I once had a conversation with a member about her commitment to Christ and her involvement in the local church. I was asked: What would proper involvement look like?
This is an excellent question to ask. Let’s try to answer this. First, true Christianity involves discipleship. Christianity is more than being baptized. Jesus did not say “Go baptize” but “Go make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). What is a disciple? W.E. Vine says, “lit. a learner… A ‘disciple’ was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher; cf. John 8:31; 15:8.” Joseph Henry Thayer says, “a learner, pupil, disciple… one who follows one’s teaching.” Clearly, discipleship involves more than intellectual learning. It involves following Christ (e.g. Luke 14;25-33; Luke 9:57-62).
Second, true Christianity involves becoming Christlike. Paul writes, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19 cf. 2:20). We are to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Thayer indicates that the name Christian means “a follower of Christ.” C.S. Lewis famously writes, “Every Christian is to become a little Christ” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Good Infection, p. 177). Again, “Men are to be mirrors or carriers of Christ to other men” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Let’s Pretend, p. 190).
Third, true Christianity bears fruit with patience (Luke 8:8, 15). Some hearts are hard; the word of God never finds a place in their hearts (Luke 8:5, 12). Some are shallow; they have no depth of commitment (Luke 8:6, 13). Some are of divided interest; they produce little or no fruit (Luke 8:7, 14). Those with good hearts are productive fruit bearers. Moreover, they are enduring in this characteristic (Luke 8:8, 15).
Fourth, true Christianity requires the proper priorities. Consider: (1) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). (2) “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). (3) “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). (4) “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). (5) “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Fifth, true Christianity involves genuine love. Consider: (1) “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). (2) Without love, we profit nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). (3) “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The above may be considered some general principles of Christianity. These are broad strokes.
However, the person, with whom I spoke, seemed to be wanting specific details. Let’s now paint with a finer brush. First, the true Christian wants to assemble with other Christians (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-25). They not only assemble, but they worship with joy and thanksgiving (cf. Philippians 4:4; Colossians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Moreover, they assemble not simply to benefit themselves, but with the aim of edifying other (Hebrews 10:24-25). Some ask, “do I have to be there every time the church meets? To ask this question may reveal a heart issue. Does a husband ask, “Do I have to come home every night to my wife?” Does a wife ask, “How much time do I have to spend with my husband? What is the minimum I can get away with?” We should want to be together. It is encouraging to many for you to be present. Your absence also says something. Marshall Keeble used to say that your automobile could preach. Its presence tells others of your interest. Its absence also tells the world something. Imagine a visitor showing up because of you, but you are not there. Imagine a visitor showing up with children, but no children are present. They all had more important things to do. What would the visitor think?
Second, the true Christian genuinely cares about other members. It is not just a once-a-week relationship. We are to “exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). We are to “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Third, the true Christian is a serious Bible student. We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to become knowledgeable enough to teach others (Hebrews 5:12). I am afraid that many Christians never develop the knowledge and skills necessary to adequately defend what they believe. I am referring to things like: inspiration of scriptures; the completeness of scripture (sola scriptura); the doctrine of the Godhead; the deity of Christ; the one church; who a Christian is; the plan of salvation; why we worship the way we do. The typical Muslim and Jehovah Witness, I suspect, could embarrass some of us in a one-on-one discussion.
Fourth, a true Christian is a busy B.E.E. (1) Benevolence. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…” (James 1:27). (2) Evangelism. “Therefore those who were scattered with everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). “By this time you ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12). “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). (3) Edification. “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We should actively be doing these things. We are to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). We are to be “careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8). We are to “learn to maintain good works to meet urgent needs… not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).
This is what true Christianity looks like!
In The News: Dennis Prager
Dennis Prager is a wise man. I enjoy his weekly Fireside Chats. Rarely do I miss viewing this weekly program. His Rational Bible Commentary series on the Torah contains some good thoughts.
However, no one should be blindly followed. All teaching should be tested by God’s word (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Dennis Prager has raised quite a bit of controversy in recent weeks. In a panel discussion hosted by Jordan Peterson, Prager said, “looking with lust is not a sin in Judaism.” When asked about pornography he said, “if pornography is a substitute for one’s wife, it is awful. If it is a substitute for adultery, it is not awful.”
Is it true that the Tanakh (or Hebrew Bible) only addresses behavior and not thought? It is not true. The Ten Commandments read, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman” (Job 31:1). In Proverbs we are warned, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it springs the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus is more explicit. He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28). Again, “You had heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22 cf. 1 John 3:15). He desires that the inside of man be clean (Matthew 23:26). He teaches, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
In a PragerU video entitled Judaism v. Christianity, Dennis Prager says, “Judaism holds that God judges people by their behavior, not by their theology, their beliefs, their faith.”
Is it true that in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) God is unconcerned about theology, belief, or faith? It is not true. He cares about theology. The Ten Commandments read, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image…” (Exodus 20:3-4). The Shema says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one; You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Belief (or faith) matter. Of Abraham, we are told, “he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15: 6). The book of Habakkuk declares “the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).
The New Testament is more explicit. Theology matters. Paul declares, “We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29). Belief matters. Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The writer of Hebrews says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
There are others who go to another extreme. They believe that God is only concerned with our faith, not with our actions. This is also wrong. John says, “He wo says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4 cf. 1 John 1:6). Again, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7).
Our entire being should be dedicated to God. “May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). James Burton Coffman suggests that this means intellect, spiritual nature, and physical being. Albert Barnes suggest that this means immortal spirit, affections or emotions, and material body. It could also mean inward man, life, and outward man. Leon Crouch comments, “It is sufficient here to say that the use of the three nouns, spirit, soul and body is to give more emphasis to the completeness of the sanctification for which the writer prays. The statement means something like: ‘may every part of your being be kept entirely without fault'” (Leon Crouch, Commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians, p.95). This refers to complete sanctification.