrying foreign wives. He calls them to take an oath and to separate themselves from the peoples of the land and from their foreign wives. The assembly responds in agreement, recognizing their lsin and takes the oath. The ask for time due to conditions, but desire to do so in order to turn away the “fierce anger” of God. The end of Ezra 10 then goes on to list the names of the priests, singers, Levites, and the people who had married foreign wives.

After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder if God is looking for Ezra’s today? Today, God’s people are just as guilty of marrying “foreign wives” as the Israelites were then. The church has polluted the gospel, changed the way of salvation, put themselves in place of God, and gone off to chase other “gods”. If God had “fierce anger” toward Israel for marrying foreign wives then, how much angrier is God now at His people? It still amazes me how we can claim Christ as Savior and then completely disregard everything that He’s commanded us to do. I am appalled at the way people in the church ignore God’s commandments and His anger and still seek His blessing. We have people who claim to be Christians calling on people to get in touch with “Mother Earth”. Others are taking tenets of other faiths and trying to make them fit into Christianity. Still others are preaching a gospel that has nothing to do with Christ or His purpose for coming to earth. Instead they replace Christ with love, money, or self. Shouldn’t God be angry? Should we be surprised that His wrath is building and beginning to pour out on our nation and others? When those who are “leaders” in the church take the precious gospel of our Lord and make it a mockery, what else should we expect?

One of the most appalling things of all of this is the fact that these “leaders” have no shame! They have absolutely no care in the world that they are misrepresenting Christ and misleading thousands. They don’t care that their iniquity is a foul stench in the nostrils of God. They have no real concern for the truth being preached or people actually getting saved, as long as their churches are packed, they wallets are full, and what they believe is spread as far as they can take it, they’re satisfied. Nevermind that it’s not the truth. Nevermind the fact that it’s not the gospel that saves. Nevermind that people are being made comfortable while going straight to hell. None of that matters. There is no guilt, shame, or embarrassment from these men and women. They are “successful” and that’s all that matters. Sure, it’s success in the eyes of the world, but it’s what matters.

The body of Christ needs Ezras who are ashamed and embarrassed by where the church has gotten to and are willing to call God’s people back to scriptural living. They need to have God’s understanding of His Word and be willing to weep and grieve for this ongoing tragedy. They also need to be willing to stand up and speak out against this horrible façade, naming names if necessary. Some people may read this and think that I’m talking about a new ministry focused on “turning peoples’ hearts back to God”. Nope. That’s not what I’m talking about. To be completely honest, I’m tired of ministries. We have way too many “ministries” run by people who just want to accomplish their own agenda under the guise of Christianity. This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate ministries out there. I know of many who are truly doing the things that need to be done. There are many, many more however, that do nothing but inflate egos, stuff pocketbooks, and accomplish absolutely nothing for God. We don’t need that.

What we need is for the people of God to be willing to be made horribly uncomfortable (even if it means sitting in a downpour) and to see their iniquity for what it is. We need to be willing to stop “graying” the issues and start calling things as black and white when they are. We need to start living our lives the way God wants us to, instead of living them the way that we want and then hoping God will bless us. We need the body of Christ to recommit to separate themselves from the “people of the land” and to stop marrying foreign wives. We need to recognize that God is fiercely angry with us for what we have failed to do and to renew our oath to be obedient to Him. We need to “make confession before God and do His will”…


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