Three Things Every Christian Must Believe to be a Christian-

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him– Hebrews 11:6 NASB

I am a cerebral person. 

Sadly, in my case “being cerebral” does not mean I am especially smart. It simply means I get stuck in my own head a lot. I will read an article, have a conversation or hear a news story and then I will dwell endlessly on all the conceivable social, spiritual, and political implications of what I heard, read or talked about.  This past week, I spent a shocking amount of time thinking about what Reverend/Senator Raphael Warnock tweeted on Easter. 

The later deleted tweet said:  

“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves”

Okay. What?

Reverend/Senator Warnock’s tweet got me pondering all sorts of questions regarding life and faith. Like, Which seminary did this guy attend?  Has this dude even read the New Testament? And of course, the always deep: “why God why?”. 

However.

Most of my questions centered on a a subject I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the years. Questions like, what exactly makes a person a Christian? And: what does one have to know and/or believe to be saved?  The quick and easy answer comes from Romans 10:9: confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

But, 

What exactly does it mean to” believe in your heart”? How does one know if they have believed enough to be saved? What exactly does “confessing with your mouth entail?  How does one know if they have really believed in their hearts Jesus is Lord? Is it possible to honestly think you have confessed or believed without doing it right?  

Argh! I told you I get stuck in my own head sometimes. 

Anyway. These are questions worth asking because what we believe about life and God and how we get to God has eternal consequences. I don’t know everything there is to know about this subject but I do believe it is essential for Christians to embrace the following three truths at some point in their faith journey in order to be a Christian:

You have to understand you can’t save yourself- 

Human beings cannot save themselves. People simply do not have enough inherent goodness in them to get the job done (Isaiah 64:6) . Period.  Nor, are there enough good deeds in the world for a person to earn their own salvation. Even if there were no one would do those deeds with the right heart attitude because even the best people almost never do the right things with the right motivations. Admitting we are sinners who can’t save ourselves is really the first step in the faith journey.   Jesus is called “savior” precisely because we desperately needed someone to do the work of salvation for us (Luke 2:11). Until we embrace that reality authentic salvation will be elude us. 

You must believe God knows more than you do about right and wrong- 

 Thankfully, God graciously “brings us along” on the moral journey of faith. Few people begin their Christian life in full agreement with God about what is morally good and right. That said, Christians must have a certain level of humility concerning the moral limitedness that goes along with being human. At some point in our spiritual journey we have to stop shaking our fists at what God says is right and true and simply accept His proclamations concerning what is and isn’t morally acceptable (Psalm 7:17, Psalm 11:7). If we don’t our faith probably wasn’t genuine to begin with. 

You believe God is who says He is and will do the things He says He will do- 

  Knowledge of the Bible is not a prerequisite for salvation. However, fear of the Lord is (Psalm 25:14, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 14:27). Christians must believe there is a God (DUH) and that He is vastly superior to humans in every way.  We must also agree God is worthy of honor, worship and obedience. Fearing God simply means we really, truly believe God is who he says He is and He can do the things He says He can do. If we do not fear the Lord it is really hard to be a Christian regardless of what we have declared or confessed. 

As I close this post I do so with a high level of spiritual anxiety. It is not my place to judge the spiritual journey of another (Matthew 7:1). I don’t know Raphael Warnock. I don’t know if he is a Christian or an unbeliever or something in between. He eventually deleted his tweet. Perhaps he was having an off day.  I know have written things I wish I hadn’t. Maybe he feels the same way? I’m certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. My hope in writing this post is that everyone reading this will examine their own belief system to see if they are “in the faith” (2nd Corinthians 13:5). 

It matters. 

How Christian Atheists are Killing the Church –

  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching- John 14:23-24 NIV

A couple of things: First of all, dear reader, I really do appreciate you. The fact that anyone would read what I write every week is honor and privilege God has allowed me to have that never ceases to blow my mind. Second, many Christians are, for obvious reasons, leaving social media sites. If you are considering making an exit from the social media site where you found A Wise Life, or even if you are not, please consider subscribing. All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the page and type in your email address. A Wise Life will be delivered to your in-box every week for as long as the Lord allows me to continue this ministry or until you unsubscribe. I promise to never sell or give your email address to any other business, blog or ministry. 

Lisa

Now for this week’s post: 

A while back someone asked me if I thought Christianity was losing its power. The person asking was not a hater or a jerk, nor were they attempting to throw shade on Jesus or the church. On the contrary, the person asking is a believer who is genuinely concerned that the Christian faith appears to losing its ability to change people and transform the chaotic situations that are becoming increasingly more common in our world. The Christian faith has made massive inroads into the world in the last century but at the same time the people are becoming more evil, more creative in spreading evil and far less interested in learning what God has to say about much of anything.  

Sigh.

I will not lie. The question shook me. Seriously. It forced me think about the how and the why of where we have landed. After some thought I decided that I simply cannot accept the notion that Jesus has somehow lost His ability to transform people or heal situations. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and I believe He is then problem can’t be with God (Hebrews 13:8). 

The problem is with us. 

Too many Christians have become what I call “functional atheists” or Christian atheists. Functional atheists are people who believe in God and attend church, many functional atheists even routinely read their Bibles and pray. However, in their day-to-day lives they don’t live like they believe God is real.  Functional atheists have come into the kingdom of God but have never had the deepest areas of their lives touched by God’s transformational power. They make Christianity weak because most of the time God chooses to do His most powerful work through people. Therefore, if Christians are spiritually weak then God’s power will be limited in certain situations. Not because God lacks power but because He will only work through those who are faithful and obedient (Mark 6:4-6).   

Following are five signs you might just be a functional atheist. 

You have ongoing struggles with sexual immorality- 

Fear of God is a clear indicator that a person is in the process of being spiritually transformed. Fearing God is not about being afraid of God (1st John 4:18). Someone who fears God genuinely believes God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. God has nothing good to say about sexual immorality or those who make a practice of it (Romans 1:18-28, 1st Corinthians 5:9-11, 1st Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19). Because God is so clear about how He feels about this issue, sexual sin is an indicator that person does not really fear God. When a person doesn’t fear God they inevitably end up living like an atheist. 

Misplaced faith-

Christians are commanded to put their faith and trust in God alone (Proverbs 3:5-6, Nahum 1:7). Too often, as believers we do trust God but we trust other things just a little bit more. We trust things like political figures, education, our finances, our social standing and jobs to protect us, give us peace and provide comfort in times of trouble. When we put our trust in anything but God to give us comfort, protection and peace those things inevitably end up functioning as idols in our lives. Idols never deliver what God can and trusting them causes us to live like the atheists around us.  

You feel contempt rather than compassion for most people-  

This world is full of sin and hate. Christians are called to hate sin and cast-off  foolish and sinful behavior (Matthew 7:24, 2nd Corinthians 6:14). It is all too easy to allow our hatred of sin and desire to be free from worldly ties to morph into contempt for sinners and their stupidity. The problem with this is we are never called to feel hate or contempt for anyone and when we do we look more like our atheist neighbor than Jesus. 

There are places in your life that are unknown to others and untouched by God- 

Becoming a Christian is supposed to be a comprehensive, life transforming event. The only catch is that God will only change the parts of our lives we give Him access to. We give God access to our lives when we make regular practices of Bible reading, self-examination and prayer. This is how it works: When we read the Bible, we learn how God wants us to think and live. When we make a regular practice of examining ourselves to see if our lives match up with Scripture God will then tell us when we pray what needs to be changed in our lives in order for us to grow into the people He has called us to be. If we aren’t constantly seeking to grow we will go backwards in our spiritual maturity and eventually our lives will look more and more like the atheists around us. 

Because the world is so broken it is more important than ever that Christians live lives that embrace the truth of Scripture because it is only way people will see the power of God in this world.  

Preserving the Culture in an Election Year-

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out~ Proverbs 18:15 NIV

 I recently celebrated a birthday that puts me squarely into the category of “older” woman. I found this realization a bit disturbing at first. The negatives of aging are all too obvious. Nothing looks as good as it once did or works quite as well as it used to.

 Time feels like it passes more quickly after a certain age. This age-related time warp leads to some peculiar forms of culture shock. I find it more than a little irritating when manufacturers attempt to pass off ugly fashion as “novel” or “new” when it’s really just an uglier version of the stuff we wore back in the day. Furthermore,  I will never get so old as to forget the dismay I felt when I heard my favorite song from high school being played on the “oldie” station.

 Happily, I have also come to realize that there are things about getting older that are not all bad. The awareness that life is short makes it easier to relax and worry less about stupid stuff. Time gives a deeper appreciation and greater tolerance for people, especially those people who stick around through thick and thin. In general I care less about the judgments of others than I once did.

This is all very freeing and freeing is good.

 There are some things about getting older that are neither good nor bad. They are just kind of weird. As you get older life becomes a little bit like the movie Groundhog Day. You’ve seen almost everything. Most things, more than once and over time you just know how most situations are going to end because some stuff always ends badly.

 Over time it becomes clear to anyone who thinks that some endeavors just don’t work well over the long haul. Crime rarely pays; cheaters, thieves and gossips eventually get caught in snares they stupidly set for themselves. Laziness results in poverty, and there are simply some attitudes and behaviors you embrace to your own peril if you want relationships to have even a minimal shot at survival.

 That’s the obvious stuff.

 There are some other more subtle truths about life that you pick up over time. Some of those truths feel counterintuitive, like the fact that it actually pays to suck it up and have regular car maintenance done. Cheap-ing out on oil changes  feels like a good way to save a little money but the “payoff” is always short lived.

 When I was younger I subconsciously believed that if I ignored the things that made me feel afraid or uncomfortable then those things would simply go away. Because current world events were typically unpleasant, the news made me uncomfortable, sometimes even afraid. So I ignored it. I simply tuned out and went on with my little life. Sadly, nothing unpleasant went away while I was busy tuning out. The world just got worse. So I tuned back into the culture only to discover that my Christian brothers and sisters were still mostly tuned out.

 Nothing improves when Christians tune out of the culture and retreat to their holy huddles. Christians are the only preserving influence this world has (Matthew 5:13-16). When Christians step out of the cultural arena, the culture suffers and so does the church. When we stop working to preserve the culture the church does not become more holy. The reverse occurs; when we stop using our influence we lose influence. Then the Church begins to atrophy and loses its ability to know right from wrong. 

 We are officially in an election year. There are Christians who don’t even know who their current leaders are, let alone who’s running. This is beyond disgraceful. It’s time for Christian people to step up and get involved. The future of both the Church and the culture is at stake. It all starts with choosing to obey the command to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37). I am convinced  good Christians educate themselves on the issues of their day.

 We need to know what candidates have done, not just what they tell us they have done. Our information should come from sources other than the candidate, political ads or the internet. Once we’ve become educated on the issues we need to take what we’ve learned about each candidate and decide who is most fit to lead. Then we need to fight for those men and women. Once we have done all we can do we need to get on our knees and pray for revival and a return to righteousness.