Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What is a Christian?



If you were to ask ten people to define what being a Christian is, you would probably get a dozen different answers. The word is thrown around quite frequently, and is often embraced by people who have never so much as cracked the cover of a Bible. Claiming to be Christians, some people protest at soldiers’ funerals, bomb abortion clinics, and shout vile insults at pride parades.

Many struggle to define the concept. Is being a Christian someone that is a sold-out holy roller, or can the term also apply to the church CEOs (those who attend Christmas and Easter Only)? Can a person be a backslidden, lukewarm Christian, or are those terms mutually exclusive? Does one become a Christian by statement, or must there be an official joining of the club?

The old church historian Eusebius wrote about the account of a Roman Christian named Sanctus around 177 AD. In the days when being a Christian resulted in capital punishment, Sanctus was on trial for the crime of believing in Jesus. During his trial, no matter what question was posed to Sanctus, his answer was ever the same: I am a Christian.

Sanctus was tortured in the amphitheater where wild beasts had their way with him while he was strapped to a chair of burning hot iron. Even in his final breaths he continued to say those same four words.

The only time Sanctus uttered more than his brief sentence of Christianity was the time he elaborated on it. He is quoted as having said, “I have already said that I am a Christian; and he who says that has hereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things else besides.”


What is a Christian? Sanctus understood that being a Christian meant every single detail of his life—his very identity—was centered on Jesus Christ. Maybe we should spend less time defining Christianity and more time living like Christ.

And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Acts 11:26

Monday, April 17, 2017

Celebrate



It’s a good time to be a sports fan in South Carolina. Consider the NCAA: the reigning national champions in baseball are the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers; in football it is the Clemson Tigers; in women’s hoops it is the USC Gamecocks. Even USC’s men’s team travelled into their first Final Four by beating the mighty Florida Gators (there is a pun there for those saw the game). Plus there are many excited Tar Heel fans living in the southern half of the Carolinas.

Go back to last year and the Carolina Panthers played in the Super Bowl.

I know that over the last year there has been a lot of celebrating from our sports fans. I hope, though, that the events of last week caused more celebration than anything that happened on the field or court. In a week’s time we observed Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. 

On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowd that day shouted, “Hosanna,” which in Hebrew means, “Save us now, Yahweh!” This is a day that we recognize Jesus as King, the long prophesied Messiah.

On Maundy Thursday we think back to the night that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in the upper room. This is a day we appreciate the humility of Jesus, and we remember that He gave us an example to serve others. (Maundy is a Latin word for commandment, as in, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.”)

On Good Friday we reflect on Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross; no one took His life, but Jesus laid it down for us. This is a day we remember that Jesus died to pay the penalty that sin demanded—a price we could never pay ourselves.

On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the empty tomb, not only for Jesus’ sake, but for our own. Death could not stop Him, and the grave could not hold Him. This is a day we rejoice in our victorious Lord who now freely offers salvation to all who call upon His name.


As Christians we certainly have a lot to celebrate!

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
Luke 24:6

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Bad Dream



Have you ever wondered what a three-year-old dreams about?

Our son TJ awoke in a panic during the night recently after having a nightmare. He was crying and yelling for his mom because I had thrown his prized Finding Nemo chap stick outside. I tried to tell him that I had done no such thing, but seeing me only made him more upset. "You're mean," he screamed at me. Even when I produced the chap stick in question from the shelf where it always resides, his only response was, "Please don't throw it outside again."

Sometimes it can be hard to separate fiction from reality. What we know must be true doesn't always pan out. Sometimes the reason for this is we have been deceived.

Satan loves to make Christians think less of themselves. He will endlessly remind us of our past mistakes, and try to convince us that we are no better than what we used to be. Don't identify yourself by what you used to do; instead, we should understand who we are in Christ—forgiven children of God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. 

Paul told the Thessalonian believers that the ungodly will not inherit the kingdom of God, and his list of offenses included drunkards, murderers, sexually immoral, thieves, and pagans. He continued, “Such were some of you, but you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1Thessalonians 6:9-11).”

Paul made their sin past tense. They were no longer immoral because they had been washed; they were no longer pagans because they had been sanctified; they were no longer thieves because they had been justified. So the next time anyone tells you, “once an alcoholic (or any other form of sin), always an alcoholic,” remember this verse. Once you have been set free, you are free indeed.


Believing you are still what you once were is as silly as thinking I threw chap stick outside at 2:00 AM.

Monday, April 3, 2017

#Fail



A popular social media trend recently has focused on what has become known as "fails." Used with the hashtag, people can share a #fail picture or video for the entire Twitterverse to enjoy.

A generation ago these were known as bloopers. I remember popping in my VHS tape of sports bloopers, laughing at the center fielder slamming into the wall, the power forward missing a dunk, and the running back fumbling the ball when no defender was around. Now days a blooper is a fail, and the VCR fits in the palm of the hand. My wife is especially fond of the Pinterest Fails, where people try to recreate something from the popular site Pinterest, but their version looks nothing like the original; users will post the original picture, then their sad attempt, and simply write the caption #Fail.

These fails are shared for our entertainment, but the truth is we all have failed, and it is no laughing matter. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The Greek word translated as sin means, "to fail or miss the mark."

When we compare ourselves deadbeats and drunkards, we might feel pretty good about who we are. We need to see ourselves the way God sees us--as failures who have missed His standard of perfection. We can identify with those who aimed for perfection but ended up on the blooper reel. We each could write #Fail across a snapshot of our lives.

That might sound harsh, but no one can be saved if they don't realize they need saving. No one can be forgiven if they don't understand their offense. God is willing to clean up our mess the second we call out to Him.


The biggest failure of all is living this life and dying without having a relationship with Jesus. Don't make that mistake.