Promises and Secrets

Promises and SecretsPromises and Secrets

A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.



Christians - Real Ones

VIEWPOINT



The world is changing the definition of what it means to be a good Christian. The change is so subtle that most don't even see it happening. When you finally notice, the change will scare you because it is not a good change.

FACT



Being Christian means being like Christ.


BLUE VIEWPOINT



Modern Chrisitanity is boring - and dangerous.

Be nice. Love everyone. Don't worry. Be happy. Share. Don't judge. Give 'til it hurts. Accept the bad with the good - and smile! Never get angry. Keep peace in your soul. Aaaarrrgggghhhh! Sounds like a rerun of the 60's. Enough!

Let's approach this discussion in a little different manner. Normally, when defining a Christian, people will list all the things that they hear while sitting in the pews or things they read in the latest syrupy book from the current popular author-of-the-day. Let's try looking at the list of what society seems to expect from Christians and see how the original Christian fits into that mold. Note that this first list is not about what the Bible describes as a Christian, but what society expects.

Where do we start?

To begin a project like this, we need to form a list of acceptable social Christian attributes. Where do you go for something like that? We have some of these in our heads, we see and hear some when we are in church, at home interacting with our parents, others we discover when someone expresses shock over how a "Christian" person acted in some situation. Think about it. Where did you get your idea of how a Christian should act?

Rather than go out and buy a bunch of books with which to compile our list, let's start with the great social gathering place - the internet. It may not be the best place, but then again, it might. Much of what we are exposed to comes from the internet, movies and the television - if you still watch that thing very much.

So many to choose from

A quick search for "Christian attributes" took a whopping 0.57 seconds and produced about 7,090,000 results. We won't list them all here, which means we have to pick the ones we think are the most appropriate. Try the search yourself and make your own list if this one looks wrong. That's our first clue about how society affects the modern perception of Christianity - we pick what we think applies from what others think applies. Notice that we did not go to a single place where we know the list has been narrowed to the known important stuff - if there even is such a place. Excluding the ones labeled as ads, here are the first 10 sites from this search:

LifeWay
Open Bible
Grace Online Library
Wikipedia
Jarrid Wilson
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Solitary Road
Crosswalk
King James Bible Online
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

These are all Christian?

On a personal note, without even visiting all the sites to see what they say on our topic, there is a temptation to eliminate some of them for being non-Christian and others for being too "gooey Christian". That alone speaks volumes about what we are trying to do. But, let's follow through and see what we find.

A good start

Starting at the top, Lifeway, we see a list of 8 attributes:

From LifeWay:

1. Bible Engagement
2. Obeying God and Denying Self
3. Serving God and Others
4. Sharing Christ
5. Exercising Faith
6. Seeking God
7. Building Relationships
8. Unashamed

These pretty much say to read the Bible, obey God, and be nice. The whole purpose of our site at Promises and Secrets is to make the point of showing that most people calling themselves Christians do not do any of these with diligence. As we continue, you will be able so see what I mean.

Next, we get the shotgun approach - 100 selected verses from the Bible. Not all of which are even on target, but advise "don't burn your children" (hover mouse over box to see the first 10 on list):



Again, these identify Christians as those who do things that many people think that they already do, but without any diligence in making sure that their actions are from the Bible, and are what they are actually told by God to do.

Next, on the "good" vs "bad" scale, be "good" (another shotgun approach):



Next, Wikipedia provides their contribution by listing the Attributes of God. A rewrite of the search criteria on their site for a description of a Christian results in nothing at all for "Christian attributes" or "description of a Christian". So, we must assume that they want us to emulate God as much as we can, without the omnipotence, omniscience, and the other God-only parts of course, so here is their list:

From Wikipedia, Attributes of God in Christianity:

2.1 Aseity
2.2 Eternity
2.3 Goodness
2.4 Graciousness
2.5 Holiness
2.6 Immanence
2.7 Immutability
2.8 Impassibility
2.9 Impeccability
2.10 Incomprehensibility
2.11 Incorporeality
2.12 Infinity
2.13 Jealousy
2.14 Love
2.15 Mission
2.16 Mystery
2.17 Omnipotence
2.18 Omnipresence
2.19 Omniscience
2.20 Oneness
2.21 Providence
2.22 Righteousness
2.23 Simplicity
2.24 Sovereignty
2.25 Transcendence
2.26 Trinity
2.27 Veracity
2.28 Wrath

I had to look up the first one - Aseity. Wikipedia defines it as:

Aseity (from Latin a "from" and se "self", plus -ity) is the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself.

We seem to be getting way off base here even while following the simple task of defining a Christian. Let's sum up what we are seeing and try to identify any progress.

OK, what does society expect a Christian to be?

1. Readers and followers of the Bible - all the sites agree
2. Be one "church" in Christ by emulating Jesus - all the sites agree
3. Obey the words and commands of God - all the sites agree

Summarizing this list into a single thought, we should see that all the churches that agree on this list should be copies or mirror images of each other. Right? Then why are there so many different churches, with some large disagreements in fundamentals, that supposedly all have the same goals of knowing the Bible, emulating Jesus, and obeying God?

In fact, one of the original goals of this "project" was to see how the original Christian fit the expectations of society. In order to pick the best list for comparison, it seems that the Grace Online Library gives us the broadest list that is the easiest to apply. Let's see how Jesus would stack up against the expectations of the "average" church (no such thing, by the way).

Attentiveness vs Unconcern.
In Matt 15:21-28
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly."

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."

24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." 25 The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. 26 He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." 27 "Yes it is, Lord," she said. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." 28 Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed at that moment.

, the initial response to the Canaanite woman was to deny her even access to Jesus. She was bothering them, interrupting their mission. This was the reaction not only from the apostles, but from Jesus Himself. That hardly fits the socially expected mold.

Availability vs Self-centeredness.
See Attentiveness above.

Cautiousness vs Rashness.
In Matt 21:12-13
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers.' "

, we see one of many instances when Jesus was not cautious at all. He saw a situation that required action and took it - rashly.

Compassion vs Indifference.
See Attentiveness above. Where was the compassion in their initial reaction to the insistence of the woman?

Deference vs Rudeness.
How about Matt 23
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 "Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others.

8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees 13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.' 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.' 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "
when Jesus fairly ripped into the Pharisees for hipocrisy and leading others astray?

Gentleness vs Harshness.
See Deference vs Rudeness above.

Meekness vs Anger.
See Cautiousness vs Rashness above.

Punctuality vs Tardiness.
In John 11:1-44
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."

8 "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?"

9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world's light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light."

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."

12 His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

27 "Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked.

"Come and see, Lord," they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said.

"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

we see that Jesus was not only late, but deliberately late.

Resourcefulness vs Wastefulness.
What about Luke 7:36-50
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner."

40 Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me, teacher," he said.

41 "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

? Even the idea of what is waste and what is resourcefulness has been "normalized" to the point of ridiculousness.

Reverence vs Disrespect.
See Deference vs Rudeness above.

Sensitivity vs Callousness.
See Deference vs Rudeness above.

The modern Christian "mold" is not from the Bible.

Just from these few instances, we can see that Jesus did not fit the mold of the modern Christian. While we can certainly find more instances, it seems that the whole "Christian Nice Guy" (see menu at left for the discussion page) attitude has hijacked our ability to think for ourselves. We can't think or act outside the box without offending the traditions of the church regarding "how to act like a Christian".

If Jesus wouldn't fall into our cookie-cutter mold because the truth was more important to Him than compliance, what does that tell us? For those of you who are trying to get people to open their eyes and see what He is really telling us, hang in there. For the rest of you, remember that the path is narrow and is down to earth. Maybe someday people will pull their collective heads out of the clouds and get that message.

What would a "real" Christian do?

Here is a thought for you. The next time you read the Bible, see if you can tell the difference between the concept of being a "nice guy" and the real actions of the apostles in making sure that the true message gets out first, while sharing the grace of God. You will find that these men did not usually cave on the principles of truth in order to be accepted by their culture. The few times they did, they were chastised by those who saw what they were doing. (see Gal 2:11-13
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

)

Of course, even Paul messed up with regard to caving to the demands of the "church". He gave a reason, but it came very close to compromising his principles in order to accomplish his mission. (see Acts 16:1-5
1 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

) The reason he gave was that for Timothy to be accepted as a fellow teacher for Christ to the Jews, he must be circumcised because he was half Jewish - the "important" half, since his mother was Jewish. Otherwise, the Jews would not listen to him. Yet, Paul was one who denied that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved. Kind of a predicament, huh?

The truth is out there, let's spread it around.

However, in most respects, Paul, though he was a law-abiding
Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar." (Acts 25:8)

Jew to the extreme, fought the "church" positions when they conflicted with the truth and commands of God. This is our great commission - to spread the Christian gospel, the truth - as it is given to us in the word instead of the mush we hear from the pulpits today. To soften the message in order to prevent making waves is dangerous, and it is weakened to the point where everyone's opinions and feelings matter more than the truth.





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