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Believing in Christ, Accepting Christ, Being a Disciple – is There a Difference?

By Madison Holbrook

The three terms listed above, believing in Christ, accepting Christ and being a disciple of Christ are, in my opinion three different mindsets describing a person’s behavior about God. In some ways, this could map the natural progression of the Christian journey.

Believing in Christ is the most basic, superficial relationship a person can have with God. In fact, I think the word “relationship” is stretching it. Anyone can believe in God. But it doesn’t require any work on creating a relationship, studying the bible, or prayer. It is distinctly separate from someone who chooses to follow God. Satan believes in God. Agnostics believe in God. Demons believe in God. That doesn’t lead to a relationship. A relationship requires action.

Accepting Christ is the bridge between a person’s superficial, separate understanding of God and the deliberate action taken to establish a relationship with Him. In order to get to this point of accepting Him, it requires an understanding and belief that God sent His son to Earth to tell the world that He is the only way to Heaven; His death and resurrection, His charge to the disciples to spread the news all over the world; and the preparation to live apart from the world. When someone accepts Jesus as their Savior, they are making the conscious choice to put themselves second, and do everything for God’s glory.

Defining a true disciple of Christ is somewhat complex. When someone has chosen to accept Christ, they are electing to become a disciple. The two should go hand in hand. However, on a more realistic note, in today’s pluralistic society, becoming a disciple of Christ almost has a radical connotation. God did not call us, His chosen people to become complacent and comfortable. He has called us to rely on faith, prayer and His teachings so we can be His vessels. This means living with abandon, allowing God to fulfill His purpose in us. Becoming a disciple is making a true concerted effort to leave it all to God, and rely on faith.

A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans12:1

Many things pass for worship these days. We most commonly associate worship with a gathering on Sunday at a building where we sing some songs and then listen to someone speak. Somewhere in between we give some money to that organization.  If we have kids we hand them over to a smaller group where they will probably sing some songs, listen to someone speak, likely for a much shorter period and then make some sort of craft item that mom can hang on the refrigerator or place on the table at home.

After that hour or so of time we can feel as if we have satisfied our worship requirement for our religious life.

With this consumer based approach we can be picky about where and how we participate. The ride home afterward can include a critique of the performance. “The music was way too loud today.” “Seriously, if that preacher preaches any longer I can just bring my bed next time.” “Did you see what (fill in the blank) was wearing today?” If we don’t like the music we can choose another place – maybe somewhere that has a cool praise band and a platform that has awesome lights. If we want less formal we can choose a place where the preacher wears khaki pants and a pullover shirt, or even blue jeans. If we want more formal we can find a preacher who wears a suit.

Worship is for Sunday. Sunday is for worship (well at least a part of it).

Paul paints a very different picture of worship. He says that true and proper worship is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. To understand this better lets first examine the term sacrifice. In its simplest, lightest form, a sacrifice is when we give up something for someone or something else. I’m going to sacrifice my Saturday to help you move. I’m going to sacrifice the last piece of cake so my son can have it instead. This idea of sacrifice does not rise to the level of what Paul is referring here. Paul’s understanding of a sacrifice is more permanent.  I have plenty more Saturdays and there will be more cakes. Paul’s sacrifice is in the sense of the sacrifices offered to God in the Old Testament. For the various sacrifices an animal was brought and offered to the Lord. There was no expectation the animal would be taken back home later. The animal was killed and then offered up by the priest. It was gone, a permanent offering.

There’s two tricky things about what Paul says however. First, with the animal sacrifices, the animal had no choice. It was offered up by its owner.  But Paul instructs us to offer our own bodies, ourselves. We, as the sacrifice have a choice. We are not offered without the choice of our will. It is a voluntary offering.  Secondly, Paul tells us to offer ourselves as a ‘living’ sacrifice. The animal sacrifices were always killed.  They existed no longer. As a living sacrifice we continue to exist day after day. Thus we must continue in our choice.  We must continue to offer our bodies as a sacrifice.  This is not simply a one time deal.  It is on-going, perpetual.  At anytime we can take it back. And to be honest, we are tempted at every turn to do so.  We like being in control, but submitting ourselves as a sacrifice means relinquishing control. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to follow him meant to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily. Frankly we cannot do this without the power of the Holy Spirit.

So to truly worship God in the proper way, we must surrender and offer ourselves completely to him.  And we must continue to do so.This doesn’t sound like something that can be accomplished solely by gathering in a room for an hour or two, one day a week, singing (or just listening to) some songs and listening to someone speak. It becomes easily apparent that worship is an everyday act; even an every moment act. We offer ourselves and we do not take the offering back. We offer ourselves to be consumed, consumed by God. Out of our adoration for God and subsequent devotion to him we find ourselves in a state of worship, a mind of worship at the very core of our being. We are so thoroughly enamored with God, so in love with him and so dedicated to him that we can be satisfied with no other.  We can serve no other. We willingly give ourselves to him to be consumed by him, day after day for all of eternity. We are a living sacrifice. This is worship.

 

Are You Willing to be John the Baptist?

No there are not open tryouts coming up for a new John the Baptist.  Not looking for someone to play the role in a drama presentation either.

But are you willing to assume a similar position in relation to Christ?

That role is epitomized by this phrase spoken from John’s own tongue, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)  John said this in a time when the great crowds following him were beginning to leave and follow Jesus.  He could have been jealous, could have been envious. After all, he had sacrificed and given up so much to follow God and preach the message of repentance. Here he was wearing clothes made out of camel hair with a simple belt about his waist. He was eating locusts and wild honey, food he could gather.  He was a talented man, an educated, dedicated, hardworking man. Surely he deserved better.  And now, now that he is gaining some popularity along comes someone else and the crowds begin to follow him.

John’s reaction was not one of envy or anger, not one of jealousy.  He didn’t start trying new things to bring the crowd back.  In this conversation with his disciples they didn’t start discussing church growth strategies to get the crowd back. There was no, “we need to get some better music, you know, a praise band and some lights and stuff.” No mention of starting a child’s ministry with colorful paint on the walls and fun, child-centric activities or “maybe we should start wearing clothes that people relate to and start talking about the issues facing their lives like, ‘handling difficult people at your job’, ‘building strong relationships in a busy schedule’.” They didn’t start talking negatively about this new guy on the block who was ‘stealing’ their crowd.

Instead, John’s response was exactly the attitude of a disciple of Christ. In that one simple sentence, “He must become greater; I must become less”, John expresses precisely what we must believe as followers of Christ.  In order to follow Jesus we must take up our cross daily and deny ourselves. Both in our minds and in how our life is lived out we must literally become less and Jesus become more.  In our thinking we must think less of ourselves and more of Him.  Our lives must reflect the same so that when they live with us they see Jesus greater than they see us.

Some years ago I was at a point in my life where God drove me to my knees in prayer.  I had had enough of ‘me’. The ‘me’ was not the answer.  God led me in prayer at the moment to ask Him to kill the ‘me’, destroy the ‘me’. During that prayer God asked me, “if you would never get any credit for anything you do, even if someone else gets the credit for something you do, would you still do it?” I had always enjoyed when people said, “great message Pastor”, “man that message was just for me” or “I love hearing you preach”.  I always liked being thanked for visiting someone or spending time counselling someone.  It felt great to be told, “you know, I am Christian today because of your witness.” Certainly it seemed reasonable. I had worked hard preaching, visiting, counselling and witnessing.  But God was now saying would you do it without any of that recognition? Would you do it without any praise or thanks? Would you do it if someone else got the praise and recognition? Would you do it anonymously, if no one even remembered your name? Will you let me become greater and you become less in your life?  That was hard for me but I wanted to be like John.  I wanted to be all-in for Christ and let it all be about Him instead of me.

Through that prayer I was able to surrender to God to become anonymous in His kingdom whenever he chooses, to do what I do only for Him and not for me in any way.  The Holy Spirit continues to work in my life to kill that ego and replace it with Christ and Him alone.

Are you willing to be John the Baptist? Are you willing to decrease that He may increase? John realized who he was and who Jesus was. He realized who he was in relation to Jesus.  He realized what he was created for, for the glory of God.  John surrendered to his role and found real fulfillment and joy.  John placed Jesus ahead of even his own life. Are you willing to be John the Baptist?

Right, Wrong, Up, Down – Who Knows?

Christian: So, how do you know what is right and wrong? How do you decide if something is right or if something is wrong?

Atheist: If it hurts others it is wrong.

Christian: Why should I care if what I do hurts someone else?

Atheist: Because it is wrong to hurt someone else.

Christian: You just went in a circle and ended up back where you started.

God is the standard of right and wrong.  Without Him we have no idea of right and wrong.  ’The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.’ Psalm 53:1

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness – Part 3

A blog by Don McGlothin

Forgive, and don’t forget why… If we were to believe the great lie “forgive and forget” then wouldn’t we forget why we forgive? Wouldn’t we forget what we forgave, or when, or who, or even how? Wouldn’t we forget forgiveness? Are we trying to forget its importance, not only when we use it, but how we might receive it…They are the same. “Forgive us our trespasses, AS we forgive those who trespass against us.” Is this a timing issue or a “why we should?” Are we asking to be forgiven at the same time we are forgiving someone, or are we asking to be forgiven in the same fashion in which we forgive. I’ll assume both, and thus the take away should be “forgive fast and fully”. The sooner we forgive the more quickly we can heal. The more fully we forgive the more fully we will be healed.

Above I mentioned some wonderful things… forgiveness, love, joy, and peace. In reality, this is one opportunity and four results. Only one of these things is an opportunity to show God our love for him while simultaneously showing his love to another. It is an opportunity to willfully submit ourselves to him. That is forgiveness. You might say forgiveness is married to love and their offspring are joy and peace. With forgiveness you show God you love him while showing his love to another.

Gray is not as dark as black, I get that, but it is so cloudy and glum and can never be as bright as white. So, “Forgive, and don’t forget why” might serve us better than another lie that defies our God given reasoning like, “Forgive and forget.” The lack of reason is how you know it’s not from him.

To all, I ask forgiveness for the parts I’ve played mainly my anger and things I did or failed to do. If you think you should ask it of me for your part in things you did or failed to do, I already have forgiven you…but I will gladly do it again if you need to hear the words. I wouldn’t mind the opportunity myself.

Witness of the Martyr

“The word for ‘witness’ in the New Testament, martus, is the source of the English word martyr. Those who suffered and died for the cause of Christ were called martyrs because by their sufferings they bore witness to Christ.”  ’Surprised by Suffering, R. C. Sproul

May we be found worthy to witness for our Lord.  The Gospel is clear on Jesus as the suffering savior and we are called to share in His suffering as we are called to share in Him.

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness – Part 2

A blog by Don McGlothin

We know there are bears in the woods, as we know there are evil people in the world. However if we were walking in the woods and happened upon a bear just out of hibernation I doubt we would think to ourselves “Ha, I knew it.” Rather our mind and body would take to a sympathonimetric response, i.e. “fight or flight” mode in the interest of self-preservation. The first instinct would be to flee, and get away from this situation. Now if we were to happen upon a stranger harming our child a different and more powerful response would take place…like “Fight or Flight” in its nature, very intense, but not in the preservation of self, but rather in preservation of the child…Love becomes involved; love for our child.

You might be thinking that to harm one in order to keep them from harming another is not love. You might see it as a contradiction to my view of religion, but then you must re-examine our view on the Body of Christ, we who are, or want to be “in him” and with him “in us”. If we are the body, the arms the legs the muscles that are intended to do his will then how could one, being present, not attempt to stop an evil act with all they have been given? Why in times like this would your body and mind simultaneously have such a strong response if you are meant to do little or nothing?

We are again trying to apply man’s standards to God’s understanding, and I assure you it won’t add up because we cannot fathom his complexity…or even his simplicity.

The subsequent challenge then becomes to learn to let your anger go after it serves its purpose of stopping the evil….then forgive. If you think anger does not help at all then call it wrath and see if God ever used it to stop evil…and if vengeance is his, re-examine what part of his body we are. Whatever you call it, anger or wrath must be cast out after its intended use. We are not God, and have no abilities to completely control it. To keep it in you, however small, it will take up space…then it will grow and eventually it will be all you are. To let the anger go, you then create more room for love, joy and peace.

With love, you will find forgiveness, then on to joy and eventually peace.

Stay tuned for part 3