Tag Archives: relationship

Christianity – Distinct From All Others

I could have sworn I’d written previously about the uniqueness of Christianity from all other religious faiths, yet when I searched my archives to find it, I was unable to do so. Apparently it was something I’d _intended_ to write about and never did. Allow me to rectify that situation now.

One of the things that absolutely convinces me that my religious faith is the correct one, the only one that _can_ be right, is its very distinctiveness. In all the world, there is not another religious faith that is as unique, and simple, as Christianity. The one that comes closest, perhaps, is Islam, but as we “have seen already”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=315, even it falls away to be little different than all the others. What follows are a few of the things that set Christianity apart and spotlight it as being so very special.

*Nothing We Can Do, Nothing We Have To Do*

In every religious system, personal salvation is worked out by the deeds and actions of the individual. If someone desires to get to heaven or attain a higher position or status in the next life or to ascend to a nirvana-like state, that individual must first live a life that consists of more good deeds than bad. At the minimum, the scales have to be balanced, and at the maximum, they have to be tipped in favor of good deeds. It is a game of continual tension and anxiety, the individual never knowing if they have done enough to earn that special place in the next life.

Within Christianity, there is nothing that we _can_ do that is ever good enough to earn our way into Heaven. We are prohibited from doing so by our very sinful nature. But at the same time, there is nothing that we _have_ to do to earn Heaven, for what needs to be done has already _been_ done. The payment has already been made.

*God Himself Making the Way for Men*

Christianity is also unique in that it is the only religious faith where God Himself made it possible for human beings to get to Heaven. It is the only place where you will hear about God becoming a common man simply for the sake of taking on the punishment for sin. The gods of other religions have always traditionally been petty and cruel, warring and bickering amongst themselves and forcing humankind to perform all manner of menial and degrading tasks to earn a shaky place of security in the next life. Only in Christianity is admittance into Heaven a free gift, offered to any and all who would accept it, made possible by God Himself.

*Personal Relationship with God*

Christianity is also the only religious faith that teaches that men can have a _personal_ relationship with God Himself. It is the only place where God has literally reached down into history itself and spoken one-on-one with men, where He has walked with men and fellowshipped with them. It is the only place where God Himself took on the form of a child and grew up as a man, providing the bridge necessary for God and men to relate to one another in perfect harmony. The Greeks believed that the gods sometimes disguised themselves as men for a period of time, for any number of reasons, but always they returned to Olympus and never could common men maintain contact or continued communication with them. The gods were indifferent to the needs of men, caring more for their own comfort than for the welfare of men. The God of the Christians is different. He genuinely cares about His people and is fully accessible to all of them. We may go to Him personally to speak with Him and present our needs, our requests to Him. And what is more, He actually listens to and hears us. Nowhere else will you see this relationship between deity and mortal played out.

*Focus on Self, Focus on God, Focus on Others*

As a result of this relationship with God, the focus is not on ourselves, as it is in every other religious system. Everywhere else, the focus is on getting oneself into heaven, doing enough to insure that one has lived a good enough life to move to a better place when one dies. Within Christianity, everything that needs to be done has already been done, so there is no longer a need to do anything for oneself in order to get to Heaven. The focus, then, moves from self to God, and from God to others. We are able to focus on our relationship with God, following Him and serving Him. We are also able to focus on others with the joy that we have, urging them to also choose God, to choose Christ, over the cumbersome ways of self-righteousness and self-justification. We can tell them that it is so much easier than all that to make sure that one gets to Heaven, that the price has already been paid, that there is actually a personal, loving God who has already done everything for us that we need and that all we need to do is accept that gift He has offered us.

This is what makes Christianity so very unique in the world, what sets it apart from all others. The rest of the world religions may _look_ unique from one another at first blush, but when you boil it down to what each demands of its supplicants, what you find is that they all demand the same thing – good deeds of the individual in order for him or her to _earn_ his or her way into heaven. Christianity is the _only_ religion where the individual has to do nothing, where it is already done. Christianity is the only religion where its members are truly free, where the shackles of a legalistic and rules-driven life have been cut away and discarded forever.

This is what I believe sets my faith apart from all the rest, what convinces me without doubt that I have chosen the truth. There is no God like my God, no Lord like my Lord, no freedom like that freedom which He has given to me, and I will follow Him all the days of my life. I can give Him no more and no less than all of me, for He has secured my hope and my salvation.

Pointless Speculation

When does “speculation become pointless?”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1526#1526 Just how many times can one ask, ‘What if…?’ before one ends up beating a dead horse? There are a lot of questions asked within the realm of Christianity and theology, a lot of arguments and discussions that can be viewed as pointless because the answers can never be fully known, because many of the conclusions are left to the individual’s opinion and discretion, because the discussion ends up only spinning its wheel, cycling again and again through the same arguments and logic. Are these questions and discussions then, in and of themselves, pointless? I would say, Not necessarily.

The backbone of most theological questions within Christianity rests upon the assumption that God exists, that He is active in the lives of His image-bearers, that we are in need of His salvation, that His Son provided the means to obtain that salvation, and that we only need accept that gift in order to permanently secure our place in Heaven in eternity to come. Everything else is, to some extent, up for discussion once you have accepted these foundational principles. I believe that God expects His children to be curious about everything, to ask questions, even if those questions have no answers right now. I think it hurts nothing at all to entertain speculative discussion, so long as that undertaking does not result in anger, hatred, and bitterness. It is all too easy to formulate an opinion about something and then hold to that opinion so strongly as to consider it proven truth.

The point of speculative discussion is, I believe, to ferret out falsehoods, as much as possible, and replace them with Biblical truths. God has provided for us everything that we NEED to know through the medium of the Bible — everything that we need in order to know Him, to enter into a relationship with Him, to live a righteous and moral life that is pleasing to Him. What He doesn’t tell us or leaves unclear is, therefore, less important, though no less open to our searching. I believe that it pleases Him when we entertain those questions that have no answers because it means that His image-bearers are exercising the image of God by thinking critically, using creativity, and discovering the vast intricacies and mysteries of this world, this universe in which He placed us. But I believe that it displeases and saddens Him when this exercise of His image results in conflict with each other and with Him.

So, ask your questions, entertain your ‘pointless’ discussions, but bear in mind that all this should bring glory to God and should be done with the end of learning more about this God we serve and to deepen and make richer the fellowship of the Body of Christ.

In the Background

Christianity is a faith, I believe, that functions in the background. Or at least it should. The Christian faith is a personal one. It functions as the relationship of individual to Deity, but it is also a function of individual to individual. The most effective dissemination of the Gospel has always been on a one-to-one basis. Granted, God has blessed many great evangelists over the years with widespread ministries, leading hundreds and thousands to Christ at a time. But I think the numbers would show that the greatest spread of the Word has been through personal relationships with each other, with letting the Christian lifestyle speak volumes, with communicating our hope in casual conversation. When Christians take the Gospel to the public arena, particularly the political arena, the message somehow gets tainted and stilted. In that realm emotions like fear flavor the good news in a way that is often harmful because political-religious concerns involve protecting the right to worship. That fear drives that political action, and what starts as a movement to protect freedom of worship almost turns into a blanket action to forcefully establish a state religion, something that the founding fathers were very careful to protect against. (Of course, there are also those who use their beliefs to foster an attitude of superiority, who allow that attitude to breed anger, hatred, and bitterness, but those are the individuals that need to be separated from the whole because they clearly do not aid the Body. They are the cancer that brings the Body down and should removed.)

Christianity is a faith that operates best in the background. Our faith should be visible, but not obnoxiously so. Our faith should be presented with love and compassion but also with patience and understanding, two virtues that I think are all too often forgotten or ignored. No one can be forced to believe in Christ or in God, yet the practice of our faith should be compelling and awe-inspiring. This is why it is so important to develop active relationships with other people — with other Christians for the strengthening of our faith and the renewal of our spirits, and with unbelievers so that we may demonstrate with our lives and testify with our lips the power of the hope that is in us. Let us relate our hope to others and build the Kingdom one life at a time.

Caution, Not Thrown to the Wind

We live in a world that is driven primarily by the strength of its libido. Sexual stimuli surround us everywhere we look. Even the most mundane of daily activities, such as eating, are paired up
with images of eroticism, sex, and lust. Common knowledge says that sex sells, and it certainly must because nearly every product available in this capitalistic society of ours incorporates some sort of sexual imagery, either in its advertising or in the product itself or both. Our culture has so accepted and incorporated sexuality into the every mundanity of life that it has essentially thrown all caution to the wind and now exercises its proclivity for sexual activity far more freely than it ought. The consequences of this are the cheapening of the act of sexual intercourse itself and the diminishment of the moral will.

As a Christian man trying to live a righteous life, I continually find this trend extremely frustrating. Like nearly every man, I am easily aroused by the things I see. Oftentimes I wish it were not so, yet it is the way God made me, and it is something that I must face and deal with on a daily basis. This culture in which I am immersed makes living a pure life exceedingly difficult, as nearly every Christian male can attest. I can, in fact, count on just one hand the number of men I know, both Christian and non-Christian alike, who have not been affected by pornography. It is a medium for sexual arousal that has been made exceedingly prevalent, and the current trend of advertising, television programs, and movies only serve to whet the
male appetite for things that it should not desire outside of a healthy, Godly marriage relationship. Even the video game industry is not immune, and indeed, in many ways serves as an even greater purveyor of exotic images and sexual stimuli.

All this to say just one thing — we Christian men must strive with all our might to guard our hearts and minds against the onslaught of these stimuli to which we are so vulnerable. God calls us to righteous living and to roles of wise leadership, both in our families and in our communities. If we fail in the area of sexual temptation, we greatly weaken our ability to serve as the men we ought to be, as the men God desires us to be. Only in pursuing a deep, intimate relationship with God, in encouraging one another and keeping one another accountable, and in taking physical, practical steps to guard our hearts and minds can we ever hope to be as effective in our culture as we ought to be. The cost and heartache of failure are great,
but the joy and satisfaction of victory over weakness are immense!

So, I say this to you — do not wait until you have already fallen into sin to take steps to protect your hearts and minds. Take a proactive stance, develop that daily relationship with our Lord, find an accountability partner (or group), and set in place standards and barriers against the barrage of sexual stimuli that assault us each and every day. In the longrun, you’ll be glad you did.

“Hey, I think you’ve got something in your eye…”

A response to this blog entry:

Christ calls us to be in the world, yet not of it. The difficult part of this directive is that by being in the world, we are subject to its influences. In this case, infidelity, divorce, and sexual promiscuity are becoming ever more accepted and commonplace in our culture. Such practices also appeal to our sinful desires, even as believers, thus making it that much more difficult to resist. I am afraid that the failure of the church in America to defend marriage and sex as holy is due, in large part, to the failure of the church to live righteously through the development of a strong relationship with God and to develop unity among itself. We have become so divided, and we have become so lackadaisical in this culture where we have plenty that we have forgotten what it means to rely on God for our everything, and as such, we have then allowed sinful practices to creep into our churches and into our worship, tainting and spoiling our testimonies and what influence we could have on our culture. Ultimately, if we wish to defeat this monster and set it in its place, we have to first get back to our place of right relationship with God and with each other, shunning sin, no matter what the cost, and embracing that which is holy. This begins in our churches and in our families and in our personal, daily walks with Christ. If the church cannot live righteously, how can we expect anyone else to do so?

Yeah, He’s That Kind of God

I posted this earlier today as a comment on Joel’s blog and I think that it bears repeating here.

So, in the beginning, God created Man in a state of perfection. He did not want mindless servitude. Instead, he opted to give his new creation the ability to choose relationship and fellowship over disassociation and unfamiliarity. God desired relationship, not out of some need, for he certainly had all that he needed and was not lonely nor needed anything to give him glory. He simply desired to create, and so he did, and Man was born into God’s image. Yet, relationship means little if it is not established freely, and so God had to give Man the ability and option to choose. And being all-knowing, God of course knew that Man would fail, would be
deceived. Still, this does not detract from God’s glory for all things always yet give God the glory for he is able ever to work things out for the greater good. He is the Father, and we are the children, and as such he demands no less than our love and loyalty. Yet his demand is gracious, compassionate, and patient, and his wrath is experienced only as a last resort, as the last option to soften a heart that has been hardened. God could have made things differently, surely, and yet he chose to create the world in this way. He could have made another completely like unto himself, and yet he would still be the Creator and the new would still
be the created.

Christ is yet the firstborn over all for he is the first to create, the first to sanctify, the first to defeat death, and the first, and only, to establish a direct line of everlasting relationship to the Father.

Sifting

I love psychology. It is, after all, my chosen field. And I must say that getting my master’s degree from a secular institution has been interesting, to say the least. I always have to include a personal mental disclaimer to every lecture. For example, in my Social Cognitions class last night, we discussed briefly a classic psychological “chicken-or-the-egg” phenomenon — which affects which first? Physiology or affect (moods/emotions/etc.)? (See? Chicken. Egg.) Does physiology initiate an action and thus mood is interpreted from the aroused physiological state? Or does affect/cognition initiate the arousal and thus the physiological reaction.

Enter disclaimer — “Note to self: present company has little to no notion of the spirit/soul, and few theories even mention the topic, let alone discuss it. Be sure to account for that in your own personal practice.

That’s a continued problem I run into (and probably will for the rest of my professional life) – most of these theories are so frustratingly unilateral and unimodal. The theories attempt to fit all the facets and nuances of human behavior into a nice, tight little package of cause-and-effect (impossible!). And while some theories are better than others, none is perfect (or necessarily even great) at doing the job. So, I sift, sift, sift through the theories and take out the useful stuff (using a biblical, as well as a practical, foundation)and, with a VERY critical eye, blend it with what the Bible says about the human condition and the human relationship to one another and to God. Very tedious, yet at the same time, really quite fun. Especially when application can be made — and one can watch it work!

So, I sift the theories, but mentally add the element that nearly every theory neglects — the spiritual side of humanity. If you can’t identify ALL the pieces of Man, then you can’t properly address all the NEEDS of Man.