I intend to truly think through, and articulate (to the best of my ability) what I mean when I say that I am a Christian.
Here’s the truth: I almost cringe to even use the term sometimes…Christian.
My preference would be Christ Follower. Follower of Christ. Born again believer. Child of God. Even simply ‘Believer’.
And I’m not completely sure why that is, although I have a strong hunch.
My hunch is that it’s because the term is broad. It could really mean so many different things, specifically. It doesn’t provide much clarity on what exactly it is that I believe, and how that affects my life (if at all).
My hunch is that it’s also because, simply put, there are some crazies that have used (and continue to use) the term as well. And some are pretty crazy. Some I’m embarrassed to share the title with. I suspect it has something to do with that as well.
And finally, it could also be a result of all the watering-down the title has been subjected to over the years and certainly in recent times as well. We hear about the ‘Christian West’. Hmmm, not entirely sure it is. We hear about the number of Christians in America. Really?? How accurate is that? We hear that Christians are doing this now, or believing in that now, or have changed this view, and that view, and mostly don’t seem to have many views at all anymore that we’re truly willing to stand on.
Are you kidding me?
Apparently not. People say and do these things with a straight face while calling themselves Christians.
They are not kidding, they are not joking, they are sincere.
And some of us are embarrassed to share the title with them.
**Important aside: I am embarrassed to share the title with myself quite often as well. I am one of those ‘chief sinners’ Christ came to save. I don’t do things and should. I do things and shouldn’t. I talk and a lot of times don’t walk. I walk without seeking wisdom. I am certainly in no position to throw stones or cast blame. I am a SINNER saved by grace, and GRACE alone. So while embarrassed by others for the sake of the Gospel, I myself am not better than them or anyone else.
And finally (and most sadly), it has become necessary to let people know what your ‘day #’ is for being a Christian. Are you one of those ‘1 day/week Christians’? This is probably the most popular. ‘2 day/week Christian’?
I mean, come one. The way some of us talk on Sundays, then go live and act Monday – Saturday…it’s beyond embarrassing.
And it’s not new. And it’s not a secret. Everyone knows this not only happens, but is rampant.
And it’s one of the biggest black eyes in modern day ‘Christianity’.
So now you know. Now you know why it’s not enough information for me to tell you I’m a Christian. Now you see; it doesn’t tell you much.
And it certainly doesn’t tell you what I believe specifically and how that affects my life.
So what I’d like to do is walk you through what it is that I do believe. What does being a ‘Christian’ mean to me? How do I live out my beliefs as a self-proclaimed ‘Christ Follower’?
**Important aside #2: They say long form content is not dead. And it’s a good thing, because this will wind up being long form content. Love it, leave it, scan over it, it’s up to you. But this is the way it will have to be.
Let me say this, as a sort of conclusion to the beginning: This process is WAY more for me than you.
If someone winds up reading this and is encouraged, blessed, or changed (excuse the church-speak), well…that would be awesome. PTL. I sincerely mean that.
But the fact is that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because I have an identity crisis.
I am a male, low 30’s, a bit ambitious, love God, love business, competitive. Authenticity and candor are huge to me. I enjoy the occasional evening out with my guy buddies doing manly things. Now that I think of it, I enjoy most anything manly. Immensely. And I freaking love my wife. Even more immensely.
And quite frankly, most Christian churches today aren’t built for that demographic.
This particular demographic can feel out of place, under-utilized, under-appreciated, and dressed up.
And by ‘dressed up’ I mean castrated.
Well now I went and said it didn’t I.
We’re used to being taxed. Stressed. Tested. Challenged. Poked, prodded, disagreed with, utilized. Put to work. We’re used to fighting. We love the fight. We love to win. We play to win. And we do all of this, but most often it’s only acceptable outside the 4 walls of church buildings.
And so I have this identity crisis. I call myself a Christian. A believer. A Christ follower. But others do too. Many others. And many that I don’t really want to be like.
So what do I believe? How then will I live? What does this mean to myself and others around me?
Let’s see if we can find out.
Important aside #3: This is not a comprehensive list. I certainly hope I believe a lot of things that will not be all listed out here. This list will be an honest self-assessment. Hitting the points that come to mind. That I think may be relevant to the discussion, need mention or clarification, or may be different than some or most.
Important aside #4: We will disagree on many things and that is ok. Just because your list doesn’t exactly match mine (few would) doesn’t mean that we’re not brothers/sisters in Christ or even that I’m embarrassed by you as a Christian. My gut tells me that I’m honored to be associated with the majority of you reading this (if you’ve made it this far!). I am not easily offended. I do not like to judge and don’t love being judged. I am most repulsed by intentional hypocrisy and self-conceit. So don’t worry, I don’t expect you to agree with everything here, and don’t expect to agree with every single thing you believe. And that is ok by me.
And we do need to make a final, and most important point, for the sake of clarification in case it is not understood: I am a work in progress. I am still maturing. Still sanctifying. Still learning. Still growing in grace and godliness. So I may disagree with myself in the years to come on some of this, and I am ok with that.
It is better to have imperfect clarity now than to wait forever for the fog of perfectionism to clear.
Here we go.
I believe that God created everything, has always existed, and always will exist.
I’m old-school like that I suppose.
I believe we are all born with a natural bent to sin.
And we all do so quite readily and consistently.
I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Nothing too crazy there, considering I grew up in the Christian West.
I believe that Christ died for my sins, taking my place on the cross.
And there is nothing I can ever do to truly repay Him for this act. The least I can do is to live my life for His honor and glory.
My justification is through Christ alone.
Not by my works, by Christ’s death on the cross. There was nothing I could have ever done to self-justify. I needed a Savior. One was provided.
I am saved by grace alone.
Not by works, lest any should boast. By grace and grace alone. I repeat: Not by works. By grace alone.
I am 100% righteous before God.
I am fully and utterly convinced that I am 100% righteous in the eyes of God. 100% justified. Not 99%, because 1% sin cannot go to be in the presence of God in Heaven. Because of Christ’s work at Calvary, I am perfect before God. Complete, whole, faultless. I am not righteous in the sense that I never sin, I do. I am righteous in the sense that Jesus blood covers all my sins, and has cloaked and sealed me in His righteousness.
I am a long way from 100% sanctified. This will be a lifelong work.
I am 100% justified. I am maybe 5% sanctified. I frustrate myself. I sin. I do stupid things that God-fearing, Jesus-loving people should not do. So while I am completely justified before God, I am not super polished. I want to be more like Christ. This is taking some time, and will need to continue for quite some time I fully suspect. I am reminded of my absolute dependance on God’s grace quite often in process.
My complete dependance on God’s grace in my salvation (and sustainment thereof) does not entice me to sin.
The argument goes that if one truly believes that 100% of your salvation comes from God’s grace, and His grace alone, that you will want to sin. This is crazy. Think about it. Our desire will be to willfully hurt, and sin against God? Because He saved us through His grace? Why? This makes no sense. Instead, I am completely and utterly thankful, and humbled, and will gladly and joyfully live in His service and for His will. Plus, there’s another problem with that: When we are God’s, and we sin, we feel like crap. We will experience conviction, loss of joy, loss of fulfillment, loss of peace. So the salvation issue aside, why would we willfully live apart from the very God that saved us from our sins and offers the only true joy and peace to be had? We will not. We will sin, but not willfully and on purpose while waiving our grace card in God’s nose.
I believe that God is in control of all things.
He does not lose battles. He does not lose control. He does not let the details slip. God is in control of all things.
I believe in forgiveness.
This one is key. We are forgiven, and so we forgive. Sure, we have certain rights and we can stand up for them. We do not have to be push-overs. But we also are experienced in matters of wronging a Holy God and needing forgiveness. And so we in turn extend forgiveness to others. Jesus’s words on this matter are quite a bit more direct actually, but I will let you read those for yourself.
Our God is alive, and we can talk with him. It’s called prayer, and we are instructed to use it. I have a lot of growing to do in this area.
Persecution is real, and may come to America someday.
Some would argue that it already has to some degree. I’m talking about people-on-the-stake type stuff. These things happen globally. We need to remember our persecuted brothers in the faith, and pray for grace should we ever encounter this ourselves.
We all need brotherhood.
We need each other. We were not meant to figure this out on our own.
Our churches, and the people that comprise them, are not perfect.
We make mistakes. We screw things up. You will always find a handful of things that you wish were not so at any church you choose to become a part of. We need grace for each other, and you will need to pick your battles.
All men are created equal.
Men as in mankind, all people. We are created equal, but different. Some have light skin, some dark. Some have blue eyes, some brown. Some have black hair, some brown. We are different. No question. Beautifully different. But equal.
We are called to help each other.
To share. To be generous. To give cheerfully. To protect the vulnerable, stick up for those without a voice, and help the hurting. Jesus led by example in all these matters and expects us to follow suit. He did leave some pretty big shoes to fill. But like anything else, we start with the first step.
It is ok to have fun.
Yes, we’re getting outside the fundamentals a bit. But come on, let’s just admit it IS ok for a Christ follower to have fun. I certainly do, I’ll just tell you. I am secure in my relationship with Christ and I have great fun. My life is not boring, it is not mundane, it is not filled with a bunch of church-boy stuff (whatever that is). And I know a bunch of others that would say the same thing.
America is not the end game.
Sorry super-patriotic Christ followers. I guess whether you choose to decorate your pulpit with a flag or not is up to you. But the truth of the matter is this: America is great, but is part of a much, much, [much!] bigger picture. And this is not a new issue. We’ve been trying to set up our little kingdoms here on earth for 2k+ years. Jesus had some pretty clear things to say about it then, I would assume His opinion hasn’t changed much.
I am not conscientiously opposed to strong drink.
And by strong drink I mean alcohol in most of it’s fancy forms I guess. I am certainly fine if you are. I actually respect that a ton. I just figure if a little wine was good enough for Jesus it is good enough for me. I say that somewhat lightheartedly to make two points:
– There is guidance on this issue in scripture.
– Plenty of people acknowledge that the scripture may allow it, but they still choose to abstain altogether to guard against the dangers. (*This makes perfect sense to me and I have no problem with it whatsoever.)
It is also worth noting that plenty would feel the scriptures are saying to not drink at all. I am also fine with this. We can agree to disagree and still be friends.
From my experience there seems to be three ‘Christian Camps’ on this issue:
– People that drink responsibly, and don’t hide this fact.
– People that drink responsibly, and don’t want anyone else to know. Certainly not their parents or brotherhood.
– People that do not drink. For convictional or preferential reasons.
I am fine with any of the above categories. What I am not fine with is the 4th category: the abusers. The ones that drink to get drunk, to do in excess what is only meant for moderation. Again, there is scriptural guidance on this stuff, don’t take my word for it.
I am also not conscientiously opposed to a great cigar.
But i guess now we’re just being honest.
I do believe sex is for marriage, and marriage is for a man and a woman.
I’m not sure that needs much further explanation. I will maybe say one more thing on this issue: ‘We’ have grossly mistreated others that do not share this belief. It’s embarrassing, it’s wrong, and it’s disgusting the way some of us have acted towards these people. And to think we claim to be like Christ. It’s not right. The LGBTQ community are comprised of people, like us. We may disagree, but they deserve to be treated as Jesus himself would treat them.
Sin is sin is sin.
If I struggle with pride I should not look down my nose at someone who struggles with pornography. Sin is sin is sin.
Men and women are equal, but different.
Men and women alike can be the children of God. Women are not better, men are not better. Neither is less. We are equal in worth, equal in value. But we are different, and we exist to complement each other. (and procreate I guess, but I digress).
The old and wise among us deserve respect.
This is a personal thing, but it does bear mention in the scriptures, so I get to bring it up here if I choose. Us young ‘know-it-alls’ would do quite well to pay respectful attention when the old and wise are talking.
There is a right way, and a wrong way, to leave one church for another.
It happens. Let’s face it. Maybe it happens too much, maybe not enough. You decide. But I will say this: leaving a church group for any reason is a decision and it involves relationships. And just like any other decision that involves relationships there are quite right, and quite wrong, ways to go about it. Prayer, discretion, guidance, and wisdom will all go a long way in a decision like this should you ever feel God moving you in a new direction.
As a Christian, I have priorities:
As a Christian it ALL boils down to: #1 Love God, #2 Love Others.
Plain and simple. Just like Jesus said it.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is an important principle.
Partly because it’s in the Bible, and partly because it applies to almost everything.
And finally, as a Christian, I believe in authenticity and detest hypocrisy.
And there are many, many like me. The idea that all Christians are hypocrites is quite wrong. Many are, sure. But many are not. Jesus himself taught against hypocrisy and seemed to abhor it. So when we are hypocritical, we need to call it what it is, sin. Then repent, seek forgiveness, and move on. Christians are not hypocritical. We are authentic, honest and as real as they come.
And that, my friends, is this earthlings best shot (for now) at explaining to you, what it means to me, to call myself a Christian. A Christ follower.
Love it, hate it, or add to it. I welcome your feedback, correction, or additional thoughts on said topic.