It amazes me how people miss this truism. Truism? Yeah, a truism… click here.
I coined that opening phrase after observing lots of leaders who just didn’t seem to get it.
So let’s get this point straight, once and for all– explaining the truth in both negative and positive-statement forms:
People don’t follow people they don’t like
People generally follow people they do like
The answer isn’t the Mr. Nice Guy Dale Carnegie Solution: to ditch your convictions and to become a spineless wimp who believes nothing, has no opinions, and who only wants acceptance. You know, the Chamber of Commerce Guy.
But being a person of conviction doesn’t mean you need to earn a (D.D.) Doctorate of Disagreeability to “PROVE” just how much conviction you really have. Lots of leaders are so interested in COMPETENCE and IQ that they have no CHEMISTRY and EQ (emotional quotient). Good social skills are woefully lacking in many a leader and interpersonal interactions are half of our jobs as leaders.
I regularly work to evaluate my own likeability. Sure, people misread you and I sometimes– but that’s life. We can’t lose sleep over those who might assign false motives to us or have some kind of an axe to grind. But we can work to make the most of every opportunity to be our best selves because that’s the one that influences others.
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.
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.”
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.
A leading Christian thinker, Dr. Perry Downs, is known for an important but surprising quote: “Truth-telling is an act of violence.” Who knew?
Regarding violence, anyone who has ever been victimized and that has suffered the resultant trauma knows its resonant results. It is like the proverbial pebble which causes a disproportionate effect– rows of ripples that circumnavigate far from the point of impact, long after the rock has settled in the silt below.
In this sense, violence forever affects those it touches. It should not be confused with a momentary, punctiliar event… violence is the initiation of an altered and completely re-arranged reality for all those it touches, be it directly or indirectly. Violence changes people’s lives. Some of that change is painful… and some of it, ultimately, can bring redemptive meaning and hope.
Now back to the central idea– truth.
Truth-telling can be a blunt object. I’ll never forget the words of a physician to me in the winter of 2006 when my mother was ailing in a Knoxville, Tennessee hospital. “Freddy, your mother is dead.” No mastery of language could ever help me communicate the thoughts and emotions I experienced in that moment. The statement, however true, was horribly blunt. Cold. Hurtful.Awful. That shows what is meant by the violence of truth. That statement forever affected my life and the lives of so many others.
The death of my mother caused profound hurt, but as the gaping wound has slowly begun to heal, God has used it to bring ephiphanies and moments of meaning that, apparently, I would have been unable to perceive otherwise. Does that mean that mom’s passing was ‘for the best?’ I don’t know if I could ever utter such a thing– it seems inconceivable. But since death is an irrevocable and necessary evil since the Fall (Genesis 3), the meaning and insights I’ve received are at least a modest consolation. And, at least for my mom, this discussion is academic. She wouldn’t return even if given the chance. If that’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
With these broad and sketchy ideas strewn about, I return to my original concept. The Violence of Truth.
Jesus said, “I came to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The truth of God, like violence, affects everything. It impacts people to different degrees, depending on their proximity to it. The effects of truth continue on and on. Truth alters and dictates reality. And though it can be painful, once it does its important work, truth brings intuitive insights and meaning. For those reasons, however painful truth sometimes is, knowing it is better than ignorance– because only the truth can set us free.
That said, there’s a ‘sense’ in which it doesn’t always matter whether one’s fear is rational or not. That’s because even if a particular fear happens to be irrational, that doesn’t necessarily make it any less troubling. In fact, irrationality doesn’t “negate” fear in the least– and, in some cases, it can even breed terror.
In the context of this discussion, it is important to remember that fear and danger are not one and the same. Fear is an emotion. Danger, however, is an actual threat to one’s safety.
Though fear and danger should appear together (and often do), interestingly, they can also be inexplicably separated. Note that a child may be in actual danger of physical harm, but have no fear whatsoever. In addition, a grown adult may be in absolutely no danger, yet be deathly afraid.
In the case of my dear mother who passed away a years ago (February 25, 2007), there was a time prior to our losing her that she struggled with a fear of death. She (like me… and you) did not want to die. Sadly, the fact that she was a Christian believer did not assuage her insecurity, nor did it eliminate her fear of the unknown. In fact, my mother was in the condition of many Christians– she “feared” though there was no “danger.”
In Christ, my mom’s eternal fate was absolutely secure– something she now knows full well. Yet that reality and fact never calculated into spiritual peace and inner security. So though my mother’s fear did not affect her destiny, she was still emotionally imprisoned—at least for a short time. The only thing I wish is that she could have lived free from what I wish to call the “dangerless fear.”
God is Sovereign
Similarly, in spite of the fact that God is sovereign, many Christians today live in fear. And though the world sometimes presents genuine threats where fear is not completely unfounded, in light of the Omnipotent Sovereign we serve, disciples should increasingly embrace and then embody the security and confidence which is very much found in Christ. As we do, we will become powerfully emboldened and increasingly learn to live with fearless abandon. This type of courageous Christianity is the only brand of faith that is capable of pushing back the darkness and advancing the light. As such, Christians must decide whether to cave… or to be brave.
I get it. But we all need to have a handle on truth. After all, we must “live!” It’s important to understand that “truth” isn’t just the stuff of people with really long Greek names like:
Pythagoras of Samos
Zeno of Elea
Diogenes of Sinope
What is the nature of truth?
Truth is what “is.” Truth is that which is real, true, or truth. Truth is that which is actual. It’s another way of saying that ‘Truth’ isn’t simply “what is ‘believed.’ ” What is ‘believed’ is subjective and may or may not have anything to do with reality. Sometimes belief is nothing more than fantasy. So ‘belief’ may not have a 1 to 1 relationship with reality. The only time belief is legitimized is when that which is believed is objectively true. Truth (or actuality) legitimizes belief. Anything less isn’t really “truth”– it’s just belief. The Point:Belief does not equal truth. And just as ‘belief’ doesn’t create truth… neither does disbelief destroy truth. Truth is ‘truth’ because it is ‘true,’ not simply because it is believed.
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Podcast Seminary provides substantial spiritual food to Christians hungry for God’s Word. It is a fun and meaningful learning experience designed to help you build a more comprehensive knowledge of the Bible and Christian Theology. It is meant to quickly broaden your awareness and deepen your understanding of a wide range of Christian subjects. This is done by exposing you to condensed versions of content typically covered in full-time seminary degree programs.
Podcast Seminary educates, edifies, equips, and encourages Christian learners, regardless of their level of educational training or spiritual maturity. Podcast Seminary fosters an environment of inquiry and discovery. It is thought-provoking but non-threatening. It’s academic but accessible. It’s fun but not frivolous. It’s non-accredited but achievement-based.
In the New Testament Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul spoke of the importance of his teaching “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). In doing so, Paul was communicating the absolute importance of teachers helping disciples become fully informed about divine truth and the Word of God. One of the great challenges within today’s Christian churches is the growing problem of biblical illiteracy. Similar to that is the related issue of many Christian’s general ignorance of the biblical worldview.
What does this mean, and why does it matter? This means that many Christians are not fully equipped when it comes to knowing the Word of God and, as a result, the Will of God (Romans 12:2). The result is that believers often live without the confidence, courage, and convictions they need to be “more than conquerors” as the Bible promises we can become (Romans 8:31-39). Ultimately, this problem leads to less-fulfilled lives, avoidable mistakes, and a lack of spiritual legacy by many believers. Podcast Seminary is built to address these common problems in discipleship.
Podcast Seminary curriculum provides comprehensive, systematic, and on-going training that covers both the breadth and depth of Christian truth. Podcast Seminary covers a broad area of curriculum comprised of nine key areas. These areas represent the areas of knowledge that comprise a Christian worldview. When a person understands these areas, he or she is able to live with more spiritual power, with increased confidence, and with greater joy.
As you take your first course in one of the following nine areas, you’ll begin to understand how important it is to develop thought structures, theological perspectives, and familiarity with the many areas of truth. Before long, you’ll begin to have a working knowledge of all the key areas important to understanding how life works. We encourage you to continue to build your mind through the content and learning available through Podcast Seminary. Below are nine areas all Christians should study for more comprehensive discipleship.