Sunday, July 10, 2011

When you said you are a Christian, is this what you meant?...

From our New Horizons teaching today, we began with a good blogpost from Tony Payne: explaining the gospel and the right response to it in light of 1 Thessalonians 1:  

Payne writes, "This part of the Bible is a letter written by one of the early Christian teachers (named Paul) to some people who had become Christians after he had shared the Christian message with them. And as he writes to them, he reminds them exactly what they did to become Christians. So it gives us a very neat summary of what the Bible says it means to become a Christian.

"It basically meant doing three things.

"The first thing that these people did was to turn away from their religion and culture. They used to worship idols — fake gods. But then they turned their backs on all this. Becoming a Christian requires you to turn away from your old life, from all the things that are not really god that you used to worship and live for.

"The second thing follows on from the first. They stopped serving and living for false gods, and started serving the true and living God—the one, real and true God, who made everything and who is in charge of everything. To become a Christian is to put yourself at God’s service; to acknowledge that he is the one and only God, and that you are one of his servants.

"But there’s a third aspect. Even if they turned back to God to serve him, why would he accept them? After all, they’d been worshipping the opposition, ignoring him, sinning against him. He would have every right to be angry with them. So why should he accept them back? Because of what it says there in verse 10: God’s Son Jesus died to deliver them from the anger that was to come (that’s what ‘wrath’ means).

"That’s what it means when Christians talk about Jesus ‘dying for our sins’. It means that when we stand before God at the end, and give account for our lives, we don’t have to fear God’s anger or judgment, because Jesus died to deliver us from that. [And it was God the Father’s own love for sinners that led to the saving sacrifice of the Son.]  So these [believers] were waiting confidently for the end, for when Jesus would return, knowing that he would rescue them and save them when they stood before God.

"So there you go—a quick summary of what the Bible says it means to be a Christian: turn your back on the false gods you used to worship, start serving the true and living God instead, and put your trust in Jesus who will rescue us from God’s anger."

"Now when you said to me before that you were a Christian, is that what you meant?"

Then I shared an analogy from military service (since I had just performed a wedding where both the bride and groom are Navy pilots).   At one point, they 'enlisted' into the Navy, and from that point on their whole life situation was different, under a new authority that impacted every sphere of their lives.

In an even more intensive and comprehensive way, that's what Paul says a person does when they become a Christian.  They enlist as servants of the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9; compare Rom. 6:17-22).  From then on the true Christian is under a new authority (the Lordship of Christ) that is to be intentionally and comprehensively lived out '24/7' (which is very different than the 'a la carte/smorgasbord/pick and choose' pseudo-Christianity that is so prevalent today.

So, have you enlisted into the service of the only living and true God?  Is THAT what you meant when you said that you're a Christian?

(See also Matt. 7:21-23; 28:18-20).

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