What Does It Mean To Become a Christian?

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What does it mean to be a Christian
Photo Courtesy Foxrosser, Flickr

What Does It Mean to Become a Christian?

      The Christian life, and Christianity is general, is largely misunderstood in American and perhaps other cultures. There are many reasons, I’m sure, but I’m certain that part of it is because of caricatures assigned to it by non-adherents, and it is also due to the failure of many who profess Christ to articulate their faith with clarity AND TO LIVE their faith with integrity.

So I’m ask the question… What is the Christian life?

I am a Christian. That means I believe in Jesus Christ.

I follow Christ. I am wrapping my life and existence around the teachings of Jesus.

The Christian life is first and foremost about individual people who, in the warp and woof of life, have walked down the winnowing path of human existence and—through any number of experiences and events—come to a point in their thinking, where they realized that all was not well.

It happens in so many ways.  This realization leads a person to a point where they feel drawn to God in an increasingly tangible way, and become more and more open to the possibility and—ultimately, the reality, that Jesus Christ is a living reality—an existential BEING who is capable of and interested in cultivating a relationship with each of us, and specifically ME—or, YOU, as the case may be.
And at some point, that person acknowledges the reality of God, and the truth of Christ, and commits his or her life to Jesus by surrendering to His authority.

This type of belief is sometimes called “saving faith.”It is called “Salvation” by Christians, because one is QUOTE, saved, from himself—saved from the ramifications of his or her decisions and actions that wounded their relationship to God and that violated God’s authority.

This belief is associated with a recognition of the fact that things in our lives didn’t go the way they ought to have gone—that we failed to be all we were created to be—that we often violated our consciences to recklessly pursue desires and directions that were fundamentally and diametrically opposed to that which is good. And this pursuit of vice ended up causing us to violate others, ourselves and most importantly, the God who created us in His image. And for that reason, because we have an obligation to him as our Maker—just as a child might be obligated to recognize the authority of his parent or parents, we must answer to Him for our disobedience and our loss or, perhaps better, the forfeiture of virtue.

This acknowledgment is essentially the recognition that, though we are persons of value, we are nonetheless soiled— that is, we are contaminated… and that the contamination we suffer and bear is the outcome of our own doing. We must recognize that, left unattended, that corruption will ultimately result in our undoing.

So a person in this condition calls out to God, silently or audibly—it matters not, and in the sanctuary of their hearts, their innermost beings, they admit to God that they are estranged from a right and harmonious and peaceful relationship with him—and that the reason for this is our own personal rebellion— something that could and should be rightly called “sin” meaning, disobedience toward God.

This disobedience was against God and we know that is the case because we understand and FEEL guilty and culpable for violating our conscience and, wittingly or unwittingly, have also violated the standards God articulated in his love letter to humanity—which is what the Holy Bible actually is.

So the Holy Bible provides us with the written standard of what God desires and expects, and what is required for us to live in harmony with him… and, incidentally, with others.

So the attitude of a person wanting to repair his relationship with God confesses this reality of sin and the resultant loss of inner peace and asks God to forgive him or her. What this means is that, such a person feels sorrow, contrition, regret, disappointment and even guilt for past thoughts, attitudes, and actions, and then ASKS FOR and receives forgiveness from God.. and this then INITIATES a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ. And such a person considers Jesus his only hope for abundant living now and eternal life now and later.

And what that means is that a person who desires to be reconciled with God and to patch up his or her relationship with God and to enter into a real and actual relationship with the God of the Universe invites the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ into his life and then begins a new life—ONE that seeks to cultivate a relationship with God.

That is what it means to become a Christian—being reconciled to God by Faith Alone through Christ Alone.

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Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Why Did God Enter Time?

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Why did Jesus come to earth?
picture provided by thomashawk, Flickr

 
Why Did Jesus Come To Earth?

It begins with the assumption that Jesus DID come to earth.

  • Jesus is the most well-attested historical person from the ancient world.Historical knowledge and reference to him far exceeds that of any person of antiquity—this would include the likes of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Plato, Socrates, or anyone else a person could think of.

 

  • When it comes to leaders of various faiths, so little is known about some religious leaders of the past that they are more legendary than historical. Not so with Jesus. In fact, to deny the existence or historicity of Christ is as intellectually dishonest as it would be to deny the holocaust—no self-respecting or legitimate person would be so brazen to do it.

So Jesus did, in fact, come to earth.

And if so… what did he come to do?

Well, the Bible teaches that Jesus was not only a regular human being coming to earth in order to restore social justice or to point to a particular deity. Indeed! No, rather Jesus came as a being who was a single person, but one with two natures—that is to say, Jesus was God Incarnate… God in the flesh. And this Jesus—the Christ (Jesus, the Messiah) was what Christians call the God-Man. He was AND IS a person, the only person, with a divine and a human nature. Fully man, fully God. Jesus was and IS God in the flesh.

One wonders, Why in the world would God come to earth? And it’s important to understand that Christianity does not teach that it was God the Father who came to earth, but that God—in His infinite and unknowable wisdom, existed eternally in the past as Father, Son and Spirit—and that these three persons COLLECTIVELY formed one God. I know, it’s hard to wrap your mind around… but Christianity and the Bible and ALL GREAT LEADERS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH THROUGHOUT HISTORY who have held a biblical view on God, have taught that God existed in that Holy Tri-unity—the Holy Trinity, Father, Word or Son, and Spirit—a united and unified Spirit Being in three non-contradictory expressions, and that this God fashioned His eternal Son, often called the Second Person of the Trinity, into the likeness of a man—meaning, God the Son, who became the Person of Jesus Christ, took on flesh—a human body—and was implanted, mysteriously and supernaturally into the womb of the Virgin, Mary, and as the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” her—NOT IMPREGNATED HER, but as He caused her, non-sexually to conceive, this Mary became pregnant without the aid of man, and began to carry the God-Man, the Christ… the MESSIAH in her womb… and That Baby, secretly the God of the Universe in human form, the one and ONLY BEGOTTEN SON of God, was ultimately born and named Yeshua… Joshua the Messiah… or what the English speaking world knows as “Jesus Christ.”

But Why?

Why did the Incarnation happen? Why did God become flesh? Why was there a theological need for God to enter time? Why did this being or personage need to be fully man? Why did he need to be fully God?

Oh, there’s so much to this… more will have to be said later, no doubt, but the primary answer lies in this:

Because the Bible says in Luke chapter 19 verse 10, that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost…. And HE DID THIS because Jesus came to RECONCILE HUMANITY WITH GOD.

In an earlier podcast I mentioned that humanity was estranged from God and that this existential lostness and brokenness of relationship was caused by sin. Meaning, that in the Garden of Eden, humanity began in innocence… but then humanity corrupted themselves through, first, being deceived treacherously, and ultimately, in willful disobedience.

This event is called The Fall of Humanity or, sometimes, the Fall of Man. And The Fall meant that the original state of innocence was now violated and that all humanity would thereafter be estranged from God due to sin.

But God sent Jesus as a MEDIATOR who would resolve that broken relationship by restoring it. A mediator is one who represents all parties involved. And Jesus became the One Mediator between God and Humanity—representing God AS GOD and representing Man AS A MAN. Hence, the God-Man. And because He was fully God and fully Man, Jesus was the only person fit to become the Messiah.

So AS A MAN, Jesus offered Himself to God, on a cross, as a blood sacrifice REPLACING AND SUPPLANTING ALL OTHER NECESSARY LIVING SACRIFICES TO GOD- ONCE AND FOR ALL—AND BECAUSE HE WAS A PERFECT MAN, He gave Himself as this offering FOR MAN… but because He was (and is) also God, this offering was accepted by God, because only God can forgive sin and save people from sin.

So, in a crude sense, Jesus came to save us from our sin— that is the CAUSE of Jesus’ coming, but the EFFECT of Jesus’ coming is reconciliation.

That Jesus, through his singular, unthinkable, unrepeatable, act of sacrifice, made the way for all people of all times and all places—to come to God and to receive forgiveness and to thereby restore their relationship with God in Christ alone through faith in Him alone.

And for a person to take advantage of that, an individual simply needs to place his or her faith in the finished work of Christ that he completed on the cross.

 

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Who Else Wants a Life of Power?

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Life of Power
Image provided by Mxing-m, Flickr

Do You Want a Life of Power? 

Of course you do.
The Bible says a lot about power, after all.  This includes the Power of God— both God Himself and His power lived out through people’s lives.

Then it’s important that you understand the nature of a person’s power. It may surprise you that “purity” begets personal power.  Purity is moral integrity.  It’s lifestyle consistency.

Interestingly, people can have a life of spiritual power even when mistakes have been made.  We’ve all made them.

Of course,  the fact that we’re not human doesn’t “excuse” the mistakes… it’s just to say simply that…. that we’re human.  But if there’s one resource I love that speaks to the issue of power coming from personal brokenness, it has to be the amazing website, I am Second.  WOW.   Let that be the first website you visit… AFTER you finish reading this post!!  (It can wait 3 minutes, right?)
But personal power comes from integrity. Integrity creates inner strength, which manifests itself in strong character. This ‘character’ increasingly produces unmitigated power in the life of the person possessing it– and such a person is fueled by nothing other than pure conviction.
Inner integrity manifests itself as a type of unstoppable force.
Put another way– the inner realization of a pure conscience leads to boundless personal power. So, BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT OUR HEARTS DO NOT CONDEMN US, we come to possess an absolute sense of internal integrity. This sense of personal “cleanness” instills an inner witness inside of us that creates utter liberation.
As a result of this liberation, the believer can truly (and finally) live with abandon– fearlessly, in fact.
Holy Spirit Power
Ironically, instead of this liberated abandon (which SPENDS OUR ENERGY) leading to the loss of vitality and strength (the type of thing that would leave the average person burned out and burnt up), because of the power of God that is able to flow through such a person, the totally spirit-empowered believer finds himself surprisingly refurbished… moment by moment. And this experience (really… it’s more of an encounter than an experience) makes us the recipient of an ever-renewing and “just-made” or, may I say, fresh-squeezed brand of genuine Holy Spirit power.
Moreover, because of the integrity of the Spirit and the genuine honesty in the conscience of a person with a pure life, the power begotten by that pure life simply cannot be manufactured. And since few believers exhibit this type of consistent Christian living, this type of pure power is seldom seen. That’s by virtue of the fact that it cannot be produced apart from the life of Christ.
But if we will consciously and consistently submit ourselves to Him– we will be fueled by that clear conscience just mentioned… and that’s when we’ll begin to experience this unremitting surge of Supernatural Pneumatic vitality moment by amazing moment, viz., The Power of a Pure Life.

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What Does the Bible Say About "Youth Ministry?"

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A Young Billy Graham

What Does the Bible Say About Youth Ministry?

The Bible doesn’t address “youth ministry.” Youth Ministry is a phenomenon of the 20th Century, though an important one.
The word “adolescent” wasn’t coined until about 1942. At least three major historical movements led “Youth Ministry” as we know it.

1) The Industrial Revolution and Challenging Economic Times for Families Led Children Into the Work Force Where they Faced Adult Situations and Adult Temptations.

Times were tough in the 1800s and 1900s. People were scratching a living in order to survive, and this often led to the need for children to work on their farms and in their homes. Then, as the Industrial Revolution occurred, it offered more jobs and the opportunity for making money and upward mobility. Lots of children entered the work force.
Keep in mind that most kids at this time had little education and few educational opportunities. Plus ‘public school’ as we now know it didn’t exist in most places. So kids got very little education on average, unless they were wealthy.
Portrait of a child laborer standing between a spinning loom and a window at a cotton mill.  The young girl wears tattered work clothes. North America 1909
Portrait of a child laborer standing between a spinning loom and a window at a cotton mill. The young girl wears tattered work clothes.
North America
1909
The lack of child labor laws and the sheer need for income led to many kids moving into the workplace.
As these kids were exposed to adults, they were exposed to adult situations. This forced them to grow up quickly.
It also led to lots of stress and the opportunity to make mistakes. This led to an enormous upswing in lifestyle issues, moral problems, and challenges with working young people. There became a growing conviction that there was a problem and that something needed done.

2) More Educational Opportunities For Young People Delayed Their Move Into Full Adult Society and Its Responsibilities.

Even though children grew up and matured into adults throughout history, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution and on into the Early 20th Century that there rose a need for more highly-trained people to serve in larger companies as managers. This led to more and more people making the decision to pursue formal education in hopes of even higher paying jobs as, because, for the first time in U.S. history, a “Middle Class” was rising.
Prior to more people going to college, there were simply the “haves” and “have nots.” But the opportunities and needs resulting from the Industrial Revolution led to more production and the growth of industry, resulting in large businesses. These large businesses required middle-management positions. All this led to higher tiers of income and entirely new working classes, from Blue Collar, to Gray Collar, and White Collar.
But getting an education took time. So more and more children began delaying entering the workforce as kids and continued though grade school and high school, with some also entering college. In addition, because corporations had been abusing child laborers for decades, laws began keeping children from working as much. As as result, they were not intermingling as much with grown adults and being forced to “grow up.”
In 1925, the release of public tax funds (US v. School District No. 1 of Kalamazoo, MI) allowed more children to get education, because it was now being offered for everyone and paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Before long, school attendance became ‘compulsory.’ When that happened, kids were systematically delayed from entering adult life and the work force until later.
The outcome of that was young people entered a period where they did not move from “childhood” into “adulthood” quite so rapidly. This leisure and time to grow up more slowly without adult responsibilities soon resulted in a sociological phenomenon called “adolescence.”

3) Delayed Adulthood (for those not going into the work force and spending more time in school) Resulted in Young People Having More Identity Crises and Moral Challenges.

Because more and more children were not moving directly into adult life with adult responsibilities (full work weeks, job responsibilities, hard labor, early marriages, and having children while still in their teens), they had time to develop and mature.
But because they didn’t yet have ‘careers’ and were increasingly going away from family-based trades they had done for generations, more began to struggle with their identities: “Who am I?” “What am I going to do?” “Where will I live?” “Will I make it?” These identity crises led to stress and struggle. Also, with teenagers with adult bodies and adult urges but child-like responsibilities and delayed adulthood, this increasingly became a time of moral struggles, experimentation, and often ‘excess.’
As kids were sometimes able to have childhood responsibilities (not work) but adult freedoms (living on their parents’ money while they went to school), this responsibility-freedom imbalance began to cause problems. Young people and early adults were increasingly struggling with behavioral issues, sexual struggles, alcohol problems, and more.

Enter Youth Ministry

All this led to organizations coming into existence to help young people.
From the Society of Christian Endeavor to other Temperance Societies, to the Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs, to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the YMCA and YWCA, Sunday Schools, Singing Schools, and denominational camps and recreation ministries, there was a growing specialization in ministering to young people.
So “ministries to youth” became ‘a thing’ and grew rapidly. By the early 1900s, educational institutions recognized the need to help equip youth workers, so academic programs started developing to train them. That led to a growth of literature in this area.
With academic degrees, a growing literature base, and more and more jobs in the field… “Youth Ministry” as a profession was born. This began to really happen in the 1920s, and it soon exploded in the 1940s-50s-60s-70s and beyond.