I had a good listen to my teenaged daughter today. She was having a massive emotional meltdown and needed me to hear her. She told me things that I did not know.
She spoke of feeling unworthy and confused. She explained her distress when she felt she had achieved things, only to be told by those who mean something to her that her “achievements” weren’t so great after all. She expressed her fear that she was disappointing her family because she could not “do things well” because of her learning differences. She struggled with her words as she spoke, but I fully understood.
I thought I knew her well and yet I had known none of these things. I realised that each time I reminded her to do something, thinking I was being helpful, she was receiving the message that she was not good enough.
I know her better after this.
If you study in order to understand, highly prizing the words you read, tuning your ear into wisdom and opening your heart to comprehend;
Moreover, if you are desperate for insight and hungry for understanding, if you pursue it with all you have – as if it were indeed a treasure chest;
Then you will find the knowledge of God and understand who He really is.
For it is only from Him that true wisdom comes. He stores it up to bestow upon His people, guarding them and the truth of their ways.
That is how we know which path to take and what is the right thing to do in every situation. Because He deposits wisdom into our very soul and His knowledge is beautiful – delivering us from every wicked way and perverted person.
That it could actually be true that there is one person who satisfies my every desire. One thing that meets my every need. One solution to every problem that will ever exist on the face of the earth. Sounds way too simplistic, even childish, wishful thinking. Yet this is indeed the marvel of Jesus Christ.
How is this so?
- A saving faith in Him (His life and works) graciously grants me my eternity in heaven with Him.
- His word (the bible) explains all of life, the story of the world and our place in it.
- Prayer gives me access to the very ear of God for all of my fears, issues, praises and joys.
- His crucifixion proves the depth of His love for me.
- His church provides me with acceptance, security and direction.
- His Holy Spirit assures me.
It also marvels me that a person would reject such a man as this.
Whenever somebody says that they are a Christian, they could mean many different things. Some people use the title simply because they live in the west which has traditionally been affiliated with Christianity – although less and less so. They don’t necessarily have a belief in God or Jesus Christ and mean no more than that they are part of a so-called Christian based nation as opposed to say a Muslim or Hindu based nation. Others may refer to themselves as Christians because they attend a church every now and then, again not necessarily having a faith in Jesus Christ.
Even those of us who profess a faith in Jesus have different beliefs about what it actually is to be a Christian. Some would say that because they have very high moral standards and serve in their church, their community and donate to the mission field – then this makes them Christian. On the other hand, some believe that it doesn’t matter how they behave because as long as they believe in God then they are saved (a Christian) so as that He will forgive them for their wrongdoings and they will go to heaven.
Then there is the distinction between false Christians and true Christians. Of the false, some know that they are not truly Christians but lie to manipulate other people for their own gain, while others think they are Christians when they are not. And of the true, many have different doctrinal beliefs which would seem to contradict each other and therefore rule some out.
So what is the answer? What actually is a Christian? The answer lies in two necessary prerequisite questions. Firstly: What is Sin? Because most of us Christians would agree that part of being a Christian is that we are saved from sin (that is we will not be punished in eternity even though we deserve to be). Secondly: How are we saved from it?
Sin is any breach of God’s laws as laid out in His own words in the Bible (and summarised in the Ten Commandments). We all sin even though many of us don’t acknowledge our actions as sin. So the just penalty from a just God is eternal death. How is one to be saved from eternal death? Because God is loving as well as just, He sent his only son the Lord Jesus Christ to be born the only man who did not ever sin, who then paid the ultimate price for our sins by being crucified himself. Thus, in answer to the question of how we are saved from sin, we are to believe on Him who was crucified in our place so that we may have eternal life. A person who does so believe in Him is therefore a Christian.
What does this “believing” actually consist of? That’s another question for another day.
I was attracted to the church because it didn’t muck around with niceties. The preaching was straight up. A spade was a spade.
It was easy to understand. The messages spoke directly to me. They identified my personal circumstances and showed me very clearly what I needed to do to change them, to make life better – so much better. It all made complete sense.
And I learned so much.
I had actually been holding myself back by the things that I was saying, the words that I was using. So I sorted that one out pretty quickly. I began to avoid saying that I was sick … when I was sick. I started talking about my children’s financial future as if my words would create their reality. I started making fanciful proclamations and even wrote down a list of my demands which I shouted out at God in public prayer meetings and repeated by rote in private.
I made sure I was at every church organised event because it was my job to build the church. This was my calling.
I lived on credit card debt so that I could give money to the church and all of it’s related activities because I knew that sooner or later God would reward me and pay me back for what I had given Him.
The bible could be helpful in parts. But I didn’t need to read it so much now that the word of God was being delivered from the pulpit.
And Jesus Christ? Of course He was there. But we already knew all we needed to know about him: he died on the cross to save us from our sins so that we could build his Kingdom and have an enviable life. What else did I need to know?