Q&A: “How Good Must I be In Order to be Called a Christian?”

A Facebook friend-of-friend recently posted the following:

To be saved a person must stop smoking, drinking, drugs, and cussing. Attend church on a regular basis, and become a born again Christian. Now are you ready to commit to being a Christian? If not then Hell is your destiny…..If you don't believe me, read your Bible. So if you are still cussing like a sailor, or doing drugs, or getting drunk after you read this then you did not commit to being a Christian and you need to quit pretending like you are one. There is more to being a Christian than just saying you are. God bless and have a wonderful day……

Having seen this, the mutual friend to the one who posted tagged me for a response. Here it is:

One time, similar conversation took place within earshot of Jesus. Here is what happened:

"And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31; Matthew 9:12 ESV)

So, Jesus presents Himself as a Doctor. If you know you aren't perfectly healthy in relationship with God, then go to the Doctor so he can give you His cure. But, this idea you have to make yourself better before you can be a "Christian," or (worse) that you have no sickness in your flawed human nature, is just stupid.

It is quite a gift Jesus gives us by forgiving us and making us His child—able to partake in His Divine nature. So with that said, the Apostle whom Jesus loved writes this:

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! ….Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this earnest expectation, sourced in Him, purifies themselves, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:1-3)

Summary: you can't be good enough to earn merit with God. Turn to Jesus for rescue. AFTER that, you still can't be good enough to repay God or "keep" what you were given (Galatians 3:3). It is a gift. What you can do is live thankfully by aiming for being like Jesus, out of love and because He changed your identity to His child. We can't be perfectly like Jesus on this side of Heaven, but we should want to be transformed into Jesus' likeness as much as we possibly can until then.

We all (especially Christians) have areas of life needing transformation. I have habits and patterns of response… call them addictions, if you will. Everyone has some form of addiction—religious self-righteousness can be an example, as the above person's post reveals. No matter what is our weakness or mortal flaw, the important thing is to stay humbly transparent and keep faith that Jesus is the ultimate Deliverer. Desire to keep a big and open connection with Him! Sheep are safe & fed near the Shepherd; the sick do well when near the Doctor.

Jesus never asked us to "commit to being a Christian." He asked us to turn to Him for rescue!

Instead of Two-Faced, the Church Must be “TrueFaced” — The Cure

What if God isn’t Who you think he is & neither are you? What if taking God’s side against our sinfulness and placing trust in Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God is the Way to knowing God’s unconditional love? What if that reconciled relationship with God means you have a new identity in Jesus… that the old self is gone in God’s eyes and that you are a completely new creation? What if real joy comes from believing you already have perfect standing with God through Jesus? What if the Christian Life is not about trying to be perfect or manage your sin habits BUT learning to receive God’s love and learning to love others with that God-like love? What if true holiness is about having nothing hidden… and (due to trusting safe friends) not being afraid to tell how you really are. What if true holiness is not trying to sin less but partaking in the Nature of God? With Horizon Christian Fellowship Morgan County, you will find safe friends. You can be who you are right now, as we (together) partake in God’s Nature.

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OTHER RESOURCES:

TrueFace YouTube

Why Christians Aren’t “Perfect”

Religion vs. Relationship

Deeper Walk International | Course 1: “Foundations” (free video series)

“Repentance” by Deeper Walk

Mental Health Resource Roundup

4 Restorative Books for The Wounded & Weary Christian

A Proposed Consesus on Articulating Sanctification

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 6

Neither secret (esoteric, theosophic) knowledge, nor ascetic legalism can combat one’s impulses to indulge the flesh [a.k.a. old, corrupted self] (Colossians 2:23). Only the grace of Jesus Christ can wage war with our fleshly (sinful, obsessive or excessive) impulses and lead us to victory.

Why is it important to have victory over these drives and base responses? It is all about maintaining and improving our relationships—our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Sin destroys relationships, isolates us from others and alienates us from God. Even though they may seem to have a measure of wisdom, secret knowledge (Gnosticism) and asceticism (exclusion-based, externals-focused, behaviors-level, shame-driven religion) cannot combat the indulgence of the flesh; and so, cannot maintain or improve your relationship with God and others. Only the grace-filled life and forgiveness of the Supreme Savior, Jesus Christ, can lead us to the victory over fleshly impulses that destroy relationships.

God’s Prescriptions for Navigating Relationships — Putting on the New Self

3:1-4     The Believer’s Mindset about Earthly vs. Heavenly Affections

  • “I am raised with Christ; therefore, I seek the things which are above, where Christ is (at the right hand of the Father).” [position –> affection]
  • “I will set my mind on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth; because the old corrupt, selfish me has died, and my new life is found only with Christ in God.” [identity –> devotion]
  • “When Christ—my life—appears, then I will also appear with Him in glory.” [identity –> reward]

3:5-11     The Believer’s Relationship to God & Other Believers (Negative Aspect): Putting to Death What is Earthly

  • Put to death: Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Passion, Evil Desire, Covetousness (thinking that acquiring things or situation will make your life better)
    • These are the sort of things God judges, and…
    • These are the things which WERE ONCE a part of your life, but now
  • Put away all of these: anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk
  • Do not lie to one another, …
    • because you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self (which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of your Creator). [implied: God does not lie; you are God’s new creation; do not lie.]
    • because you are all of equal value to God. Man-made, religious, earthly bounds & prejudices do not exist in Christ.

3:12-17     The Believer’s Relationship to God & Other Believers (Positive Aspect): Putting on What is from Above, Heavenly

  • As God’s chosen one’s, holy and beloved, put on: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience (bearing with one another)
  • If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive one another; because as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
  • Above all these, put on (selfless, holy) love! It is that which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
  • Allow the peace of Christ to rule your hearts (in relation to each other). It was to peace in Christ that you were called in one body. Be thankful about that!
  • Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly by: …
    • Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom
    • Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts toward God
  • Do everything in the name (for the glorious reputation of) the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

3:18-21     The Believer’s Family Relationships

  • Wives: submit yourselves to your husbands, as is befitting for one who is “in the Lord.”
  • Husbands: love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
  • Children: obey your parents in everything, because this is pleasing to the Lord.
  • Fathers: do not provoke (exasperate) your children, so that they do not become discouraged

3:22-25     The Believer’s Role as a Servant to a Master (a.k.a. Boss, Employer)

  • Obey—in everything [moral]—those who are your earthly masters (bosses).
    • not just to make yourself look good, as people pleasers do (approval seeking), but…
    • with sincerity of heart, because you reverence the Lord
  • Whatever you do, work heartily (with a good attitude) as if you are working for the Lord and not for people
    • Knowing that from the Lord you will receive inheritance for reward
    • You are serving the Lord Christ
  • The wrongdoer (boss and/or employee) will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and their is no bias (partiality, bribe favors) with God.

4:1     The Believer’s Role as a Master (a.k.a. Boss, Employer)

  • Treat your employees justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master—in Heaven. [implication: the employer who is not just or fair will be corrected accordingly by their heavenly Master]

4:2-6    Every Believer’s Role as a Minister

  • Continue steadfastly in prayer…
    • watching (for answers) in it
    • with thanksgiving
  • Pray for fellow ministers of the Gospel
    • that God may open a door (avenue of ministry) for the Word
      • to declare the mystery of Christ, no matter what the situation (even imprisonment)
      • to make it straightforward and clear (instead of “watered down” and hidden in part), which is how believers ought to declare it
  • Walk in wisdom (life skill) toward outsiders (non-believers)
    • Make the best use of your time with them [implied: for the Gospel’s sake]
    • Let your speech always be gracious & intriguing (salty, question provoking) …
    • So that you may know how you ought to answer each person

4:7-18  People Matter: Encourage Them, Talk to Them, Remember Them, Love Them (Paul’s Example)

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Previous Series Parts:

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 1

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 2

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 3

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 4

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 5

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 5

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 1

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 2

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 3

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 4

So far in this perusal of the Letter to the Colossians, Lamb’s Harbinger has taken a look at Chapter 1 through Chapter 2, verse 15. This part 5 will continue with the next paragraphs.

Chapter 2, verse 15 of the Letter to the Colossians ended the Apostle Paul’s proclamation of the absolute triumph and the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all sins, all humans and all spiritual beings. It stands to reason that Paul will now give the Colossian believers another charge to keep:

2:16-23

Since Jesus Christ is supremely triumphant over all sin and humanity and all spiritual beings, then the Law of Moses (Old Covenant) which gives sin its power to condemn (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:56) has also been fulfilled in Christ.

FOR THIS REASON, no believer in Jesus Christ should allow Judaizers to pass judgement on him or her, regarding Old Covenant religious dietary restrictions, or with regard to observing Old Covenant religious festivals or calendar events… OR celebrating worship on a Saturday (Shabbat) vs. a Sunday.

All of the Old Covenant (Testament) observances and rituals and calendar days were (prophetic) shadows of things to come. BUT the real substance of their prophetic importance belongs to CHRIST.

So, Paul further urges the Colossian believers [and us] who are being tempted to go back into Jewish ritualism. The challenge is to “let no one label you as “disqualified,” as the result of their insisting on:

  • Asceticism: severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons
  • Worship of Angels
    • Going on in detail about visions (modern example: Mormons & Joseph Smith)
    • Being puffed up beyond sound reason by his sensuous mind (a.k.a. one’s emotions, feelings, sensory perceptions; ex. “burning in the bosom”)
    • NOT holding fast to the Head — Jesus Christ
      • from Whom the whole body… grows with a growth that is from God…
      • as a result of being nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments

Then, haling back to verse 8 of Chapter 2, Paul continues by challenging those who are being drawn back into Greco pagan thought (Gnosticism):

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world (referring to pagan thought of the worlds order; Gnosticism), WHY—as if you were still alive to the world—do you submit to regulations that are according to man-made teachings, 

such as:

  • Do not handle (certain material objects), Do not taste (certain foods), Do not touch (as in good marital, sexual relationship)
    • referring to things that are all temporal (as apposed to eternal).

Then, Paul levels a death blow to legalism and gnosticism.

These [man-made regulations] indeed have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism, BUT they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  (Colossians 2:23)

Simply put: even though man-made religious rules seem pious and wise, THEY DON’T DO ANYTHING TO CURE YOUR SINFUL IMPULSES. Asceticism and Special Knowledge cannot stop you from giving in to the flesh.

The implication is better than one could imagine. Jesus is better than special knowledge and asceticism. Unlike gnosticism and legalism,

THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST CAN CURE YOUR SINFUL DESIRES

Colossians: Jesus is Better than Special Knowledge, Part 1

1:1

From a Roman prison cell, of all places, the Apostle Paul writes to the believers and “faithful brothers” (probably church leaders) at Colossae. Next to him sits Timothy, Paul’s partner in ministry even while in holding. Paul writes the letters to Ephesians and to Philemon at about the same time (A.D. 60-62). We know that, because in those letters Paul refers to himself as being in prison, and he also refers to Tychicus (the courier). Yet, neither of these letters refer to the outcome of Paul’s trial at Rome. So, from that inner evidence, one can more than safely say Colossians was written sometime from A.D. 60 – 62. The message God sends to the Colossians through his Apostle Paul is certainly one for our day. The theme of this letter to the Colossians (and to us) is:

JESUS IS BETTER THAN SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE (i.e. Gnosticism)

1:2

“Grace and Peace to you” is always the greeting Christians gave each other in those early days of Christianity. Whether in regions where Christianity was not being persecuted, or in the heat of Christian genocides, only the salutation of “grace and peace to you” would mean anything at all. The grace of God allows us to partake of the Divine nature amid a world that is entirely anti-God in heart. The peace of God is poured over those who trust the Almighty and All-knowing God completely, even those suffering for the name of Jesus Christ, as Paul knew very well. There are times when we forget about our need for and the availability of God’s grace and peace. It is always fitting to wish another Christian, “Grace and Peace (be multiplied) to you.”

1:3-8

The first paragraph of this letter is full of thanksgiving and joy. The Apostle Paul states he and his fellow ministers thank God for the Colossians when praying for them. Why?

  • Paul and company heard of the Colossians’ placing faith in Jesus as the Christ “the Messiah” as a result of hearing the Gospel from Epaphras (vv. 4, 7-8)
  • Paul and company heard of the Colossians’ love for all the saints (v. 4)
  • Paul and company knew of and rejoiced in the hope laid up for the Colossians in Heaven; implied: because of their faith. (v. 5)
  • Paul and company share joy with the Colossians that their faith in Christ is shared among many in the world and is growing! (vv. 6-7)

1:9-20

The second paragraph of this letter is a prayer for the Colossians and an exaltation of Jesus Christ, and this exaltation of the Lord Jesus sets the tone for the rest of the letter. The supremacy of Jesus Christ is the basis of the Colossians’ faith, yes even the Christian faith, against all distractions, deceptions or heresies. What a blessing from God to have these prayers recorded for our learning and use.

Paul prays: ‘We have not ceased to pray these things for you from the day we heard of your faith in Christ:: (v. 9-14)

  • To be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
    • So that, you may walking in a manner worthy of the Lord
      • by being fully pleasing to Jesus
      • by bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God
  • To be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might
    • For the purpose of having all endurance and patience with joy
      • resulting in giving thanks to the Father
        • WHO has qualified believers to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
        • WHO has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son
          • in Whom (Jesus) we have redemption — the forgiveness of sins.

Paul Exalts Christ: (v. 5-20)

  • He is the image of the invisible God
  • He is the firstborn (lead and representative) of all creation, because:
    • By Him all things were created
      • in heaven and on earth
        • things visible and invisible
          • whether thrones, or dominions or rulers or authorities
    • He is before all things and in him all things hold together
    • He is the head of the body — the Church.
    • He is the beginning, the firstborn (resurrection to glory) from the dead
      • so that, in everything he might be preeminent
  • In Him all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell, so that through Him all things* would be reconciled^ to God.
    • *All things: whether on the earth or in heaven
    • ^Reconciled: by making peace by the blood of His cross