What Makes A Christian? Part 2

Finally, part two is here! Get out your Bibles and follow along, kids. Let's ask some questions and get some answers about what's true of Christians on an eternal level:

1. If I'm a Christian, what has God accomplished for me?
He has loved me with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
He has given me the privilege of being born again. 1 Peter 1:3
He gave me life when I was dead. Ephesians 2:5
He has given me every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3

2. What did (does) Jesus do for me?
He died for me while I was still a sinner. Romans 5:8
He opened the true way for me to come to God the Father. John 14:6
He came back from the dead to break the power of death. Acts 2:24, Hebrews 2:14
He intercedes for me with God the Father. Romans 8:34

3. What is the Holy Spirit's role in my life?
He completely transforms me into a person with Real Life. Romans 8:11
He lives in me as a witness of my salvation. Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 1:22
He grows the fruit He has planted in my life. Galatians 5:22-23
He enables me to do what God wants me do do. Acts 1:8, Romans 8:26

Now, ask yourself some follow-up questions.

Do I believe these things -- and not just with my head, but with my heart and my life? Do I behave as though these things are true? Or do I deny them with the way that I live? Do I have so much confidence in what God has accomplished, what Jesus has done, and who the Holy Spirit is, that I have a constant desire to know God more, to trust Jesus more, to submit to the Spirit more?

To Be Continued...


What Makes A Christian? Part 1

Once upon a time, I was a kid in junior high and high school, praying to survive from one day to the next without making a total fool of myself. But God, being gracious, provided me with some opportunities toward the end of junior high and into high school to defend my faith to a friend who was on a bold spiritual quest. Seemed like every day she had another question or challenge. So I went out and bought a book for teens on Christian apologetics (defending Christian beliefs) and read up. Praise God for this resource! It really helped me to feel prepared as I grappled with my friend’s questions. Praise the Lord that we remained friends throughout that time, and praise Him in a big way that she’s a believer, and active in ministry. Her life is a huge source of encouragement for me.

Now, at the same time that God was dealing with my fear of confrontation in the area of sharing the Gospel, a series of revivals took place in my hometown. Teenagers flocked to hear one particular speaker, and they would flood the altar at the end of the evening sermon, crying as they nailed slips of paper with their sins written on them to a cross at the front of the church. I remember sitting by one girl who wept loudly the whole time, and professed that she had “rededicated” her life to Christ. The next Monday at school, she was cursing as usual, planning for her next big party, and treating the “un-cool” kids like me just like she always had. As far as I know, she is still living for herself instead of God.

So what gives? The first girl claimed she wasn’t a Christian, yet God was clearly working in her life. The second girl claimed she was a Christian, but certainly didn’t act like one! So how can you tell which of your friends are Christians and which ones are not?

First, I want you all to do something. Look at your arm. Do you have skin? Bones? Muscle? Are you visible? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, hold on, because this may come as a shock: you are not the Holy Spirit!! You can’t see into anyone’s heart or tell what God is doing in their lives unseen. Therefore, it’s not your job to cast judgment on someone. But with that caution in mind, you all probably know the saying, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Jesus told His disciples that we’d know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 12:33). Makes sense, right? If it bears apples, it’s an apple tree. Similarly, when people claim to be Christians, we should see “fruit,” or evidence, of it in their lives. Pop quiz: what are these “fruits”? We could undoubtedly list dozens, but let’s start with the most obvious: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Sound familiar? They’re the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible tells us that anyone who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38 and Romans 5:5, for instance).

To Be Continued...


The Founders and God, in Virginia

I recently got back from a nerdy U.S. History trip to Virginia; three friends and I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Colonial Williamsburg, an important location in the events leading up to the American Revolution, and Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. It was fantastic. I learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson's fascination with agriculture and just how brilliant he really was. I also sat in Patrick Henry's pew in the Episcopal church in Williamsburg -- I get goosebumps thinking about that! Anyway, it was amazing, and I have a deeper respect and admiration for the courage of the Founders. Check out this link for the text of Patrick Henry's famous and chillingly powerful "Give me liberty or give me death" speech!

It's been a long time since I believed that the Founding Fathers were a bunch of devout Christians who wanted to build the USA on the foundation of Evangelicalism. That's baloney, though we hear it preached just about every Independence Day. There were undoubtedly a few serious Christians in the group, but most of the Founders took as much (if not more) from the Enlightenment as they did from the Bible, and a great many, including Jefferson and Franklin, were Deists. But let me be clear: we can praise God that He created Jefferson and Franklin and all the others with the courage, intelligence, and desire to found a nation where we can pray for our lunch in public, read our Bibles on a park bench, and go to church in full view of policemen, without fear of persecution.

So praise God that we have freedom to learn, and then learn about America's awesome history -- it really is amazing to realize that these men were willing to give up their lives for the nation they loved. And also praise God that we have freedom to share the Truth about Christ with those around us. Then go do it! Take advantage of the freedom you have, and tell your friends how they can have a relationship with the True God who reveals Himself in history and saves everyone who turns to Him in faith through Jesus Christ!


California Prayin'

Hey, all, get ready to pray! I got a phone call last night from a dear friend in California asking for prayer. As you may know, there is a wicked wildfire blazing near Los Angeles that covers almost 24,000 acres! As of today, the fire is about 40% contained, but still threatens many homes. Thousands were forced to evacuate, including the staff of the camp where my friend works. She was already safely at the camp's other location on Catalina Island, but all of her possessions are still back at the primary site. Please pray for God's protection of the camp and the staffers, and pray for strength and wisdom for the thousands of firefighters working to get the blaze under control. Also, pray that God would reveal Himself to people through this disaster, and that He would be praised for His provision and protection.