What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?

The word “Christian” is tossed around with such frequency (and often ferocity) that many don’t really know what it even means any longer. In the Upstate of South Carolina it is difficult to drive further than a couple of blocks without passing a church, and there are more Jesus fishes and bumper stickers on the back of cars than one can count.   Every Sunday morning people put on their “Sunday finest” and drive to the house of worship of their choice.  People sing, listen to the preacher, and head out for lunch. The problem is that none of these things makes one a Christian.

A Christian is, quite simply, a follower of Christ. To follow Christ, one must know who He is, believe that what He teaches is true, and submit to Him as the Leader. One cannot be a follower if he or she does not, in fact, follow.  Many church goers claim to follow Christ. They would be quite insulted if it were suggested otherwise. Upon closer examination, however, how close are they to the One they claim to follow? The night before He was crucified, Jesus commanded His disciples three times to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17). If we follow our Leader, then we will love as Jesus loved, forgive as He forgave. Do our modern churches demonstrate this? How many times do we as Christians offer forgiveness and restoration to a fellow believer who has stumbled, much less someone who does not know Christ at all? More often than not, it seems that the pattern is one of condemnation rather than mercy.

When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus (John 8:3-11), their intention was to both condemn the woman and confound Jesus. Quite the opposite occurred: those “righteous” who offered nothing but condemnation were themselves rebuked, while the “sinner” was offered forgiveness and the hope of restoration. This was not a blank check to sin; quite the opposite, Jesus told the woman to change the course of her life and not continue in sin–a concept called repentance, which literally means to change course 180 degrees. Nevertheless, He offered her a fresh start from her sinful life. That is the message of forgiveness—“therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

If we are truly followers of Christ, we must never forget the message of the One we follow was broadcast in its ultimate form through the Cross. The substitutionary death of Christ on the cross means that forgiveness is available to any who will believe. The responsibility of the Christian is not only to tell that message, but to show it through the way we treat others. If we do not treat others the way Jesus did, especially other believers, can we really say we are following Him?

Radio Today, Radio Tomorrow, and Props to Jennifer Phillips at FOXCarolina

I was on Tony Beam’s “Christian Worldview Today” here in Greenville this morning about the Tebow jersey drama. He read the article, saw my name, and said, “Hey, I know that guy!” (Tony and I are good friends), so he called me up this morning and asked me to chat for a few about what I said.

A few minutes ago, I received an email from a producer WKRK-FM in Cleveland, OH asking me to be on the morning show tomorrow. So, for those of you in the Cleveland area, tune in about 6:40 a.m. and you’ll get to hear me on “Kiley & Booms”. You can also stream it live at 923thefan.com. Rock on, Cleveland!

Jennifer Phillips over at FOXCarolina really deserves some credit for the reporting. The quotes from me that are floating around come from the segment I did with her last week. So Jennifer, even if they won’t give you the props, I do. Always a pleasure working with you and the crew from FOX Carolina.

What Are You A Fanatic About?

Yesterday I was quoted in a column appearing on Yahoo.com regarding the hullabaloo over Tim Tebow fans putting “Jesus” on the back of jerseys with Tebow’s number. Before the comments section of aforementioned article was removed, it became filled with some of the most vitriolic attacks on Christians and Christianity that I had seen recently. This was on a sports blog, mind you. Not one of the hot-button blogs that one would expect such things to pop up on. A sports blog. One attempted slur that popped up frequently was “fanatic”.

So it got me to thinking. Sports fans complaining about fanatics? Really? That’s not the pot calling the kettle black at all.

I suppose sports fans are more qualified to recognize fanaticism than most. Between closets filled with t-shirts and sweatshirts covered in team logos, flags flying from the windows of their vehicles, dog leashes in team colors, starting drunken fights at tailgating events, and stealing other teams mascots I suppose they understand fanaticism pretty well.

In fact, most of the complaints people level against Christianity can be likewise directed at sports fanatics. Closed-minded? Ask a Clemson fan how they feel about Carolina, or a Georgia fan how they feel about Florida. Narrow-mided bigotry will be the response. Unloving, uncaring, not respecting the opinions and rights of others to cheer for whomever they choose. Violence? Have you watched soccer games around the globe? Not to mention our own country, where riots have taken place after a city’s team has won. How about all of the fights and injuries we never hear about after the game or in bars where the fans have had one too many? Hate speech? Don’t get me started.

All of the commenters who exploded all over Tebow and any sort of defense of Christian living simply proved this point: everyone is a fanatic about something. You may be the world’s biggest New Orleans Saints fan, or have your man cave painted UNC blue. Bully for you. You have that right. But I have the right to be a Jesus freak. And I think that makes more sense.

Why? As big a fan as I am of the Alabama Crimson Tide, it doesn’t matter to them one bit how much Tide apparel or paraphernalia I have. They don’t even send me a Christmas card. As much fun as I have pulling for them, they have done absolutely nothing for me. They do not make my life better in any substantive way. They do not give me the strength to endure hardship. They do not answer me when I call for help. And most importantly of all, they can’t do a single thing for me when I die.

But Jesus can do all of that, and so much more.

Am I a fanatic? Well, yeah, I guess I am. I’m a fanatic about a lot of things. I love video games, cars, Star Wars, Batman, and ‘Bama. I’m a fanatic about my wife, who I think is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’m a fanatic about my kids, who make my life better every day. But there’s one thing I’m more of a fanatic about than anything else, by a large margin. That’s the One who paid for my sin and purchased my place in heaven. The One who took my place at the cross. The One who is always there for me, my Rock, my Strong Tower, my Fortress, my Deliverer. The One who is worthy of all my praise and all that I am. I am officially a fanatic for Jesus. A Jesus Freak. Call me what you want, but I’ll gladly fly that flag and wear His colors in every season.

A link to the article, now with comments removed

And props for correcting the city. He clearly got the email :). http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/dish/201111/tebow-custom-jerseys-create-hullabaloo

Understand that this is not meant to be a tirade on anti-Christian media bias as much as it was evidence of it. The author of the article, or webmaster as the case may be, closed the comments section. Based on what I was seeing earlier, they may have done so because it was turning into nothing more than anonymous Christian bashing. So, thanks for the correction, and for closing the lid on the venom pouring forth. But if you’re going to quote me in a nationally–even internationally–read website, just give me a shout. I’d be glad to give the proper context.

If You Saw The Quote from Me On Yahoo.com, Read This

I was asked by the local FOX affiliate here in the Upstate to comment on the controversy with people replacing Denver Bronco’s quarterback Tim Tebow’s name on their fan jerseys with “Jesus”. The question was asked whether or not I thought it was blasphemous. My original comment to FOX was that it depends on the perspective of the wearer. If they mean it to say that Tebow wants others to see Jesus and not him, then that is a very Christian concept. the goal of every believer should be that we are not seen in our imperfection but Christ thtough us. If it is meant in a way that is meant to mock Tebow’s faith in Christ–even in a good natured way–then it is entirely inappropriate. Either way, Tim tebow shouldn’t be getting heat for what fans are putting on jerseys, but he is. The reason why? He’s a vocal born-again Christian, which means the media can say what they want to about him and it’s fair game.

Here is a response to a comment elsewhere on this blog. I thought I’d post it here just to make it easier to find.

My complete thought was not fully expressed by what was placed in the article
on Yahoo.com. The original interview was done by a local FOX affiliate here in
the Upstate. I do not know Tim Tebow personally, but I do know that he has gone
to great lengths to proclaim his faith in Christ as the most important thing in
his life. As far as I know, he is not behind the jerseys with Jesus’ name and
Tebow’s number. He likely does not approve, and I wouldn’t either. The last
thing any human should want is to be put on equal standing with the eternal
living Word. What I said is that the impetus is not on Tebow, but on those
wearing the jerseys. If they mean it in a way to glorify Christ and state that
Tebow wants others to see Jesus and not him, then that’s one thing. If they are
doing it in either a mocking way referring to Tebow as “Jesus”, then clearly
that is blasphemous. My central point is that Tebow is taking heat for something
he likely has nothing to do with, and the media has a blank check to do so
because of his bold stand for Christ.

 

As I said above, the original interview with me was done by a local Fox
affiliate. The author of the Yahoo.com article apparently just took a loose
wording of an excerpt of my comments to prove his point. He didn’t even get my
city right, placing me in Greer, Colorado rather than Greer, South Carolina. My
email information was sent to him with an offer to get an accurate statement,
but I likely won’t hear back. I read a few of the comments which basicaly
validated my thesis, with one particularly sweet poster labeling me a “cult
leader”–now that’s a good one. The mainstream media prefers that “cult leaders”
like me be marginalized and mocked. This does not surprise or distress me in the
least, as it is exactly what Jesus said would happen. They hated Him to the
point of killing Him; why should we as followers of Christ expect anything
different? So let them think what they want and say what they say. I pray guys
like Tebow continue to stand up for what’s right and not what’s popular. And I
have absolutley no expectation of the media to get anything right about Biblical
Christianity or those who stand for it.

Yet Another Date-Setter For The End of the World? Please…

Here’s a great response by Ralph Tone, a consultant with Lifeway Christian Resources, to the fellow from California who has predicted when the Rapture of the church is going to take place–May 21, 2011–and the end of the world–October 21, 2011. For the full article, go to http://www.baptistpress.com/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=35266.

My thoughts? I wouldn’t cancel any appointments you have for May 22. Or October 22, for that matter.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Maybe you’ve seen them while watching and waiting in traffic.

A billboard in Oklahoma proclaims, “Noah knew. We can know.” Another in Nashville says, “The wise men knew, we can know.” A billboard in another country, Tanzania, reveals a little more information, “The rapture — May 21, 2011. The end of the world Oct 21, 2011.”

Not limited to billboards and bus benches, the message has gone mobile. “Noah knew” panel trucks are navigating the highways and byways of Minneapolis and New York. There’s even a mobile messenger in Ohio driving around with the vanity license plate 5212011.

The billboard blitz is courtesy of Harold Camping’s Family Radio ministry based in Oakland, Calif. According to Camping and his “ambassadors,” the rapture will occur on May 21, 2011 and God will destroy the world 153 days later on October 21.

The fact that Camping, according to a CNN investigation, previously predicted the end to occur on Sept. 6, 1994 hasn’t seemed to deter the prophetic fervor surrounding his latest end time recalibration.

Should we join the movement? Probably not. Biblical teaching can be an inconvenient truth to those who would set a month, day and year to Christ’s return.

Way Behind on Posting Videos, But You Can Still See Them

Even though I have a crushing backlog of videos to get up on the ‘net, you can get DVDs of all of our Sunday morning services and Wednesday night (Revelation Verse by Verse) class. Just call the church office at (864) 879-4400, and we would be glad to send you the DVDs of your choice. There is no charge, but donations are appreciated to help keep the costs down. We want anyone to have them that want them, and donations to help cover the costs go a long way in making that possible. All DVD donations go right back into our media ministry.

Say a prayer for our Armed Forces today

Last night the National Geographic Channel showed the documentary “Restrepo”, a year-in-the-life film about U.S. troops stationed in the Korengal  in Afghanistan in 2007. One of the filmmakers, Tim Hetherington, was killed in Libya last week while filming troops there.

I have the utmost respect for our armed forces, the Intelligence Community, and all of those who are so willing to sacrifice for the freedom of others, and watching a film like “Restrepo” just reinforces that. Be warned: it is coarse and rough, with strong language and shocking violence. But that is the reality that our troops face everyday, and we do ourselves–and them–no favors when we whitewash it. We need to see what they go through on a daily basis so that we might better understand, and then minister to, those who endure so much for us.

A friend of mine from high school is married to Staff Sgt. John Shannon, the senior sniper of the Ghost Recon Platoon with the 1/503rd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq who was grievously wounded in combat in 2004. His service medals tell the tale of the kind of man he is: Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (x2), Army Achievement Medal (x4), Army Superior Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal (x4), National Defense Service Medal (x2), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Services Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (x2), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Excellence in Competition Rifleman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge and Army Basic Recruiter Badge (Gold). In spite of a head injury that should have killed him, he and his wife Torrey have made it their life’s work to fight for other injured vets and their families. Even after such injuries, he continues to fight for others.

I wish I had the power and resources to help each of these wounded vets so that they never had to worry about medical treatments, psychological counseling, and financial struggles ever again, but I don’t. What I do have is the privilege and the power to pray for them, and I must never neglect that awesome responsibility. If men like John Shannon can continue to fight for what they believe in, what excuse do you and I have?

“Afraid of the Gospel?” is a great article on Grace

Great article that ties in with what Jim Groth and I are teaching on Sunday nights. Here’s the link, with an excerpt below: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/winter/afraidgospel.html

In other words, there are two “laws” we can choose to live by other than Christ: the law that says “I find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules” or the law that says “I find freedom and fullness of life if I break the rules.” Either way, both are legalistic because each is a self-salvation project. You’re still trying to save yourself.

So, it’s a mistake to identify the two equal dangers as legalism and lawlessness. There is only legalism. And if people outside the church are guilty of “break the rules” legalism, many people inside the church are still guilty of “keep the rules” legalism.

This is important because the church has bought into the lie that grace is dangerous and must be kept in check to avoid lawlessness. A “yes, grace … but” disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in our hearts and in the church.

I understand the fear of grace. As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have falsely concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules. The fact is that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical unconditional acceptance of sinners.

The irony of gospel-based sanctification is that those who obey more are increasingly aware that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s. The people who actually perform better are those who understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on their performance for Jesus, but Jesus’ performance for us.