Who is a Christian? (CC-1)
This blog is the first of a short series dedicated to the Christian faith. As the title implies it clearly by the use of the phrase "Christlike Character", The Diamond Soul book is addressed primarily to a Christian audience. It would only make sense, therefore, to provide a brief refresher on the Christian theological doctrines which are applicable to the subject matter of my book.
On the other hand, I strongly believe that the teachings contained in The Diamond Soul are highly relevant to all open-minded people who are interested in self-growth and building a strong moral character. In this group, I would include agnostics, atheists, seekers, and people of other religions. So, with all due respect for their existing thinking or belief system, I take this opportunity to introduce them to the core features of the Christian faith. This is a warm invitation to anyone to explore the beauty, mystery, and richness of the Christina faith. Why do I do this? Simply to provide an intellectual challenge and present a spiritual alternative to current mindsets.
Who is a Christian?
Before I begin, I’d like to share with you another 5-star review of my book.
What does the Bible say about being a Christian?
The best definition comes from the Apostle John himself:
"And hereby we do know that we know him if we keep his commandments. He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:3-6)
What John is saying here is that a true Christian is someone who keeps Jesus' commandments and walks like Jesus. In other words, a true Christian must meet two criteria: (i) to confess to be a Christian, and (ii) to conduct his life as a Christian.
Let's examine each of these requirements.
(i) Confession of faith: this is the first condition to be called a Christian, that of professing to the world that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Your confession of faith should state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, descended into hell, and rose from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust in him for the remission of their sins. It should further maintain that Jesus ascended into heaven, where he reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, that he will return to judge the living and the dead, and that he will grant eternal life to his followers. Confessing your faith is not an easy task and should not be taken lightly. One must study the Bible, take time to think about Christian teachings that are at the core of the faith, and acquire the knowledge and vocabulary necessary to express thoughts about the divine. Besides, one must have the strength of character and deep courage to make such a bold confession before the indifferent, even semi-hostile world in which we live now.
(i) Walking like Jesus did: this is the second condition to be called a Christian, and perhaps the more difficult one. It is also called Christlikeness, or to be like Christ. To start with, it requires not only a thorough understanding of Jesus' life and work during his ministry on earth two millennia ago, but also a study of his character as a man. Then, and this is the hardest part, to slowly incorporate into your own character what you admire most in Christ's. And finally, it is to live like Jesus did, to mirror his life into yours, so you can fulfill his calling to you.
YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN IF YOU SAY SO
AND YOU WALK IN THE PATH OF JESUS CHRIST
Let's now spend some time together discussing the teachings of Jesus Christ, also known as Christian doctrines. In doing so, we will familiarize ourselves with the area of human thought called theology, which is the study of God. Christian doctrines are rooted in the Bible and have been developed by the church over the centuries. Some doctrines have been believed and taught by most Christians in most places and most times. Others have generated significant differences. One of the disorienting experiences of examining doctrines more carefully is discovering that Christians do not all believe exactly the same way. This explains the rich diversity of Christian ways of thinking, living, and worshiping God, manifested in the vast numbers of denominations, bodies of church, sects, fellowships, and so on. But these differences also underlay the common source of truth for us Christians, which it the Holy Bible, the Word of God.
On Christian Theology
The meta-story of the Bible is built upon and flows out of the foundation of the concept of 'creation-fall-redemption'. The Bible begins with Yahweh, the God of the old Hebrews, as a good and righteous God who creates a good creation. He then gives humans, who are created in his image, the right to rule over this creation as righteous rulers representing him. This creation is lost due to their violating the righteous will of God and failing to protect the creation. The whole Bible tells the story of God entering into this fallen creation, in order to redeem it and take humanity back to himself as sovereign Lord over it, and into a relationship with him. Ultimately, this is accomplished through Jesus Christ as the God-man who redeems humanity back to God and will establish his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Why Study Doctrinal Theology about Jesus Christ?
There are three major reasons why every Christian should study doctrinal theology, or at least attempt to familiarize themselves with its content and purpose.
(i) first, it is the Word of God, which makes us understand the connection between what we believe in and how we live. This process can be painful when we realize that our way of life violates some teachings that we misunderstood. Or, it can be delightful when we discover the reasons for why we live the way we do. This is the process of growing up in faith.
(ii) second, to be a Christian means to be a theologian. Why is that? Because the main source of our faith is the Bible, and we must know what and how to interpret from the vast body of sacred knowledge contained in it. God has given us free will and the intellectual power to think for ourselves, so we must do just that as it applies to interpreting the Word of God. Also, remember that Jesus Christ himself was constantly challenging and correcting people's ideas about God, and most of Jesus' encounters with scribes and Pharisees were intellectual contests. As Jesus was debating The Law in his time, we too should be able to articulate, debate, and defend our faith in our times.
(iii) Third, it will help us pass the gospel on faithfully and accurately to the next generation. Where do children first hear the name of Jesus Christ? At kindergarten or public school? Certainly not! They hear it first at home, from their parents or grandparents, siblings, and relatives. When kids have their first questions about spirituality, about Jesus, they go to their parents, who should be capable to clearly and accurately answer them.
Now, let’s delve into and outline the premises of several foundational doctrines of Christianity such as the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit, By necessity, the outline is going to be just that, an outline. People who’d like to deepen their study in theology should use reputable resources found elsewhere.
We will do this in the next blog post.
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Useful links: www.moodybible.org www.biblestudytools.com