Has being a Christian turned out to be everything you’d thought and hoped it would be?
Has being a Christian turned out to be everything you’d thought and hoped it would be? Did you come to Christianity hoping God would change you? Help you eliminate sinful, painful, stressful, sins in your life? Help you fix your marriage? Help you fix your parenting so it would be a joy and your children would be blessings? Did you imagine joyful, peaceful days ahead? Where guilt or anxiety or worry or anger or sadness or fear or lack-of-control or hate or bitterness or whatever would melt away? Has that happened? At all? Are you really any closer to that today than when your Christian life started? Have you bounced around from church-to-church and found yourself at-first excited and motivated but later bored and unchanged? Have you found books that sent your soaring in hope and joy, but alas, ultimately, the bliss faded and you remained unchanged? Are you still a slave to all those problems? Does Christianity really work for anybody?
For many years, I poured myself into my ministry. Every sermon was carefully prepared and prayed for. Verse-by-verse, with excitement over the truths of each passage, I delivered hundreds and hundreds sermons that people loved and were convicted by and edified by. But, as I watched the flock over the years, I didn’t see people spiritually maturing, becoming more like Christ. I didn’t see people craving the Word more (1 Peter 2:2) or having the word of Christ dwell in them richly (Col 3:16). I’d still hear of the same anxieties, worries or anger or bitterness and, even after counseling or discipling, the same immaturities would seemingly remain. Even for myself – the preacher who got to spend all week in the word, I wasn’t satisfied with my own spiritual growth. So, I’ve studied and prayed and studied more and prayed more and am now embarking on a journey here to not only share what I’ve learned but also what I continue to learn. I fully believe that Christianity is ALL that God promises here-and-now and FAR MORE than most Christians currently comprehend in their walk on this side of eternity. My prayer and hope is that if you found yourself in the first paragraph above, that this journey will bless and sanctify you too. I do not promise that this will come out in the right order or be as full and robust as it may later grow to be. But, it’s time to start and get this uninspired journey into this phase. So, let the journey begin!
One of my hobbies over the years has been investing in stocks. Years ago, I finally settled on one particular investing system because it was based on the reality of the market and the fact that people don’t change! So, you can study stocks from 100 years ago or 100 days ago and follow their ups-and-downs of prices (i.e. charts) to see human-behavior at work. Recently, the man behind this system published a new edition of his investing book. He wanted to impress upon his readers the need to become an expert at reading stock charts. So, right at the beginning of book – chapter 1 – he put 100 pages of stock charts to read! The first couple of times I read his book, I skipped those 100 pages! I wanted to read about his system! But, then, over time, I realized he was right! I had to study and study and study stock charts to learn how to read them as part of being a successful stock investor. Sure, I needed the principles of his system, but it was only of value if I went right to the source and read the charts!
So, why tell you this? I own thousands of Christian books. I’ve been guilty over the years of reading them and often SKIPPING the verses of Scripture that they put in the text – or at least just skimming the verse and not really contemplating how it supported or illustrated a point they made. I’ll even go farther in my confession! I’m guilty of reading my Bible in the same way. Certain words or phrases or subjects have became so familiar that I even skipped over them as I read through Scripture! God really changed me when I was in Seminary and I learned Expository Preaching! I committed myself to teaching EVERY verse of EVERY book that I preached. I translated every verse from the Greek. I diagrammed every verse. I struggled with the meaning of every word and phrase. I taught every verse in detail, phrase-by-phrase. The Holy Spirit used this to open my eyes to those words and phrases that I had been glossing over in the past. Certain verses and phrases really hit me HARD! Especially the ones that said “all” or “every” and left NO WAY out or around what was being taught! God wants me to continue to do that the rest of my life and He wants you to do that too (you might ask Joshua about this! Joshua 1:5-9).
Back to where I started. What does Christianity give you/me? What does it offer/provide? The answer is real simple. And, if you’re willing to slow down, read the Bible carefully and not skip those words and phrases, you’ll see it very clearly. Don’t lose the profoundness of this answer because it’s so obvious or you think you know it already! Remember, if you found yourself in the first paragraph, then you’ve been missing true, real Christianity, right? I’m going to tell you the answer, but you have to commit to reading all the verses that follow (and this list is going to grow and grow – it is SO incomplete) to begin to see the answer from God’s word.
The answer is: Christianity is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is what God the Father has given to us. Period. Christianity is having Christ (salvation), learning/knowing/living Christ (sanctification). He’s our only message for being saved. He’s our only message for Christian growth. Don’t worry, I’m not negating or down-playing God the Father or the Holy Spirit. We’ll cover all that soon enough. If that bothers you, then trust the truth of John 16:13-15 and Ephesians 1:3.
Did you ever have a best friend (or have one now, maybe your spouse?)? You did everything together. Inseparable. Virtual twins. Might as well have been connected at the hips? Basically, I’m describing the most personal, connected relationship possible. Yes, that’s Christianity. It’s Jesus Christ living His life through you. He’s more than a thing, more than a distant boss. He’s a person IN YOU wanting to live HIS LIFE THROUGH YOU. Thought-by-thought. Moment-by-moment. Event-by-event. What are we trying to become? Christ-like. What else could this be / look like than being and doing exactly as our Lord and Savior? If He is fully living His life through you, what does everyone see? Answer: They see Jesus Christ. Do you need an example of this kind of life? Read Paul (which you will do in a minute). Paul will tell you he lived this way and he will show you he lived this way. Galatians 2:20 — “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 1 Corinthians 11:1 — 1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (bold is added by me).
There are probably over 100 verses in the list that follows. I’ve left out many books of the Bible and many key passages in the books I’ve included. BUT, this almost random sampling should begin to open your eyes to the CENTRALITY, SIMPLICITY, SINGULARITY and SUFFICIENCY of Jesus Christ for a Christian. After you read these, commit yourself to ALWAYS looking for Jesus Christ when you read Scripture. He is your LORD and SAVIOR. Your Bible will come alive to you in a way you’ve never seen before as you focus on Him, His person, His requirements of you, His relationship with – and His LIFE IN YOU that HE WANTS TO LIVE THROUGH YOU by the Holy Spirit who is in you also. (The bold print is mine, so that you get the point!).
- John 14:6— 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
- Mt 4:19 — 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Mk 1:17 — 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
- Mt 8:22 — 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”
- Mt 9:9 — 9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
Mk 2:14 — 14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
Lk 5:27 — 27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”
- Mt 11:25–29 — 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
- Mt 16:24 — 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Mk 8:34 — 34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Lk 9:23 — 23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Mt 10:38 — 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me
- Mt 19:21 — 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Mk 10:21 — 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Lk 18:22 — 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
- Jn 1:43 — 43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.”
- Jn 8:12 — 12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
- Jn 12:26 — 26 “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
- Ac 4:10–12 — 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
- Ac 9:3–5 — 3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
- Ro 6:1–10 — 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
- 1 Co 1:30–31 — 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
- 1 Co 2:1–2 — 1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
- 1 Co 2:16 — 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
- 1 Co 6:15–20 — 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
- 1 Co 7:22–23 — 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
- 1 Co 11:1 — 1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
- 2 Co 1:19–20 — 19 For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. 20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
- 2 Co 2:14–17 — 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
- 2 Co 3:2–4 — 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.
- 2 Co 3:18 — 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord [=Jesus Christ], the Spirit.
- 2 Co 4:5 — 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.
- 2 Co 4:4–11 — 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh
- 2 Co 10:5 — 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
- 2 Co 5:9 — 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him [=Jesus Christ].
- 2 Co 5:11 — 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord [=Jesus Christ], we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
- 2 Co 5:14–21 — 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- 2 Co 6:1 — 1 And working together with Him [=Jesus Christ], we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—
- 2 Co 11:3 — 3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
- 2 Co 13:5 — 5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
- Ga 2:20 — 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- Ga 5:24 — 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
- Ga 5:2 — 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision,
- Gal 6:2 — 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
- Ga 6:14 — 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
- Eph 1:3 — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
- Eph 4:20 — 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,
- Eph 5:17 — 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord [=Jesus Christ] is.
- Eph 5:22 — 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord[=Jesus Christ].
- Eph 5:25 — 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
- Eph 6:1 — 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord[=Jesus Christ], for this is right.
- Eph 6:4 — 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord[=Jesus Christ].
- Eph 6:5–6 — 5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
- Eph 6:9 — 9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours [=Jesus Christ] is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
- Eph 6:10 — 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord [=Jesus Christ] and in the strength of His might.
- Php 1:21 — 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- Php 2:2–5 — 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
- Php 3:3 — 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,
- Php 3:8 — 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
- Php 3:14 — 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Php 2:21 — 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
- Col 2:1–3 — 1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
- Col 2:6 — 6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
- Col 2:8 — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
- Col 3:1–4 — 1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.