Monday, February 25, 2013

What Makes Us A Christian?

The first day of spring is only 23 days away!
I'm thinking spring... 
I just keep looking at the spring decor I've put out and that helps. :)

My devotional reading from This Day with The Master was especially good this morning. Author, Dennis F. Kinlaw brought out a simple truth from the story of the rich young ruler. We can gather helpful understanding from Jesus's response to this sincere, right-acting man, he writes. 

The sincerity of the rich young ruler did not make him a Christian. One can tell he was sincere because he ran to Jesus and knelt before him. He was not ashamed of his desire or need. He honestly sought eternal life. In fact, he was a good man, but this did not make him a Christian. 
The righteousness of the rich young ruler did not make him a Christian. He was remarkably upright, keeping all the commandments. He was clean and faithful. He did not steal or deceive, and he did not kill by murder, ill will, or resentment. He did not lie or defraud people. He even honored his parents. And yet, all these righteous actions did not make him a disciple of Christ.  
The love of the Lord Jesus did not make the rich ruler a Christian. Christ loved him, but that love was not enough to make him a follower of Christ.
If sincerity and righteousness and the love of God are not enough to make a person a Christian, what is necessary? Here again, the story of the rich ruler helps us to understand. Becoming a Christian means believing that Jesus is trustworthy and surrendering our life to his control.  
A Christian is a person who believes in Jesus enough to follow Jesus.

And of course, "believes... enough" is a literary way to say it, because in reality the message of the New Testament is that trusting Jesus is what makes us "become a Christian." Believe is often the word translated in English, and we can lose the meaning of the concept if we don't understand the original word means much more than just to believe. Addedly, we either trust Him or we don't. It's isn't a matter of trusting "enough." Placing our trust in Him as the source of absolute truth is a life-changing decision!

I still liked the overall message of this devotional. I hope it inspires you as well.

Curt and I recently listened to an inspiring audio presentation by Os Guinness. I highly recommend it! Here is the link. The title is The Journey: A Thinking Person's Quest for Meaning.


  1. I like the point that our self righteousness and sincerity are not enough. I would not ascribe quite so much goodness and good intention to the rich young ruler as is shown in the quoted passage. The rich man claims to have kept all the commandments, but Jesus, in essence, shows him how he failed at the very first one (You shall have no other gods before me).

    I also like C.S. Lewis' take on the word "Christian" in Mere Christianity. I'm sure you're familiar with it. What do you think about it?

  2. Kevin, so good to hear from you. I'm not precisely sure to what you refer by Lewis' take on the word "Christian." I have read the book a couple of times and enjoyed much of what he has to say. Did you have a particular definition in mind that I am not remembering?

    I cannot get away from what I see again and again in the teaching of Jesus and His apostles... the crux of salvation is in our trusting Christ. Really trusting Him transforms our lives.

    How does Jesus "in essence" show the RYR he is not keeping the first commandment?

    It's interesting to note that the RYR calls Jesus "Good Master" and then Jesus says there is none good but God, yet He is God! :) It seems to me Jesus is establishing His identity with the RYR.

    I welcome your thoughts.

  3. The passage by Lewis I'm referring to is on pages 12-15 of the preface of my edition of Mere Christianity. It's too long to quote here, but it refers to not making a judgement of a person's heart in determining who should or shouldn't be called "Christian".

    I believe Jesus revealed a heart condition in the RYR that violated the first commandment. Jesus told him to give up his wealth in order to have eternal life. Based on the RYR's reaction he apparently believed what Jesus said, but was he was not willing to give up his possessions (based his reaction and Jesus' following comments). The RYR evidently placed more value on his wealth than eternal life with the Father. This elevation of created things over the Creator is what I believe to be idolatry (other gods before me). Elsewhere (Mat. 6) Jesus explicitly links serving money with not serving God. He calls it a Master. I would say that constitutes a god.

    I do think Jesus was making a claim to deity with His comments about "Good Master". I also think this went right over the head of the RYR as well as the apostles (in this situation), but that's just a guess on my part.

    What do you mean by "the crux of salvation is in our trusting Christ"?

    1. Kevin,

      I skimmed over the preface in my copy of Mere Christianity, and I think I see to what you refer. As I quickly read what Lewis writes, I would not say everything he says here. Maybe it’s just use of terms, and in reality if I could talk to him, I’d see we are not that far apart. I always try to remember to keep that as an option with written material.

      Given what I can ascertain from the writing, while I agree with him that “we cannot see men’s hearts,” (therefore we cannot give a final judgment on destiny) we are instructed in scripture to “try the spirits whether they are from God,” and we are told we “shall know them by their fruits.” So, when Lewis says "it is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ”, I’m not sure what he means.

      When Jesus says “judge not”, He also says, “lest ye be judged.” I believe His point is, walk your talk. Demand of yourself what you expect of others.

      Lewis says, “When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthy of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian.” Once again, no doubt, it would help if I could pick Lewis’s brain and have terms defined, like “Christian doctrine”, “bad", etc. I’m convinced he was a brilliant man I could have learned much from, (and have!) and I believe I'll see him in heaven some day! However, with all due respect, in contrast to saying some are “bad Christians”, I would say, people who are trusting Jesus are at different places in their understanding, and so their thinking and their actions vary. But if they are truly in a relationship of trust with Him, they will keep studying Him, and they will grow, and they will continue to think and act more and more like He exemplified, "Father, Thy will be done."

      As I read Lewis, I always try to keep in mind, he, like each of us, was in a particular culture, at a particular time in history, with a unique upbringing, and a certain level of understanding. I cannot assume everything he said or did is “OK” for me just because he was an admirable, highly intelligent, and (I believe) Christian man.

      Does that answer your question?

      (more, as time permits, on the rest of your comment)

  4. I wasn't really wanting to make a statement on whether or not it's right or wrong to judge a person, but rather how we use the word Christian. I know I'm probably 200 years to late, but I think the word "Christian" should be used for anyone who claims Jesus Christ of the N.T. I guess it bothers me when someone reserves the term "Christian" only for people they think to be "good". Like Lewis said, we already have the word "good". It's really just semantics and not some theologically profound statement.