Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drawing A Clearer Line - Some thoughts on the difference between a Christian and a person who talks about Jesus.

When I began to write this series on basic Christian living, I knew I would primarily address those who attended church or claimed to believe in Jesus, calling themselves Christians. For some, I hope this series gives them understanding on why Christians do and believe certain things like the Bible, the effectiveness of prayer, etc. I began with another goal for these essays, to draw lines between those who admire Jesus as a spiritual teacher and those who worship Him as God the Son.

Something stirred during the last few weeks while I continued to live in a home without internet access. A person left an anonymous comment on Back To Boardgames using language I have heard from people who believe in Universalism or what Francis Schaeffer called "Paneverythingism". It looks like a continuation of an earlier comment that for one reason or another isn't available.

But there you can see why I chose to draw these lines. This kind of thinking denies Jesus as God and His work of redemption, the foundation of Christian belief. In Romans 1, Paul introduces himself as one who lives to tell the gospel and defines it as the gospel promised through the Bible. He also makes clear this gospel deals with God's son, Jesus. In verses 18-20, Paul talks of evil men suppressing truth made known to them by God. Then, in verses 21-23, we read why wicked people denied the truth of God. "Although they know who God is, they do not glorify Him as God or thank Him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become fools! In fact, they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals, or reptiles!"

One great definition of sin says we do so by worshiping, or glorifying, anything but God. It is to place anything above God. To think of something as more beautiful, trustworthy, or ultimate than God is to sin against Him. Satan's downfall came when he said to himself "I will make myself like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14). He then planted the same lie in Eve's ear when he told her in Genesis 3:5, "you will be like God". Some claim that man's consciousness (whether the power of an individual mind, collective, vaguely defined spiritual "force", etc.) or thinking need only be corrected in order to achieve enlightenment. This kind of belief, and others like it, in one way or another conclude that we are, or are like, God. This kind of thinking is the very core of sin.

But these people who deny the God of the Bible must also deny the doctrine of sin. If we are our own gods, or if god is an impersonal force, than we have no outside standard from a perfect and unchanging God to which we must answer. If there is no sin, then Jesus had no need to die as payment.

My objective at this moment isn't to debate the existence of the biblical God, the reality of sin, or the redemptive work of Jesus. I want people to realize that they may sit in a church meeting next to people who agree with the kind of things said by my anonymous critic. They might sing the same songs of worship, recite words from the Bible, or help with community outreach.

But do not be fooled. Jesus did say He was God the Son. The Jews recognized this in John 5:18. He also made it clear that people had to believe in Him in order to gain eternal life when He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). Jesus talked about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible, He said He was the Messiah (meaning He knew He would pay the price for man's sin), and He believed in the authority of scripture because He quoted the Tanakh (Old Testament) as such. Some people can say they believe in Jesus and yet miss His whole message.

If a person believes in Jesus as God the Son, then he will live a life of repentance and worship the God of the Bible alone. If he merely calls Jesus a spiritual teacher or a "good guy who set an example for us all", he should stop pretending to agree with Jesus and never refer to himself as a Christian.

I'm glad the person leaving the comment chose to remain anonymous because I want to attack the thought and not the person. My response to people like my anonymous critic, Wiccan neighbor, and Jehovah's Witness co-worker is to pray for them. I believe the Holy Spirit can turn their hearts to repentance by revealing both the ugliness of their sin and the goodness of God's grace. It's the reason I never addressed the critic directly. I do have an adversary, but he's not flesh and blood, and he's the reason I draw the line.

*Believe it or not, this experience has encouraged me to next write on why Christians need the Church. See you next month.


Anonymous said...

You did not answer my question. Where does it say in the Bible that for not believing that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah you will go to Hell when you die? The bible does not say that at all. Go look it up and try to find it! You are taking what man has written over thousands of years and coming up with an answer and basing the conclusion on a materialistic view of reality. When Jesus walked this earth they did not follow him around with a pencil and paper and wrote down what he said. Most of the people did not even have access to the Jewish Torah and most of the people that followed Jesus did not even know how to read. The New Testament was not finalized until 1546. If you are going to be a Bible Scholar it would be wise to know the history of the Bible and what type of culture and what type of reality these people lived in which was a reality of Dualism. The universe is in constant change and evolution. Jesus was the messenger of this simple fact. However, most of humanity missed the point and we end up with thousands of Churches. “Oh our way is the only way to the truth” yet humanity has millions of Religions, the Catholics, the Fundamentalist, Unitarians, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism it goes on and on. What is the universal lesson to be learned in all of this that your belief system is better than my belief system. God Created an endless universe and I base my whole spiritual truth on one book the humanity put together over 5,000 years ago and call it the Gospel of Truth! Then what happens is you get put into a box and anything that is outside of your box becomes Heresy.

Jesus had very simple message! “Treat others as you would want them to treat you”
When you try to convince others into you your way of being that is called manipulation like taking on a wife and telling her that God told us we should be married!

Anonymous said...

Comment on your Blog entry for July 2010

The Kingdom of God is within! This is the great secret of whom Jesus was and what he was trying to teach. It is about shifting ones consciousness and finding the Christ within us. Knowing that we are not separate from the God Head! When a person is separated from God he will Sin, which simply means “Missing the Mark” Jesus understood this and this is what his message to the world was! However, humanity did not get the message and we end up with a completely unconscious understanding of his teaching within these ancient texts. There are many universal truths in the Bible but you have to understand first how the Bible was written, when it was written, and whom it was written for.

You wrote:

“These appeal to human reason or emotion and make them the final authority. For example, the Bible says that Jesus is the only way to find forgiveness for sin and spend eternity with God in Heaven. Jesus said in John 8:24, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He (the Son of God, the Messiah), you will die in your sins." But then, some might say, what about people who will never have a chance to hear about Jesus? Does that mean they'll go to Hell, even if they never had a chance for salvation? According to the Bible, even they have no excuse for their sin and face an eternity in Hell (Romans 1:20).”

Let us look at John 8:24 first:

24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

This passage does not state anything about going to hell for a person believing that Jesus is not the Messiah. Jesus did not even state in the passage that he is the Messiah. This passage has been taken out of content and people then add on the fact that if a person does not belief that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish Tradition the “Christ” that they will end up in hell. I don’t see that in this passage at all. As a matter of biblical fact the bible does not specifically state “if a man does not believe that Jesus was the Messiah he will end up burning in hell for eternity”. You will find no such passage were this was specifically stated it is only implied in the minds of dogmatic Fundamentalist so mankind can be manipulated into fear and submission.

The gospels (especially Matthew 21:4 and John 12:14-15) claim that Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. But the next few verses (Zechariah 9:10-13) show that the person referred to in this verse is a military king that would rule "from sea to sea". Since Jesus had neither an army nor a kingdom, he could not have fulfilled this prophecy according to the Jewish ancient writings. How was this error overlooked?

Anonymous said...

You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe.

-Carl Sagan

Isaiah Kallman said...

The 66 books of the Bible, both old and new testaments, have been agreed upon since the completion of Revelation. Origen listed them as the only acceptable books of the Bible in the year 110, only 20 years after John wrote Revelation. Many other early church scholars agreed, even Jerome, well before 1546. But more importantly than this, the Bible agrees with itself.

In "To Kill A Mockingbird", Harper Lee didn't have to outright state "this is a story about a little girl growing up and learning about racism". A discerning reader would understand the text. I believe the same about the Bible. I think a discerning reader can read the Bible and clearly understand its message just as easily as To Kill A Mockingbird.

Considering this, I find it interesting how you appealed to the teachings of Jesus and scriptural reference in your arguments against the reliability of the Bible.

In addition to this, some of your statements have been argument by way of shaming or mockery, as if to say, "Surely you can't believe this. You don't really buy into this, do you?" The last time I heard reasoning like that, it was from a drunk girl yelling at me in a bar. I didn't appreciate it then and I don't think much of it now. I've heard what you have to say, so now I'm going to tell you what I told her. We'll just have to agree to disagree. But I'm still praying for you, just like I prayed for her.