Tag Archives: Christian

To be or not to be…Are you a Christian?

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One of the greatest divides that categorises men and women is found in the question: “Are you a Christian?” If you answer no you are classed as a “non-Christian”. The Christians are in, and the non-Christians are lost outside somewhere.

We are so used to using the phrase that we often forget to really think about what we are saying. By “Christian”, do we mean someone goes to church on Sunday? Someone who has been baptised as a baby (or adult)? Someone who was born in a Christian country? Someone who assents mentally to a set of teachings about the death and resurrection of Christ? Someone brought up in a Christian home or culture? Someone who is “nice”?  Someone who is nasty but repentant? Someone who is “born again”? Someone who “speaks in tongues”? Someone who is definitely not a Hindu or a Muslim……or a Jew?

I was recently in Northern India and I asked a local man what he thought a Christian was like. “Britney Spears” was his answer!

Was Jesus a Christian?

Let me share with you a simple insight which has helped me find a more satisfying answer to this delicate issue.

Are you a “heaven bringer”?

Does the atmosphere change when you walk into a room? Does joy break through the inner darkness of your sinful heart? Do your thoughts and words carry life? Are you carrying and encouraging others? Do you meditate heaven’s words, breathe heaven’s air and converse with God?

Jesus was the ultimate “heaven bringer.” Heaven became flesh in his human form. It oozed out of his every pore and contaminated a “hellish” world with love, healing and forgiveness. Heaven stepped willingly into everyman’s hell and rescued all those willing to take hold of his hand and be drawn upwards. His heaven invaded earth as a new regime, overthrowing the evil rule of death and sin. It declared war on evil and destroyed the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

If there is the possibility of being a “heaven bringer” there may also be the opposite potential of being a “hell bringer”. Jean Paul Sartre, in his play “No exit”had one of his characters declare.

English: drawing for The New York Times

“Hell is other people.”

We humans have been born with an amazing potential to make other people’s lives hell!  We need rescuing from the natural hell which resides in our very hearts.

Jesus himself warned in Matthew 18:6 about the terrible consequences of “causing little ones to sin”.

“If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.”

Now for a bit of “Star Trek”! One of the most awesome things in the universe is the “Black Hole”; a heavy mass of concentrated gravity that simply draws everything into itself. I’ve known people who are like that! They suck out the life from around them and bring darkness and centripetal heaviness.

On the other hand there is also the phenomenon of the “Super Nova”; an exploding sun, a big bang, giving sacrificial birth to a new universe, creative and life giving. A centrifugal force of living energy!

Are you a black hole or a super nova? Are you a heaven bringer, carrying the “good news of the kingdom” to those trapped in hell?

Jesus’ body on earth, the church, should also share his vocation as a heaven bringer. We are called to push back the gates of hell.

 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”     Matthew 16:18-19

God has given “keys” to his church. What do you do with a key? You open a door. God has given us the key to open the door of heaven and see his will and rule breaking forth on earth. These are also keys to open the door of heaven within our own hearts that are all too often “locked up” and bound in sadness. Unlock the joy and peace that is yours in Christ!

 “Anyone seen my keys?”

 We have the keys to unlock the gates of blessing over families; cities and nations. Receive a fresh revelation of your authority, and a fresh vocation to be a Christian…oops, heaven bringer.

“…… for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age…”        Hebrews 6:4-5

 

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A Better Life…?

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 Why did you become a Christian? What do you say to others to convince them to give their hearts to Christ?

Image from the Book of Kells, a 1200 year old ...

Take a look at most Christian websites and you will find a myriad of promises as to how you can have a better life as a Christian. A better marriage, a better health, a better bank balance etc – the list is endless, and produces a never ending supply of “better” techniques and experiences to attain the better life.

Many think that the greatest ideological threat to the Church in the 21st Century Western World is not atheism, communism, Islam or even false doctrines promoted by those who want to discard the biblical faith. Rather it is the worldview of consumerism. In this worldview the self is lord.

This worldview sees life in terms of shopping: life should present me with the greatest number of goods and services for the least amount of expense possible. This worldview has invaded the Christian mind. It afflicts conservative/evangelicals and liberals alike.

Jesus Christ challenges this worldview. He says real life is about denying one’s self. Being a Christian means we stop living like we own ourselves and we give up ourselves to Jesus Christ.

But this Biblical Christianity is threatened by Consumer Christianity.

Bible teacher Dan Jenkins says that:

Nederlands: MCDonalds Winterswijk

Consumer [Christianity] is a mentality which is self-centred. One who is a consumer is concerned with the benefits to himself or herself of whatever they buy or believe. Therefore, for the consumer to become interested in the product or service or belief system, it must appeal to their personal interests, concerns, and opinions. … Consumerism is a mentality of control. Consumers only invest in something we can continue to control. We want to see results and monuments to our investment! …The consumer always dictates the qualities and terms of the product or service they will purchase or support! The demand is for benefits which affirm personal preferences and opinion. In other words, it is hinged in feelings, not Truth! This form of Christianity is [idolatrous] and unbiblical. (From Dan Jenkins, Gospel Consumers or Doers,)

Let’s look at another analogy: In our society McDonald’s has become the epitome of the consumer experience. The successful fast food chain has learned that to appeal to consumers you have to offer lots of menu choices designed to please many different tastes and appetites. It can’t cost too much. You don’t want to entangle the customer with any intimacy or relationships – they don’t have to form a relationship with a server, just step up to the counter, order and walk away.

Now, in order to retain parishioners, the Church is becoming “McDonald-ized”. We try to offer what McDonalds does:

• Lot’s of menu choices designed to please our appetites and personal tastes. Give the people what they want.

• Hold down the price of commitment in time and money.

• The tendency to avoid intimacy. That’s why many people love the mega-church environment where they can be anonymous consumers. You never have to get to know anyone!

That’s the kind of Christianity that most people want today: McChristianity. We are a nation of McChristians! The Western Church is dying of its addiction to spiritual fast food.

God is longing to wean us off of such junk food. Persecution and suffering may well break into our world view taking us back to the original ethos of the early church. A longing for a better life may be tempered by the desire for…“a better resurrection.”

Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.”         Hebrews 11:33

It may be that we are in need of a paradigm shift in the Western world to take us back to the true sacrificial meaning of what being a Christian is all about. Of course our lives are “better” in Christ as we embrace all the benefits of forgiveness and redemption, but the echoes of a deeper glory are being heard as the churches of the “global south” join us in our march towards world evangelization. Some of our Chinese, Indonesian, Sudanese and Ethiopian brothers and sisters bring with them a “joyous ruggedness” – an experience and acceptance of the cross, its cost and its hardships, which may redeem us from the sad selfishness of consumer Christianity.

As I personally have been contemplating the cost of a “better resurrection” paradigm, and listening to the tragic yet glorious testimony of persecuted brethren around the world I’ve found comfort in the words of Lady Julian of Norwich. She describes seeing God holding a tiny thing in his hand, like a small brown nut, which seemed so fragile and insignificant that she wondered why it did not crumble before her eyes. She understood that the thing was the entire created universe, which is as nothing compared to its Creator, and she was told,

 

“God made it, God loves it, God keeps it.”

A matter that greatly troubled her was the fate of those who through no fault of their own had never heard the Gospel. She never received a direct answer to her questions about them, except to be told that whatever God does is done in Love, and therefore,

 

 

“that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”