What’s in a name?

There are a lot of people in this world who will tell you they’re a Christian. Maybe they were baptized as a kid or they go to church on Christmas and Easter. But is that what makes you a Christian—just calling yourself one? Noah Webster didn’t think so.

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

There are many who believe that a simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is what makes you a Christian. I believe that profession is what makes you a believer. It’s everything that you do afterward that makes you a Christian.

By definition, being a Christian means that you should be ever striving to act like Christ. It’s right there in the name. Paul wrote an entire letter to Titus discussing how Christians should conduct themselves.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT)

Christians, true Christians, should turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should talk different. We should act different. And people should notice. If you claim the name of Christ, truly claim it. Live it. Act like him.

Imagine what this world would look like if every single person who claimed the name of Jesus Christ really acted like him. If, instead of churches full of nominal Christians, we went out on the street and actually lived the life we claim to have chosen when we first called on Jesus.

Salvation is free. It’s a gift for all people. But the name of Christ should be reserved for those who follow his example, those who are totally committed to doing what is right.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 31-32, Titus 2

Your name here

As we read the Bible, we should always take into consideration the context in which the verses were written. Who wrote them? Who are they talking to? Are they talking about a specific event or period of time? Is it culturally relevant? There are many variables that can change the way we perceive the Word of God. As Pastor Morris Watson put it in his message Do You Know What You’re Asking For?, not everything in the Bible is meant for us personally. But that’s not to say that we can’t take some of it personally.

There are those who like to take scripture and insert their own name into it. I’m not usually one to make a habit of it, but since today’s portion of scripture already has a name in it, why not try inserting your own name in place of Timothy’s?

But you, (insert your name here), belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love,  perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for what we believe. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before so many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

Paul has been writing to Timothy about avoiding many of the pitfalls the Jewish nation was prone to. We’re pretty much in the same boat as the Jews were at that time. The world pushes against us trying to force us into their way of thinking and holding on to the truth becomes more and more difficult.

So today, if you find your faith being pressured, remember these words. Insert your name here and remember that you belong to God. Follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life. All of these things that Paul encouraged Timothy to do still apply to us today.

Take these words to heart. Take them personally and then you and I can fight the good fight for what we all believe.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 17-19, 1 Timothy 6

Proof of life

People are always looking for proof. Proof that something or someone exists. Proof that something really happened. Or even proof of life.

If someone is kidnapped or captured, when negotiations begin to get that person back, a proof of life will often be requested. Those who are trying to retrieve their loved one or asset want unmistakable evidence that a hostage is still alive. A proof of life can be a photo or video, maybe a phone call. Once proof of life has been established, things can move forward.

For some, proof of life in Christ can seem like a hostage negotiation. We read the Bible or hear the Good News and believe it to be true, yet truly accepting the gift of salvation can be a difficult concept to grasp. We want proof. Unmistakable evidence that we are not who we were before. And we need to know this before we can really move forward.

And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:7 (NLT)

In all of your searching for proof, has it ever occurred to look to yourself rather than others? You are God’s example of the incredible wealth of his favour. You are His proof of life.

God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this: it is a gift from God.

Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)

You didn’t save yourself. Nothing you did—other than believe—brought grace into your life and nothing you can do can keep grace in your life. And it’s a good thing, too. If you were able to work hard enough to obtain salvation, how much harder would you have to work to maintain it? Don’t make things more complicated than they have to be. God saved you when you believed, plain and simple. If you’re looking for proof of life in Christ, look in the mirror.

But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 19-21, Ephesians 2

20 Questions

As I began writing today, my page began to fill with one question after another. So today, take some time and read through these questions. Try to answer them for yourself truthfully.

  1. What kinds of things do you say on a daily basis?
  2. Are they good things or bad things?
  3. Do you believe your words to be neither good nor bad, but neutral?
  4. Are you talking to others about yourself?
  5. Or are you talking about the grace of God in your life?
  6. What are the things that are pouring out of you?
  7. How often do you take the time to reflect on your own words?
  8. Do you examine the things you say as much as you do what others say?
  9. When you think someone else should be correcting their speech patterns, do you apply that same thought to yourself?
  10. Do you ever try to change your thought process so that your words will reflect that change?
  11. In all your daily talk, how much does God come into play?
  12. Do you talk about Jesus like a friend or like he’s a distant relative or a mere acquaintance?
  13. When you tell someone you’re a Christian (and I hope you do), are they surprised or is it just a confirmation of everything else you say or do?
  14. Are your words a result of what you believe?
  15. Do you speak because you believe?
  16. If your words reflect what you believe, listen to yourself, what is it that you truly believe?
  17. Do you believe in yourself?
  18. Or do you believe in Christ?
  19. Do you project your own glory?
  20. Or do you reflect God’s glory?

We don’t go around preaching about ourselves; we preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us to understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (NLT)

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, and so I speak.”

2 Corinthians 4:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 21-22, 2 Corinthians 4

The resistance

Have you ever had a non-believer tell you that you weren’t acting like a Christian? Somehow, the world has this idea that all Christians should be prim and proper pacifists, gracefully accepting of anything and everything the world would throw at us. And for some reason, the Church has often helped to perpetuate this falsehood. Paul closes off his first letter to the church at Corinth with some language that is anything but passive.

Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.

1 Corinthians  16:13-14 (NLT)

These verses, as is, are inspiring. We could all throw up a fist and shout a hearty amen, but let’s go deeper.

What does it mean to be on guard? Do we need armour? Weapons? Should we be behind a wall or shield?

GUARD: to watch by way of caution or defense; to secure against objection or the attacks of malevolence.

To be on guard is more than just standing around waiting. It is to be ready and prepared at all times.

What about standing? If guarding is more than standing, surely standing must mean more than just being on our feet. It would seem silly if Paul were instructing an entire church to never sit or lay down.

STAND: to be on its foundation; not to be overthrown or demolished; to be fixed or steady; to be in or maintain a posture of resistance or defense.

For a long time, much of the Church has been passive. We’ve somehow got it in our minds that resistance isn’t the “Christian” thing to do. Read your Bible. There is a whole lot of resistance going on. We are to resist the devil. We are to resist temptation. We are to resist against anything that would come against the knowledge of Christ. Why would God give us weapons if He didn’t want us to use them?

So, if we are to stand up to and resist, how do we know what to stand for?

TRUE: conformable to fact; being in accordance with the actual state of things; genuine; pure; real; not counterfeit, adulterated or false; faithful; loyal; honest; exact; straight; right.

We have a whole book full of truth in front of us. If we believe it, we are to guard it with our lives and stand up to anything that doesn’t line up with it.

And how should we go about doing all this?

COURAGEOUS: brave; bold; daring; intrepid; hardy to encounter difficulties and dangers; adventurous; enterprising.

STRONG: well fortified; able to sustain attacks; not easily subdued or taken.

Does any of this sound passive to you? Nothing here would indicate that the Church is supposed to be a bunch of pacifist pansies waiting to take anything and everything the world throws at us. I’m not saying that we literally take up weapons and go to war against the world, but we must know that we are in a spiritual battle. As soon as we forget that we’re in a fight, we’ve already lost.

We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT)

It’s time to join the resistance.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 13-14, 1 Corinthians 16

I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N

We have a tendency to, at the moment of salvation, start referring to someone as a Christian. But is belief what truly makes us a Christian? Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, born of a virgin, having died and then raised to life is what makes us born again, but it is not what makes us a Christian.

First let’s look what being a Christian really is:

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ.

Believing and praying a prayer doesn’t make us Christians. Everything we say and do after will make that determination.

But salvation isn’t about works! Salvation is about one work—the one Jesus did on the cross. But our Christianity is all about works.

Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith is dead without good deeds.

James 2:26 (NLT)

Our faith isn’t faith at all if we don’t do something about it.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

We are all labelled by who we are and what we do. You have a first name—that makes you an individual. You have a last name—that makes you part of a family. You may have a job title—that indicates your employment. You may have a designation—that indicates your education. Using the title of Christian should be a determination of how you live your life. And the crazy thing about being called a Christian is that, if you have to tell someone that’s what you are, you probably aren’t.

If you love each other, all men will know you are My followers.

John 13:35 (NLT)

Our works and actions as Christians shouldn’t be to show people that’s what we are. They should be an outward reflection of an inward change. Both love and works have to be involved or both are empty. You need faith to be a Christian and the works of faith need love or they are useless.

We are accountable to one person—God. Our faith, our love, our works should all come into line with what He has instructed us in His word and the direction He has given to each of us individually. It is not our responsibility to make it all work, but to do as we have been called to do in the manner in which we’ve been called.

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

Are you just a believer or are you a Christian, too?

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:33-58

Praise the Lord!

 

As a worship leader, I’ve heard many people over the years tell me that worship just isn’t their thing. It’s frustrating to look out over a congregation and see people on their phones, with coffee cups in their hands, or whispering to their neighbours—that’s if they’re in the worship service at all! But here’s the thing: God hasn’t called us to do only those things that we enjoy. He hasn’t called us to do only the things that we are comfortable doing. He’s called us to do quite the opposite.

Any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.

~ A.W. Tozer

I often wonder what people believe Heaven will be like. There are many who are likely under the grave misconception that it will be an eternity of frivolous, self-indulgent pursuits. So what then, would it mean to join with the angels to sing holy, holy, holy is the Lord? Does Heaven have a service schedule? Is there a small segment of each day that is set aside for praise and worship? No. There is no service schedule. Because the service never stops. Heaven is one big, long praise and worship service. Heaven is not for our pleasure. It is for God’s.

So how do we prepare for Heaven? We praise.

Let every created thing give praise to the Lord,
for he issued his command and they came into being.
He established them forever and forever.
His orders will never be revoked.

Psalm 148:5-6 (NLT)

Let everything that lives sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150:6 (NLT)

We are all a part of everything that lives. The longest book in the Bible is a book full of songs. The last words in that book are Praise the Lord! Do you think, perhaps, that this could and should be an important part of our lives?

While our mortal selves may not enjoy the act of praise and worship, our spirit longs for it.

Your heart’s desire, even if you haven’t realized it, is to live every moment in the wonder of worship.

David Jeremiah

Praise is not something to do when we feel like it. It is something we do so long as we are breathing. If your spirit needs to remind your body, so be it. But don’t fool yourself into believing that praise isn’t your thing. It is your thing. It’s your only thing. It’s the one thing you were created to do.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 148-150, 1 Corinthians 11:16-34