Whenever I start a counseling session with someone, I take the first few minutes to ask a few general questions so I can have at least some basic information about the person I counsel. One of the questions I ask is, “What is your religion?”
The common answer I get is “I am a Christian.”
Then my follow up question is: “So, what does that mean?”
Before I get an answer, I almost always get this facial expression that seems to say something like, “Are you playing with me or what?”
But when they see my curious face to listen, they go ahead and answer my question.
The answer I get ranges from, “I am not a strict or strong Christian,” to “I go to church every Sunday, I give my tithes and offerings; I read one or two chapters of the Bible a day and I pray when I drive to work and come back from work.”
I ask this question, not to judge the person, but so I can counsel the person at their spiritual level and understanding. But at the end of the session, I usually challenge the person to look into his/her definition of Christianity and go deeper.
So, let me ask you: What is Christianity? How do you define it? If you say you are a Christian, how do you define that considering your lifestyle?
I know, it is very easy to define Christianity by the good things we do or say. But if that is all there is to Christianity, what is the point of God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us?
If the definition of Christianity boils down to “I give money to the poor; I do kind things to others and I try to be nice to others; I serve in the church,” what is the role of Jesus in our lives?
If all we need is to make sure that our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we don’t need Christ, because most, if not all, of us, can come up with a list that shows the obvious: We killed no one, but we visited the sick and said, “I am praying for you.” We did not push the poor away but gave $50 here and $100 there to help them. We did not rob the bank, but paid the fees we owed.
Do you see my point?
Let me show you with another example.
If, for example, someone can stop viewing porn all by himself, by his will-power and decision, why does He need Christ? If a single girl can stop sleeping with her boyfriend all by her decisions, why does she need a Savior?
One may say, “But I am not saying I can stop this sinful act by myself. I am saying I need Christ’s help to stop it.”
So, did God send His Son, Jesus Christ, to “help” us to be good people, who have good intentions and moral values but need just a bit of help?
Please stop and think.
Jesus didn’t come to help people who do good but need some help to do better.
Jesus came and died for dead people. Paul writes:
“As for you, you were DEAD in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2 (capitalization is added to make emphasis)
He said, you were “DEAD.”
So, Jesus came and took our punishment that led us into eternal death so we could come back to life: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:15
Then, I believe, Christianity is not really what we do and say; rather who we know and love. It is knowing this Person who died for us and learning to love Him. That is all!
Then whatever we do and say that results from knowing and loving this Person who died for us is the evidence of our Christianity.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6
That is why Paul did not pray to Ephesian Christians so they would stop this sin and that sin, or so they could turn out to be the next St. Paul or Billy Graham; instead he prayed for them like this:
“remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” Ephesians 1:16b-21 (Also see Ephesians 3:14-19)
Wow! Did you see that?
You may ask: “Okay. How can I know Him and learn to love Him?”
Let me first say these three things:
1. The problem most of us Christians have is that we think we know Christ enough.
2. We think we can know Christ and learn to love Him apart from His word, and
3. We think we know and love Christ FULLY just because we have been Christians for some “substantial” amount of time.
The thing is no one will ever come to know Christ and His words fully on this side of heaven.
We come to know Christ through His word. When His word takes root in us, faith comes into play because, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 NASB
The fruit of faith will be “obedience that comes from faith” Romans 1:5.
Is there any “trying” here to be obedient, to be a better person? NO!
Let me show you something else:
Sure, a Christian is known by the fruit of his or her life. There is no other way to know a Christian. And ”the fruit” of a spirit filled life or “the fruit” of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
Notice, it does not say, “the fruits” but “the fruit.”
Because the fruit is the Person that we need, and all things orbit around Him. As “all planets orbit around the sun,” our Christian lives orbit around “The SON.” He is the source of all “the Spirit fruit” that God accepts (James 1:17).
The author of the Enduring Word commentary puts it beautifully: “The center of Christianity is not a teaching or a moral system, it is a Person: Jesus Christ.”
Amen! KNOW this Person and learn to love Him through His word.
Looking for Christ outside the Bible is like going to Jupiter and looking for people you see on this earth.
Jesus Christ is the One who can kill in us that which needs to be killed and plant in us that which needs to be planted.
The Hebrews writer puts it beautifully:
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
The Incarnate God, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, gets to the deeper parts of who we are and does all the surgical works that need to be done so we take His image. The sharp double-edged sword gets to the deepest part of who we are and uproots those sinful habits and characters; and the same sword goes deep and plants “the fruit of the spirit.”
Do you see that? I pray that you see this truth more than I tried to show you here. Next time someone (maybe even I) asks you what being a Christian means to you, what will you say? ///