Are we unknowingly leaving people out?
No matter where you go to church or what you choose to believe, there are phrases and words that need translating. The born again Christian community has a language all it's own that appears to be 'Greek' to most folks not 'in the know.' I am not trying to separate anyone here but there are many folks who go to church who do not know some of these words and phrases.
Take the word 'Christian' for instance. It means different things to different people. If you walk up to someone on the street and ask what a Christian is, most likely they will tell you that it's someone who believes in God, lives a good life, doesn't cheat anyone, goes to church regularly, helps with the church picnic, brings the kids to all the group functions, and never ever hurts anyone deliberately. In short, they live a 'good' life. That is what God had in mind, they say. Is it?
Jesus says this:
John 3:3, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Then He said:
John 3:6-8, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
So maybe a Christian isn't just someone who lives a good life. There are requirements. They must be 'born again.' Now we have another phrase that people do not understand. We are able to get a clue about it from what Jesus says. The person will not be able to see the kingdom of God if this condition is not met. I used to think that simply meant going to heaven but it also means that the person will be unable to see the Truth as well unless they respond to the Lord Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
They will see this as foolishness. 'After all, it is not sensible to believe that God will provide all our needs. He is not physical so how can He do that?' Yet the Bible tells us that He promises this to those of us who believe. How do we get to know these things of God? Because of God's infinite Grace and Mercy, we are drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, we open the door for God to work in our lives and our hearts. That is when changes begin to occur.
'Born again' also requires that we see that flesh things are flesh and spirit things are spirit. People often do not see the Bible as being in any way valid because they cannot actually SEE the process, cannot SEE the results until they actually appear physically. You have heard such folks talk. 'I won't believe it until I see it!' We are all guilty of that thought at one time or another. Yet God has another plan in mind. His starts out with 'believing is seeing.' Now there is a concept that will not fly in a 'normal' conversation. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But the whole Bible is built on just such a spiritual system. You can't even find God without following that.
'Believer' hits people in funny ways. They will claim to be one who believes in God. Often they feel they are not only a Christian but also a believer just because they live a good life. But as you have already read, those same conditions that apply to a born again person apply here. That means there has to be the action of asking Jesus into their hearts. A Christian, by God's definition, must accept His Son, Jesus, and Him dying on the cross for them personally.
Another word that may have people confused is 'faith.' It is vital to a believer.
Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
In Hebrews 11:1, it is stated that faith is a substance yet it is 'evidence of things not seen.' Looks like we can not see it. Or can we? When a person stands on faith the result is the desired effect as long as it lines up with the Bible. For instance, a physical example of faith happens when you decide to turn on a light when entering a room. Assuming that you paid the light bill and the bulb is good, the light will turn on. You knew that because that is what it is supposed to do. You have displayed faith in the light turning on. Likewise, when we stand on God's Word (Bible) for things, we display faith in God to accomplish the things He has promised.
Notice that in verse 6, there is another condition. You MUST have faith or it is impossible to please God. The best part is that when you believe that God is AND that He rewards those that diligently seek Him, your faith grows too. But how do we get that faith? You choose to have it by prayer, studying the Bible on a regular basis, and finding those verses that pertain to your particular needs. God has decided to show us what to do in our everyday life by giving us His Bible. Think of it as an owner's manual for your life. God is the creator. He created you and has given you a handbook!
I know there are many more of those words that are difficult to understand. Perhaps we need to go back to the basics and remember our own past prior to accepting Jesus into our hearts and recall how confusing this can be. So instead of letting folks know that you are 'witnessing' and that you are a 'believer' maybe you could just tell them that Jesus loves them. Not much confusion about that!
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Thanks Lura for your kind words. From looking at the lack of responses at articles, I'm starting to think that we're the only ones left here. Anyway, excellent article. It is a reminder to us that our lives are called not to live a good, but whether a holy life.