1 John 1:5-10
"5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
I don't think that most people who think they are Christian, actually are. This, has a lot of implications.
I think that we have become too lenient with the ways in which we define Christianity. Yes, salvation is free to us. Yes, Jesus died and rose again for everyone. Yes, if you accept Jesus into your heart, proclaim that He is Lord with your mouth, and believe in Him, then you are saved. But I don't think that we understand the extent of what salvation really is.
I am not going to write about whether people are saved or not, but more about how if you are saved by grace through faith, what your life should look like. As I mentioned before, yes, salvation is free, but it was paid at a great cost, and I think we need to count those costs.
Jesus, who is both 100% God and was 100% man, through obedience in God the Father, came down some 2000 years ago to serve as a sacrifice for our sins. Essentially, when we chose to sin (to chose our own selfish desires over God), we created a chasm between us and God that could only be bridged by a perfect sacrifice. This is why we try and earn our salvation by being good. We believe that if we live a moral enough life, then we deserve to pass go, collect $200, and enter into eternity with God. The thing is, this isn't true. Because we sinned on our own accord, something greater and perfect had to atone for those sins. When we accept Christ's sacrifice through the crucifixion and resurrection, what we essentially do is accept that we cannot stand before God on our own merit, but acknowledge and hold onto the reality that we must hold onto the pass by which Christ allows us to enter heaven through a relationship with Him. For those of you who only know clubbing analogies, pretty much, there is a sweet club which people aren't able to get into until they die. Those that want to go must get "hooked up" by Jesus through a relationship with Him that makes Him Lord over their lives while alive on Earth. When they get to the bouncer, Jesus simply says, "They are with me," which allows them entrance into the great eternal party. This is the gospel, that we did not die for Christ, but Christ died for us so that we may know Him who is greater forever and ever.
The great thing about salvation is that it is rooted in love. He doesn't force anything down our throats, nor does He give us anything that is bad for us. Everything is a gift of God and we, once we accept this gift, shouldn't be so foolish as to squander it. As I continue to read the Bible more and more, I don't think that salvation ends at one point. I don't think that just because you say that you believe in Jesus Christ, you are completely safe from wrath in Hades. People can say anything and think they believe it. When people truly believe something (especially something that is life altering), it alters their lives. This is why I think we need to realize the cost of salvation, not on our behalf, but the price that God paid for us.
My motivation for writing this is because I am exhausted from hearing people call themselves Christian and not looking even remotely like it. I think that Jesus set the bar for what Christians look like and Paul did a great job with the follow up. They we're both counter cultural and didn't fall in line with the sins of what was considered normal in society. However, I will add that although Jesus was God incarnate, Paul was the furthest thing from perfect. He was a murderer of Christians and a self-righteous bastard before God's love overwhelmed him. When he encountered God, he realized that his ways weren't aligned with God's ways and that he needed to change. This shows that God loves even the greatest of those who oppose Him. If you are in that place, you need not worry, for it is not "too late." In fact, maybe you are just on time.
When we hear the Gospel, we should think about the Gospel and meditate on it. When we do so, we should find ourselves more attracted to the love of God than to sin. This is where it begins. Once we experience the love of God, we begin a quest to kill sin in our lives simply by choosing God at every decision point. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, but I do think that if you are exposed to the Gospel at church, God is trying to get your attention. It's very evident that true faith is believing and clinging onto the message of Jesus Christ, and doing so everyday.
There seems to be two stages (lifelong) of true believer-ship. The first stage after accepting the grace of salvation is to rely on God to kill sin. Our desire for God begins to develop a hatred of sin in our lives. Sometimes, it gets difficult because we are in hairy situations where a lot seems to be on the line. If we are dating someone, sexually active, and living together, once we know God, its not a difficult situation to resolve moving out since there is comfort and attachment there. However, comfort and attachment should not be used as excuses for sinning. Those who are Christian should be quick to realize that slander, lying, stealing, sexual immorality, dishonoring parents, etc. are all sins that must be stopped immediately. Usually, the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts to convict us. As we read the Bible, we should also become aware of the areas of our lives in which we are sinning. If we are regularly doing drugs, getting drunk, hurting people, stealing, treating people like garbage, or having sexual relations outside of marriage, we are in sin. If we are constantly justifying our actions and saying, "well, I'm only human," only to return to the action once again, there are some serious issues with our soul. The further we get from God, the closer we get to these actions and the less these actions seem to be wrong. The closer we get to God, the more our soul gets torn as we perform these sins in our lives. Something happens as God calls us to be closer to Him where we have a hard time accepting the dual nature of our lives. If nothing in our lives seem wrong, then the only indication is that we are distant from God.
The second stage of true believer-ship is that we die to ourselves. We don't go out there and commit suicide, but we begin to realize that the price that was paid for our sins was an eternal cost. We realize that we were bought with a price that is more than what we could ever earn on our own and that we aren't our own. But this doesn't turn us into slaves doing things we don't want to do. Instead, we learn to die to our own selfish desires, our own sinful yearnings, and our own self-dependent ways. We stop pursuing money, comfort, fame, status, prestige, security, approval, power and control and don't justify that we are doing certain things "for God" when those that know us best know otherwise. Instead, we simply pursue God. We begin to let go of our ego since we don't need the respect of man, we let go of our need for everything to be perfect because God is in control, we let go of our pursuit of money and wealth because God is a greater provider than our own ambitions, we let go of our desire for fame since bringing glory to God is greater than trying to be famous then giving God a quick shout out at the Emmy's, we don't engage in unhealthy relationships and don't give into the allure of successful people, and we don't build up a life that doesn't require faith.
Dying to self, in modern culture seems to mean that we are counter cultural. That means we walk away from friends that aren't willing to alter their lives for faith (but are always there for them when they begin to seek out truth). That means we are regularly meditating on the Bible and in prayer about our lives to seek out what aspect of God's holiness He wants us to learn. That means we spend more time thinking about God than about anything else in our lives. That means we reach out to people who we normally wouldn't reach out to, but find that their interest in God is aligned with our calling as Christians. Dying to self always leads to reaching out to those in the margins, those who are lonely, and those who are lost, but never participating in the same lifestyle activities as they do. In other words, you are kidding yourself if you think that you are being a good Christian by going to the bars and clubs getting drunk, picking fights, and hooking up with people because you are the only one of your friends that goes to church. Dying to self makes you look like a prude in modern society because as you enjoy more of God, you really don't enjoy anything that is unproductive in your walk with God.
There is a cost of discipleship that I think we need to consider. When we are saved, there seems to be a notion that it's a momentary thing and it's like buying an insurance policy. Real Christianity is radial. It is radical in the sense that everything you enjoy changes to what God enjoys. You enjoy helping people and serving people. You enjoy sharing the Gospel. You enjoy talking about God and what He is doing in your life. You enjoy the ways in which you see God working around the world. And most of all, you enjoy bringing everything back to Jesus so that He gets all the glory.
Frankly, I think people need to stop thinking they are safe from Hell because their parents took them to church and they had a couple of good retreats in the past. The reality of the Gospel is that once we know God, we realize that we aren't running from hell by following God, but running to God because we want more of Him. Its a radically different approach. We aren't motivated by fear, but love. Its only when we experience that love however, that it makes sense to keep running to God. And that's what believing is: turning to God and running to Him without ever stopping.
When I stop to ask people, how many people around you are serious about their faith, very few people say that they have more than one friend who truly seems to live a life "worthy of the calling of the Gospel." This means, that of all the people that go to church, only few people exemplify the love of Christ. This to me, seems to conclude, that people need to get a more clear definition of what it means to be a Christian. Christianity is not just a proclamation, but a daily relationship with a God who is greater than anything we could ever imagine.
Real Christianity is much more serious than the one we think Christianity is. It is covered with endless grace, motivated by an all consuming love, and driven by a hunger for more of God. It runs from sin because it knows that God is better. After all, why eat stale bread when you can dine at the French Laundry? People who are Christian walk away from sin and run towards God. People who are Christian don't seek the approval of men, but the approval of God. People who are Christian don't pursue wealth, security, and fame, but pursue the enjoyment of God. Sure, this sounds a bit radical, but when was Christianity ever not?
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