Who Would Make This Stuff Up?! – Part 1

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV)

Every so often, someone who does not believe in the Bible will want to claim that it is all just made up. Some man, woman, or group’s fantasy writing – to be categorized along with all the other legends and lore. Sometimes they will imply that by saying that people have added to it or changed it, therefore how can we trust it?

Take notice that in that particular accusation, the implication isn’t even  that it isn’t originally God’s Word, which then opens the door for a host of other questions to the accuser! But, that’s for another time.

The thought we are exploring today is the idea of it being all made up. After all, plenty of people have made up stories and tried to convince others of something being true, in order that they might have some personal gain. Think about all the propaganda touted throughout the years. If someone stands to gain power, control, authority, money – one can bet they will do whatever they can to make sure the needful happens!

So, why do we think that there’s just no way that the Bible was made up? Isn’t it the stuff of legends? Aren’t there many other legendary stories of a similar nature? What makes us so sure that the Bible isn’t just another book in the same vein?

Well, although there isn’t a hard, set way to confirm it (since we weren’t there and can’t go back to check), there is a variety of good evidence for the Bible. And we can look into that evidence another time, but right now I’m going to take an adventure down a different path. The evidence supports the idea that this is truly the inspired Word of God that He breathed into existence, but I’m going to take it a step further and say common sense tells us that this is truly the inspired Word of God. When I say that it is a common sense conclusion to make, I’m contrasting that to say otherwise is nonsense.

This isn’t a circular, “I believe the Bible so therefore the Bible is true because it says it is,” argument. I’m going to try my best to take it step-by-step to make various points, and we’ll see where it takes us. Bear with me, this is a bit of new ground for me. May God give me the words to write as He did while I was driving in the car the other day, having these thoughts originally!

Our First Consideration

Before we get deep into any sort of discussion, let’s start with a very simple imaginative exercise. Now, feel free to keep this entirely to yourself. Be as honest with yourself as possible, and for the sake of argument, give it more than a moment’s thought. Here’s our question:

What do you think that God should be like?

Now, I left this question very open-ended because I want you to take this in whatever way(s) you think it should mean, and in all the ways you think it should mean. What should God be like, according to you? What would be ideal to you?

As I said, start by mulling over this as this will be the base that we build up from. While we’re pondering though, I will say that many people have already gone on this adventure in their imagination and I think that’s where a lot of the misconception of our God stems from. But, I will reiterate that the purpose of this is not to say that this is what we think God is like, but what we hypothetically would want God to be like if it were somehow our decision.

If you are reading this and you are a believer in Christ, then hopefully you love Christ precisely as He is and for all that He is. However, if we are honest with ourselves deep down, then we know that hiding under all the outside “goodness”, there lies a lot of evil. It’s evil that only Christ is able to contend with.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. For everyone who is practicing evil matters hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20, ISR)

So, what do you think God should allow, or disallow? What sorts of character traits do you think would be ideal?  Even go so far as to say what would your personal preference be? We’ll investigate this further next time, but meanwhile, feel free to share this in the comments if you’d like.  Most importantly,  give it some thought and honest reflection for when we come back to this discussion, God-willing, next week or so.

But, I’m a Good Person!

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” – (Luke 18:19, NIV)

There is a belief that has been around probably since the beginning of time, that generally goes as follows:

I should be able to go to heaven because overall, I’m a good person.

It seems logical enough, doesn’t it? A good many people seem to believe this, if the internet is any indication. I’d like to hope that isn’t the reality, but the internet spans quite a number of people so I’d be inclined to wonder…

The idea is that if we are generally “good”, then we ought to be allowed entrance into heaven. We shouldn’t be turned away, and we certainly shouldn’t be subjected to an eternity of torment. The question is, how do we determine what qualifies as “good”, and what then qualifies as “good enough” – to get into heaven?

Well, so far we’ve touched on this point in a roundabout way a few times now, but I figured I’d do one more post to really spell it out, just in case.

There are a couple problems with this line of thinking. It’s easy to see how many people struggle with it because of all sorts of methodologies devised to avoid it. For example, many believe that everyone can work their way into heaven with enough good deeds, or maybe enough good deeds to outweigh the bad in a sort of 60/40 mindset. Others believe that God sent Christ to die for all people, therefore everyone who isn’t evil or wicked will be saved. You know, not the really bad guys but – everyone else. Some believe that Christ died for all people and therefore everyone will be saved regardless.

It’s fascinating to me that many people hold a strong objection toward the idea of needing to believe in Christ in order to be saved. That is, they will accept that He saved them – as long as it applies regardless of whether or not they choose to believe in Him. Oftentimes, it goes back to an argument such as this: I am a good person, so Christ’s death should save me also, even if I don’t believe in Him, if God is all-loving.

Now, I have never heard any one person use that specific argument. However, I’ve known of many people who have a general belief that if God is all-loving, He must save them too regardless of what or who they do or don’t believe in. He must save everyone, except those really evil people!

Well, we are again brought back to a point of, “Who determines what is good?” and, “Who determines what is evil?” and furthermore, “Who determines what qualifies as good enough to enter heaven?” This is where it comes back to the original argument – Well, I’m better than these people, or these people, or even most Christians I’ve met! Should I rather be like you – bigoted and hypocritical?? 

Ouch.

I haven’t heard that particular argument said to me directly, but I’ve seen a variation of it and heard the gist of it before. Sometimes not with the last part, but almost always with the first.

Now, sometimes people will go back to the 10 Commandments, or the golden rule. That is, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, treat others the way you wish to be treated… So if they keep those, they are good, right? They overlook all the other commandments, but that is not the point. Some people will also throw in other characteristics that aren’t listed – ones that they may even accuse many Christians of being, but that they don’t consider themselves to be – bigoted, judgmental, sexist, homophobic, etc. So what’s the problem with that person? He or she is clearly a “good” person, and may even be a better person than me! I should be the one ashamed and they should definitely be the one to enter heaven.

But, again. What qualifies as “good enough”? Why is it that we Christians think we are somehow good enough to be qualified to enter heaven, yet we think that these other people who are maybe even more morally upright than us, somehow aren’t? How can we be so utterly arrogant as to make such an implication?

Well, we aren’t “good enough”.

But, how then can we claim that we will go to heaven? How can we possibly claim that we are going to go to heaven and everyone else will go to an eternity of torment?! That’s ludicrous to suggest, right? What arrogance!

Now on the other hand, someone might see a Christian who is truly a living witness. They are living as Christ lived. Meeting them is almost as though you are meeting Christ face-to-face. Well, they should be good enough, right? Granted all Christians are called to be living witnesses, yet not so many are – and I do not exempt myself from that at all. I am absolutely not the living witness I should be. But, I and many people can see that my dad is like that. He is still goofy and silly, but at his heart he has many Christ-like qualities. And everyone who knows him, loves him, and appreciates all he does. So, going back to the idea of being good enough, am I suggesting that my dad would not even qualify? Is he not good enough to get into heaven??

No. He’s not.

How can I say that? How then do I qualify what is good enough?!

Well, that’s the question at hand, isn’t it? What is good, and what then is good enough? Well, I don’t decide what is good, let alone what constitutes good enough. God does. It’s His heaven. I am not the judge of who goes in, He is. That said, none of us are the judge of who enters, only Him. Only He can say who is good enough to enter heaven. But, this brings us back to the original argument, “Well, He should think me good enough since I am not like all these other people!”

Do you know the real heart of the matter? It’s pride.

Pride tells us that we should be good enough, pride tells us that we should be able to work our way into heaven. Pride tells us that at some point, we should be deemed good enough unless we know we’re really bad. Now, I can’t say, “And that’s fine,” but I can say that it’s understandable because we are all proud.

Now, with this idea one might be inclined to say, “I’m not proud! I don’t walk around all cocky like so-and-so! I am not a narcissist!” I know that I would certainly be saying that myself if someone just claimed that I was proud! I would say there’s no way. In fact, I’m largely self-defeating – isn’t that the polar opposite of pride? I put myself down and see where I fail more often than I build myself up and see where I succeed. How can that be prideful?

Well, this is where our human definition is different from God’s definition. And deep down, we are all proud. We don’t want to admit it, and we, like myself, often may not even see it. But it’s there. Pride is what makes us want to be like gods. Not in the fashion of Zeus or some other false god, but rather in the characteristics that God holds. He is not accountable to anyone. He is not dependent on anyone. He is (literally) better than everyone else. He makes the choices. He has the final decisions. He says, “This will happen this way,” and it does. He is worthy of respect, glory, honor, and praise. He issues rewards and punishments. He knows literally everything.

What God says goes, every time.

Now, think for a minute with me. Regardless of how mopey we might feel at times, regardless of how self-loathing we might feel at times, or regardless of how good we feel about ourselves at times, let’s look at these characteristics.

  • When was the last time you wanted to be treated with respect, if not demanding it?
  • When was the last time that you wanted to be or feel independent of others?
  • When was the last time that you thought, in some way, that you were better than someone else?
  • When was the last time that you wanted to have the final say on a particular decision?
  • When was the last time that you – secretly or openly – wanted recognition or praise for something you’d said, done, or even just how you are?
  • When was the last time you wanted to tell someone what to do?
  • When was the last time that you thought you knew how to handle a particular situation better than someone else did?

Is it possible that you wanted one or more of those…today? Yesterday? Within the week? Have you ever felt like that? This is where pride really rears its ugly head, because even when you seem the opposite of proud, you can almost certainly agree with one or more of those above points. This is where I am convicted! I frequently use self-defeating humor and often I feel what seems to be the opposite of proud. And yet, when it comes down to it – boy, do I ever get angry when someone cuts me off in traffic, or tailgates, or when someone gets recognition for something good that I said or did at work!

How dare they?! Who do they think they are?!

Have you ever had a thought like that? What follows that line of thinking? We sometimes stop there – accusing the other person of thinking that they are so high and mighty. Yet, underlying that is frequently, if not always, a thought that they are doing it to us. We “do not deserve“to be treated that way!

Consider when we see someone cut someone else off in traffic. Or speed excessively. Or run a red light. What’s our reaction then? When it isn’t happening to us directly, we might have a similar reaction of “Who does that person think they are?” or “Gee, they think they own the road, don’t they?” but we typically won’t get fuming mad if it is happening to someone else. Why is that? Why don’t we get just as mad to see it happening to someone else as we get when it happens to us? Or, alternatively, why don’t we stay as calm when it happens to us as we do when it happens to others?

More so, why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standard? If we are getting tailgated, we might get furious at the person doing it. We might do things like slow down to make them angrier (guilty…) or make a (hopefully not) obscene gesture at them, depending on how well we can keep our calm. But, if we are tailgating someone, well, we have a reason for it. We are trying to get somewhere! It’s important! THE BANK CLOSES IN 10 MINUTES, CAN’T YOU GO ANY FASTER?!

Again, it’s because when it happens to us, the perception is that we are being slighted. It is almost like a sort of personal attack, offense, or insult against us! But when we do it to others, we justify our behavior. We have reasons for it. And if someone gets mad at us for the same behavior that we get mad at, well, they’ll just have to deal with it. Or, if they would just hurry up, or move over at least!

OK, I went off on a pretty big tangent, but you can see where it goes. Traffic, incidentally, is a great illustration for our pride. We get behind the wheel and often morph into someone vastly different than who we are face-to-face. But it all boils down to the same thing – we think we’re important! We think we are important and that we deserve respect. We take disrespect personally and it angers us.

Now, how did Christ feel?

This is a very tough pill even for a believer to swallow. We get so angry about petty things because we think ourselves of high value. We think ourselves worthy of respect, and maybe even praise.

We think that we are good people. Yet, we’re not.

We all sin and we all do embarrassing, faulty, shameful, reprehensible, perverted, deceptive things. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can admit that we have all done things like that. Maybe we haven’t done all those things. Maybe we don’t do them that much or maybe not that bad. That doesn’t matter – we still do them.

We think that we are good because we want to be like God. We want to be so much like God that we want to act as our own god. I am not exempt from this behavior and likewise, other believers aren’t either. We all have the sin nature, and we all have the desire to act as our own god. We all have the desire to be like God, not to know God. We want to make the decisions, we want to show we are better, we want to be worthy of praise and respect, and we want to think that we are good.

Well, it’s not an easy think to accept, which is I think why so many don’t. Again, there are so many methodologies and theories to try to get around this because our pride blinds us to the fact that we even have it! We think we are good people, so we don’t want to see that we are, in fact, vile. Job, a man “proclaimed blameless and upright” by God Himself was overtaken with self-righteousness. When God confronted him on it, he said:

Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand on my mouth. (Job 40:4, AKJV)

I think that one of the biggest things that keeps people from believing in Christ is accepting that they are actually not “good” people. But, Christians are no different. None of us are “good people”.  The reason we turn to Christ is simply that we don’t see ourselves as being good enough to enter into God’s presence out of anything that we can possibly do. We can’t say enough, do enough, serve enough – nothing that we do or say could ever possibly be enough to deem us worthy to enter God’s presence. There’s only one Person who is. His Son. His Son, who lived a perfect life on earth only to sacrifice Himself in our place. Because He knows we aren’t perfect, and He knows we aren’t good enough – and never could be. He knows that the only way that He can bring us into His presence is to provide the only worthy sacrifice – that is, Himself.

God’s Dictionary vs. Man’s

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – (John 14:27, NASB)

Do you ever notice that the things of God don’t mean quite the same as the things of man? Christ spoke about what He had to offer, and specifically, as in the verse above, how it wasn’t like what the world had to offer. For example, worldly peace and worldly joy is based almost entirely on circumstances and events. The peace and joy that Christ gives we can have in all times and in all situations.

Not only that, but when He gave His interpretation of some of the ten commandments, they were quite different from what we typically have in mind. In fact, He proclaimed that getting into heaven was basically impossible – without God. Evidently, His interpretation was also quite different from that of the Jews of His day.

Now, I can’t say I know His whole dictionary or anything, but I would say that a huge part of coming to understanding the Bible, etc is to understand God’s definitions in contrast to our human definitions.

I personally speculate that some of the biggest misunderstandings with unbelievers starts merely at the definitions. It seems so basic, and yet if we miss it, it can change our entire perspective. This would be merely a problem in getting people to believe, if it weren’t that some who claim to be Christian also have these same problems! I think this is partly where a lot of cultic beliefs and false religions come from. I would definitely say that some come from intentional malevolence (desire for power, money, etc), but some could also come from misunderstandings. Even those that don’t originate from misunderstandings seem to be well fueled by them. A person may be confused about a particular issue, and if a group has an appealing solution, the confused person might be very drawn to join that particular group.

Even if someone doesn’t fully join a cult group, I think many people develop a similar way of thinking but minus a specific doctrine. For example, someone may decide that they believe in annihilationism, but not become a Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist or any other group that adheres to that belief. I disagree with annihilationism, but we’ll discuss that another time.

So, what is the difference God’s dictionary and man’s? Well, let’s first understand that man only knows what man knows! It may seem that I’m stating the obvious, but pride makes it very easy to overlook that. When we give thought to things that we are well aware we know nothing about, it’s easy to admit. For example, I could not even begin to tell you how to build a car. I know it. I only have vague knowledge of the parts that are even in a car, let alone how they all go together. I am not ignorant enough to try and tell anyone how to put a car together as though I have any knowledge or understanding myself. That’s no problem.

It’s a whole different story, however, if it comes to something that I do know, such as how to drive a car. I can’t drag race or drift around corners, but if someone starts telling me how I should drive, or implying that I can’t – we might exchange some words! (And if we did, that would be my pride showing its ugly face.)

I personally think that the same thing comes up with the definitions of God. We know how to love, we know how to trust, we know peace, and joy, and faith. Right? We know all these things. “Been there, done that.” I suspect that was roughly also the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yes, they wanted to hold their power over the people, but Christ was also treading on their teachings themselves. He wasn’t just saying they were hypocrites, He was saying they weren’t good teachers, either. Now, that’s not all He said that was inflammatory, but even if He didn’t also claim He was God, His statements would have still been offensive to them.

So let’s get on with it, shall we? Let’s take a look at a few words that don’t quite mean to God what they mean to us.

Pride

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people
: a feeling that you are more important or better than other people
: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.

Man’s Definition:
Pride is something good, as long as it doesn’t lead to narcissism or someone too cocky. We typically say things like, “You should be proud of what you’ve done.” And we say, “Take pride in your work,” and, “Be proud of who you are.” Generally speaking, we value pride in ourselves and others, as long as it doesn’t go too far. We feel we deserve respect and we like to feel important. We know we are better at certain things than other people, and we enjoy showing things off and receiving the admiration that results. Many people don’t think they are prideful, except maybe when they’ve done something particularly great. Independence and self-sufficiency are sought after and valued amongst all.

God’s Definition:

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV)

Pride is sin. This isn’t true every possible application of the word (as shown above), but the vast majority. Pride is at the heart of pretty much every sin, and it’s what tells man that he doesn’t need Christ. He doesn’t need God at all. He can do everything himself, why does he need God? Pride says that man doesn’t need salvation, he is a good person, so God should accept him as-is. Pride tells man that he worked for this, he obtained this, he did all the work and should take all the glory. Pride doesn’t acknowledge God having any part in anything. Pride is not thankful to God for anything because pride completely removes God from the picture. Pride tells man he can do all things – but doesn’t include, “through Christ who strengthens me”. Pride says that if you need God, you must be weak, but “I don’t need God.” Pride drives people towards independence and self-sufficiency and keeps them from God. Pride robs God of glory that only He deserves by proclaiming that we did everything ourselves. God hates pridefulness in man.

We should instead be proud of the God whom we serve, and the wonderful things He does. We should be proud of Christ our Savior, and the miraculous works He’s done for us, in providing the sacrifice for our sins.

Love

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
: attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
: a person you love in a romantic way

Man’s Definition:
Love takes various forms. There’s love between a man and a woman, love between a parent and child, love between siblings, love between friends, love of pets, etc. There is the loose form of “love” which really means, “like very much”. For example, one might “love” their coworkers or even “love” a particular meal. There is also the misapplication of love, which is actually “lust” or “infatuation” and some even misapply it to mean “obsession”. Generally speaking, we use the word “love” to mean we care very deeply for someone. However, it’s often conditional in the sense that we may love someone we are dating, or a spouse, or even a child/parent, but if they do something to hurt us or hurt us too often, we may stop loving them.

God’s Definition:

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. (Luke 6:23, KJV)

God is love. Many people know “what love is according to God” via 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which states:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Cor. 13:4-8, NASB)

As Dr. Benjamin says, you can replace “love” with “Jesus Christ” in the above verses and get a better picture of who Christ really is. That said, He died for us while we were sinners. It’s not that we stop sinning and then He starts loving us, He loved us from the beginning and loves us despite all the ways in which we have, do, and will wrong Him. God pours out His love on all people, even those who continually reject Him. As Matthew 5:45 says, He gives rain and sun to both the just and the unjust.

Sin

Webster’s Definition:
: offense against religious or moral law
: an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
: an often serious shortcoming : fault
: transgression of the law of God
: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Man’s Definition:
Sin is basically anything immoral or unethical. Theft, murder, adultery, lying to cover something up – the big stuff. “Little white lies” generally aren’t considered wrong. Eying another man/woman while married often isn’t considered wrong (“look but don’t touch”) depending on the couple, taking pens from work, those generally aren’t considered “sins”. Gambling may or may not be deemed a sin depending on the person, and sometimes people will imply other things as “sinful” behavior. Largely, if someone is talking with a Christian they will refer to the ten commandments as “what is sin”.

God’s Definition:

He [Jesus Christ] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23, NIV)

We are born into sin. Sin is of separation from God and results in physical dying and spiritual death – that is, separation from God for all eternity. Jesus said that our thoughts alone make us sinful, not merely our outward physical actions. Having evil thoughts but not acting on them is still sin, because it is representative of our overall sinful nature.

Of course, this list of sins does not include the most important commands Jesus gave, which is:”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”. According to Jesus, we are to love God with our whole being and love those around us to the same extent we love ourselves. So, if we are not doing that, it’s also sin. Not all sins are against other human beings (even though the majority are), but all sins are against God.

Time

Webster’s Definition:
: the thing that is measured as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc.
: a particular minute or hour shown by a clock
: the time in a particular area or part of the world

Man’s Definition:
Well, there’s “that time of day”, “that time of night”, hours, minutes, and seconds on the clock, or days, months, and years. Time is what ticks by and we have to try to make the most of it before our time runs out. There’s the time in which we do things, and the time in which we rest. A time for work, and a time for play. Time causes us to age and time is “what heals all wounds”.

God’s Definition:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4, KJV)

God is outside of time, in eternity. We as humans can’t fully comprehend eternity because we have only ever been within the realm of time. God created time in Genesis 1:3-5, so that is all we know. He is not restricted by the time He created for us, and He operates in every instant and moment. That is why a thousand years for God aren’t the same as a thousand years for us. God doesn’t age (except when Christ was in human form on earth and limited by his human nature). He is timeless.

Spirit/Soul

Webster’s Definition:
Spirit
: the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power
: the inner quality or nature of a person
: a person
Soul
: the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever
: a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature
: the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.

Man’s Definition:
The spirit or soul is the life within you that makes you You. We use the words in different ways as well such as, “spirit of independence”, “Christmas spirit”, or “soul food”, and often use them to simply characterize the emotions behind a particular action or thing. Many don’t believe that there is a spirit, or soul. Or, they believe that when someone dies, their spirit/soul dies also. Many atheists believe there is nothing besides the material world we live in consisting of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions.

God’s Definition:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23, KJV)

God is Spirit, and we each have a spirit/soul. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, and other times they are not. For example, here is a verse referencing our soul:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28, KJV)

And here is a similar verse that instead references spirit:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccl. 12:7, KJV)

The soul, as it pertains to human beings, can refer to the entire person or just his or her actual soul. And spirit, can be used in a way similar to soul, or it can be used to describe how we connect with God. There are also evil spirits, as in demonic forces. But all spirits and generally, souls, are immaterial.

When we are born into our sin nature, we are born “spiritually dead” but when we come to Christ we are made “spiritually alive”. That is, we are born spiritually separated from the Life Giver, and when we come to Christ we are joined to the Life Giver and thus only then do we have life.

Good

Webster’s Definition:
: of high quality
: of somewhat high but not excellent quality
: correct or proper

Man’s Definition:
Good is the opposite of bad. Sometimes we describe things as good to mean “not great”. We say things “taste good” to mean they taste pleasant and appealing. Sometimes we say “good job”, to mean that someone has done well. People say they are “good” to mean that they don’t think they are “bad”.

God’s Definition:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19, NASB)

God is the source of all goodness. Good is of course the opposite of bad, and that is true of God as well, but to a much higher degree than it means to us in human terms. He is the pure, complete form of all goodness. However, the word translated as “good” in Hebrew also has a sense of purposefulness and functionality. When God created the heavens and the earth and “saw that it was good”, it is to say that He saw it functioned as it was intended. It wasn’t merely unspoiled and pure, it worked as it was designed to. God created us for a purpose so to say that we aren’t good is, in part, to say that we don’t fulfill the purpose for which God designed us. Christ on the other hand is good, being God the Son, and having perfectly fulfilled the purposes of His human presence on earth.

Justice/Fairness

Webster’s Definition:
Justice
: the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
: a judge in a court of law

Fairness
: agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
: treating people in a way that does not favor some over others
: not too harsh or critical

Man’s Definition:
We perceive that justice should be fair, but sometimes when people are as we perceive to be “monsters” we no longer think about what is or isn’t just and fair. Fair means that everyone gets treated equally. Justice means that everyone gets their “just reward” – the good guys are rewarded, bad guys are punished.

God’s Definition:

Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ (Ezekiel 33:14-19, ESV)

God is the source of all justice and fairness. He is the ultimate authority by which all will be judged, but He is 100% fair. However, he’s actually not fair in one way – His incredible mercy and grace. His grace gives us what we do not deserve at all. We all deserve the intense wrath of God for our wrongs, yet God gives us His incredible mercy instead, should we choose to accept it. If we do not choose to accept His salvation by way of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, then we are instead accepting His judgment. However, in His salvation, He is completely fair because Jesus died for all people, that all would choose to accept Him as their Savior. He knows that there are a great many who won’t, but He loves us all with His incredible love and pours out His grace, showering us with His mercy, thereby giving everyone the incredible gift of Himself. For everyone who chooses not to believe in Him, they will be responsible for their lack of response for as the Apostle Paul says:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:20-21, AKJV)

God makes it clear that He has provided ample evidence of Himself through His creation and His moral Law, therefore to not turn to Him requires a willfulness on our part. If we have heard the Gospel and rejected it, it will be on our heads come Judgment Day. If we have not heard the Gospel, but rejected any knowledge of God by His creation, then it will be on our heads according to what we have heard and have known and to what extent we have rejected Him. That said, He will be entirely fair in His dealings and no one will be able to say to Him, “That’s not true!” or, “That isn’t fair!” No one will be able to say, “Why should I be punished?” or “I didn’t know!” because He’s already made it perfectly clear in His Word. And few things will we be able to claim to not know were wrong because we all know His Law:

They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (Romans 2:15, NLT)

Now, I realize that is a very short “dictionary”, but you get the idea. Our ways of defining things aren’t like the ways that God defines things. It’s not that we are consistently wrong, it’s that we are consistently limited. We only know what we know, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know how much we don’t actually know! We have limited understanding based on our restricted human nature, and at times even a tainted understanding based on our sinful nature.

It’s easy to see how people can get so confused about things of God, but once we understand some of the fundamental meanings of things as God defines them, we can better understand where some ways of thinking have gone astray.

Most importantly, we should look to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the true understanding of God and all things of Him.

All things have been entrusted and delivered to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son deliberately wills to make Him known. (Matt. 11:27, AMP)

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.

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?