Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What is Christianity?

We  often get a better understanding what something is by first seeing what it is not.

Christianity is not:

1) A cultural. You are not "born Christian." It is not inherited by virtue of one's family or even by the way a person is raised. It is not indicative in a region, location or environment.

2) It is not a social status. One might be called an Eagle by virtue of the fact that they are a member of the "Eagles Club." Christianity simple does not work that way. One might be a "member" of a church (several Churches in fact) and still not be Christian.

3) Christianity is not a conviction. It is not subscription to a belief system or a set of life-principles. A "Christian World-view" alone does not make one a Christian.

4) Christianity is not activism. One could be very active in many causes (for the poor, justice, morality, etc.), having strong convictions and still not be a Christian.

5) Christianity is not a feeling. A person through the course of their lives will experience many emotions and feelings (anger, peace, contentment, etc.) and the experience of have such a feeling, the absence of certain feelings, or of even being able to maintain a feeling, emotion or state-of-mind is not Christianity.

6) Christianity is not a creed or a pledge. A person could pledge allegiance to, hold convictions for and even propagate a confession or creed and still not be a Christian.

7) Christianity is not a commitment. A person could give themselves to the fires of the stake, to the torment of the torturers, to a life of poverty, sacrifice and asceticism and still not be a Christian.

Now, a Christian will have all of the above but we must establish that all the above does not make one a Christian.

What then is Christianity?

1) Conversion. To convert something means to change it from its former state to a new state-a state or condition that is not like the former one. This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus "you must be born again." There is an inward change of perspective, ambition, purpose, disposition, emotions, desires, will and goals.

2) Continual Change. This is not an effort of self-improvement. This is not therapy. Rather, this is a real change that begins the process of continual change. The converted person is transformed and is being transformed. This is not a change of the good getting better. This is a change that is the difference between life and death. That which was dead is now alive and one of the evidences of this life is that it is growing. Christianity is not a one-time event, but it is an event with rippling ramifications that are continual through the believers life. Continually.

3) Supernatural. How can that which was dead live? How can that which was repulsive become pleasing? Can the leopard change his spots or the Ethiopian change the color of his skin? No more than that which was evil now do what is good. The "new birth" that Jesus spoke about was confusing to the Rabbi Nicodemus. "Can a man enter into his mother's womb a second time?" The concept is absurd. And Jesus does little to solve the mystery (John 3) because He describes the new birth as being like the wind. It is not seen but the effects are seen. God removes the heart of stone and  replaces it with a heart of flesh. The dead is raised to life. The leopard does not change his spots- he is being transformed into a swan. He has a completely new nature. It is miraculous.

4) Costly. There is no Christianity without a cross. Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. Where did He go? He went to the cross. And Jesus tells His disciples that if indeed they are a disciple they must take up their cross and follow Him. There is not one Scripture in Holy Text that speaks of glorifying God by enjoying the things of the world "in Christ." But the Scripture is clear that those who love the world are not disciples but the enemies of God. Christianity is costly. The salvation of Christians cost Jesus His life and He bids His disciples to follow Him. 

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