Category Archives: Christian Life

One Word & It’s Misunderstood Implications

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There is currently an international obsession, perhaps even an infatuation, with the term, “Christian.”  Suddenly every denomination, group, and church wants to take upon them this designation.  Some faiths that previously had boasted regarding their differences with Christianity, or even demonstrated outright rebuke of mainstream Christianity are now turning to this term with full embrace.  There seems to be an incredible misunderstanding regarding the meanings, origins, and ramification of this term.  Let’s take a moment and examine the meaning and historical contexts, allowing you to decide whether your religious doctrine or if your personal beliefs will allow you to take this incredible and transforming designation upon yourself.

It is interesting that while there are references to this term within the pages of the Bible, the term was not used widely, nor was it claimed by Christ himself when teaching his disciples and followers.  The first recorded use of this term was within the book of Acts.  In Acts 11:26 it says, “…The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (NIV).”  The term is once again introduced a short time later in Acts 26:28 when Herod Agrippa II responds to the Apostle Paul, “… Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”  It comes again within 1 Peter 4:16, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (NIV).  Within non-Christian texts the term is first recorded to have been used when Josephus records the following within the Antiquities of Jews, “the tribe of Christians, so named from him.”  Tacitus also used the term to record that “Christians” were responsible for the Great Fire of Rome, in 65 A.D.

This term itself is bore out of the Greek, Χριστιανός (christianos), which is taken from, “Χριστός (christos).”  This Greek term, Χριστός (christos), is understood to mean “anointed one.”  Christos was also used to translate the Hebrew, מָשִׁיחַ, or Messiah; which means “the one who is anointed.”   As an interesting note the adjectival ending on the term “christianos” denotes belonging to, as in slave ownership (Bickerman 1949).  Very early Christians were defined as those who would accept and declare that “Jesus is Lord.”  By this declaration they are submitting to the Blood of Jesus Christ and become as Paul wrote in Romans bondservants to Him.

One of the defining criteria for Christians is their bold declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord, but what does it mean to declare Christ Lord? The term Lord or LORD with the Bible is derived from the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH; a sacred Hebrew name for God.  This sacred name is made even more personal when God declares himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14, by declaring both hid name and his nature, “I AM THAT I AM”.  Within the confines of this simple statement He is declaring His self-existent, all-powerful nature to Moses, so that he may declared God to His people!  Incredibly it becomes even more personal than just a name, when God comes in flesh, and in John 8:58 he boldly declares His name, “…before Abraham was born, I AM!” (NIV)  As Christians, when declaring Christ as Lord we are making a bold declaration that Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament; that He is the one true, eternal, self-existing God come in flesh to rescue his people through the cross (John 1:1,14).

Knowing the importance of declaring Lordship is one thing but some might be asking how do we personally declare this?  The Apostle Paul writes about this very subject in his letter to the Romans.  In the fifth chapter, verses 5-8, Paul writes:

… God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)

Our ability to declare Christ’s divinity comes as a result of not only our acknowledgement, but our ownership of our “powerless” nature to overcome our own sins.  We are the “ungodly” that Paul speaks of in the preceding scripture, but despite this condition our God demonstrated his love for us, by coming to Earth to die for us!  We demonstrate our faith in Christ’s divinity by placing Him at the center of our worship.  We grow that faith and deepen our worship by establishing a lasting, meaningful, and connected relationship with Him.

Additionally, taking upon the name of Christ and declaring Him to be Lord, requires that we acknowledge His substituationary atonement, as spoken of in Isaiah 53:4-5.  In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he declares, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  To be a Christian one must acknowledge, believe, and surrender to the One that had no sin and yet sacrificed Himself for us!

This relationship in Christ is solidified and deepened when we as followers surrender to Him; acknowledging the power and efficacy of His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.  Christ teaches in John 11:25-26, while comforting Martha, “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this?”  Do we now believe in this?  Will we not trust in Him that he alone has the power to conquer sin and death?  Taking the name of Christ upon you requires your possession of this gift and a call to profess it.

With these sacred declarations and relationship comes the responsibility to defend the name of Jesus Christ from those that seek to diminish his Lordship.  The adversary seeks to lead God’s people from the presence of our Father through deceit and lies.  It is our responsibility as followers and bondservants of Jesus Christ to see that this does not occur.  This is particularly true as the adversary seeks to use an empty definition of Christ to accomplish his nefarious plan of destruction.  We are warned of this in Paul’s Epistle to the Church at Corinth,

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” (2 Cor. 11:3-4 NIV)

This frightening warning from Paul is still very much applicable in our day and age.  Paul is warning us of those that teach of different Christ’s from that taught within the Bible.  Paul continues by offering a stern warning to those that entertain different Gospels.  We cannot afford to be led astray by those that preach anything other than a “pure devotion to Christ.”  That “pure devotion” must be centered around the Christ that is taught of and foretold of by the Bible; the Christ that is God come in flesh, that is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV).   Anything less than this is surely to result in our eternal condemnation (Galatians 1:8-9 NIV).  There are sects, groups, and major religions that are currently preaching different gospels and Christs that are specifically targeting those that acknowledge  Christ but do not yet have a relationship with Him.  They seek to pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ by relegating Him and His mighty sacrifice to the footnotes of their doctrines!  As Christians, it is our duty and divine responsibility to refute these teachings, while loving those that have been lost to the lies of the adversary!

Reference:

Bickerman, Elias J. (April, 1949). “The Name of Christians”The Harvard Theological Review 42 (2): 109-124


Knowing of Him and Believing In Him…is there a difference?

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There is a haunting warning contained within the Gospel of Matthew.  In the seventh chapter verses, 21-23, it reads:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  (NIV)

In this series of verses we are offered a warning that there is the potential to have Christ deny any relationship between Him and us.  How do Christians know the differences that exists between knowing of Him and believing in Him?  The true importance of this topic is difficult to fully quantify in written word but consider the promise to those that believe as opposed to merely knowing of Him, as highlighted in John 3:16-17:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (NIV)

Those that “believe” in Him are promised eternal life.  Many reading this are probably groaning at the prospect of life eternal, but this promised existence is glorious and is devoid of the pain that we experience in this life.

Our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Father is the most important component in our faith as Christians.  This verse is manifesting and declaring our God’s impossible love for us.  This love is not self-centered or an esoteric concept for men to debate, but it is a literal manifestation through the sacrifice of His Son!  This incredible demonstration of true love, God’s own self sacrifice, gives us hope and eternal promise.   How do we distinguish and ascertain the differences between simply knowing who Christ is, and establishing a true belief in Him?  How do we avoid this terrible conversation explained to us in Matthew, at our judgment?

Gaining a knowledge of Christ is relatively simple.  Reading the Bible gives the seeker a glimpse into both his nature and his ministry.  Researching the writings of historical figures around the time of Christ substantiates His existence.  This intellectual acknowledgement of the man that was Jesus does not require any heavy lifting neither intellectually nor with regards to our faith.  One can even intellectually agree on the divinity of Jesus, but even this agreement does not truly constitute the act of believing, that Christ is seeking from us.

For example, after my exit from the LDS faith I struggled with my belief in God and consequently my doubts regarding Christ.  During this dark walk without God, I was given the opportunity to attend a local First Presbyterian church, where I heard a sermon regarding the historicity of Jesus Christ.  During this sermon I was intellectually forced to acknowledge the historicity of a man name Jesus Christ, but the most important moment came when the Pastor began to discuss the resurrection.  As he discussed the evidences of Christ being raised, I was faced with an incredible prospect; I had to acknowledge the Son of God!  I could and had to acknowledge Him after this sermon, but I did not yet “believe” in Him as stated in John and Matthew.  At this point, I now know that  I would have had a very difficult and devastating discussion with Christ at my judgment due to my lack of true belief in Him. Despite my knowledge of Him, He did not yet know me.

The act of “believing,” that He is commanding and pleading with us to gain, involves trust and confidence. This trust and confidence must be placed in the knowledge that only He can save us!   Not only do we trust him with matters of eternal destiny; we must trust in Him enough to place Him at the head of our lives and daily affairs.   To believe, is to place trust in His teachings, words, and example.  To believe, is to trust that He can and does have the power to change our lives.

If you have never before trusted Jesus Christ, let this promise of transformation and everlasting life be yours today – believe!  Declare your own spiritual bankruptcy, knowing that there is nothing you can do to secure your own salvation.  After reading this please drop to your knees and pray to allow Him to come into your life and take over.


Hope vs. Despair: The Promise of Hope from Jesus Christ

The hallmarks of walking with Christ are joy, peace, and an assurance that we do not walk alone. We are taught in Phillipians that, “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The adversary desperately wants to separate us from that which gives us comfort, instead leaving us with discouragement, sadness, and despair. As devout followers of Christ we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12 explains it best, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Unfortunately, many on this earth including some that profess a believe in Christ walk in defeat and discouraged by the rigors of this life. Were we expected to go this journey alone there would be real reason to become discourage, but rest assured we do not walk alone. Instead we comforted and asked to trust our Lord. We need to worry whether our might will be truly enough to defend against that which seeks to destroy us. We are given the example of David in the book of 1 Samuel, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands (17:47).” Our intimacy with the Lord and our ability to rely on his strength will see that we are victorious through Him. Our simple act of invoking the name of the Lord in our hours of need is a divine power and priveledge given to those that choose to walk closely with Him.

In Philippians 2:9-12 we are taught, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Christ’s name is above every name to point where those that hear it should bow! The glory and majesty that is Christ name is further evidenced by verse 8 of 1 Peter, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” We may be under attack, our minds may be under siege as the adversary seeks to undo what we have established with our Lord and Savior, but take solace and comfort in the fact that are afforded the protection and glory of God through Jesus Christ!