The basic truth of the Bible and practical Christian life
A book about meaning of life - by Arvid Aasen
Chapter - 6
What does that mean to be a Christian?
Externally, life as a Christian can look different from country to country and from culture to culture. There are also big differences between countries or areas where there are no or few congregations and Christians, and places where there are many congregations and believing Christians. In one country, it may be easy to find a Christian congregation, while in another country it may be difficult to find a single person who is a Christian. It is also somewhat different how one relates or behaves as a Christian in different countries and cultures. It is therefore important that each individual believer is led by the Holy Spirit in the various contexts. This requires that each individual be surrendered to God and responsive to the Holy Spirit. Although external circumstances may vary, it is important that the Christian's internal life be lived in accordance with Bible teachings.
There are countries where one can be killed, or expelled from family and society, if one talks about their faith in Jesus. It is important to ask God for wisdom on how to live with Him in a such situation. Perhaps one must be careful about where and when one talks about their faith, but it is also important not to let fear or dread rule life. The Bible tells us about Daniel. His story is a good example of living out his faith in a situation where someone wanted him hurt because of his faith. Still, he maintained his faith, prayer, and relationship with God. For his faith, he was cast into a den of lions, but God saved him by sending an angel who closed the mouths of the lions. The story is in Daniel 6 in the Old Testament. In the book of Daniel, we also find the story of his three friends; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they would not bow down and worship a statue of gold that the king had set up. That story is in Daniel 3. Unfortunately, we know similar stories about people being persecuted for their faith from our own days.
In the Western world, it is generally easier to live as a Christian, but it is not necessarily better for the faith or life with God. In the West, we live in a society where you can no longer mean what you want because you are easily seen as an outcast or weird if you stand up for something that is not politically or religiously "correct". This persecution of faith is perhaps worse in the long run, as it is easier to abandon biblical truths because one wants to fit in. If you start by removing one truth, it becomes easier to continue to remove several truths and, in the end, one may be left with the useless sentence: "What is right for you is right for you, and what is right for me is right for me. "
The most important thing in the Christian's life is that one is faithful to the word of God and the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts. Every Christian is a living temple of the Holy Spirit. And in our living temple we celebrate worship every day. As a Christian, you do not necessarily have to attend meetings and be part of a congregation. It is possible to be saved or be a Christian and never attend a meeting or go to a church. You do not become a horse by entering a stable, and you do not become a Christian by entering a church. This is not about a building or a special place, it is just about you are saying yes to Jesus as your Savior and having the faith in God in your heart. It is the individual's choice, to make room for the Spirit of God in their lives as no external decisions or events can affect your own sovereignty in the choice of your own faith. We will return to the topic "What it means to be a Christian", but before that I will reflect a little on church and congregations. This is because the church throughout generations has shaped most of the "truths" about what we think a Christian is.
Problems with the traditional church
Jesus did not die on the cross to make a religion. The religion Christianity and the traditional church, or congregation, have set a standard and shaped the traditional thinking of what a Christian is. I want to challenge and reflect a little on the words "Christian" and "church" in traditional church thinking. Perhaps these reflections can be helpful and provide answers to some of the frustrations of the Christian tradition.
I consciously use the word tradition, because it is challenging to be a clear biblical Christian in a tradition that is often not biblical in itself.
I believe in the church, the church of God! But what is the church of God and what is it not? After reflecting a little, we will also look at the biblical significance of what the church is.
Back to the beginning. Adam and Eve led us out of life with God. God responded by offering sacrifices, the tabernacle and later the temple, to maintain an open path from people to Him. But it was a deed-based path. From the time of Cain and Abel, we can read that people sacrificed to God. They brought forth the first and the best of what they grew in the fields and of their animals, and they sacrificed them as a sacrifice to God. (Genesis 4) Later, Moses was asked to make a tabernacle that was divided into different zones. The innermost room was called "the most holy," and the high priest went in there once a year to make amends for the sins of the people in the past year. (Exodus 20 and beyond). But then came Jesus, and He ended this period when the house of God was a building. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). This was not just any curtain, it was a many meters high and thick, woven rug that no human would have managed to tear apart, especially not from above. God opened the way to the Most Holy for ordinary people. The Spirit of God took up residence in the hearts of humans when the Holy Spirit came. 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 says, «Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.»
The Spirit of God no longer dwells in houses made by human hands, He dwells in the hearts of those who have invited Him in, in the living temples God Himself has created, us humans! The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 AD. Unfortunately, the thoughts that God lives in a particular house still remain, but are they biblical? No, not after Jesus died on the cross, where He also rose again and paved a new and a living way for us into God, through Him! (Hebrews 10:20)
Yes, there are congregations and groups where this is preached and where they also live as the Bible describes the Saints living together in New Testament times. They emphasize that each individual Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the congregational community is the community of believers that stands together as brothers and sisters.
But several of the largest congregations or church structures still seem to be working hard to maintain the Old Testament system where the Spirit of God dwells in church buildings, and that only the priest or pastor is able to hear from God. It seems to me that this is increase in our days, whether we like it or not.
Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, and many other reformers broke with quite a few of these political-religious arrangements in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. But politics and the need for power within the church seem to have held on to the traditional idea that God lives in a church building, and this may seem to be on the rise among those who previously held the biblical doctrine. In these churches, the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit has been replaced by great programs, cooler ways of doing things, a "finer" and nicer wrapping of the "gospel," and higher education. This is to create the feeling that God is close, or that at least one gets some good feelings when they come to church. The recognition that God's spirit lives in every single believer, is lacking. Could it be because that people who work in these congregations are not Christians though they think that they are? That they have not made room for the Holy Spirit in their own hearts? Faith is perhaps only a theory and an education, but not life itself as the Bible conveys it? I don’t know, but my experience is that this is the case. I also perceive that people outside the church and the congregation experience this in the same way as I do. Maybe those outside even perceived this long before us the insiders ?? To His church, Jesus said in John 15:14 «You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.»
To do what Jesus says, one must be open to the Holy Spirit - the spokesman in one's heart, otherwise one will never have the opportunity to hear what Jesus fully commands us.
I am not quite done with the church's self-examination. Whether you, as a reader, are a non-believer or are an active Christian, I believe that you will benefit from these challenges and reflections. The vast majority have experienced the church and religion in one way or another, even though they may never have been a part of it.
Unity is a popular "Christian" expression, which in itself is very good. But what is unity and what is so important about unity? And what unity is the "popular Christian unit" working for?
Jesus prayed for us believers in John 17, that we should all be one in Him, I will return to this, because unity is actually important. But I want to challenge the "politically religious Christian unity", where organizations, congregations and churches work for unity across the board. Today, contracts and the basis of faith i.e. faith statements are signed by the various churches and congregational structures with the aim of having unity that is valid according to their definitions and regulations.
If a church or a community doesn't agree with the written agreement, then they don't have unity. One of the sentences said in the documents of these entities is: "What we agree on, we lift each other up. While what we disagree on, we do not talk about." What unity is it?
This, to me, sounds like the story of Babylon in the Bible, where people were to build themselves up to heaven and where they make their own rules and their own unity to build a name for themselves. (Genesis 11: 1-9)
The church of God is not called to conduct politics or to control each other, that should be left up to the country and government to take care of it. The Christian's calling is to be one with Christ.
When I meet new people, it usually does not take long before I find out if they are followers of Jesus Christ or not. Often this can be felt in the atmosphere, but no rule is without exception, so it is not always possible to feel it either. Anyway, what I experience when I meet other believers is that we believe in the same God, we believe that Jesus came to earth and became one of us as the Bible describes, and we believe that the Bible is God's true and perfect word to us human beings.
We have a common basis of faith which is the Bible, and we profess the same faith in Jesus, with our mouths and in our hearts. This is not to say that we agree on everything. We possibly understand some of the written word in a slightly different way because of our experiences and different cultural understanding but the sum and core of it is that Jesus IS the only way to God, and that, we completely agree on as that cannot be misunderstood, as it is written in the Bible.
As Jesus, in Mark 10: 8 describes marriage, we can also use this as an example of what I want to say here. It says: «and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.»
Even if a man and a woman marry, they both retain their own body, opinions, and feelings, it does not change in the first place. But as a married couple, one will be seen as a legal entity, and it is expected that a married couple externally operates as a unit. Inside the marriage, there may be disagreements and different opinions about different issues that need to be talked about in order to be resolved, otherwise it can be complicated.
In Christ, as believers in Jesus as our Savior, we too are in such oneness with Him, as marriage is explained, but that oneness is in Christ. We believers, we believe the same and we are on the way to the same goal, but we are different people with different opinions and different cultures. It is therefore important to be able to talk together about how we see the different things. Some things we may still disagree on after talking together, while other things we agree on. In any case, this does not change the status of "one in Christ" until a possible "divorce" or a renunciation of faith in the word of God for the individual.
That the organizations, religions and churches work for unity on an organizational level and say that; "What we disagree on we should not talk about," confirms that it is only a religion. Religion is nothing but a controlling political entity, where the listener of the religion must make himself deserving to belong, deserving of the "salvation" that is presented. Therefore, religion and belief in Jesus are two opposite things. The right and true unity of Christians is only in Jesus Christ, to Him I hope that you too have surrendered your life. So, what could be better right now than to read the prayer Jesus prayed for us believers in John 17.
Jesus Prays for Himself
«Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Jesus Prays for All Believers
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.»
Unfortunately, everyone who says that they are Christians are not, it is nothing but the culture, and therefore not part of this unity Jesus that is talking about here.
Too many of those who claim to be Christians have never read the Bible themselves and have probably never understood its true message about life in God. Therefore, they have never turned to God and made Him Lord in their lives. Many traditional Christians are born and raised in a Christian cultural heritage, church, or religion, which generations and time has watered down. Belief in Jesus is therefore only a theory that has never been tested and only found important in difficult times. The basis for faith has often not been understood, and the Bible may also have seemed overwhelming with its many pages and small writing. Some may have made a real effort to read the Bible, but found it incomprehensible, boring, and irrelevant with all their stories of wars, genealogies, and similar that the first part of the Bible consists of. The Bible is a long book, especially when you cannot find the red thread in what you read. Many people also do not know that it is wise to start reading the New Testament first, before starting on the Old Testament. Many of the stories and text of the Old Testament substantiate and explain the New Testament, so that we can understand why Jesus had to come as a Savior and what we are saved from.
The most important thing in the beginning is to understand that there is salvation in Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, and that through Him we are given eternal life in heaven, together with God.
Many people have wounds and are disappointed with the church or the congregation and it tends to lead them to putting an equal sign between the church and God. Because of disappointments from the church, some choose not to believe in God. Some also distance themselves from believing in God on the basis of people who are said to be Christians, but who with their lives do not represent the teachings of the Bible in a good way.
It is also difficult for outsiders to distinguish between a good and right congregation and a false congregation or church. With the many different types of churches, names, and beliefs, it is not easy even for believers to know what is right and what is wrong. Disagreements within congregations and churches or between different denominations are often formulated as "biblical" doctrines but are basically "political church games". Unfortunately, there are congregations and churches where you find politics, power, need for control, thoughts of economic gain and sexual immorality. This is not God's will at all, and neither is it the teachings of the Bible!
Fortunately, not all congregations and churches are like that, but I understand very well that people are skeptical when injustice is experienced from people we least expected it from, and it leads one to distance themselves from it
It is important to understand that one is not saved because one goes to a church, or one goes to meetings. But because one is saved, one goes to congregation fellowship or church fellowship, to grow in the faith with other believers. Going to church doesn’t maintain salvation, but going to church can mean having a Christian fellowship. There are congregational communities that help people grow with God.
Such congregations are a "co-response" to the great global church of God, which is all the believers who have made Jesus Christ as Lord in their lives, people who are a living temple, that believe in God and have made room for the Holy Spirit within them, regardless of human, political or religious systems.
Therefore, test the congregation you become part of against the word of God, the Bible. There exist many congregations of different types. Some of them are good and right church communities as the Bible describes it, while others are unfortunately just religious systems. It is possible to find true believers even in the most wicked/ungodly churches for various reasons. In many instances, there are no other alternatives, so some endure such congregations as they don’t want to break with family, and some simply don’t know any better. These people are most likely not in leadership positions in the congregation or church, as a leader himself should be able to read the Bible and understand that the religion they work for does not represent God, or the Jesus of the Bible.
So, what is the church and what are the characteristics of a good church community?
The church of God is me and you as believers, all believers who are in Christ Jesus. It is in Jesus that we are all parts of one flesh. So, where the believer is, the church of God is present 24/7. As believers, we cannot switch on and off the church of God, we are a living and moving temple of the Spirit of God that dwell in us. We can, of course, have different levels of connection and intimacy with the Spirit in us, depending on how we pray and stay close to God, or don’t, which also leads to distancing ourselves from God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:18
«I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;» To that I have said myself; "Paul, even though you are now in heaven, I give you competition for it." Christian life is not a competition, my choice of words is not quite right here. But what I am trying to say is that praying in tongues does wonders for my soul, and it shows on the outside, and that is why I try to pray as much as possible in tongues. Paul had understood some of God's power in staying close to God, by talking to Him as often as possible. For that is what tongues are, a spiritual language between our spirit and God. We come to this topic in the next chapter on prayer.
To end this chapter on the church. It is important to have fellowship with other believers, period! So, I believe in the local church, when it is faithful to the Bible, the Word of God and only that. The Bible alone!
In Matthew 18: 19-20, Jesus says, «Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.»
When individuals meet, encourage, and teach one another in the Word of God and uplift one another by sharing testimonies of God's intervention, then the church of God is united.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
To be a Christian means to live your life according to a different standard than the rest of the world. Yes, anyone can become a Christian or call themselves a Christian, but there is a difference between a Christian and a Christian…
I want to spend some time on this topic too, to explain what I mean, because everyone can say that they are Christians, it is not a protected title at all. The question is rather what the different people put in the word and the term Christian. For example, the Eastern world views the Western world as Christian. In the United States, it says on the dollar bill «In God we trust». Many in Europe and in the United States call themselves Christians, but many of them have never read the Bible. Many have never even seen or hold a Bible, and many do not even know what it says, yet they say they are Christians.
Yes, faith and confession of God is the only thing that matters, nothing else. Yet, if one does not know what the Word of God says and one does not know what one really believes in, is one then a follower of Jesus Christ or a Christian? The word Christian means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. If we don't know Jesus, don't know what He said or don't follow the way He showed us to live as He Himself lived when He was here on earth, are we then a Christian?
Jesus said in John 15: 13-17 «Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another..»
Looking at the same disciples that Jesus said this to, we can read a little funny story about them in the gospel after Luke. Yes, a little funny since they lived so close to Jesus, but also very descriptive of how we humans can easily behave, whether we are Christians or not.
Luke 9: 46-48 «Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”»
Throughout the Bible we find examples of human self-exaltation, such as in this story where the disciples argued about who was the greatest among them. In Genesis 3: 5, the devil, disguised as a serpent, says when he tries to exalt men: "You will be like God, knowing good and evil."
In Genesis 11: 4, the people of Babylon said to one another, «Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.» In Isaiah 14: 13-14, the king of Babylon, the devil, said, «I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High (God).»
People and nations’ mindsets today are based on the Babylonian mindset, where one exalts oneself as a human being and exalts oneself as a nation. As an example of this, we can see how large nations show their military power, either by rearmament and line-up at national borders, military parade on National Day or war. Great weapons are displayed to elevate oneself as a nation and as a leader, while at the same time showing power and creating fear. Throughout history, great buildings and landmarks have been built, as leaders and nations have done to make a name for themselves.
Jesus shows us the exact opposite when He Himself came to earth, He did not exalt Himself. He who was there when everything was created, He, all things were made through (John 1: 3). It is He who has the greatest reason of us all to exalt Himself, but He said in John 15: 12-13 «This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.»
Jesus uses the example of becoming like a little child when it comes to our faith. Because, when a child is told something, it will believe it much easier compared to an adult. A child generally has bigger trust and easily believes in what is being told than an adult. It is probably because an adult has had several experiences. Perhaps they have been lied to, experienced that thing have not been true, or that what they believed in did not work as they expected.
However, Jesus says that whoever has faith as a little child shall enter the kingdom of God. The faith and surrender of a child are about a surrender despite the questions being asked. This does not mean that one should not think, but once a choice has been made, daring to stand firm in faith despite not having all the answers. One cannot pick and choose what to believe. If you have chosen to believe God through the Bible, then you have given yourself to it in its entirety. Jesus said in John 15:14 «You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.»
Did God create the world in 6 days or did He not? Unfortunately, we cannot choose this either. In His Word it says that God created the world in 6 days, had He done it differently, He would have said it. If one believes in healing, but has experienced that one has not been healed, one can still not put aside the truth about healing. We cannot change the Truth of God just because we ourselves have not experienced Him, or because we think it sounds unlikely. If the written word of God does not work in one's own life, one must rather ask the question why.
A childlike unconditional belief and surrender that God has created both heaven, earth, and us humans, is necessary in order to give God a place in his own heart and soul. A faith that places God where He deserves and should be. If we ask questions about who God is or does not have full confidence in Him and His word, we are on shaky grounds.
Being a Christian means that you have an unconditional faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior and that you have chosen to follow Him. To say that one believes, but does not follow the One he believes in, is to have a dead faith. It is often the case when faith is a religion. Following rules out of fear of not fitting in or being expelled from family or following the minimal requirements in order to remain included in the community is not active faith. Growing up in a Christian home, but have never experienced in your own life that what you believe in actually works is another example.
For me, faith means that I have taken an active stand in following the Bible's word of God. This has given me many spiritual experiences, which confirm what the Bible says and makes me even more confident in what I have chosen to give my life to.
The Bible can be compared to a rule book such as soccer. Yes, a rulebook… having simple rules to follow makes the game easier and smarter.
Although soccer is not my favorite sport, I have stood for many hours on the sidelines cheering my son on. He actively plays football. It took a long time before I understood what offside means and when I did, I shouted offside all the time. It was not offside as many times as I thought it was, but as you can see, my son was the goalkeeper and as a dad on the sidelines I wanted to save him;)
Anyway, the reflections on the rules of soccer have fascinated me. It gives me a lot of links to the Bible's rules of living. Yes, maybe we can go so far as to say that it is heaven to win, while it is hell to los. It can sometimes look like this on the supporters after the matches.
As long as the ball is on the court, it is free to play each other well, make good passes or a player gets the opportunity to make a solo counterattack and shine a little on their own. But it is a team, and everyone follows the rules, if not, it is judged either with a penalty, yellow or red card. Goals are not counted until the whole ball has crossed the goal line, offside is rightly judged when the opponent is only an inch closer to the goal than the defender is. The rules are crystal clear and without the rules the game will not work properly. The judge's decision is firm, one does not argue with the judge, even if in some cases, the judge is wrong.
Fortunately, God has also given us a rule book, in which we find the rules of life. For example, to forgive when someone has hurt you, or to ask for forgiveness if you have inflicted pain on others. That book also tells us where we come from, how we came to be, and how we multiply. I assume that you know very well that it took a man and a woman for you to be born. Yes, it is simply God's wonderful creation. He is zealous for what He has created because it was perfect, and it is given to us with perfect rules of the game. As in soccer, games that do not match the rulebook are judged fairly, whether we agree or not, the referee we do not discuss with, nor the Creator!
Players among themselves may disagree and argue, but it does not go any further than where the rulebook sets the limits and the verdict the referee decides.
If you believe in God and His word, it will be reflected in your life through following Jesus. It costs, it is not free even though salvation is free, because the choice to believe requires obedience. In the same way that it costs to be the best in soccer. I am not talking about the cost of shoes, goalkeeper gloves or other equipment. If you want to be the best in any sport, you have to say no to many things in life, to focus on training to achieve your goal. This is also how it is to be a Christian; one has to say no to some things in life and others may think that it is strange and weird. As an athlete, you have a lot of fun along the way despite the struggle on the way to the victory wreath, the medal, the honor. And when one is standing on the podium, the effort and the training is worth it. This is also the case in life with Jesus, there is a lot of struggle but also ups and fun along the way, and the victory wreath which is eternal life in heaven is actually worth dying for!
Whether we like it or not, our lives bear "fruit." Either a good tasty and fragrant fruit, a sour, bitter, and smelly fruit or just tasteless fruit. Bearing fruit is not about what kind of faith one has. It is about how people around us in our daily lives experience, assess or judge us.
Jesus said in Luke 6: 43-45 «For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.»
The fruit of the life of a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, is recognized in their words, their deeds and how they live their lives. In order to produce good fruit, one has to stay in God's love and allow God's Spirit live and work in their inner life.
Jesus uses the parable, "on the fruit the tree shall be known." This applies to every single believer. The tree is Jesus!
When we are followers of Jesus, it is the good tasty power from His tree that gives taste to our fruit. If the fruit "tastes" bitterness, anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, self-exaltation, injustice and so on, then there is a high probability that the tree "the fruit" hangs on is not Jesus.
The devil is constantly trying to copy Jesus, he is jealous, and he wants to be like God. On the fruit the tree shall be known, or on the fruit the follower of the true Jesus shall be known. You do not have to go to church to be a Christian, but the fruit of faith brings you to the church or to fellowship with other believers. The true Christian life has a consequence, which in turn bears fruit, which eventually becomes visible in our lives. Whether one lives in a country where they are persecuted for their faith in Jesus, or in a free country, faith has a consequence. The consequence is that it is visible to others that we have Jesus as Lord in our lives. We make mistakes all the time but even then, Jesus' life becomes visible in that we forgive each other and even love each other despite disagreement or unfair treatment.
As a member or body of Christ here on earth, we have been given various gifts and talents so that we can be helpful to one another. Not control or exploit each other, but to build each other up. That is why God has chosen leaders and servants around us. Some have pastoral service; they make sure that everyone is well and is growing in faith. Some have apostolic ministry; they set the direction and initiate the "building" of God's church and His work around the world. Some evangelists; who may shout in the streets or write on the Internet or hand out some leaflets, to make Jesus known to those who are not aware that He lives, and tell them where they can find Him. Some prophets; who get dreams and visions of things that are going to happen. Prophets make God's people aware of what is coming, so that they are not afraid even when the world "storms" at its worst. Some He has chosen to be teachers; to teach you and me the word of God, what the Bible says. There are other services, gifts, and talents He has created in us, and He gives to all those who ask Him and who manage the gift they receive well. He gives to those who are willing to pay the price it costs to be a servant to the people, those who are willing to be a reflection of God's love here on earth. This is the church, this is the Christian.
Unfortunately, there are many «Christians» who have given themselves «God's gifts» and operate as if it is a God given gift.
I will return to it, but first. In Matthew 5: 13-16, Jesus tells us believers: «You (the Christians) are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.»
I am from Norway and have experienced how salt effectively melts snow and ice, even in minus degrees. There is a force in the salt that breaks the ice and also prevents putrefaction by salting meat.
Have you been in a dark room and seen how a small light breaks the darkness? Darkness is because there is an absence of light. Say that the light is only a small candle that burns, even in a long distance, the light of this flame will give some light, but the energy, and the heat from this light will not be felt and experienced until one is completely close to it.
John 1: 4-5 describes Jesus: «In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.» further in verse 9: «That (Jesus) was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.»
It was He who said about us, that we are the light of the world. That is, He in us, and we in Him.
John 3: 16-21 says: «For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”»
I said earlier that we would return to those who have "given themselves" God's gifts.
In Matthew 7: 21-23 Jesus says: «Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’»
When I talked about congregation and church, we also touched on this topic, where God's word is made into politics and religion. It is tempting to take shortcuts when dealing with God given gifts. As I said, it is a high price to be a true follower of Jesus and when we have received Him, we have agreed to pay the "price" it costs.
The story of the wizard Simon (Acts 7: 18-19) that we came across in the chapter "Who is God», is a good example of this. He tried to take a shortcut by paying money to receive God's gift. The Bible is very clear on this, that there are no shortcuts. The shortcuts are at best only a dead end where you can find out that you are on the wrong path and can turn around.
Not for a single penny can one buy God's gift, no education in theology or other school can give you God's gift, not a single pastor or leader can give God's gift. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the gifts of God. Yes, they are often given through the process of Christians laying hands on people and praying, but most important of all is that you, I, and each individual seek God, get to know Him and ask Him to equip us, as He needs us, and for what He has selected us for.
A pastor's title is worth nothing, if given by man. A prophet's title is worth nothing, if it is given by men. It is God who chooses and gives, but He only gives to those who seek Him. Jesus says in Matthew 7: 7-8 «Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.»
So, it is easy to get God's gifts, for the one who prays…
It's just like baking a cake. Without a recipe, it is difficult or completely impossible to achieve a given result. There can certainly be many other types of cakes, but to make a specific cake, the right recipe must be used, unless the result is something else. That is why it is so important for the individual believing Christian to read the Bible for themselves. Recipe given by another and taken from memory can be very similar to the right cake, but the lack of a small ingredient turns it to another cake.
God is zealous for His Word and for His laws Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 (15) «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. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.»
On the day we stand before the Throne of God, it is important that we have our name written in the book of life. It will not help anyone to say, yes but my pastor said, or my leader did. That day, on the day of judgment, it all comes down to your faith and your surrender to follow Jesus as Lord in your life.
I hope that you don’t perceive life as a Christian is like a dance on roses, or that it is an easy and hallelujah mood all day long. Yes, salvation is free, grace is free, the love of God is free. Everything is given to us completely free, and only by grace, God's wonderful grace! But first and foremost, we are all just human beings, who all have our faults and shortcomings, and we all make mistakes.
The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that they have two different masters in their lives, Jesus is the Lord in the life of the Christian and whether one wants to or not, the devil is master in the life of the non-Christian. The Bible describes that the devil is the god of this world, so when one chooses to become a Christian, they choose Jesus as their Lord in their life. That is, we become countercurrent to the rest of the world. Just as the fish in the river swim against the current, so we Christians are called to be in this world. The biggest difference only becomes visible on the day we enter eternity, either in heaven with God or to hell with the devil.
Life as a true follower of Jesus can be compared to standing in the middle of a storm. In the center of the storm or the eye of the storm it is windless while around, the storm rages. I have often felt that I am precisely standing in the middle of the storm's eye where there is total peace. It has been stormy around me, while inside me I have had an indescribable peace. This also corresponds to what the Bible says in Philippians 4: 6-7 «Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.»
I want to encourage you to make sure that your name is forever and always written in the Book of Life.
Exodus 32:33 says, «And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.»
Do you have sin in your life? No one but yourself can make up for it. It does not help that you go to church on Christmas Eve and then everything is suddenly in order. No, you must repent daily and follow Jesus.
In Mark 10: 21b He said; «and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.»
To summarize, I will give you some Bible verses. The first two are not contradictory, although it says "I forget" in one and the other "Do not forget".
Life is a school and it provides new knowledge every day. The experiences we make in life, which lead us either one way or the other, are important lessons to remember in order not to go the wrong way again.
So forgetting, or leaving behind bad experiences and no longer letting them affect your daily life and your goal, is what Paul encourages us to forget in Philippians 3: 13 «Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.»
«Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.» Proverbs 4: 5
«No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.» Joshua 1: 5-9
«If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.»
2 Chronicles 7:14
To be a Christian means to humble oneself before God, follow His ways and listen to His voice. I believe that the fruits of the Christian's life are shown in kind words even in pressured situations, clarity in following what one believes in, and a forgiving attitude towards others, but also towards oneself. The section about prayer in the next chapter gives more details about personal life with God.