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.

False Teachers

May 10, 2010 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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With all of the different events taking place in the church and all of the men and women who claim to be preaching the gospel, a question arises. How do you know? How can you be sure that the man (or woman) that you are hearing speak is actually speaking the truth? Some talk about how they’ve heard from God and how God “told them” things. Others proclaim that the growth and size of their ministries is proof that God is “blessing” them. There are many “preachers” today, especially in America, and all of them profess to be Bible-believing, truth-preaching, Christians. But are they?

 In the New Testament, there are a number of passages of scripture that should give us pause before we go proclaiming that “Pastor so and so” is the next “up and coming” pastor. Unfortunately, a number of people in the church seem to go by appearance or charm. Others go by whether or not the one preaching agrees with what they already believe. We go by sound or size of the church or by popularity or by relevancy.

 So, how should Christians be testing their pastors/preachers and other people claiming to do the work of God?  Continue Reading False Teachers…

Arm Yourself – Persecution

August 31, 2009 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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In America today, there seems to be a horrible disconnect with the rest of the world concerning persecution. Many children and adults who grow up in the American church have no idea or understanding of what persecution really is. Sadly, many don’t even realize what is happening to Christians outside the U.S.

In America, we consider persecution to be when people attack us verbally for our beliefs. We see anti-Christian groups like the ACLU and various atheistic groups as persecutors when they try to get Christmas images removed or when they try to get “Under God” removed from our money. To many, persecution is covering up images of Moses in the government buildings in Washington, D.C. or it’s seeing our ability to speak out against issues like homosexuality or abortion slowly eroding away. For Americans, persecution is uncomfortable and disconcerting because it removes some of the things we take for granted or bursts our little bubble of warm fuzziness. Continue Reading Arm Yourself – Persecution…

Arm Yourself – Acceptance

August 10, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I read a comment the other day that got me thinking about something that I’ve seen happening for a long time now. The person who made the comment was out West for an event and said that the people at the event had found “community there and online when they couldn’t find it anywhere else”.  While I don’t know that I could argue with that because I think that that happens any time you have a number of people getting together for a common purpose, it was the idea drawn from this that got me thinking. The person then said that the people stayed connected because they felt accepted, and that this is what Christians need to do. The basic premise is that Christians need to go out into the world and make others feel accepted. This is often promoted as “loving people like Jesus”, “living life with people”, or “getting our lives dirty”. Continue Reading Arm Yourself – Acceptance…

Design of the Week – Boog’s Corner – Who’s Side?

July 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Designs of the Week | Leave a comment
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This week’s design is another one that my daughter came up with. It is a simple question but one that many people don’t seem to be able to answer honestly. The Bible says in Matthew 12:30 that you are either for God or against Him. If you do not obey Him then it doesn’t matter what you call yourself or how much you pretend, you are not His. If you are not His, then you belong to the devil. It’s that simple.

This may seem harsh, but it’s the truth. A lot of people talk the talk, but John says that it’s more than talk and it’s more than one day. It’s a lifetime. If you’re not giving your all to God on a daily basis, you may want to check and see if you are saved. Does this mean that you don’t sin. Nope. Does it mean that you’re always going to be up and energetic. Nope. What it means is that when you do sin, you immediately go to your Advocate, Jesus, and confess that sin. Then, you get back to doing what you should be doing. You don’t live in your sin, you don’t wallow in self-pity, and you don’t pout.

Sadly, many Christians today are all about feelings. It’s not about feelings at all. Being a Christian is about knowing and that comes from abiding in Him.

A New You?

January 26, 2009 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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It’s a new year again and that means two things:

 

A large number of people will resolve to lose weight

 

A large number of people will break the 9th commandment by the end of February.

 

This is the time of year when advertisers focus on looks, weight loss, and self esteem. They try to convince people that they need to use their products, weight machines, and other materials to lose weight, feel better, and get ready for the spring/summer season. We are made to feel bad about how we look when we don’t measure up to the ideal presented to us by Hollywood and the media.

 

Looks are a major concern for a growing number of people. Many are being conditioned from a young age to think that they have to look a certain way to be “acceptable”. They have become a major factor in a number of decisions from jobs to material things to presidential elections. Shows like “American Idol” promote this, especially when those who have more talent are passed up for others who may have a “better” look.

 

Obesity is becoming a growing problem (pun intended) in our nation. More and more children and adults are less active and not eating healthy. We are so “busy” that we don’t take the time to do the things that we need to do. Obesity has been linked to a number of health conditions and problems, and even though we know this, we continue to eat our way into an early grave.

 

Self-esteem is the most crippling of all. Our society has been told that it’s all about how you feel. If the lifestyle you live feels good to you, then that’s all that matters. If someone says something or does something and you don’t “feel” that you need to do or say it, then you don’t. As human beings, we love to feel good about ourselves and think that we are doing good. We love to see ourselves as good people who are trying to live our best life and impacting those around us for the better.

 

All of this really amazes me. We will raise our self-esteem by deceiving ourselves and telling ourselves that we’re doing really good. We will look at the junk coming from Hollywood and try to measure up to it in order to feel better. And when we don’t measure up to the standard that they set for us, we feel horrible and strive to change. Why will we do this for Hollywood, which is basically man at his worst, and not for God? I’m talking to Christians too! Why will we let ourselves watch and listen to things that God would be angry at, spend our time and money to get the right shape, and boost our self-esteem by ignoring what’s wrong with us? What about God? Why won’t we do this for Him?

 

God has a standard as well. But when we don’t measure up to it, we don’t feel bad we just blow it off. We don’t feel burdened because our lives have been in direct opposition to God or that it is our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. We just go on about our daily lives and continue to chase the Hollywood ideal. There is a major problem with this attitude that will affect our lives in ways that we can’t even fathom. See, if we don’t measure up to the Hollywood ideal, then we may not be the most attractive person in the world. But, that is something that many of us could live with if we looked at things from outside the vanity. If we don’t measure up to God’s standard, we are in much deeper and lasting trouble. God is the judge of the universe and if we fail to meet His standard, we will spend eternity in hell. Amazingly, this doesn’t seem to bother many people. They are more concerned about the fact that their butt looks too big (or not big enough), their lips aren’t full enough, or their paycheck isn’t big enough.

 

This is because we have failed as a church to tell people the truth. Today, there are churches and “Christians” (Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones) who say that everyone will get to heaven whether or not they believe in Christ and repent of their sins. We have told them the things that they wanted to hear so that they fill our churches and give us money. Meanwhile, we are insulating them to the fires of hell and helping them get there more comfortably. If we told people the truth, they would understand that they don’t measure up to God’s standard and that without payment for their sins, they will go to hell. If we were to do this, we would help people separate the truth from the lie.

 

So, I’ve come up with a proposal for a lasting “new you”. I am not a doctor or physician, so take this advice knowing this. If you want to change your looks, start by abstaining from the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). Then, start living out the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance – Gal. 5:22-3). While doing this, be an imitator of God like a little child (Eph. 5:1-13) and walk worthy of your calling (Eph. 4:1-3). Finally, let your light shine before all men instead of hiding it under a basket (Matt. 5:16). If you would like to lose weight, remove the encumbrance of your sin (Heb. 12:1-2), remove the yoke from your midst (Is. 58:6-11), and don’t let sin reign in your mortal body (Romans 6:12-14). Finally, if you want to work on your self-esteem then start with the fact that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and that there is no one who is good (Romans 3:10/Ps. 14:1-3). You may be wondering how this will help your self-esteem. Well, it won’t. If you understand the Bible, you know that you shouldn’t be esteeming yourself. You should be giving all the glory to God. If you ignore that you’re evil, it won’t help you. But, if you understand it and realize that you’re a sinner, it will help you immensely in a few ways. First, if you’ve been trying to work your way to heaven, you will realize that you cannot do it and it will remove a heavy burden from your life. It will also help you to recognize your position in relation to God. It will help you recognize the judgment you deserve based on that position, and it will help you to receive the gift of salvation, a clean conscience, and a new position. All things will become new (2 Cor. 5:17), you will no longer be destined for hell, you will be one of God’s children and He will love you, you will be given great and precious promises, and you can tell others about Christ and help them become new too.

 

If you do this, you will have a lasting new you. You may not be the best looking. You may still have health problems. You will not have any self-esteem, but instead will trust God with your life. You will be able to weather every storm because you will know where your salvation comes from and no matter what you go through, you will be able to hold onto the truth that you will find yourself in heaven because your are a horrible sinner whose been forgiven by a gloriously wonderful God. That is truly a new you…

Chasing the Blessing

November 12, 2008 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Today, I’m going to talk about something that aggravates me to no end. The modern churches around the world seem to spend a lot of time talking about and focusing on how God’s people (I probably should put that in quotes) should be “blessed”. These blessings take the form of financial, physical, spiritual, and relational blessings. Most Christians talk about being blessed when they get a windfall or a medical report comes back positive. They talk about being spiritually blessed when they “feel God’s presence” or they “see God working in their lives”. If their family is well and their marriage isn’t falling apart, they are “blessed”.

 

While I don’t have a problem with these things and while they could be considered blessings, it seems that the focus of many Christians is the blessings that make us happy, comfortable, and content. I have to ask, is this the blessing that scripture is talking about? The main scripture that many use to “claim” the “blessing” is found in Galatians 3:13-14.

Many talk about the blessing of Abraham. They talk about the great and precious promises that Peter talks about. They claim that these promises are given to us and that the church needs to be blessed so that the world will see God is who He says. I’ve heard a number of times that we need to be blessed so that we can bless others. I’ve heard that we should be healed and not sick. I’ve heard that we need to be spiritually “blessed” so that others can see and “feel” the power of God in their lives.

 

I’ve got some problems with this. First, the scriptures that are used to support this idea are taken out of context. The context of these scriptures is completely different. We’ll look at that in a minute. Second, they don’t agree with other scriptures. If you look at Job, the story is that Job is a righteous man. In fact, Job is so righteous that God boasts about him. From the conversations between God and Satan, we can see that what happens to Job is not because of something that Job has done. It’s God allowing Job to go through this. Job lost everything. He lost his family, his material goods, and even his health. This completely contradicts the idea that God’s children some how deserve to be blessed. It also contradicts the idea that God wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen to His children. This is ludicrous. You might be saying, “but that’s the Old Testament, and we’re in the New Testament era”. Ok, let’s look at some of the New Testament faithful. What about Stephen? He preached the truth to those who put Jesus to death and was stoned for it. Does this mean that he didn’t have enough faith? Jesus stood up for him! What about Paul? Paul went from be the greatest persecutor of the church to being one of the greatest promoters of the truth of the gospel. He says that the “thorn in the flesh” that he had was given to him. Timothy is encouraged by Paul to drink a little wine for the sake of his stomach and frequent ailments. What about most of the apostles? They spoke out for Jesus and preached the truth, spreading the gospel across the world and most of them were killed for it. Some were crucified; some sawn in half, some beheaded, some burned at the stake, and some were fed to the lions. How does this correspond to the belief that Christians deserve to be blessed and will be protected from harm and sickness. Take the life of Jesus Himself! If the Lord Himself was not spared from attacks and strife, why should we expect any different, especially when Jesus promised that we would have trials and tribulations? What about the believers today who have cancer and other diseases? Are they not healed because they lack faith?

 

In Galatians, Paul tells his readers that he’s amazed how quickly they are deserting their faith. He calls them foolish and asks them whether they have been received the Spirit of God by faith or by the works of the Law. He then tells them that Abraham was justified by faith and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. He tells them that Abraham had the gospel preached to him and that those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer. When we get to verses 13 and 14, we see:

 

Gal 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”–

Gal 3:14  in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

 

This scripture isn’t talking about the financial prosperity that many claim it does. It is a reference to the justification by faith. The blessing of Abraham isn’t silver, gold, donkeys, land, etc. It’s the blessing of being saved by faith. We Gentile Christians are spiritual heirs with Abraham. There is no biblical guarantee that Christians will be blessed. The verses above say that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law, but does that curse include poverty? There is nothing in scripture that says that. Just because we think that poverty is a curse doesn’t mean God sees it that way. When Jesus died, He provided Gentiles (as well as Jews) the ability to be saved and receive the promise of the Spirit.

 

As I mentioned above, another passage that many use is found in 2 Peter:

 

2Pe 1:1  Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

2Pe 1:2  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;

2Pe 1:3  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

2Pe 1:4  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

2Pe 1:5  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,

2Pe 1:6  and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,

2Pe 1:7  and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

2Pe 1:8  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Pe 1:9  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

2Pe 1:10  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

2Pe 1:11  for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

 

Many “preachers” proclaim that the magnificent (great) and precious promises are financial/physical blessings. They claim that these are the promises that allow those who believe and “have faith” to live successful, happy, and “victorious” lives. They are the promises that Christians should be healthy and wealthy, that we should be “the head and not the tail” (Deut. 28). But, if you read the passage above, you’ll see that these promises are not financial. They are for us to have life and godliness. They are so that we can partake in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world by lust. They are so that we should have a number of qualities that portray us as Christians. The promises have been given to us so that we can be sure of our calling and so that we will be kept from stumbling. Because of these promises, the entrance into the eternal kingdom is open to us.

 

There are numerous other verses that are taken out of context to support these ideas of “blessing”. Some of these include Isaiah 53:5/1 Peter 2:24, John 4:4, and John 8:32,36.

 

Many people also look at things like “spiritual blessing”. Many times “spiritual blessing” is seen as an increase in “anointing”, “power”, “gifts”, or “revelation”. Is this scriptural? Is it really possible to get more anointing? Can you increase your gifts if the Spirit gives them in the first place? According to a hermeneutical understanding of scripture, the true spiritual blessing is the fact that those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ will have their sins forgiven and will enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

What are the possibilities? Can God provide money? Yes (think about Peter and the fish or Acts 4). Can God heal people? Yes. There are numerous instances of this in scripture as well as the history of the church since the writing of scripture. Will God heal everyone? No. That’s seen in the fact that people who believe in Christ get sick or diseased every day. Can God increase someone’s anointing? I don’t think that we see this in scripture. The anointing that Christians are given is from the Holy Spirit. How could that increase? Scripture says that Jesus grew in wisdom and power, but was this more anointing? Jesus was God, how could He increase in anointing? There is nothing that I can find in scripture that says anointing is increased…I would have to ask is it really more anointing or is it a better understanding of that anointing?

 

There is nothing in scripture that shows this view of the blessing, which is often associated with the Word of Faith and charismatic movements, and is creeping into other areas.

 

We need to have a proper and correct understanding of scripture. This means that it needs to be taken in context. This means that we need to be willing to change our lives, ideas, and beliefs if they don’t line up with scripture. Where are you?


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