Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Am I a Christian? Really?

First off, apologies to those who have been missing my writing the last few months. I have nothing honestly to say, except that I haven't felt like writing. (Or at least, haven't been inclined to finish anything.. having thousands of words of unfinished posts set aside.. ideas which, though captivating for me a moment, came out forced, incomplete..)

But, more to the point of our story..

Lately, the last few weeks/months, (two separate blocks of time), I've come to realize something I instinctively knew all along, but was afraid of admitting to.. of acknowledging in its full starkness. I am not a Christian. By the Biblical definition, I am no more a Christian than Christ was a sinner.

Yes, I just said that.

In fact, it gets worse. Not only do I not fit the Biblical definition of a Christian, the only thing that really sets me apart from the sinful world at large is that I have access to that truth which has the power to set one free. So? What this means is that I have a greater responsibility to be a true light to the world. As an informed and intelligent person (if you want, you may claim this title as well.. but read the following first), I am held to a higher standard. That is to say, I am more guilty for the same actions than another person might be, as I can make no plea of ignorance - unless ignorant by indolence.

And, as a person who sometimes impresses others as a fine Christian young man, as one who knows how to distinguish between right and wrong, as a person who is upright in everything (at least, I can make this appearance, at times), I am already a hypocrite, and at risk of deceiving others. And what could be worse than to take the name of Christ as a justification for sin - that is to say, I sin, because of Christ? What could be worse than projecting a wrong view of Him.. of deceiving others into thinking that this sad, unfulfilled, and desperate life I live is that "life more abundant" that Christ offers..

Wait.. so.. that's what you say.. but what is your justification for that view? How do you know?

Again, I've instinctively known this all my life. The conscience exists in a man for this very reason. Even though I knew this was the truth, however, it never felt real. I knew I was a sinner, but did not feel like a bad person. And if one is not truly evil, what need have they of salvation?

A few things have happened to change this perception:  I began praying that God help me realize my condition.. I began to notice a deep, heart felt expression of remorse and gratitude in others far better than myself, which I simply could not experience.. (I, being the empathetic, somewhat emotional person with a good imagination, as it is..). Spending more time with those I respect for their faith and commitment drives this realization stronger, increases its importance in my mind, and gives me hope at the same time. I've pursued an understanding of the concept of righteousness by faith; a concept so far outside of myself, that I find the entire thought baffling - but I have come to understand enough to realize that it is not the life I am living, yet is precisely that which I desire.

Most powerful, however, is the time I've spent familiarizing myself with the book of 1 John, as part of a memorization effort with a group of friends.

Here are a "few" select passages that have jumped out at me:

1 John 1:
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2:
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 John 3:
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.


Explanation:

First, God is perfect. He is light, and there is no sin in him. (1 John 1:5). He cannot sin, and neither can anyone who is living in Him. (2:5; 3:6, 9)

Second, if I fail to recognize my sinful tendency, I am deceiving myself, and still living in sin. (1:8, 10).

Third, if I claim that I am nonetheless living in Christ, (and even if I don't), and yet do not keep his word/commandments (2:4, 5; 3:4), have a disregard for my fellow man (2:9, 11; 3:10, 16, 17), have too high of a regard for the things of the world (2:15, 16), or am generally continuing in sin in some form (1:6), I am clearly not living in Christ, but, in transgressing the law (3:4), am of the devil (3:8).

Summarized, a Christian should live as Christ did (2:6), as anything less is of the devil, and counts no more toward righteousness than a handful of Mexican pesos could be counted towards the US national debt.

In a brutally honest self examination of heart, it is very clear to me that my own heart is not only not pure and holy, but is as truly guilty as anyone else the world over, if not more so.


And yet I know that God has the power, and the desire to reach me even now. I have not lost hope. To the contrary, I am more hopeful than ever. To quote from a favorite book of mine:

"Christ is the source of every right impulse. He is the only one that can implant in the heart enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts." - Steps to Christ, p. 26.3