Thursday, November 01, 2018

Who Is a Christian?

I believe all the manifestations of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians are for the Church today. So, I am not a cessationist.

I believe in believer's baptist (credobaptism). So, I am not paedobaptist (infant baptism).

I believe God is present with me as I take communion. I do not believe the bread and wine are the literal, physical body of Christ.

And I believe someone who disagrees with me on these three things (and more) can be a Christian, a Jesus-follower, just as I am.


Because as important as these and other issues are, they are non-essentials when it comes to salvation.

I believe God exists. So, I am not an atheist.

I believe Jesus is Lord. I reject other candidates for lordship.

I believe Christ died on a cross and was raised from death to everlasting life. So, when it comes to the cross and resurrection, I am not a mythicist.

What if someone disagrees with me, on any or all of these? Then they are not a Christian, as the Scriptures present this.  These three things (and perhaps some more) are essential to Christianity. Not just as intellectual beliefs, but lived-out realities (be careful of judging here!).

I play card games. Linda and I sometimes slow dance at weddings. I like long hair. I like wearing jeans and t-shirts. None of these things have anything to do with Christianity (read the New Testament). They are unimportant, being matters of personal taste. (Some of them might be important to a particular Jesus-follower, which does not mean it's important for everyone who loves Jesus.)

Who, then, is a follower of Jesus? 

Someone who affirms, in word and deed, Romans 10:9: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. I declared this at age twenty-one. I was saved! Yet, I knew nothing about how to interpret the Scriptures, how and when the earth was formed, what to think about the gift of tongues, or dating, or dancing, or drinking, or gambling, or card-playing, or gluttony, or abortion, or denominations, or Judaism, the authority of the Scriptures, and so on and on and on. I was a biblical and theological ignoramus, alive in God's beautiful Kingdom! I was a child of the King, albeit not the most astute. I was following Jesus as my Lord and my God, though far from perfectly.

Some of these issues are very important. But "Jesus is Lord" and "God raised Jesus from the dead" make it into what C.S. Lewis called "mere Christianity." This is one-thing Christianity, as Paul wrote: For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and him crucified.

Do you know Christ and him crucified? If this is your life and passion, then I think you are good to go further and deeper.

When I was in campus ministry in the 1980s I developed a visual for understanding this. Anyone who affirms the essentials is my brother or sister in Christ. This is why, years ago, when invited by a local Roman Catholic priest to be the speaker at their annual unity service, I accepted. We disagree on some of the items in the second circle, but were in full agreement on the center circle.

A suggestion: be serious, but lighten up when discussing important but non-essential matters.