What is the One Prerequisite to Salvation?

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62:1, NIV)

Lots of people talk about salvation, but the question is salvation of what?

“Your soul.”

OK, my soul. But what am I saving my soul from?

“An eternity without God; eternal damnation!”

OK, but why do I need to save my soul from eternal damnation or an eternity without God?

“Because you’re a sinner!”

OK, but what makes me a sinner?

“You were born that way!”

The prerequisite to salvation is that we have to believe that we need saving in the first place! In order to believe that we need to be saved from anything, we have to understand who we are, who God is, and what awaits us in the future. Well, obviously in order to believe in all that, we need to also believe in God, but if you don’t already, stay tuned – we’ll get into that a little later on.

So, here we are. We’re told, “You need to be saved – from an eternity without God!” Many say, “From eternal damnation and hellfire!” Some would say, “No, from annihilation!” but I’ll go into that at a later point also. Either way, for now, let’s just say that it won’t be pretty and you won’t like it.

So, we’ve now heard that we’re not on a good path. A path that will be very ugly and terrible should we choose to remain on it. Maybe we don’t believe that we are on that path. Maybe we believe that we are on a good path.

Well, that depends. In order to understand what path we are on, we have to first look at who we are. We are sinners. That means, we have all committed some wrong, at some point in our lives. Now, keep in mind, that means any wrong. This applies even if we were hypothetically entirely good – except that one time when we did that one thing that we knew we shouldn’t or weren’t supposed to do . Well, that’s still one wrongdoing. Maybe somehow that was the only flaw ever, but that’s still “missing the mark”. Now, I don’t honestly think there is anyone out there who could say they have done only one thing wrong in their entire life, but even if there was, they would be included in this.

More so, one outward wrong isn’t the only way we can “miss the mark”. Let’s say that someone never outwardly lied, cheated, stole, murdered, cheated on their spouse, etc. But let’s say that they got really angry at some coworker and they thought, “Grr, I could just bash their face in!”  But he/she didn’t actually do that. Never lays a hand on the other person.

Or, maybe a married man sees a beautiful woman walking down the street and starts fantasizing about sleeping with her. But, he never physically goes after her in any way or even so much as speaks to her. Maybe some woman living in a small rambler, with an old beater car had a neighbor who had a large, lovely house. It was just beautiful. She also had designer clothes and a nice car. The woman was always cordial with her neighbor when she would visit her, but always went home frustrated and thinking, “I wish I had a house like hers, a car like hers, and all the money she has to throw around!”

Well, those are also examples of “missing the mark”.

One might at that point say, “OK, but that’s awfully extreme.”  Well yes, yes it is quite extreme.

One might also say, “Well, maybe I’ve done something like that, but so does everyone else! We all do stuff like that!” Well yes, yes we all do.

So, this is an awfully high standard that we have to achieve, right?

Well, who says we have to achieve that high of a standard? Why can’t the standard be a bit lower, more feasible? Well, that’s where God comes in. God is the standard of purity, holiness, truth, faithfulness, righteousness, and perfection. But, because He is that standard, He also requires that standard of us.

Well, shoot. We are in a real bind, here. We can’t meet that standard. We can’t achieve that level of perfection! We can only try to be “better than the next guy”.

OK, so we realize that we aren’t at a good level . . . but we can’t meet that standard. So what?

Well, according to the Bible, these people won’t go to heaven:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers [whose words are used as weapons to abuse, insult, humiliate, intimidate, or slander], nor swindlers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10, AMP)

Well, at that point, you might say, “Well I don’t do any of those things!” Well, that’s good. It’s still better to not be like that than to be like that. But, did you ever do any of those things? To any degree? Remember, a little white lie is still a lie! Have you ever been greedy? Have you ever been verbally abusive to someone? The point is, we have all done at least one of these things at least one time in our lives, if not multiple times, if not every day! And even if you don’t believe you have, the list gets longer.

So, we must concede that all of us have done at least one of these things, at least once in our lives, if not multiple of them all the time!

Well, at this point one might say, “I can’t help it! It’s in my nature. God will just have to accept that. I’m trying.”

Well, if you are one to say that, you are right about one thing. It is in your nature. It’s in mine too! But, I have bad news. He won’t “just accept that”. We’ll talk more about that later also, but remember that God requires His standard from each of us. Yet, we’re stuck with this awful state that we’re in.

This is why, we need a Savior. We can’t save ourselves from eternal darkness, eternal separation, eternal damnation – any of it! We can try our best but it simply isn’t good enough to meet God’s incredible standard.

See, we deserve a terrible punishment. We don’t always think that we do, but that’s because we are always prone to compare ourselves to other people. We have to compare ourselves to the standard of God, and then we realize just how badly we fall short. Also remember that not all sins are against other people, but all sins are against God. So even all the times when maybe we didn’t even know we were doing anything wrong, maybe we knew but we didn’t think it was that wrong, maybe we didn’t do anything but we had a defiant attitude… and even when we were younger, and we were disobedient or defiant to our parents! All of these are wrongdoings against God Himself.

However, there is one Person who meets that standard, fully. And, He already died in your place, and in my place. He chose to suffer a horrendous death on the cross for anyone who would choose to to their belief and faith in Him. Who is He? Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can satisfy the demands for God’s perfection because He Himself is not just fully man, but also fully God. He never committed a single sin, He never did anything wrong, in fact – He was perfect in every way. Yet, He humiliated Himself in every way (starting with taking on human nature!), and then suffered terribly in every way. He suffered humiliation, mockery, slander, betrayal, starvation, temptation, mental anguish, extreme stress, and excruciating physical pain – because He loves you and wants that badly for you to be with Him in eternity. 

Jesus Christ does not desire that anyone should spend eternity apart from Him. No one. Nada. Even the worst imaginable wrongdoings He is willing to forgive. Even if you’ve been sinning all your life, even if you’ve done some incredibly terrible things – Jesus will still forgive you, if you humbly ask Him to. If you admit that you’ve done some bad things – maybe a lot, maybe a little, maybe not even so much outwardly but you’ve had a lot of terrible thoughts – He is willing to forgive you of all of that if you will just confess it all to Him and ask for His forgiveness. The Bible clearly states how simple it is to have eternal life:

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40, NIV)

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20, ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)

Now that it is clear what we are facing, and now that it is clear how badly we miss the mark, and how ready and willing Christ is to accept you, there is only one question left to answer:

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Why Can’t the Bible be More Clear and Direct?

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130, NIV)

The other day, I was listening to someone, I believe it was Dr. William Lane Craig, talk about the salvation of children and infants. He said he believed that children and infants were saved automatically, as the Bible alluded to it, though it was not explicitly stated that way. He commented, however, that it was likely that God intentionally left that as an implication and not a direct statement due to the potential consequences if it was confirmed.

As I was listening, I started thinking about how there are many things in the Bible that aren’t explicitly stated. I thought about how many of these indirect statements and allusions the Bible makes and hence there are many divisions amongst believers on exactly what is believed. Although Orthodox Christianity as a whole agrees with the same core set of beliefs, there are so many variations in regards to the non-essential ones. And, there are groups who don’t agree with the same core set beliefs and branch off even further!

Does it mean that we have an arbitrary God who decided to make things more confusing that then leads people astray?

Of course not!

So I started thinking – what if the Bible were completely clear and straight-forward? 

It started as a point of sheer fantasizing – what if the whole Bible were as straight and simple as the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) are easy, straight-forward, and simple. What if instead of so many pages, it was a condensed booklet. What if it said something like this:

There is a God who is eternally existent and uncreated. He is a Spirit so you cannot see Him but He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God created the universe and all the water, land, plants and animals. God created man and woman. Man sinned and brought death and separation from God. God showed people many miracles and other signs as proof of His power and authority. God blesses and redeems those who believe in Him. God told the Israelites to sacrifice lambs to Him, because they were sinful and this was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and that is His Son. God brought the birth of His Son through a virgin to show it was a miracle. Jesus did many signs and wonders to prove He was the Son of God and therefore also God Himself. Jesus was hated by many because He claimed to be God and they did not recognize Him as the Jewish Messiah. Jesus suffered and died a horrible death on the cross bearing our sins. Jesus was raised again in a bodily resurrection just as everyone who believes in Him will be one day. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so sacrificing of lambs and animals, feasts, festivals, sabbaths and the rest of the Law will be fulfilled and therefore we are not kept under it. Salvation is achieved by belief and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the 2nd person of the Godhead, or what could be called the “Trinity”. Jesus will one day come back again, this time to ultimately defeat evil and rule the world.

Welp, there’s the Bible in a nutshell, right? So easy and clear, and such a quick read. Now, not everyone who might read this will even agree with all the statements posed above but, that’s a discussion for another time. Anyway, let’s back track and say there was no Bible as we know it today. Let’s say that the Bible as we knew it consisted of the statements above and some others to cover say, the 10 commandments, the 613 laws, etc.

That would make things extremely convenient! It would be almost like Cliff’s Notes for the Bible, right? (I’m sure those exist but I don’t actually know nor am I inclined to find out.) How much simpler would that be?

“Well, I have a question about this…”

“Well, God said this.”

“Oh, yep. Thanks!”

In the midst of my novel thinking, I pondered, “What if that were really the case? What would the harm be?”

For starters, to realize the gravity of the situation, we first must recognize that the Bible is not merely some fictional literature. It is not even a singular book. It is many books, written by many different people, over the course of centuries, compiled together to make one single Book that we know today as the Bible.

What makes the Bible a special book and what gives it the singularity is that it is entirely inspired by and about God. It’s sort of an autobiography, if you will, done in an entirely different way from what we are used to. The entire Bible is to reveal God to man. It’s actually a picture book of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are “pictures” of Jesus throughout the entire Old Testament, and the entire Bible is used to reveal Him. By pictures, I don’t mean that you have to find a copy of the Bible with illustrations! I mean that there are symbolic meanings to be derived out of multiple places in the Old Testament about Jesus, and not strictly in the intentionally prophetical parts (such as the book of Isaiah).

The story of Jonah in the belly of the whale is probably the easiest. He was in the whale for 3 days, Jesus was dead for 3 days. Joseph, Isaac, Ruth/Boaz, David, etc – all have symbolic meaning and parallels, as “pictures” of Jesus. This (along with all other prophesies and everything else) isn’t just for poetic purposes, these “pictures” are revelations so that the Jews who met Jesus, having read the Scriptures, would recognize their Messiah. This is also for us in this day, to solidify the claims of Jesus as the Son of God as well as learning all about the Lord Jesus Christ. We can recognize that if people centuries before His birth were writing about Him, and things they prophesied and wrote were coming to fruition not just in what He said, but also what happened to Him, we can recognize the truth in the previous sayings and the overall meaning and importance!

Without the detailed accounts of the Old Testament or the New Testament, we also don’t get to see the evidence that God is who He says. We don’t get to see why certain things happen the way they happened. We don’t get to see His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His patience, His trustworthiness. In short, it’d be similar to saying “I love you” but never showing it.

Without the detailed accounts, we would have no reason to know that God is who He says He is. So, even if it were somehow possible even to pass along all this through the generations, what reason would anyone have to believe any of what was said? If some man just walked up to you and said,”I’m the Son of God, which also means that I am God Himself but being constrained right now within a human body. You need to trust in Me. I love you,” would you believe it? Would you have any reason to? Now let’s say that you had that information and then the same man performed miracles in front of you. Would you then believe it? Exodus tells us that some of Pharoah’s wizards could do a few of the same things that Moses was doing. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t simply be that? Why would we even know to believe in God at all?

Let’s say that somehow He managed to prove Himself as Son of God back in His time. And then here we are now, a couple milleniums later. Why would we believe those accounts from then? What reason would we have if that was all the information we were given? That truly would be blind faith!

I think there are other reasons at play here. If God made it abundantly clear and straightforward, we would be even more accountable to not listen, yet we would not necessarily have much justification for doing so! If God made things abundantly clear, would we turn to Him for anything? Many people pray for wisdom, guidance, and understanding. What we miss is that it brings us to a dependency on Him, which is what He calls us to – complete dependency on and submission to Him! Well, if it was all spelled out for us, then we would all easily be self-righteous. For example, the ten commandments tell us not to lie, steal, murder, etc. Right? So we would all be even more inclined, I speculate, to say, “OK, well, I don’t do those things, so I guess I’m all set!” That’s not what God wants of us at all.

We can also take a look at the history of the Bible. As mentioned, what we know as The Bible is actually a compilation of books throughout centuries. We have to look at it and treat it as a book of history, as well as the Word of God. The point being, if it didn’t have any history to it, it would have likely been done away with long before now and/or there would be no reason for us to follow it now. Some of the statements made within the text are used to date the Scriptures and help confirm their validity to unbelievers. If a historian studies the claims of Scripture and finds that they are true historical documents, then he or she might come to believe in Christ as a result. If a historian has nothing to go by in Scripture, then that person would have no reason to believe a word of it and would rightfully chalk it up as historical fiction. Since it has been shown even in our present day as a historical compilation of books, as well as one where different books within it also validate other books within it, we can trust that this truly is the Word of God and not merely Aesop’s Fables.

In summary, my exercise in imagination actually just revealed to me more about how incredible God is. As Dr. Jerry Benjamin says, “Scripture explains Scripture.” Meaning that in large part, the things that might not be clear while you’re reading them here often become more clear while you’re reading something else about them later on. If we read on and pray for guidance, we can gain deeper understanding. But we have to keep reading the Word. If it was all laid out before us, we would probably shove it into a drawer – or worse, a trash can – and forget all about it. But it is ultimately the Lord who reveals Himself to us in the Word – which would not be nearly as profound, significant, or meaningful if we had the Bible merely as an instruction book with bulleted points and numbered lists.

The Story of Job – Do We Suffer Because God is Making Bets with Satan?

The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit. (Job 37:23-24, ESV)

One of my favorite books in the Bible is the Book of Job. It seems snuck in there out of nowhere because there’s no real lead up or aftermath. Job is referred to elsewhere in the Bible, but ultimately, the Book of Job seems very self-contained.

Job is a very popular book of the Bible for sermons and discussions on why we suffer. It’s actually an exquisitely perfect book for this purpose – perhaps why it’s in there!

If you’re never read the Book of Job, it’s a bit long but worth a read. The version I’ve linked to is the ESV and I’ll explain why in a moment.

The Book of Job starts by telling briefly about Job, how he is very wealthy and a very righteous man. Job is described as a “man [who] was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil”. Then it goes on to tell how he has all sorts of wealth by way of servants, herds and flocks, plus a wife and 10 children. We’re told that Job is even proactive by offering sacrifices just in case his children had sinned. Again, “blameless and upright” in every sense.

The story then takes a very odd sounding turn, where Satan joins the “sons of God” who are presenting their selves before Him. God inquires where he came from and Satan says he was walking around earth. Then we see this verse:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8, NKJV)

Now, this seems really strange. It reads as though God is literally offering up Job to Satan. Which, Satan then basically replies, “Of course he fears you! You’ve given him all this wealth! You’ve blessed him and all he has – but take it away and he’ll curse you to your face!”

God replies to Satan basically saying, “Fine. Do what you want with everything he has, but don’t do any harm to him.”

Satan proceeds to send in people who either steal or kill his children, flocks, and servants. Job is deeply hurt but does not sin against God.

Then, a little later on, the same thing happens. Satan shows up again, saying he’s been roaming the earth. God now tells him:

“Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Job 2:3, NKJV)

Satan responds in a similar way, this time basically saying, “Yeah, sure, but that’s because he values his life more than anything. If you cause him physical suffering, he’ll curse you to your face!”

God now basically tells him, “Do what you will to him, but don’t kill him.”

Job is 42 chapters long, but at the point above, we’re only into chapter 2.

Satan inflicts painful boils from Job’s head to his feet – covering his whole body. His wife even tells him, “Do you still hold your integrity? Curse God and die!” and he reprimands her foolish words.

Verse 10 tells us that through all this, Job still didn’t sin.

In verse 11, 3 of Job’s friends come to visit him and mourn with him. Initially they don’t say anything but then they start to pipe up and the next 29 chapters are two of the friends and Job talking. However, there is evidently a 4th person who is younger and is pretty much biting his tongue until chapter 32. The younger friend reprimands Job and his two friends and sticks up for God through to chapter 38, when God “speaks out of a whirlwind” and rebukes Job Himself (and what a rebuke indeed)! In chapter 42, Job repents and God rebukes his 3 friends (not the younger friend) for speaking wrongly of Him and Job’s wealth and family is restored.

As I mentioned, it’s a very fascinating book. The problem is that it seems to be frequently misunderstood, or not understood at all. The theme that I tend to hear in regards to the Book of Job is, “We may not always understand why we suffer.” I don’t know if this is even consistently followed up with something such as, “but God is in control of all things.” Now, that’s true. But stay with me!

The other argument I hear is typically from skeptics and unbelievers and goes something like this, “So when I’m suffering, it means that God is making bets with the devil?” – said in a sarcastic tone, of course!

Well, I have something that I’d like to point out to you that God opened my eyes to! But first, let’s examine what Job’s 3 friends were saying.

When I first heard the entire Book of Job via audiobook, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to understand what God reprimanded them for. I could understand why He said what He said to Job, but I didn’t see what the friends did wrong.

Later on, one of my favorite speakers happened to mention the Book of Job and in the process, explained. Job’s friends were accusing Job of being punished for sin. They had the assumption wealth, health and happiness came from good behavior, and pain, loss or suffering came from bad behavior. Therefore, Job was clearly being punished meaning he must have done something bad and he had to ‘fess up! This is why I linked to the ESV – the headers over each part of the conversation are very clear as to what is going on – so you won’t miss it like I did!

Job, on the other hand, was kind of basically declaring that he was righteous and therefore how could God do this to him?

God comes back at him with a sweeping, awe-inspiring response that in essence is saying, “Since when did you become God?” It is well worth the time to read even only that portion!

So then, what is the meaning of it? What is the meaning of our suffering, or even the meaning of this book?

Well, there are many possible reasons for suffering. I don’t think Job’s friends were wrong to conclude that it could have been punishment for some un-repented sin (though, assuming they were well aware of Job’s character they should have not assumed that anyway). Remember though, they were declaring that it was always the case. We do know that sometimes God allows hardship as a means of discipline or judgment but that is not the rule!

We could say that the real message of Job is simply, “We don’t know.” We don’t know why God allows suffering. We might retrospectively come to realize a possible reason, or even one of perhaps several reasons, maybe even during suffering we might realize a potential reason for it. We may never know the reason that we suffered because it may not become clear until after we’re dead. But ultimately, we just don’t know. Who knows the mind of God?

While I do maintain that the message of Job is in one sense ultimately, “We don’t/can’t know (because we aren’t God)”, I don’t believe that’s the whole message. Sure, part of the message is, “We don’t know, but we have to trust God that He will bring us through it.” That’s one common thing that I’ve seen in relation to the story of Job as it pertains to human suffering.

However, I also think that a lot of people ultimately miss the deep-down message. Now, maybe I’m underestimating. Maybe a lot more people have realized this. But I haven’t seen it much so I figure I’d share what God showed me.

God actually blessed Job in allowing him to suffer. Now, I don’t mean this at the end where God gives him back all his things. That’s a nice ending for Job, but that doesn’t mean that we can consistently expect the same result – especially not if we spend all our time complaining about our suffering!

But, how could Job’s immense, long suffering have possibly been a blessing? Sounds positively absurd, right? Well, to understand this, we have to think from what we know of God’s perspective and from our current perspective rather than from Job’s.

Still with me? Here’s what I mean.

We have the Book of Job. Job is famous as a righteous man and his story has been used countless times to help others. We take it for granted that we have this book in our Bibles, but Job didn’t know that people full millenniums later would be benefiting from his story. Job didn’t realize how God was blessing him with this alone. Job probably died with absolutely no indication of what all that was for. He may have died utterly perplexed as to the ultimate reason God had for that long period of loss and suffering in his life. Could there have been other reasons that God had that aren’t mentioned in the Bible? Sure! But we don’t need to know those other possible reasons to understand the definite reasons.

We can still see that Job has received a great honor. God not only allowed him an entire book of the Bible, but also that his story has been told for generations upon generations. His story has helped many people to take comfort in their suffering knowing that God is in control of all things. In short, God gave Job the great honor of using him to fulfill a much greater purpose.

That is why, no matter what situation we are put in and no matter how grim it may seem, it doesn’t mean that suddenly God is no longer in control and it certainly doesn’t mean that God no longer loves us. It means we have to put our trust fully in Him that He will not only take us through our situation but also that He has a reason and purpose for it, regardless of whether we ever realize it or not.

Any time that God can use us, we should be grateful and consider it a huge honor and privilege. To suffer and even die for Christ would be the greatest honor. This flies in the face of secular logic, but we have to remember that the Lord does many things we don’t understand at the time they are happening. I’m writing that as much to myself as I am to anyone reading this right now! I think we all forget that far too often.

To illustrate this, even to myself, every time I think about suffering in the name of Jesus I think about Rachel Scott. I didn’t know her by name, in fact I had to look her name up just to type that. But she is the girl who was killed at Columbine when they asked her if she was Christian. She didn’t denounce her Lord and Savior, and she paid for it with her life. But, here I am – not having known her at all, having only heard about her via the news, thinking to myself of how incredible it was that she did that. Despite being stared down by death, she did not reject Christ. As is now also the case with the recent victims of the Oregon Umpqua Community College shooting.

One of the most powerful responses I’ve heard to the question of where God is in the midst of our suffering, was said to a woman who said that she had prayed for God to share His mind with her. After praying the prayer, she said her health and the health of her family began to decline, with her suffering from multiple sclerosis at the time of the questioning. She wanted to know why she experienced such decline after praying that prayer.

One of the speakers gave a response to her direct question. He then sat down and his response was followed up by this response, by Muslim-turned-Christian, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi:

 We so take it for granted that we wake up in the morning. What say do we have, that we wake up in the morning? We go to sleep and we wake up and it happens regularly, so we take it for granted, but there’s nothing we do to make that happen cognizantly. And we think about, momentarily, the malady that you mentioned that you have – the multiple sclerosis. We just act, so immediately we act. We see things, we can point to it, and it’s so natural to us. We don’t even think about what’s happening here. That your brain and your nerves function as electrical systems, and you have capacitors that allow your signal to go from your brain to your finger. And for your muscles to work at the very fast rate at which they do. And those capacitors, if they stop working, these myelin sheaths, you get multiple sclerosis. Just one small part of a very complex system can cause such devastating effects. And as painful as it is, I think one thing that you have probably learned is just how beautiful it is, and how much people take it for granted when this amazingly complex system works the way it ought to. Something we take for granted every single day. And I know when I pray, early on when I began to pray as a Christian. . . You know I was a Muslim, formerly, and part of my prayer was the 5 daily prayers. It was very scripted. Everything was scripted. The only thing I got to choose in my 5 daily prayers was which portion of the Qur’an to recite. So when I began to learn to pray as a Christian these improvisational prayers, I used to say, ‘What am I supposed to pray?’ And I’d look at my hands as I’m praying, and I said ‘I’ve got 10 things to pray about right here.’ Every single [looking at fingers]. . . What if I didn’t have these? My whole life would be absolutely different. And so, you have learned that message unlike many of the rest of us will ever be able to learn it. But the other thing that I learned in the process of transitioning from Islam to Christianity . . . was that God – according to Islam we don’t learn this – God did not stand apart from your suffering. He didn’t watch you suffer and say, ‘I want to see what she ultimately does. I want to see what way she finds for herself.’ God takes a look at our suffering, and says, ‘I cannot remain aloof from that suffering. I will enter into it.’ You know, Jesus could have come as a prince in the human sense. He could’ve come with power. He could’ve come at any time in human history. He chose to come at a very specific time when people had invented how to execute people the most painful way ever devised, the most humiliating way ever devised. God said, ‘That type of suffering which goes beyond all other suffering, that’s what I will choose to take on for myself.’ He entered into it. And why did He do that? Out of love for you. He didn’t watch you suffer and stand aloof. He took that suffering upon Himself so that He could show us what true love was all about. And you are learning this, in a way none of us the rest of us will. So, I praise the Lord for who He is, and I praise the Lord for who you are. You were designed before the creation of the world – this is also a Christian truth. You were designed before the creation of the world with every single aspect of you in mind. You are not incidental. You are not random. You are not an accident. You are a loved creation of God, and that is absolutely amazing. So, if I can encourage you with anything, it’s who He is, and who He’s made you to be.

My prayer tonight as I’m typing this, for myself as well as for you, is that we live our lives both in submission and in gratitude to Him. When we are facing tough times, it is easy to get dismayed. But we need not be dismayed knowing that we have Christ. He knows our suffering, no matter how big or how small, and His hand is over all things, and all things He’s worked towards His ultimate purpose. We can rest our faith in Him and trust Him in all things.

A Brief Note on Christian Jargon

When I first thought to start this site, I initially thought about just sharing some of the invaluable lessons I’ve learned from great speakers and teachers. They aren’t speakers on TV, and I believe that between the lot of them, they have only a handful of books. However, much of their teaching is bar-none.

Shortly after initiating the website, I started studying other things and discovered a Mr. J. Warner Wallace of Cold Case Christianity, amongst a few others. He is an atheist-turned-Christian, which is always heart-warming to hear about.

I started listening to some of his podcasts and he mentioned something that intrigued me. He mentioned that while he was an atheist, he was turned off by people that talked with a lot of religious terms.

Despite being a Christian all my life, I could really understand his point and in fact, I’d thought that to myself before. I understand what people mean because I’m familiar with the lingo. But, what about unbelievers?

I would not go up to someone who barely understands how to turn a computer on and start trying to explain to them the intricacies of say, coding and syntaxes. They would look at me like a deer in the headlights and probably zone out completely. When I was done explaining, they’d be likely to tell me, “Well, I didn’t understand a word you just said!”

In the same way, I am not sure that a believer can come at an unbeliever with a mouth full of religious sayings. Now, it’s not to say that the words, phrases, and sayings wouldn’t be true. But rather, what good is it to explain it all in detail if someone won’t understand what you’re saying – or worse, will stop paying attention altogether?

I do realize that many people have heard “the Good News” (or what they perceive to be the alleged Good News) so much that they zone out. The danger is not so much that people will zone out (some will do so anyway because they simply don’t care to hear it regardless of how it’s explained). The danger rather is that they will tune you out with an assumption that they already know what you’re going to say and what you mean.

That is, if they’ve heard what they think is the same message, said the same ways, 200 times, they probably won’t feel compelled to hear it again.

In this site, I’m going to attempt to minimize (or at least, clearly explain) my use of popular Christian words and phrases as best possible. To some extent it simply isn’t possible in the same way that you can’t explain how to use a computer without referring to some aspects of it in those terms, which also further educates the user. In the same way, I intend to keep my use of specific words to a minimum not to downplay what I’m saying, but rather to keep it clear for a broader audience.

Hopefully I will be successful in this endeavor. Perhaps for now, I should just focus on rambling a bit less.

Does Being Christian Mean Giving Up Pastimes and Activities?

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24, NIV)

When I was younger, around high school age, I recall that one of the things that many of my peers said of why they did not want to become Christian, was fear of what they would have to “give up”. If they became Christian, they felt they would have to give up activities that they probably shouldn’t have been doing anyway at that age, as well as other things such as “not listening to rap or rock music”. This was interesting to me. I can’t say that I knew any better myself at that time, because I honestly can’t recall.

As I grew up though, and learned more, attended conferences and heard some wise speakers, I realized that my peers along with many adults, are potentially mistaken. Now, before I go on, I’m certainly not advocating any immoral, illegal, unethical, or even just unwise behaviors! These are broad statements and clearly there are some activities that no one ought to participate in, for their own good, regardless of their beliefs.

But going back to the original topic at hand, the idea that they had seemed, to me, to be that they would become Christian, then they’d have to stop doing all these things and that would be that. I’d like to say that only teens have this mindset, but I get the impression that many adults do, too. I think that there are many people out there who don’t come to God because they do all these “bad” things.

Now, there are a couple roads we could take from here, and there is a huge difference between the two. We’re at the fork in the road, and it’s between “can’t” and “won’t”.

The “can’t” road is, I think, where some people are fouled up with sincerity. They have problems, they have things wrong with them or with their thinking, and they recognize that they are wrong, but they don’t know how to fix them. They could have a drinking problem, or a drug addiction, a gambling problem, sex addiction, pornography addiction, you name it. Maybe it’s not an addiction or any ongoing problem, but they’ve done something really awful that they are deeply ashamed of. Perhaps, even so deeply ashamed that they’ve built up walls around themselves, walls so high and so thick that they feel protected from anyone ever finding out their deepest, darkest secret(s). I’m sure there are even people out there who perhaps sense God’s presence and His calling, but they’ve rejected it, they’ve squelched it day after day, month after month, year after year. Perhaps they’ve even resisted Him with a great deal of pride. I believe there are still people out there in this day who sincerely believe they can’t come to God because of what they do or have done.

Then there’s the “won’t” road. It’s quite possible, if not most likely, that my peers were expressing an attitude that is prevalent in many adults these days. That is, an attitude of “I’m going to do what I want to do, when and how I want to do it.” That is, after all, our right as we enter into adulthood, isn’t it? Once that 18th birthday rolls around, once we have our own income, once we are out of our parents’ homes – whatever the case may be, that’s when we finally become free, right? Free – to do what we want! This is the “won’t” road. It’s not that we feel we can’t, it’s that we won’t. We want to enjoy our freedom and we don’t want anyone telling us what we can and cannot do. Once no longer are under the watchful eye of parents, we’re not going to willfully put ourselves under the watchful eye of “some God”.

If you’re going on the “won’t” road, you might be open to a belief that God is out there, maybe you even recognize that God exists and have a general “belief in God”. But you don’t want to submit to His authority. If you’re on the won’t road, then I can’t help you here. I can pray for you, but I can’t help you. However, if you are truly on the “won’t” road, you may not even want help at this point and time. Then again, if you’re on the “won’t” road but you’re here reading this, maybe you do. 🙂

We’ll have more discussion about the “won’t” road in a moment because the sign for this road is not well lit and it’s easy to turn down the wrong path and even Bible-believing Christians can end up here almost unwittingly. (I speak from experience!) The “won’t” road definitely isn’t an ultimate end, though.

However, if you’re on the “can’t” road, then there is some very Good News for you! This is, in very short order, why I decided to make this site. So many people think they have to do all these things, they have to strive so hard. We’ll talk more about it, but I won’t keep you waiting until then!

You don’t have to give up anything to become Christian.

There, I said it! It might fly in the face of much of what you know or have heard, but trust me on it.

Becoming a Christian is not about what we give up, it’s not about what we stop doing, it’s not about how we have to start spending our Sundays. Becoming a Christian is not about a what, or a how, or a when, or a where, or a why – it’s about a Who. It’s about knowing Jesus and believing in Him.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. However, many people try to dilute or destroy the message by adding to it, taking from it, or changing it in some other way. In reality, the theme throughout the entire Bible, Old and New Testament, are “Believe in the Lord and you will be saved.” The message hasn’t really changed, but I think a lot of people unfortunately miss that. We’ll have to go more into that another time, too.

It’s clear from even this one above verse, which is in no uncertain terms, that it is sincere belief in and declaration (confession) of Jesus Christ as Lord that gets you saved. Nothing more or less. Nothing else. That is the Good News for everyone, but it is especially great for all the “can’t” folks. Remember that the apostles, when Christ first called them, were not men that everyone looked up to, but that everyone looked down on. If there is anything that is holding us back from coming to Christ, we can let it go. It doesn’t have to hold us back any longer. Christ loves us exactly as we are, right now, at this very moment. Even if we have treated Him terribly, He still loves us.

Now, one more word about the “won’t” road. Even this road has a couple forks. There are some people who are stuck in a particular bad behavior, addiction, or what-have-you and maybe they don’t want to give it up! Maybe this isn’t necessarily an attitude of not wanting to submit to another’s authority, but they just really like doing what they do.

That’s OK! Christ still will accept and love every one of us!

How can that be? That is the common teaching right – “Turn from your sin!” ? That’s especially common teaching in the hellfire, condemnation preaching (I generally do not like that sort of preaching at all). So am I just spouting nonsense with too much emphasis on the love and acceptance?

No.

We can come to Christ in any state that we are in. He wants us all to be with Him and to love Him, as He loves us. It isn’t about what, it is about Who. We can all come to Christ in our most sinful state. If we are sincere about our belief, that’s what matters most. If there is a problem that needs to be resolved, let Him work on that! He wants to! It may take lots of time, or it may be instantaneous. But when we come to Him, He will work on us. He will convict us so we recognize when we are doing wrong, but He will also take us through it. In other words, He doesn’t want you to “try really hard to stop”; He wants to be your strength to stop.

As I mentioned, there is another fork down the “won’t” road. That is when we want to do what we want to do, and it isn’t a behavior or an activity we don’t want to give up, it’s control. We don’t want to give up control of our lives. We don’t want to submit to His authority. Not just now, not just for this set of circumstances, but period. This is the part that no one can help with, except God Himself. If we are set in our ways, set in our wills, and we are opposed to Jesus telling us what to do in any situation, well… Only God can fix that. The scary thing is that we can become believers and still hold this attitude, sometimes without even realizing it! (Again, I speak from experience!)

But if you are willing to let Christ intervene in your life, if you are willing to let Him take control, He will gladly do it. He loves us more than we can ever know or understand. His love is unfathomably great for us. I do hope that whatever fork of the road you might be on right now, that you will pray and ask God to guide your path. He will be faithful.

How can you tell who is a Christian?

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-23)

 

What is Christianity? What does it mean to be a Christian? How do you know when someone is a Christian, or not?

There should only be one meaning to this. There is only one true meaning. But these days, there are seemingly countless meanings and definitions that people have ascribed to Christianity. It seems like so many people will claim to be Christian, and yet some have no idea what it even means.

If you aren’t sure what I mean, consider that the following groups would all consider themselves “Christian”:

  • Presbyterians
  • Mormons
  • Baptists
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Lutherans
  • Seventh Day Adventists
  • Methodists
  • Catholics
  • Pentecostal
  • Apostolic Pentecostal
  • and more…

All these groups will generally identify as Christian, but many of these groups have wildly different beliefs from other groups. How can that be? I realize that some or most of these would specify that they belong to their individual belief group (i.e. Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostal etc), but if you asked most people in these groups, “Would you consider yourself a Christian?” they would almost certainly say, “Yes”.

If you’ll permit me, let me take this a step further…

Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn, “Reverend” T.D. Jakes, Casey Treat, and Kenneth Hagin (“Word of Faith” preachers) would, I presume, all proclaim to be Christian.

Even the notorious “Westboro Baptist Church” would almost certainly, given the title Baptist, proclaim to be Christian.

Now… many people will realize that some of these groups have very different beliefs, even if they generally sound the same on paper, but some won’t. If you do not clearly know what it means to be a Christian, then you might simply categorize all these groups as being “Christian” and not see what the difference is.

It reminds me of the Family Guy episode where Seth MacFarlane interjects a brief animation of a Seventh-Day Adventist character meeting a Methodist character. The Methodist says, “I am a Methodist. We believe that the Lord is our Savior, and we remember Him by going to church and praising Him every Sunday.” The character playing the Adventist then says, “I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist. We believe all the same things that you believe, but we go to church on Saturdays.” The Methodist character then is taken aback, exclaiming, “Whaaaaaaaaaat?” followed by his eyes bugging out, him hitting himself on the head with a frying pan, and so on.

Seth MacFarlane is an atheist, who voiced (and I would assume, wrote) both characters and their dialogue. This actually illustrates my point well explains my point of how – not knowing what it means to be a Christian – anyone who claims to “believe in Jesus” can seem to be one. It seems that from his perspective, he sees that Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists are one and the same with the only exception being the day of the week that they choose to worship.

The words in that clip, taken literally, are not wrong. However, this vague description does not even go near the reason behind the difference in days, nor the underlying beliefs of the respective groups, whatsoever. I can’t say it “doesn’t scratch the surface” (although that is true), because he doesn’t even attempt to provide any explanation – thus making Methodists (and other Sunday-worshipping Christians) sound overly judgmental and rude over what he seems to perceive as merely a choice in days of the week.

We’ve looked so far at mostly the more extreme ends of things, and some of the different groups. But, what about your average Joes? What about your neighbor down the street, or that guy who lives around the corner? Perhaps even, what about you?

If you go to church every Sunday (or, Saturday, as it may be) – does that make you a Christian?

If you read the Bible from cover to cover, does that make you a Christian?

If you memorize chunks of the New Testament, does that make you a Christian?

If you “believe in Jesus”, does that make you a Christian? If so, what do you have believe about Jesus to thus declare you a Christian?

If you “do unto others as you would have them do to you”, and “love your neighbor”, does that mean you are a Christian?

Maybe it’s if you abstain from drugs, alcohol, fornication and adultery, pornographic materials, gambling, smoking… Would that make you one?

What does a Christian have to do or not do in order to be considered one?

I’d like to tell you a little story. I lived in the Bible belt area for about 5 years. I spent a little of that time working in a hospital, and met a lot of people. One of the things I was supposed to ask people was if they had a “religious preference”. This wasn’t to say they were on their death beds, it was just a standard question that was on the list whether you were getting an X-ray, having surgery, giving birth, etc.

Wouldn’t you know it? Almost everyone who I asked claimed to be Christian! This was evident not just from the vast number of people who actually said “Christian”, but also from the vast number of people who would say “None” (i.e., no religious preference). Since this was not a common occurrence, I would occasionally ask them again, to make sure that I had it down correctly. Many a time, someone would revise their statement and either say, “Well I believe in God…” or “Well, I’m Christian”… When they said “None”,  it seems they understood it to mean something along the lines of “Do you have a particular denomination?” It seemed that it was supposed to be a given understanding that of course they were Christian.

I even had people who would say that, and then revise their statement and say, “Well, I’m Baptist…” I do understand that some people say “None” and mean “None”, as in, they may believe in God but they have no particular affiliation and/or some people simply no longer wish to be associated with the title of Christian for this or that reason. That generally did not seem to be the case though in most of my encounters.

One gentleman even floored me. I walked into his room and I was getting his information. When I came to that question, he said “None”. I double-checked, as usual, and he said, “Well, I believe in God… they’re all the same though, aren’t they?” (asked in a light-hearted, rhetorical tone) I may not have his words exact, but the literal implication was that all gods were the same as the Christian God.

My point is this: There are many people these days who seem to think that “being Christian” simply means that you have belief in Christ. They think that if you go to a “Christian” church every week, you must be one. Even Christians, are guilty of this assumption of others. If someone attends church every weekend and sees someone else attending every weekend also, the assumption is that they are there as a Bible-believing Christian as well.

Christianity, as the religion it’s become (which it was never meant to be), generally means that you go to church each week, read the Bible on occasion, pray at times, and have a high moral standing.

Christianity as the religious stereotype generally seems to imply someone judgmental of others, yet hypocritical in doing the some of the same wrongs themselves. The stereotype is close-minded people who don’t follow the very Person we profess to believe in, and constantly preach judgment, wrath, and condemnation. People who “don’t practice what they preach”, but think that they are better than everyone else.

Liberal Christianity involves a relatively different teaching, possibly instated initially to try to combat the stereotypical view, but more likely to try to appease the world. Liberal Christianity (perhaps/also by other terms) seems to be a rather recent phenomenon and involves pastors or sermons who seem to refuse to preach anything except “love”, tolerance, and acceptance of all – not in a sense that God will not turn anyone away from His love and mercy, but in a sense of accepting whatever decisions and lifestyles people believe are right and good as “right” and “good”, regardless of what the Bible might say about the topic at hand. Not quite the level of Joel Osteen, but rare to preach about anything that might sound negative or remotely intolerant.

Then there are Christian cults, which further illustrates my point in that it is a cult, but designated “Christian” simply for the aspect of belief in Jesus. These groups do not follow true Christianity, but since they have some belief in “Jesus”, they will use the term “Christian” at times. What they neglect to mention is that the things that they believe about Jesus are not the same things believed in orthodox Christianity; hence they believe in a different Jesus.

There are many possible perspectives of what it means to be a Christian, but only one is Biblically accurate. However, the title of “Christian” has become badly tainted by all these perspectives, as well as professing Christians who do not accurately represent Christ in major ways or virtually any ways.

These many perspectives can confuse people of other religions (or non-religious people), and even confuse or turn off people who would otherwise consider themselves to be Christian! Not all who profess to be Christian truly believe in the same Christ. Not all who profess to be Christian truly believe the same things about Christ. Not all who profess to be Christian are Christians at all.

There is only one true Jesus, and there is only one true Christ, and there is only one true God. Christianity was never meant to be a religion. It happens, of course, that we use the term “religion” broadly, to describe any religious beliefs, but true Christianity is actually far narrower than that.

The whole point of this site is to both look at what is and is not Christianity, but more so to get away from the labels, the titles, the religion – and to get back to the One who the religion was based on, the One who is our all. The One, named Jesus Christ.

Do You Follow Christianity, or Do You Follow Christ?

Hello, and welcome.

Do you consider yourself a Christian?

Whether your answer is “yes” or “no”, how do you define it? What does it mean to be a “Christian”?

What would you say makes you a Christian, or not a Christian? Who is saved, and who is not?

Can you tell from looking at a person’s clothing, or their hair, or their music, or even their words – what that person might believe?

What sorts of things do Christians do, or say?

Can we judge a book by its cover?

I will be using this website to share with you what I know, what I have learned, and what I understand about Christ, and about Christianity.

I’m not a scholar, I don’t know any language but English, and I’m certainly not perfect. But, neither is the modern church, and I think that it’s in dire need of quite an overhaul.

Let’s go beyond borders, and let me share with you the teachings of those wiser than me, whose faith is so much stronger than mine.

Let’s see some of the awe-inspiring things that God has done for His people, in all His vast love and mercy.

Let’s take a look at what it really means to “live the Christian life”.

Let’s get away from Christianity the religion, and let’s look for Christ.

Will you join me?