Part 7: Glowing Christians (Christian But Not series)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” ( Matt 5:14-16)

Jesus said He is the light of the world, but He also said we are the light of the world. Knowing how much greater He is than the brightest of us, I wondered if He was talking about two different kinds of lights, so I looked it up.  Nope. The original Greek word for ‘light’ is the same in both verses.

Light 
φῶς (phōs)
Noun – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5457: Light, a source of light, radiance. From an obsolete phao; luminousness.

Luminous means emitting or reflecting light, startling bright.

Radiance means bright or glowing light

We Christians are glowing! And not just any glow, but a radiant, transparent and flawless glow. Turn to someone and say, “You’re glowing!” Just kidding. I hate it when pastors tell us to do that.  But the truth remains, we are all glowing – or should be glowing – whether we are aware of it or not.

Why do some of us seem to glow brighter than others?

Jesus gives us a hint in Matthew 5:15. He said that hiding a lamp under a bowl defeats the purpose of the lamp, and keeps everyone in the dark. How often do we do just that in our work places, in crowded stores, or when other drivers get in our way? It’s hard to shine when we’re angry or frustrated, or where it would make us conspicuous. I remember a time when my colleagues wanted us all to do something that I considered dishonest. They were all good people, so I was surprised at the animosity I received when I mustered my courage and told them that, based on my belief, I couldn’t participate with them. I found out the hard way that my light was not always welcomed nor tolerated even among friends, and its lasting effect caused me to think twice before allowing my light to peek out from under my bowl again.

Another way a Christian’s glow can be diminished is found in Luke 11:33-37. “No one lights a lamp and puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body…

The same Greek word for ‘lamp’ is used both in Matthew and in Luke. It means an illuminator. Jesus is saying in Luke that our eyes are the illuminators for the light within us. Did He mean our physical eyes? That light should be shooting out of our eyes like the rays in a sci fi alien? Let’s keep reading and also look at the definitions of some of the original Greek words. (Some Bible translations use different words for a few of these. I will note those in parenthesis next to the applicable words.)

“…when your eye is clear, your whole body is also full of light; but when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. So watch out that the light in you is not darkness. Therefore if your whole body is full of light, without any dark part, it will be wholly illuminated, as when the lamp illuminates you with its light. (NASB)

eye
ὀφθαλμός (ophthalmos)
Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 3788: The eye; fig: the mind’s eye. From optanomai; the eye; by implication, vision; figuratively, envy.

body.
σώματός (sōmatos)
Noun – Genitive Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 4983: Body, flesh; the body of the Church. From sozo; the body, used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively.

clear,  (also healthy, good, single)
ἁπλοῦς (haplous)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 573: Single, simple, sound, perfect. Probably from a and the base of pleko; properly, folded together, i.e. Single.

full of light.
φωτεινόν (phōteinon)
Adjective – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5460: Bright, luminous, full of light. From phos; lustrous, i.e. Transparent or well-illuminated.

poor, (also unhealthy, bad, evil)
πονηρὸς (ponēros)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4190: Evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful.

[is] full of darkness.
σκοτεινόν (skoteinon)
Adjective – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 4652: Full of darkness, dark. From skotos; opaque, i.e. benighted.

you
σοὶ (soi)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun – Dative 2nd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 4771: You. The person pronoun of the second person singular; thou.

darkness.
σκότος (skotos)
Noun – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 4655: Darkness, either physical or moral. From the base of skia; shadiness, i.e. Obscurity.

radiant, (also fully illuminated, wholly bright, fully light)
φωτεινὸν (phōteinon)
Adjective – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5460: Bright, luminous, full of light. From phos; lustrous, i.e. Transparent or well-illuminated.

were shining
ἀστραπῇ (astrapē)
Noun – Dative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 796: A flash of lightning, brightness, luster. From astrapto; lightning; by analogy, glare.

Linda’s interpretation:  our eyes are the filter by which light enters and leaves our body, not in a physically sense but in a moral sense. If we look at life through the lens of goodness and perfection, and if we act in accord with that, doing good whenever we can, then we are filled with the light of Jesus which will also shine like a spotlight on us for the benefit of everyone around us. But if our lens is tainted with evil, then that light is cut off and we are left in darkness along with everyone around us.

God makes it very clear what evil is. Do a search for “evil” and you’ll find numerous lists throughout the Old and New Testaments including Is 5:2-23; Is 59;2-25; Ez 22:1-31; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:16-24. Likewise, search “do good” and you’ll find enough scriptures, such as Isaiah 1:16-18 and Micah 6:8, to keep you reading for some time. Some places, such as Eph 5:1-17, describe both evil and doing good. Jesus gave us some additional ways to do good in His sermon on the mount (Luke 6:27-28). His ways are hard, and don’t make sense to our natural minds, yet that’s what we are called to do, regardless of how painful it might be, if we are to shine brightly.

So in a nutshell, what we do and don’t do controls the amount of light in us and coming from us, and thus impacts what others are able to see.

Why does it matter how bright we glow?

Two reasons. One reason is because we love God, want a relationship with Him, and want to go to heaven when we die. We want to see in the darkness, to have our path lit up. We understand the need for people to live good lives in order to benefit society. The problem is that although most of us Christians (Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ) want God in our lives, we only want Him on our terms. We want to live with God. We don’t want to live for God. While we’re here on earth, we’d rather live in as much darkness as we can away with and still get to heaven. We don’t think of it in those terms, but that’s what our lives say nonetheless. Sometimes, though, we don’t shine as strongly as we think we do because of deception. We may think we’re living according to the Bible, but our interpretation – or the interpretation of those who taught us – is faulty. Others of us who have become disciples (disciple: a person who is totally committed to Jesus and all He said) work to shine as brightly as we can, willingly paying the price to do so, because that’s what Jesus wanted.

Paul gives us the second reason in 2 Cor 4:6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We want to glow brightly to reveal God through Jesus to those who don’t know Him. The problem we run into is stated in 2 Cor 4:4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers; to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  It’s hard to keep shining brightly though when no one seems to understand, when people don’t want their deeds exposed to the light, or when it’s easier to conform than to stand out.

I discovered something else in these verses. The original Greek listeners/readers probably got it right away, but I missed it because I don’t read Greek. It wasn’t until I looked up the original Greek words and meanings that I made this discovery. In verse 34 “your eye is the lamp to your body”, the Greek word for ‘body’ is singular noun but is used in a very wide application, such as the body of the Church. Yet, the Greek word for ‘you’ is singular personal pronoun. That means how much each of us individually shines – or doesn’t shine – impacts the whole body of believers as a whole. That is definitely true in our country today. As Christians, we have earned ourselves a bad name because of our behavior. Paul had to address a similar issue with the Roman believers in Romans 2:17-24. But if you call yourself a Jew (think Christian) and rely on the law (think Bible) and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth – you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles (think non-Christian) because of you.’

When I look around America today, when I listen to both Christians and non-Christians, I am grieved at how God is blasphemed because of our actions. If what non-Christians see when they watch Christians (and yes, they are watching us) defines how they see God, no wonder they want no part of what we offer. We’re really no different than they are, and in some cases, even worse. If only more Christians would commit to being a disciple (a Christian-But-Not), then unbelievers could see God through clear lenses and be drawn to Him.

One more thing – maybe something a little more fun. Jesus mentioned a lamp because that’s pretty much all they had besides candles. However, we have many devises for light today: flashlight, nightlight, spotlight, lamp, lantern, Christmas lights, laser, glow in the dark light, etc. Each puts out a different amount of light for different purposes. Thinking about your life, which devise best fits you? Are you shining more like a nightlight (only seen in the dark) or a flashlight (pointing your light in only one direction at a time) or a lantern (shining your light everywhere at once)? Do you just glow softly, not really lighting up much of anything, or broadcast your light in intense ways? Is one way better than another? Are there times when different devises are needed? You might see all of these in the Christian body as a whole. Would the same hold true in a group of fully committed disciples?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. It’s been fun thinking about this but I haven’t drawn any conclusions yet.

Part 6: Lizards and Lamps (Christian But Not series)

Photo by Sameera Madusanka on Pexels.com

According to a 2017 Gallup poll (the latest one I could find), most Christians believe the Bible has something to do with God. But exactly what they believed differed.

34% of Christians believed the Bible was the actual word of God and should be believed word for word.

52% of Christians believed the Bible was inspired by God, but open to interpretation and shouldn’t be taken literally.

10% of Christians believe the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts

This is a cause for concern. If we can’t agree on how to look at the Bible, how can we agree on the truth found in it?

Let’s look at what the Bible is – and what it isn’t.

The Bible is not one book. It’s actually a group of books written in different styles by different people, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any of those people were in a trance and wrote as God dictated to them. Well, maybe Moses – I don’t know what happened when he was up on that mountain surrounded by clouds and wrote for 40 days all the rules and directions God wanted him to give to the Israelites (Ex 34:27-28). But for everyone else, they wrote what they saw, what they remembered, what they were feeling, and what they wanted others to remember. Some wrote on their own, others were told by God to write down what they remembered. Here are some examples (emphasis in the scriptures are mine):

Exodus 17  Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Moses did not write this account while he was holding the staff, nor did God dictate to him what to write after the battle. Moses wrote from his memory. Human writing in human words, in obedience to God.

In contrast, God Himself wrote on the tablets. Those words are literally His words.

Exodus 31:1  The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.

Here’s another example. Jeremiah gave prophecies to the Israelites for about 25 years. And then one day God told him to write down everything he had said over those 25 years.

Jeremiah 30:2 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.

And again in Jeremiah 36:2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today.

Can you imagine? About 25 years of words? Jeremiah got Baruch to help him. Baruch wrote as Jeremiah dictated. It doesn’t say God dictated to Jeremiah who then dictated to Baruch. I believe Jeremiah was writing everything he could remember, with the Holy Spirit prodding his memories. I believe this because when he had to do it again, after the king burned his first copy, he added more to it.

Jeremiah 36:28, 32 “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jerhoiakim the king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them. (emphasis mine)

If the Holy Spirit had been dictating it, wouldn’t He have put it all in the first copy? It’s not like He had memory issues like we do. I can’t see Him saying, “Hey, wait, I remember something else.”

Habakkuk was told to write down a vision he had seen.  Habakkuk 2:2 And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who read it.

Luke told about writing his book based on what he had learned after researching and observing for years.  Luke 1:3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,

Paul wrote his letters based on what he learned from Jesus, addressing issues in different churches. He was not giving word-for-word prophecies from Jesus to those churches.


The bottom line is – the Bible contains God’s word, but was not channeled, nor was it the result of automatic writing (both of which are of the occult and forbidden by God). It was also not written by God’s hand and delivered to us as was the Ten Commandments. The Bible was written by humans inspired by God.

Christians who believe the Bible was written as God dictated and is to be taken literally word-for word will run into more problems because the Bible was not written in English, and it wasn’t written in our western worldview and culture.

Everyone knows that interpreting one language into another word for word is hard and sometimes impossible. Imagine translating the phrase ‘beat around the bush’ into another language. A word for word translation would most likely make no sense to the target audience. Bible translators work to avoid this by using words that would provide the most accurate meaning, which is great in that it helps us understand what was written, but is not the original word. Believing that every word is straight from God raises a question. Which language contains those words?

Another problem relates to worldview and cultural differences. The Bible writers were Middle Eastern men writing to Middle Eastern people. Misunderstandings can occur when we try to interpret the Bible’s family-and-community-focused worldview with today’s individualistic North American worldview. Biblical worldview is more God-centered (God is big, man is small) while Western worldview is more self-centered (Man is big, God is small).

The people in Jesus’ time and culture would have understood the implication of what He said, but in our time and culture today we need others to explain that implication. Examples are Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the woman at the well (several implications can’t be seen without looking into that culture), and women being told to cover their heads in church. The following pdf by Charles H. Craft discusses this in depth. I suggest scrolling down to his four areas of interpretation. https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/21/21-4/21-4-pp357-367_JETS.pdf   

An easier read is by Lindsey Sullivan: https://pepperdine-graphic.com/dont-interpret-the-bible-through-a-cultural-lens/

Another group of Christians believe that the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts. Well, there is plenty of history and moral precepts. But for the rest, here’s what the Bible has to say:

2 Tim 3:16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Numbers 23:19a God is not man, that he should lie…

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

1 Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

So if the Bible is inspired by the God, and He does not lie, then what he said happened happened. And we need the Holy Spirit to understand it.

That leaves us with the third group of people – the ones that believe the Bible was inspired by God, but open to interpretation and shouldn’t be taken literally.

Again, there are problems here. If we are not to take the Bible literally, then what about the Ten Commandments? What about Jesus’ miracles? What about Jesus’ death and resurrection and salvation? What about the message about loving and forgiving and being kind to each other? Obviously there are parts that are supposed to be taken literally. So which parts do we not take literally? The parts we don’t like? The parts we don’t understand? The parts that are hard?

Most Christians – as defined as a person who has anything to do with Christ –tend to treat the Bible like a buffet. They pick and choose what they take literally and what they don’t, and what they will follow and what they won’t. They interpret the Bible in light of their worldview, and use it to support their ideology. The live by values that make sense to them or that they’ve adopted based on those around them instead of on Biblical values. Instead of being lights as Jesus wanted, they have become lizards, changing to blend into the world. I love lizards, but I don’t think we’re supposed to be one.

Disciples – as defined as a person who is totally committed to following Jesus and all He said – accept all of what Jesus said, and study/pray for understanding of how to live it out in today’s culture. They take the whole message of the Bible seriously, and conform their lives to what they learn. This is hard because most of the time the Western worldview is at odds with the Biblical worldview causing them to stand out from those around them like a light on a hill. Jesus knew that would happen, and warned his disciples that it was not going to be easy.

Do we – you and I – stand out in today’s culture? If not, maybe we’re not the disciples we thought we were. Or maybe we don’t care. Jesus called us to be disciples, but maybe being Christian is enough for us. It was for me for many years, but being Christian is no longer enough for me. I hear Him calling, drawing me to Him. It’s time to trade my lizard skin for a lamp. If you feel the same way, you’re welcome to join me as I pray.

Lord Jesus, I know You love me, and You know I love you. That’s not the point. Many people loved You that chose not to follow You, yet Your love for them didn’t change. However, I did choose to follow You all those years ago when You rescued me from my pit. And I did follow You for a while. But over time, it became easier to blend in with those around me. It became easier to hide my light rather than face ridicule and estrangement from others. It became easier to walk the path of least resistance when life became hard and I grew weary. You never stopped loving me, and I never stopped loving You. I just stopped following You. I stopped reading the Bible for how You wanted me to live, and began reading it – when I read it – for comfort and support for how I chose to live. I wanted to hear about Your love and care for me, but not about what You called me to be or how You wanted me to live. I’m sorry for the number of people who missed out on Your light had I shone it all these years. Forgive me for my self-centeredness. Forgive me for choosing me over You. Forgive me for choosing my way over Your way. I know You forgive me, because that’s who You are, and I thank You for it. Help me to begin anew to live for You. Show me where I am falling short. Help me to see the Bible the way You intended. Help me to understand and to walk in all Your ways, not just the ones I like. Help me to be the light You called me to be, and not the lizard I became. Help me to be Your disciple.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Part 5: The Bible (Christian But Not series)

Summary of my previous posts laying the foundation for this post:

Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ

Disciple: a person who is totally committed to following Jesus and all He said

Jesus did not call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.

Disciples give up their own truth for Jesus’ Truth

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 

I think we would all agree we would find God’s word – truth – in the Bible.

I started to write this blog as a history and explanation of the different versions of the Bible we can find everywhere.  I spent several days researching the Bible. It was a fascinating. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog. Then I tried writing about statistics of what Christians and non-Christians believed about the Bible. Again I spent a couple days researching. But that’s not where I’m supposed to go with this blog either. As much as I love learning about the Bible’s history and translations, there are many web sites of scholars who do so much better than I ever could. And as much as I am fascinated with statistics and what people believe, there are web sites that provide that information better than I can.

And then I ran into this:

Christians use the Bible. Disciples read the Bible.

And I knew where I am supposed to go.

Christians use the Bible to support and promote their views. Disciples read the Bible to form their views.

Christians use the Bible to point fingers at others. Disciples read the Bible to point their fingers at themselves.

For Christians, opinions come first, then Scripture. For disciples, Scripture comes first, then opinions.

We all know that Christians on both sides of every issue can find something in the Bible to support their views. Many times, the scripture is taken out of context, misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misused. Hopefully the Christians doing so don’t know that they’re doing so. But sadly, there are Christians who don’t care. If they can get a scripture to justify their opinions, then they feel entitled to use it to condemn others. This is not new. It’s been happening since the first Christians. Paul had to address it to the Roman Christians.

Romans 14:14-19 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess[b] to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

In a nutshell, Some Christians were condemning other Christians for breaking the law. They used the Old Testament and years of tradition to back them up. Other Christians were condemning those who were still living under the law instead of in the freedom Christ provided. They used Paul’s letters to other churches (they didn’t have the New Testament yet, but some of the letters Paul wrote were already circulating between groups of Christians) to back up their opinion.

Galatians 4:21:26 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

Galatians 5:1  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and so not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Sound familiar? Christians fighting Christians, each using the Bible to condemn the other? I could think of numerous examples just by looking at doctrinal differences between denominations. But I also see it outside the lines of denomination. One huge example is how Trump followers use the Bible to condemn Biden followers, and Biden followers use it to condemn Trump followers. Or how Republicans and Democrats are using the Bible to justify their own side and condemn the other.

Both groups are using the Bible to defend their opinions, just like those Christians in Rome. And both groups are missing the bigger picture. 

God’s message has been clear since Genesis. Love Him. Love each other. Live in peace with each other.

Matthew 22:35-40  35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Isaiah 32:15-18 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.  

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The Roman Christians showed in their fighting that they were using the Bible for their own agendas.

Paul, a disciple, showed that he had read the Bible and was responding using that lens. He knew the bigger picture. (Reread his letter to the Romans quoted above if you are guilty of reading familiar Scriptures like I do – skimming through them because I think I already know what they say.)

As disciples, we are not called to use the Bible. We are called to read it. How would our families, our work places, our stores, our roads, our leisure activities, our churches, our communities be different if we began reading the Bible instead of using it? If we lived as disciples instead of Christians?

I think it’s time to find out.

Part 4: Truth (Christian But Not series)

Summary of previous posts in this series:

Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ

Disciple: a person who is totally committed to following Jesus and all He said

Jesus did not call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.

Christians today, for the most part, are just that – Christians. And that causes a lot of confusion. So many beliefs. Some many values. So many behaviors. So many life styles. So many pointing fingers. Wouldn’t you think a group of people who all follow the same Man would have the same beliefs? Or at least very similar ones?  

Everyone thinks that what they believe is the truth, and most are willing to fight for their beliefs. They argue and judge and condemn others, whether done quietly behind their backs, publically on social media, or violently in riots and protests. And yes, I’m still talking about Christians.

Every Christian thinks they know the truth. Yet one person’s truth is different than another person’s truth. The culture in which we live thinks that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to live their own truth. But what happens with truths collide? What happens when your truth interferes with my truth? What do we teach our children when I believe the world is round and you believe the world is flat? I guess we could leave it up to our children to decide what they want to believe, because it’s not a life or death decision. But things can get much more complex. What if I believed people with green hair were parasitic deviants and needed to be destroyed? What if you had green hair? What if you believed your green hair made you superior? Would my truth allow me to kill you – or would your truth top my truth? Who gets to live their truth?

I did a little research hoping to learn more about truth, but closed my browser more confused than ever. There are numerous theories about what truth is, most of which made my brain hurt, but I did understand a few.

Consensus Truth: what a group of people agree on.

 Constructivist Theory: what society constructs as truth (“perceptions of truth are viewed as contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience”, Wikipedia).

 Correspondence Theory: Truth is determined by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately describes that world.

Even major religions have their own definitions of truth.

In Hinduism, truth is something that is unchangeable, has no distortion, goes beyond distinctions of time, space, and person, and pervades the universe. In this definition, the human body is not true because it changes over time.

In Buddhism, truth is divided into relative/conventional truth and ultimate/absolute truth. Relative truth is based on common understanding, while ultimate truth “transcends logic in the sphere of ordinary experience, and recognized such phenomena as illusory”. I’m not sure I know what that really means. But I understood the example given – political law is relative while religious law is absolute.

My conclusion? The truth about truth is that no one really knows or agrees on what it is. Again, everyone has their theory, but their theories disagree with each other. And thus the confusion we see all around us as people claim their own truths to be the Truth to support their views and behavior.

How does a community function with so many conflicting truths? How do we as members of the Christian church work this out? I don’t think we can. With as many truths as there are groups of people, clashes are unavoidable. It’s not like we can all agree to disagree and move on with our lives. Too many of those truths are incompatible with other truths. They simple can’t co-exist. For example, abortion. We can’t both legalize it and illegalize it. Someone’s truth must rise above the other, or the fighting will never end.

I don’t have the answer (just in case you’re wondering).

But I know someone who does.

Jesus wasn’t confused. He knew truth – because He was the Truth.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

I know for non-Christians, this is just one more truth theory. However, for Christians this should settle most disputes. But Christian doesn’t mean much anymore. Christians disagree with each other, and they even disagree with Jesus. (That makes my brain hurt too.)

However, disciples are different. Disciples are the ones who have voluntarily committed to following Jesus and ALL that He said. Not just what they agree with. Not just what makes sense to them. Not just what is convenient. Not just what lines up with or fits into their corner of American culture. As disciples, they have given themselves completely to the teachings of Jesus, giving up their opinions for His.

In other words, disciples have given up their truths for His Truth. So must we if we want to answer His call to be His disciples. Whatever doesn’t match with what He says, we must toss away. Jesus’ Truth is absolute. Unchangeable. Without distortion. Outside of times and places. (kind of like the Hindus believe). His Truth is Truth for all and for always. No more confusion. No more debates. No more fights. We will be free from all that. In fact He said in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So I guess maybe I do have the answer after all. We Christians need to be disciples. To be what Jesus called us to be, not what we made for ourselves. We need to do things His way if we want live in peace with each other as He intended. And if we do this… if we become disciples… if we really lived every moment of our lives submissive to the His words… to accept His truth as THE TRUTH… the world would see a completely different church. The world would see what Jesus meant for us to be – the physical manifestation of His body, His hands and feet, and His heart. And maybe, just maybe, they would be drawn to the One who loved them so much He died for them.

But here’s the kicker. We can’t wait for the rest of the Christians to get on board the Disciple train as an excuse not to get on ourselves. We can’t point our fingers at them, and not point at ourselves. Jesus didn’t call groups of people when He called His first disciples. He called them one by one, and by name.

Guess what? Jesus knows your name, too. And He’s calling you. Can you hear Him? I can because He’s calling me, too.  

I think it’s time to answer Him. It’s time to accept His word as Truth; to give up our truths for His.

I know what my answer is. Do you know yours?

Part 3: What is a Disciple? (Christian But Not series)

Over the years, the name Christian has become associated with anyone who has anything to do with Christ. As long as a person professes belief in Christ, that person is considered a Christian regardless of what else he or she believes, and many times, what he or she does. That’s why Christians can be found on both sides of any controversial issue. Politics, social issues, religious views – even abortion stands. Christian can mean anything because the Bible doesn’t define it.

The good news is – we don’t have to define it because Jesus didn’t call us to be Christians. He called us to be disciples.

A disciple, according to online dictionaries, is a student or learner who adheres completely to the teachings of another, making them his rule of life and conduct. A Christian disciple is someone who fully commits to Jesus as Lord.

Some churches – some people – believe that a disciple is a Christian who had made a higher level of commitment to Jesus than other Christians. This makes it sound like there are two acceptable standards of commitment. However, Jesus only had one standard. He called us to a life of wholehearted discipleship to Him.

When we are committed, we follow Jesus’ teachings and we surrender all of our opinions to His opinions. When He is Lord we seek to live as He lived. It’s like the difference between scrambled eggs and bacon: the chicken is involved; the pig is committed.

 Jesus warned this wouldn’t be easy. He talked about the high cost of being His disciple. He warned that being His disciple would make us stand out from the world around us. He said we would be opposed, rejected, persecuted, and even put to death. He said we would be treated just like the world treated Him. And that wasn’t good.

If we’re not seeing that in our lives, maybe it’s because we’re not disciples. Maybe we have left the teachings of Jesus for the teachings of the world. We may have unknowingly – or knowingly – adopted the world’s ways, values, and beliefs as our own. We may have mixed them in with those of Jesus. We may have even completely replaced some of Jesus’ ways with them.

Why?

To indulge our own desires? Because of ignorance of God’s word? Out of fear of being labeled or judged? To avoid conflict or offense? Because it’s easier or more convenient? To fit in with those around us? To be accepted as one of the crowd?

Whatever the reason, Paul called what we have done ‘becoming friends with the world’.

James 4:4  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Hard words to be sure.

Here’s a comparison between Christian (believer) and Disciple that I found on a website called davidcannistraci.org.

How are disciples different from believers?

1.  THE CROSS: Believer look to the cross. A Disciple pick up the cross(Matthew 16:22-24).

2.  OBEDIENCE: A Believer obeys God if it’s convenient. A Disciple obeys no matter the outcome.

3.  DECISIONS:ABeliever decides once, A Disciple decides daily.

4.  FOCUS: Believers focus on eternal life, A Disciple focus on eternal rewards.

5.  PRAYER: A Believer prays when things get tough. A Disciple prays no matter the circumstance.

6.  SCRIPTURE: A Believer twists the Bible to fit his or her lifestyle. A Disciple works to make his or her lifestyle resemble the teachings of the Bible.

7.  ETERNAL IMPACT: Believers make heaven.  Disciples make history.

http://www.davidcannistraci.org/news/2016/2/23/seven-ways-disciples-are-different-than-believers

I have to admit for too many of the 40+ years since I encountered Jesus, I was a Christian. I loved Jesus, and grew in my relationship with Him, but when His words were hard to follow, I chose to ignore them and lived as I thought best. He loved me, and I knew I was secure in His hands, but I chose my way over His more times than I want to remember.

I still do. Am I’m heartbroken over that.

Jesus died for me. He gave up everything for me. And yet, I only give Him what’s convenient. Is that enough? Is it enough to return my husband’s love and commitment to me with a half-hearted commitment to him?

Did God ever say that was enough?

He didn’t in the Old Testament.

Joshua 22:5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses, the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

And He didn’t in the New Testament.

Mark 12:30  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

So why do we Christians think that is enough now?


Luke 14:25-33   Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

John 15:18-21  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me

Deut 6:4-15 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.  You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Linda’s Paraphrase: Hear, O Christians: There is only one God. Love the Him with all your heart (total commitment) and with all your soul (what you think) and with all your might (energy, focus). Keep His words foremost in your heart always. Teach them to your children. Talk about them day and night as a part of everything you do. Put up post it notes and memory cards throughout your house. And when God answers your prayers – when you are living with His blessings which you didn’t earn – be careful not to forget who gave them to you. It is God you shall fear, not man. Him and only Him shall you serve. Don’t go after the ways and loves of the world around you – for the God in you is a jealous God – lest He get angry and destroy you.

Part 2: What is a Christian? Are you one? (Christian But Not series)

In Part 1, I looked at the word ‘Christian’ and at what the first Christians called themselves (which was not ‘Christian’).  I summarized saying a Christian was someone who followed Jesus, spent time learning what Jesus taught, identified with others who were doing the same, believed they were set apart by or for God from the rest of the world, and were trustworthy and faithful in living what they believed.

I guess I still believe that. But there’s a problem with this definition. It’s still too vague. And there are many self-identified Christians who fit part but not all of it. Is that enough? Is that what Jesus wanted?

I just listened to a sermon by Andy Stanley in which he did – in a far superior way – what I’m attempting to do. His message “Christian” was amazing and I encourage everyone to listen to it. https://northpoint.org/messages/christian/brand-recognition

In this blog, I want to focus on what the first Christians called themselves. Like I said, it was not “Christian”. The name Christian was given to them by others and was derogatory. Kind of like it is now, only we give it to ourselves. And we’ve earned that reputation.

So what did the first followers of Jesus call themselves? And more importantly, what did Jesus call them?

I heard that the most common term was “disciple” but I wanted to see for myself. So I did a search using Bible Gateway. I subtracted the terms that were included in subtitles. The numbers vary between versions of the Bible. I’ve included a few popular versions for comparison.

 ESVKJVNASBNIV
Christian3333
Disciple ( found only in the Gospels and in Acts)247255255279
believer1421550
saint6562610
Brethren*022900
Brother*325109323275
* included in subtitles, also includes natural brothers, such as Matt 10:2  The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother.

Results: “Brother” and “Disciple” were used a lot more often than any other terms. Since “Brother” included natural relationships as well as referring to Christ-followers, which would make the numbers much lower than “Disciple” if we subtracted them (anyone with more time than I have is welcome to do the math), I would say that the winner is…

Disciple

That’s what Jesus called us to be.

In my next blog, we look into what a disciple is, as found in the NT, and compare it to what Christian means to us today.