The Christian Atheist (Casual Christian Part 2)

The chorus of Casual Christian:  “I don’t wanna be, don’t wanna be a casual Christian.  I don’t wanna live don’t wanna live a lukewarm life.  But I want to light up the night, with an everlasting light.  I don’t wanna live a casual Christian life.”

That song ought to be one of the themes for Christians.  It needs to be our theme because too many Christians have become just that, casual in their Christianity, casual to point that many Christians have failed in what it means to be a Christian.  The song can help remind us of our commitment and the level of our commitment to Christ.

I asked by Facebook friends “What do you think it means to be a casual Christian?”

I received several responses:

  • There are the jokes, like, getting to dress casually at church
  • Others responded with things like lukewarm, lazy, informal in their faith, lacking intensity or zeal for their faith
  • But Robin Sigars, formerly with CIY, now senior minister with the Carterville Christian Church (Carterville, MO) responded that casual Christians are Christian Atheists.

So what exactly is a Christian-Atheist?

That term is an oxymoron.  It just seems like you are putting opposites together.  Like Democratic-Republican, or Socialist-Democracy, or Kansas-Missourian.

What is a Christian-Atheist?

  • Well, a Christian is one who has faith in God.  Someone who through conviction has put their faith in God and Christ.
  • And an Atheist is one who doesn’t believe there is a God.  They have no faith in God, no belief in Christ as Savior.

They are opposites, but the term Christian-Atheist is a descriptive term.  What does it describe?

Wipedia, an online dictionary defines Christian-Atheist as “one who doesn’t believe in God but attempts to live by Biblical morality.”

In other words, they are atheists whose values are Christian-like in character.  But that’s what the world’s definition is.  We are Christians.  We are believers so that doesn’t even begin to make sense to us; Not from a Biblical point of view, but that is what the rest of the world thinks a Christian-Atheist is.

Here is what a Christian-Atheist is and I hope that you’re not one; “Putting your faith in God, but still living as if everything is up to you, as if everything depends on you!”  “Believing in God but living as if he doesn’t exist.”

Old Testament Israel is living in much the same way and Jeremiah is praying to God about their faithlessness.  He says to God in Jeremiah 12:2 – “You are near to their lips but far from their mind”

What does that line “(God) You are near to their lips but their mind is far from you” (NASB) Mean?

[Excerpted from The Christian Atheist, beginning on page 17]

Hi, my name is Craig Groeschel, and I’m a Christian Atheist.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in God, but I haven’t always lived like he exists. Today my Christian Atheism isn’t as large of a problem as it once was, but I still struggle with it. Like a recovering alcoholic careful never to take sobriety for granted, I have to take  life one day at a time.

You might think it’s odd for a pastor to struggle with living like there is no God. However, in my corner of the world, Christian Atheism is a fast-spreading spiritual pandemic which can poison, sicken, and even kill eternally. Yet Christian atheism is extremely difficult to recognize — especially by those who are infected.

My story illustrates the symptoms. I was born into a “Christian” family. We believed in God and attended church when convenient — and always on Christmas or Easter. And when we did attend, it was always boring. Some older man wearing what looked like a dress would stand at the pulpit for what seemed like forever, talking about stuff that didn’t make any sense to me. I remember counting how many times the preacher raised one hand in the air — fifty-three in one sermon may still be the world record. Even though I never carried a Bible to church, we did own a yellowish-gold Bible that was the size of a small U-haul truck and sat prominently on our living room coffee table. The pictures gave me warm, tingly, spiritual feelings, but the words were an impenetrable web of thees and thous. Two of my friends’ parents always made us pray before meals: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food.” It always bothered me that this prayer didn’t rhyme, even though it seemed like it   should, and wondered if it bothered God too. At my grandparent’s house, we prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed.”  Neither prayer mattered to me, but at least the second one actually rhymed.

He goes on to describe how he learned at age 8 in a VBS that he was going to hell and supposedly accepted Christ at that time.

  • In High School he was a hypocrite, going to church by himself, listening to messages and encouragements to be holy, but when Friday night rolled around, well…you know how it is.
  • In college, a Christian school, he had a great spiritual awakening, starting a Bible study in his dorm, passionate about leading people to Christ, and it was in those years that he for the first time believed in God and began to live like he is real.

Does any part of Craig Groeschel’s story resonate with you?  If it does, you might be a Christian-Atheist.

You’ve confessed Jesus as Lord, you’ve been baptized, you might have been full of energy and zeal for Christ and the church, but now it’s just religious ceremony and boring ritual, it’s obligation with little feeling and virtually no meaning for you anymore.  You’re just Christian in name but not in action?

That’s what it means to be a Christian Atheist.  You believe, but you don’t live like you believe.

Maybe Paul’s words help us understand better – Titus 1:16: They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him.” NASB

Welcome to Christian Atheism, where people believe in God but live as if he does not exist.  Here’s why a person is a Christian-atheist.

 1)    They Don’t Know God

We know that roughly as many as 90-some percent of Americans say they believe in God.  But do that 90-some percent know God?

You can tell when someone who claims to believe in God, that they don’t know him when they call him the “Big Guy in the Sky,” or the “Man Upstairs.”  They believe in God, I guess, they know about God, some, I suppose, but they don’t KNOW God.  There is no closeness to God. No relationship with God.

Maybe you were closer to God than you are today?  You started out full of zeal and desire, pleasing God, serving him with excitement, learning God’s ways with every sermon and Bible study, but, your Christian life is like a slow leak in your car tire.  It takes a while, but eventually, your tire goes flat.  As it leaks and flattens, driving becomes more difficult, your gas mileage suffers, and your car drives squirrelly on the highway.

Slowly but surely over time your spiritual passion has quietly slipped away.  You pray less.  You barely read your Bible.  You are disinterested when people bring up spiritual things.  Church becomes a bore and a bother.  You just go to church and that’s all, if you go to church at all.  In fact, if you live with Biblical morals and values you do so out of habit, not out of faith.

We have got to face believing AND knowing God.  We have got to cross the line where we KNOW God and are close to him.  Right away, we want to look at three levels of closeness with God.

The 1st level, only knowing God by Reputation

You’ve heard stories from friends or your parents and you can tell a little about Noah and an Ark, or Moses crossing the Red Sea, or maybe Jonah and a big fish or a whale, or something, and of course Jesus birth and death but the details are a bit sketchy and maybe that’s about all.

You only know God by Bible stories that don’t really mean anything to you, but you don’t know God personally.  He is not your Father in heaven.  He is not even just a god out there.  He really means very little to you.  And so you gage and judge God by his reputation according to the stories you have heard.

The 2nd level, only knowing God by Memory

You have memories of church.  I can visit with you about church and you can tell me the day you were baptized, and about attending camps and revivals, maybe you’re an elder’s kid, or you were a deacon, or your grandma was a Sunday School teacher, or you taught SS, or the preacher’s kids were your best friends, but these are all just memories of the past.

And something upset you so you dropped out or even quit.  Someone said something, or did something and you left the church.  There was a church split and your parents took you somewhere else and you haven’t been back to church since you were 15 and that was 30 years ago and you just lost touch.

You say, “Oh yeah, I have good memories of church.”  But see, they are just memories of the past and you don’t know God today.

The 3rd level, Intimately Knowing God

The Bible talks about intimacy, especially the old KJV.  Adam knew Eve and she conceived and gave birth to a couple of babies, Cain and Abel.  The idea of intimacy is being one in marriage.  It’s more than I know about you, but I am now joined with you and you become one with the each other and you KNOW each other.

God wants us to know him with our whole life with that level of intimacy.

2)    They  Don’t Know God, but God is Near

Look at Deuteronomy 4:29

At the time when this passage was written, there is going to be a time when Israel will be going through great difficulty.  They will not be in their own land, they will be captives to other nations, having been taken away from their homes and their land and separated from the Temple and from God and in that day of captivity God says that when you look for me, you will find me.

God wants you to search for him wholeheartedly; as Jesus said, “with all your heart and soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Look at Jeremiah 29:12-13

Israel is in captivity now and the Israelites are supposed to do what it takes to get along with their Babylonian neighbors and God wants them to know that he is there, he is with them.  “I am there.  I want a relationship with you.”

He wants to be close to you.

Go to Acts 17:27

Here is a sermon that is relevant today, right now.  God wants the nations to come to him.  But the nations have problems with Christians.

But you say to me; “I believe!  I believe Jeff. Isn’t that good enough?”  That is a fair question and it deserves an honest answer.

Turn with me in your Bibles, James chapter 2

Let’s hear the context.  There are scattered Christians that are saying all you have to do is believe.  Belief is all there is.  You’ve heard that, there are those who make the same claims today.  James has learned this and James is addressing their mistaken belief.

@James 2:17-19

What are we getting at here?  If you think you’ve got to have just an intellectual faith, you know, just possessing knowledge, God is saying to you today, you’ve got to show me your faith.

The demons believe in God and they’re scared.  They shake in fear of God and his judgment.  They are afraid.  They know their fate and they should be afraid.

Let me be totally up front with you right now.  If you only believe and that’s all, you don’t believe you have to be baptized, you don’t carry out acts of mercy, and you don’t and won’t reach out to others with the Gospel of Christ, if you have friends that are like this too, the demons are better off then you.

Let me tell you there are no atheists in hell (literal atheists or Christian-atheists).  Philippians 2 tells us that the day that Jesus comes back EVERY person will bow down and worship him and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and that means that those who are not saved, even those who were atheist in this life will believe in who Jesus is.  But, it will too late for them.

If all you do today is say I believe, my friend, you’re in trouble.

If you are a Christian, are you who you say you?  You believe, James says you do well, so do the demons.  But that’s not good enough.  What have you done more than the demons?

CONCLUSION – THE SOLUTION

I’m not trying to condemn you, but you may be feeling guilt and shame at this point.  Let me help you here because you are wondering “how do you get out of this, out of being a Christian-Atheist?”

The answer is simple, but following through may be difficult.  Here it is: Show your faith, live the life of faith God has given you.  Here is how your faith is seen.

Show mercy

  • James says it’s about mercy.  @James 1:27.  True religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.
  • Micah told us what the Lord God said (6:8), the Lord REQUIRES that you act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

Be holy

  • Peter emphasized we are to be holy as the Lord our God is holy @1 Pet. 1:15.
  • Purity, righteousness, being sanctified, consecration, and being separate (from the world) are words that describe holiness.

Be evangelistic, reaching out with Jesus to make disciples of all people

  • Jesus commanded the apostles to teach us to obey what he had commanded them @Matt. 28:19, and he commanded them to go, make disciples and those who were scattered with the persecution preached the word wherever they went @Acts 8:4.

Are you obedient?

  • John says we know we have come to know God if we keep his commandments @1 John 2:3.

If the fruit of faith and obedience are not evident in your life, you are living a Christian Atheist! You can claim “I’m a Christian” all day long, but if you live as if there is no God and in fact you live as if everything depends on you, you are a Christian Atheist!  I should be able to see your faith by your actions and so should everyone else!

Being a Christian-Atheist is as if you are living in captivity.  You are a Christian, but for whatever reason you have settled into a faith without action, you are captive to a Godless way of living and doing.  God was with the Israelites in their captivity, and when they were ready to seek God with all their hearts, God would hear them and they would find him.

If you are living in the modern captivity without obedience, without the fruit that shows you are a follower of Christ, a child of God, God is still there.  He is waiting for your total surrender to him and his commands, to live the way Christ showed.

And that is the invitation.  To commit yourself to Christ and get busy being Christ-like.

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Inadvertent Wisdom

I love what you might hear when you switch stations on the radio. One person is talking, a DJ, or a commercial spokesman, or someone, and you get one part of a sentence from one and another from the next. Makes for some good laughs.

It happened today. Here’s what I got.

Voice #1, “The great thing about retirement is…,” and voice #2, “the warranty.”

At first I literally laughed out loud. Most people going into retirement probably feel that their warranty is about to run out, but, after I laughed I thought, that’s just it, that’s what it means for the faithful Christian.

One of the promises for the Christian, our future hope, is eternal life with God.  Usually, when we age, our parts wear out. My folks have new joints, Mom new knees and Dad new hips. A lady I work with who is my age (55 this year) has a new knee. This life has no guarantees. Our bodies wear out, our emotions can be injured, our minds grow tired, and eventually, we die. Our bodies in the material state in which we live will not last forever. We will die and be transferred into the spiritual realm, completely.

I had a friend who went to be with the Lord in January 2010. I wrote about his faith while he was dying (https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/dying-mans-faith/ and, https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/faith-journeying-toward-heaven/ and, https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/the-king-is-coming/, these are all about Jim). Often, when you would ask Jim how he was doing, he would respond, “I’m vertical. It’s better than the alternative.” Jim loved to laugh and tell a good joke, and that was one of his funnies. But a lot of people really believe that living is better than the alternative. The alternative being death.

Death is the last vestige of this life. It is when Christians move into heaven with God. Like Jim, though he died with peace, uncomfortable in his earthly body because of age and cancer, he died going to the better alternative, eternity with God.

Why? Because of the warranty.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

There’s your warranty info. No more of the bad and evil and harmful and sinful things of this life affecting our life with God. A new home, a perfect indestructible home, and an eternal Father who loves and cares for us.

The great thing about retirement (dying as a Christian) is the warranty (eternal life with God and Christ).

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 67,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Nothing is What it Seems

The movie “The Recruit” starring Al Pacino and Colin Ferrell is an interesting story of a CIA agent who recruits and instructs prospective CIA operatives. The story has its twists and we learn from beginning to end the reality of the training and the real world of espionage is that “nothing is what it seems.” Al Pacino’s character Walter Burke repeats this truth throughout the movie and in the end is caught in his own farce and is told by James Clayton (Colin Ferrell’s character) “nothing is what it seems.”

What appears on the surface to be true is not what is real.  It may seem real, it may seem to be true, and everyone believes that it is, but reality lies somewhere else, somewhere underneath, it is buried beneath the surface of life and is manipulated by someone who is controlling reality.

One of the problems with modern Christianity is that we have ceased to fight a spiritual battle. We are fighting individuals and organizations and governments and movements and joining movements and organizations to fight all of these where they differ from or we believe that differ from our Biblical and religious beliefs and practices.

So we fight against the organizations of abortion, homosexuality, economic irresponsibility by the government, sexual immorality on TV and in the movies, pornography on the internet, liberal feminism, and so much more. But attacking the establishments of these values is that where the battle for Christians and the church is at?

Before I go further, please don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those who go to battle in the courts and before congress to protect Christian values and rights and work hard to overturn or enact legislation to set things right. It is needed and certain individuals and groups such as Focus on the Family and others are certainly called by God for that purpose, but is that where the Christian and the church is to focus? The government? The courts? Abortion clinics? Is it? Should I complain to television producers that I am offended by almost every TV show that is on TV now? Should I lobby for greater restraints on the Internet so that people cannot access immoral sites? What?

Here’s the truth of scripture. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

Our fight is not the immoral or misguided organizations, or even individuals who believe and/or follow these belief’s and practices. They are not the enemy. As one preacher I heard say more than 20 years ago, they are prisoners of the enemy. The devil has them trapped. Our fight is with the the powers of sin that influence our world. Satan, the devil, his demons and evil spirits, their influence in individual lives.

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Sinner’s Prayer Doesn’t Identify with Christ’s Death and Resurrection

“1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ wasraised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:1-10, NASB

The controversy of the sinner’s prayer versus baptism is first and mostly about what does God say? What is the doctrine of salvation? That is, what does the Bible say?

Since Jesus came to save (Luke 19:10) and God wants to save (1 Timothy 2:3-6) what does God require to be saved? What did Jesus’ apostles whom he gave the authority to teach and preach and initiate the church tell us? Be baptized!

We discussed that in the previous post, but why is baptism the manner in which God brings salvation. Romans 6 pretty well explains that. We have this need to die to sin. We’re dead in our sin. Our life sucks with sin.

When a person dies, we bury them and they have nothing to do with this life anymore. When we dead to sin, like Jesus died on the cross, we are to buried in water like Jesus was buried in the tomb. Now this is where the analogy ends because Jesus rose from the dead three days after he died. When we are immersed, we are buried in the water a dead sinner but we come back out of the water alive in Christ.

Baptism is our death, burial and resurrection, our identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection which is where God dealt with our sin. If we don’t identify physically and spiritually with Jesus death, burial and resurrection, not having contact with it, how are we saved?

Saying a prayer won’t do it. There is no identification with Jesus death, burial and resurrection. It’s simple. The Bible teaches us that when a person believes, repents and is baptized, that person is saved.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 5 fully loaded ships.

 

In 2010, there were 109 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 236 posts. There were 321 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 33mb. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 4th with 1,249 views. The most popular post that day was Roger Rabbit & Daffy Duck are Designing Cars.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, blogsurfer.us, newtestamentchristianonline.com, en.wordpress.com, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for roger rabbit, communication, gilligan’s island, baptism, and god’s grace.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Roger Rabbit & Daffy Duck are Designing Cars February 2010
1 comment

2

Influence Congruence January 2010
1 comment

3

Discovering Grace March 2010

4

Identity Theft June 2010
2 comments

5

Eternal Questions . . . I’ve got loads of ’em September 2009

 

Identity Theft

Normally, I don’t share whole sermons.  Just on a rare occasion.  So I only share this one with you because of the critical nature of the issue.  This is a simple and short overview of identity theft from a spiritual perspective.  The devil himself is trying to rob you, the Christian of your identity in Christ.  This message deals with the individual with their life.  It doesn’t approach the fact that the devil tries to discredit Christianity through false religion that is seen in the public’s mind as associated with true Christianity, just from a personal perspective.  And, I didn’t give every strategy the devil uses just four and we still took over 35 minutes to share it Sunday morning.  You may listen to this message at http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/Sermons.dsp.  My prayer is that you will grow in faith and hope and the strength of the Lord.

“This is the last one folks, the concluding message of the Identity series.  We’ve identified God in our world and our lives, and we identified Jesus for who he is and what he does.  Our focus for the past couple of weeks has been on our lives; where we were before we came to Christ and who we are in Christ.

But one issue is still before us; Identity Theft!

Remember the Citibank commercials.  You see people who have been ripped off and see them talking but you hear the voice of the thief coming from their mouths bragging about what they bought with what they stole.  They’re comical to watch, but the subtlety of comedy comes home hard when we’re hit with the reality of it.

Identity theft is one of the biggest problems in America right now.  I am feeling the effects of it.  My driver’s license is due to be renewed this month.  In the past, I went in and my old license was enough to verify my identity with the license bureau.  I got a notice a few weeks ago that now I have to show my birth certificate and social security card to prove who I am.  My license that has verified my identity for almost 30 years is now not enough.

This stuff is serious.  We’re talking great danger here.  If someone can gain access to your bank account, your credit card account, or even your social security number, they can use your personal information and they can ruin more than just your credit.  It is much more than financial ruin.  If you have bad or ruined credit, it could keep you from getting some jobs even.  It could ruin your life and livelihood.

According to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ there’s several things identity thieves do with the information they’ve stolen:

  • They open credit card accounts or even change the billing address without your knowledge running up bills that you don’t know about and that you may and probably will be responsible for.
  • They open a phone account or even a utilities account in your name.
  • They may create counterfeit checks, or open a bank account and write bad checks in your name, or clone your debit card and make withdrawals or even acquire a loan in your name.
  • They may get a driver’s license or government ID in your name, use your SS# to receive government benefits, or file a fraudulent tax return.  All in your name.
  • They may get a job in your name, or rent an apartment or buy a house or even give your personal information during an arrest and when you don’t show up for their court date a warrant for your arrest may be issued.

Identity theft can ruin a person’s life and so there are things like “Identity Guard” and “Life Lock” – you know the guy with his SS# emblazoned on the side of a semi trailer advertised on national TV.  You pay for their service and they help protect your identity.

These identity thieves are everywhere too.

  • They dumpster dive and access your info from documents you throw away.
  • They do what is called skimming.  They steal credit card numbers with a special storage device when processing your card.
  • They phish.  Pretending to be financial institutions sending spam and pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  • They divert your billing information to another location by using a change of address.
  • They steal wallets and purses and mail, including bank statements, pre-approved credit card offers, new checks and tax information, personal records and even bribe employees who have access.
  • And they do something called pre-texting.  They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions.

It is widespread.  It is nationwide.  It is worldwide.  And though we really want to talk about spiritual identity theft, let me encourage you to be careful and learn how to protect yourself from what the identity theft I just described to you can do to you.

Last Sunday, we realized that we are in Christ.  If you are a Christian, you are in Christ.  In Christ means that you are different because you’ve been changed by Christ!  My preacher Kenny Washburn used to sing with Ed Erskine as the group, The Northmen.  They did a song that went, “I’ve been changed, I’ve been new-born now, all my life has been rearranged.  What a difference it made when the Lord came and stayed in my life, oh yes, I’ve been changed.

Here’s what we pointed out from 2 Corinthians 5:14-19a last week ( http://bible.logos.com/ ).

#1) Christ died for all so we have died too.  Christ died for our sins, he paid for every one of them, and when we are “in Christ” we have died to sin and sin no longer has power and control over us.

#2) Since Jesus died for us we no longer live for ourselves.  That’s what sin does it makes it all about me.  About my desires, about my longings and wants and reactions and feelings and all.  I no longer live selfishly in Christ.

#3) We are no longer recognized according to the flesh.  We are recognized according to the spirit of salvation.  God sees us not as sinners but saved in Christ.  And we see each other that way too.

#4) And so, anyone that is in Christ is a new creation.  Your life is changed.  It’s different just like the song said.

We are identified by Christ if we are in Christ.  That is why we own the name “CHRISTIAN!”  One who belongs to Christ!

Now . . . our identity in Christ can be compromised and you know who is behind it, the Devil!  His name is our first indicator that he is trouble.  It means, “deceiver.”  Jesus told us that the devil is a liar.  He has been one since the beginning.  John 8:44, “…the devil – was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  His mode of operation is to deceive.  That’s what Jesus means by saying he is a murderer.  He is killing people’s souls as he leads them astray and he’s the best there is when it comes to deceiving and what he wants to do with you is to steal your identity so that at least two things are accomplished.

  1. He makes you an ineffective witness.  You will either suffer guilt and fail to be a witness to Christ, or your witness is scoffed at by others because you’ve become a hypocrite.
  2. And/or He will lead you away from faith in Christ and God will no longer recognize you.

Do you know what he does?

  • Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.  His purpose is destruction and he rarely comes with a frontal attack like in battles we read about during the Revolutionary or Civil Wars.  “Charge!” He is subtle and sneaky, like the identity thieves I described earlier using all their tricky methods to steal from you . . . with your permission.
  • He has schemes.  You probably knew that.  “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Ephesians 6:11.  His schemes are not productive strategies like a corporation planning growth and effectiveness, his are tricks and lies and he lays them as traps for you.

Let me warn you that even you don’t have to be a new Christian or a Christian that is in the early stages of maturity for the devil to trick you, for you to fall and the devil to take your identity in Christ and twist and pervert who you are in Christ, hoping to ruin your salvation, hoping to stop your witness.

Obviously, new Christians are susceptible, but long-time Christians can be too.  Ones who believe they’ve arrived already, that heaven is the only thing left for them, even believing the devil can’t trick ME!

Just because you know and understand a lot does not mean the devil cannot trick you.

Let’s see some of the devil’s strategies.

Strategy #1 – Getting Us to Believe that We are Our Behavior.

Bad experiences or painful pasts can negatively affect our present. The devil wants us to believe that we are the only ones who suffer with these issues and that it is unchangeable. This is simply not true. Too often our sin and emotional baggage gets linked to what we believe about ourselves. In other words, our personality and identity becomes associated with the things we struggle with.

The strategy of the enemy is for us to believe that we actually “are” how we feel or behave, which is not true at all. Satan wants you to believe things like: you “are” depressed, unhappy, worthless, unable to change, stupid, a failure…the list could go on and on. It is important to realize that our feelings and behavior are situational and we can change them—the truth is feelings and behavior are not who we really are. They might be things that we struggle with, but they are not our identity, or who we are in Christ.

This includes the things that you may think about yourself at a deep level. You might not consciously believe them, but you find yourself thinking them or saying them about yourself on a regular basis. Most people don’t see that there is a direct connection between the way they view themselves and their destiny.

“For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

Strategy #2 – Getting Us to Believe that We Don’t Measure Up Spiritually

This is seen in a couple of ways.  I became a Christian but after a while, a year or two, I haven’t been as good a Christian as I should have been, or I’ve sinned a lot and I need to be baptized again.  That happened to me and fortunately, I have a wise man for a father.  He directed me to realize that I simply needed to ask forgiveness and be truly repentant and let God effect lasting change and holiness in my life.  You know 1 John 1:9 (http://bible.logos.com/) .

Another way is that I never seem to do all the spiritual things I think I see others doing.  Reading their Bible everyday and studying and meditating on it and appearing to keep themselves pure and sinless all the time.  My life doesn’t seem to be transformed, enough.

If I don’t measure up in a way that I seem to think is the only correct way to holiness than I am defeated and lose interest and passion for Christ.  I still try to be a Christian, but I am less than excited that I am.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Romans 12:2

Strategy #3 – Getting Us to Believe Differently Than the Bible Teaches

We live by grace, yet there are still commands and ways that we are to live in Christ and the Bible, the New Testament especially, provides that understanding for us.

But how many times have you and I heard of Christians who purposely pick and choose what they want to believe and obey.  There is a cartoon that shows a church sign that says “The Lite Church.  We only require 7 Commandments and you can choose the ones you want to obey.” We see that cartoon in Leadership magazine and chuckle, but every joke possesses some truth.

We can take away from the Scripture, at the same time, we can add to the Scripture.  We’re warned in Revelation not to do that.  That’s kind of what the Pharisees were doing, adding their ideas that were interpretations of how to obey the Law of God, given my Moses but they made the teachings equal in authority as Scripture.

Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words, will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

Strategy #4 – Getting Us to Give Up and Reject the Faith

We all know someone who was a Christian and for whatever reason, they turned their back on Christ and the Church.  The man whose wife was killed in a tornado, the preacher’s son who rejected his father’s faith because he was a tyrant, the son who prayed that his mother would get well but still died and rejected God, and the list is endless of Christians who have turned away from the faith.

If we are truly saved and we turn our back on God, then the devil has renewed our old identity in us.

If he can instill doubts about our faith, then it is possible for him to drive a wedge between us and Christ.  It is possible for him to lead into faithlessness.

A couple of the soils in the parable of the Sower are this very situation.  “Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered.  Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them.” Matthew 13:5-7

Peter told us that the devil is like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour.  Those he can destroy and turn away from God.

How do we overcome?  How do we protect ourselves and keep the devil from stealing and changing our identity in Christ?

The simple answer is the principle of faith – maintain faith and trust in God and Jesus Christ, obeying all that he says.  But let’s be a little more specific.

Protectant #1 – Romans 12:1-2 http://bible.logos.com/

  • Commit yourselves completely to God.  He is your focus.  He is your only source for life and for what is right.
  • Do not allow yourself to be caught up in the “sinful, ungodly” ways of this world.
  • Be transformed by letting God renew your mind and that is done mostly through knowing and living the word of God (it has to be both, you can’t have one without the other), and faithfulness and prayer.

Protectant #2 – Ephesians 6:10-13 (cf. 14-18) http://bible.logos.com/

  • Let God strengthen you to stand firm.  You will fail on your own or if you follow some other way but God alone can provide you with strength to withstand the devil’s missiles.
  • Put on all of God’s armor.  Not just this or that piece, but every piece; truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, God’s Word, and prayer.  Don’t leave any part out.  You’ll be sorry.
  • If you do this, you will be able to resist devil.  In fact, we are told that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7).  This is the stuff of resistance.

Protectant #3 – Galatians 5:16 http://bible.logos.com/

  • Walk by the Spirit of God.  If we are led by God’s Spirit, the works of the flesh, the evil desires of sin will not have a hold of us and drag us away into spiritual death.
  • The characteristics of those who walk by the Spirit are the fruit of the Spirit, vv. 22-23; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.

Protectant #4 – Matthew 22:37-40 http://bible.logos.com/

  • First of all love God with all your being.  With how you think and feel, with what your desires are and with what you do.  Love God so much that your only desire is to worship and please him through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Second, love each other.  We need to be there for each other, caring for each other, helping each other, holding each other accountable to God’s word and way and letting others care for us in the same way.
  • This is fellowship with God and fellowship with God’s people.  We are a community of faith and if we let one person stray, well, let’s just not go there.

We could spend a lot of time giving the devil’s strategies and the ways to protect ourselves from the devil stealing our Christian identity.

Let me conclude things by pointing out that God sees us as who we are becoming, through his love and power.  He looks at our lives and he knows our past and understands our present and can see us in the future.  Imagine what the possibilities are if we would see ourselves as God sees us.

That is where the “Principle of Faith” allows us to trust that there is something special and unique for us.  There is certainty in who we are.  “Now faith is the being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

The foundation of my life is this: In Christ, I am a new creation, and all the old thoughts and behaviors no longer have power over me.  I am being renewed every day with God’s love and character.  I share in God’s divine nature because God’s Spirit lives in me.  I am free from condemnation and have the strength to live my life free of despairing thoughts and the competing desires of the flesh and the world.

I am God’s workmanship, created to do good works, which God has prepared ahead of time for me to accomplish.  I am more than a conqueror through God who loves me.  I am increasing daily in faith, strength, wisdom, and love and I am able to love others because God has loved me first.

Is that your identity?  That is the identity God wants to give you and the devil wants to take from you.  If you are in Christ, than you belong to God and that is what we offer to you today….

blogingthechurch

No Reason to Sing

He stood up in front of the group and shared a very intimate and personal testimony.  He is a somewhat guarded man.  He doesn’t open his heart to very many people very easily.  But today there was a burning desire within him to open up to our church.

Here is what he shared.  He listens to Christian radio all the time (91.7, Spirit FM http://www.lifechangingradio.org/home.php).  But two months ago he turned the radio off because he didn’t feel there was any reason to sing anymore.  That’s hard. He is into music big time.  He plays piano and loves to organize music for the church to worship with.

The reason for this is that his wife in her early 40s has been diagnosed with cancer. . .  again.  5 years ago she suffered from breast cancer.  She had surgery and went a series of treatments which included chemo-therapy.  The doctors believed that she was cancer free.  She had exams every 3 to 6 months to watch for any possibility that the cancer has returned.

Than a couple of months ago, they found cancer in her liver.  After some run around with the doctors (doubt and unsure diagnosis) it was determined that it was the breast cancer that masticized to her liver and they found it in her lungs and lymph nodes as well.  And the cancer was already at stage four.

He shared his despair and that is what took away the desire to sing.

But a couple of weeks ago, his wife turned the radio on and a song came on (I’m sorry I don’t know the song or the artist at this moment) that pierced his heart and opened him to allowing God to reach and heal his hurt.

He has regained his joy and even if he loses his wife (who we praying for and supporting with love and hope) his joy has not been lost, but restored and now he can sing with all his heart and soul.

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What does it mean to be “In Christ?”

If all of life has purpose, the single most important purpose is to know Jesus Christ.  And the burning question may be why?  Why do I need to know Jesus Christ?

Jesus is the single way to know and experience God.  It figures since God sent him for that purpose and that he is the “Son of God” (meaning ordained/chosen by God not a physical son).

Romans 6 and 8 talk about being in Christ (6:11, 23; 8:1, 39).  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us what it means to be in Christ, “Whoever is in Christ is now a new creation.

In Christ we are made new.  Whatever we were, sinful sinners, the person we were, has been made new.  The character of our human nature has changed in Christ, therefore we are new.

So Romans 6:11; we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.  Sin doesn’t rule in our lives anymore.  It has no power over us.  It cannot make us its prisoner if we are in Christ.

Romans 6:23; the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Christ, we experience eternal life.  That’s the forever moment with God.  Given to us now, in Christ, with future promises.

Romans 8:1; there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  That old self was set for destruction, meaning, eternal punishment, but the new self (new creation) is no longer condemned.

Romans 8:39; (nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  In Christ, we are never separated from and nothing can remove us from God’s love, in Christ.

Even Romans 12:5; in Christ we who are many form one body.  It’s interesting that so many different backgrounds (socially, ethnically, economically, educationally, etc) all come together into one body, one union of faith and belief and hope.

We are made new.  We become what God intended for us in the first place, in Christ.

In fact, in Christ, God says, “I know who you are.”  Before, when we were outside of Christ, God didn’t know us.  He couldn’t, he doesn’t have anything to do with sin.  As sinners, he wouldn’t.  But, in Christ he can.  Christ is without sin.  Christ’s sacrifice paid for our sin.  Our faith joins us with Christ and through our union with Christ, God forgives our sin, and makes us his heirs with Christ and that’s when he knows us.

God chooses to forget your sin, but he knows who you are and what you are tempted too and strengthens you and empowers you and with that you will stand.

bloggingthechurch