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Featured What's the heart of Christianity?

Discussion in 'For New Christians' started by aiki, Jan 20, 2021.

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  1. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    Growing up within the Christian community as I did, I encountered many answers to the question, "What is the heart of Christianity?". Most commonly, I was told that the Christian life was about loving Jesus by living the way he said to live. And that way was a holy way, a moral way, a way of righteousness. As a younger man, I didn't understand that what I was hearing in this particular answer was only a half-truth and as such was not actually the truth. In fact, this view of the Christian life is what is known as Moralism and is actually quite devastating to true Christian living.

    The main idea in Moralism is that the apex of the Christian life is holiness. What all Christians ought to shoot for is a life that is highly moral, free of sin and its fouling stain. Typically, on Moralism, this holy life is attained by "bearing down," by "committing to," by "discipline and determination," by "self-sacrifice and persistence." So, when I was told that, as a Christian, I ought to live a holy life, I was usually also told that doing so was accomplished by tremendous and costly self-effort.

    But, it was simply my duty, my obligation, to "dig deep" and "live for Jesus." He had died for me, after all, and so, in return, I was obliged to sacrifice myself in pursuit of Christian living. And if I didn't, well, the yawning maw of hell waited to engulf me, as it would any who turned back from the great and holy work of living for Jesus.

    In this thinking, three very spiritually-dangerous things - Moralism, self-effort, and fear - are bound up together, creating a "perfect storm" of faulty thinking that could only lead to frustration, compromise and hypocrisy in my walk with God. And they did.

    Is righteousness the primary goal of the Christian life? No. It is merely the avenue, the means to, enjoying loving, rich fellowship with God.

    Hebrews 12:14
    14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:


    In this verse, what is the purpose of living a holy, peaceful life? Is holiness an end in itself? NO! It is just the means by which the Christian believer may "see God." Is this verse speaking only of the heavenly hereafter? Or does Scripture tells us we may experience God - "see" Him - on this side of the grave, too?

    The New Testament is bursting with verses that indicate that God is not just some happy future prospect we must wait 'til death to enjoy, but One with whom we may fellowship right now! The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, teaches us divine truth, and glorifies God within us (John 16:8-14); the Spirit strengthens us (Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:13; Ephesians 3:16); the Spirit produces in us spiritual "fruit" (Galatians 5:22-23); the Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). And so on.

    As the Holy Spirit works in us, we come to know God more, to understand Him better, and to enjoy deeper and deeper communion with Him. In this communion, this fellowship, with God there is incredible fulfillment, meaning, joy, love, peace and rest (John 14:27; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 John 4:16-19). It is this wonderful fellowship with God that is the end goal of our holy, Christ-centered living and is, actually, supposed to be the prime motivation for it.

    1 Corinthians 1:9
    9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


    2 Corinthians 13:14
    14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.


    1 John 1:3
    3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.


    I lived for many years trying to be a holy man without ever truly knowing God and enjoying Him. Oh, I knew about God, I knew the facts of the Bible concerning God, but I didn't think I could actually experience God directly and personally on a regular basis. And so, I couldn't know Him for myself, like I would any in my social circle I called friend or family.

    It was...very hard to stay motivated to live for such a distant figure I knew nothing of personally - and certainly didn't enjoy. But, I went through the motions, failing and compromising regularly, shouldering the burden of Christian living as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, though my heart yearned for - and often strayed into - other worldly, fleshly and unholy things.

    I had adopted a very Moralistic approach to being a Christian, though, at the time, I'd never heard the term "Moralism." Live right. That was my goal as a Christian, which meant not doing things that were immoral. So, I went to church three or four times a week; I prayed over meals, before bed, and at Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evenings; I didn't go to the movie theater, or drink alcohol, or smoke, or listen to secular music; I didn't swear, or party or hang around with non-Christian people. I was - outwardly anyway - a good Christian guy. My moralistic thinking, though, had made me a Pharisee:

    Matthew 15:7-8
    7 "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
    8 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.


    This is where Moralism always ends up. And this is because it is working for the wrong thing entirely, and usually from the wrong power source and motive. The purpose of holy living isn't simply to be holy but to create a life in which a holy God may be known, experienced and enjoyed.

    John 10:10
    10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.


    Living among so many other moralistic believers, it took decades for me to figure this out.

    (Continued in following post.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
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  2. timothyu

    timothyu Well-Known Member

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    Jesus summed up the purpose of His being and thus what became Christianity in the Lord's Prayer by way of what He said in regards to the Father "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven". Rather than the return of the Kingdom of God among us, the religion seems to have once again focused on ourselves and personal salvation. We always have to put ourselves first thus defeating the concept of God's will first. No wonder few find the narrow path.
     
  3. Lg2000

    Lg2000 Member

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    "i didn't go to the movie theater, or drink alcohol, or smoke, or listen to secular music; I didn't swear, or party or hang around with non-Christian people."

    Jesus doesn't want to say you can't have any fun. Nothing wrong with going to see a movie or listening to secular music. I mean does anyone realistically only watch kids or christian movies and only listen to worship and christian music. Lot of christian music doesn't have any heart . I can't stand most contemporary christian music. Seems so fake and manufactured.
    Nothing wrong with having friends who aren't christians .
    One of my moms good friends was gay. She let it be known how she stood on his sin/lifestyle choice but that didn't get in the way of the friendship they had.
    I think you got the wrong impression of god tbh.
     
  4. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    Because I didn't really know God in the way Scripture said I could, I was cut-off from the proper Power Source for Christian living. Here's what the Bible says is the power in my life as a Christian:

    Philippians 1:6
    6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

    Philippians 2:13
    13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.


    1 Corinthians 1:7-9
    7 ...our Lord Jesus Christ,
    8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless
    in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


    Romans 8:13
    13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.


    2 Corinthians 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, the Spirit.


    1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
    23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.


    And so on. God takes full responsibility for the transformation of me into a person in whom Christ is clearly manifested. Only God, after all, can make me godly. Like begets like: a cat begets a cat, a dog begets a dog, and I beget me. Why, then, was I told so often by other Christians that I had to labour, to work, to try to be the person God wanted me to be? I can only produce more of myself. And that's exactly what happened as I tried to manufacture my best version of what I thought God wanted my life to be.

    It was pretty much a catastrophe. God, you see, isn't at all interested in my best copy of the life only He can produce. That'll always be a mess, a far inferior version, to what He will produce in me. But, He will only do His transforming work in me under a very particular circumstance. God fills me with Himself only as I submit myself to Him. I find myself "lifted up" spiritually only by going low before God. The way up is down in the Christian life.

    Romans 6:12-13
    12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
    13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

    Romans 6:22
    22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

    Romans 8:14
    14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

    Romans 12:1
    1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

    James 4:7-10
    7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
    8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
    9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
    10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

    1 Peter 5:6
    6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you...


    God only deals with me as the God He is. This means He will be just as much God in my life as He is everywhere else in Creation. To the degree I withhold control of my life from Him, to the degree I keep "rooms" of my life closed to God, to that same degree I will find myself hindered spiritually, unable to enjoy fellowship with God and only able to rely on my very finite human resources in living for Him. The Christian life, though, was never meant to be lived by human effort; attempting to do so always ends in failure. It takes divine power to live out a godly life and the only way to access this power is to remain in a place of submission to God at all times, allowing Him to be who He is in my life fully.

    (Continued in following post.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
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  5. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    Jesus said that the Christian life is unavoidably a crucified life:

    Matthew 16:24-25
    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.
    25 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

    John 12:24-25
    24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
    25 "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.


    Paul the apostle also wrote:

    Galatians 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.

    A life of moment-by-moment submission to God, necessary to walking well with Him, is a life that inevitably leads to death to Self. God cannot rule from the throne of my heart while Self sits there. And so, Self has not merely to step down from the throne, but to die.

    What is strong enough motivation to move me willingly - even joyfully - into the crucified life of Self-denial? Not fear. Though, many Christians often resort to this motive in living for God. I certainly used to live from this motive as a Christian. But, it isn't strong enough to produce consistent and joyful obedience to God. Instead, fearing God made me resent Him and mistrust Him. And it didn't produce for me a consistently holy life, either.

    Because this is so, Scripture never encourages me to a motivation of fear in my walk with God. Now, by "fear" I mean a cowering terror of a dangerous, threatening power, not the reverential awe the Bible urges in me toward God. This cowering sort of fear is too weak to move me along properly as a child of God. No, God intends instead that LOVE should motivate my life with Him.

    Matthew 22:36-38
    36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
    37 And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
    38 "This is the great and foremost commandment.

    The apostle Paul wrote that no matter what I say, or know, or do, if I love isn't my underlying motive for it all, it's all useless!

    1 Corinthians 13:1-3
    1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
    2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
    3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.


    The apostle John indicates that love and fear are mutually exclusive and that one who fears God has not been made mature in His love.

    1 John 4:16-19
    16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
    17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
    18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
    19 We love, because He first loved us.


    It seems so...odd to me now how often I hear Christians urging fear as a motive for walking with God. But this motive goes hand-in-hand with Moralism and self-effort, Satan's "trifecta" counterfeit of the normal Christian life. Been there - was there for years. Done that. Doesn't work. But love does. And how!

    Love - God's love given to me by the Spirit (Romans 5:5) - has enabled me to walk with God into the crucified life, a life of self-denial, with joy, to live in contented, restful submission to Him, and in this place of submission to find my life transformed by Him, just as He promised!

    May these things I've written help some of you to do the same!
     
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  6. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    As C.S. Lewis pointed out many years ago, God makes us "unblushing promises" by which He induces us into relationship with Himself. It isn't either God's kingdom comes, or we desire the promises and blessings of God, but BOTH. The two things are bound up together!

    2 Peter 1:2-4
    2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
    3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
    4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
  7. Swag365

    Swag365 Well-Known Member

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    John 3:16 would be a good answer for that one, as oft quoted as it is.
     
  8. timothyu

    timothyu Well-Known Member

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    But what we desire is secondary to what God desires. He has had it up to here with our self interest. That is obvious as we must choose to live under his Kingdom/governance rather than our own ways, or face extinction when the great experiment comes to an end.
     
  9. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    Yes, this is actually what I say in my post - that I hadn't understood what walking with God was about.

    I don't have a problem with watching a movie or listening to secular music. I don't think God does, either. But if these things ever distract me from God, move me toward the World and sin rather than toward my holy Maker, grip my heart above and before God, then they gotta' go. And many movies and secular music have no place whatever in the life of a disciple of Jesus.

    Sometimes, Christians want to have a foot in the World and a foot in the Christian life. This is a bad idea:

    James 4:4
    4 ...do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
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  10. Junia

    Junia Well-Known Member

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    I kind of relate to this a bit. Like I know all Christians will see announce with Jesus inn the next life but I want to see him now
    I
    I mean I want to know Him

    But at same time I'm scared

    they say the real Jesus is quite stern and I just feel I can't cope with stern right now


    I need someone safe

    But I don't know a religion where the it deity is all safe and gentle all the time even when we are weak
     
  11. Lg2000

    Lg2000 Member

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    I feel you. I fear god in both ways , like damn I'm in awe and he's powerful but also like if I don't keep on the narrow road , I will have gods wrath fall upon me. Living how god wants me to , trusting him does feel freeing tho to be honest .

    People say they are saved . What are we saved from. The wrath of god. So yeah we should fear god. Most important thing of our lives is our relationship with him , basically all that matters . We are apart of god's plan regardless ..whether we reject him or embrace him. He doesn't need any of us . He made the game/world and we have to abide by his rules . It is what it is
     
  12. Junia

    Junia Well-Known Member

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    I

    I guess when we die we will be transformed into perfection and will be able to face God without fear

    Until then we just waiting for him to come res cue us
     
  13. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    Read my other posts in this thread.
     
  14. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    If love casts out fear, as the Bible says, then being afraid of God has no place in a relationship with Him. The First and Great Commandment is to love God with all we are, not fear Him. (Matthew 22:36-38)

    And hasn't God gone to incredible lengths to show us how much He loves us? He didn't have to take on human flesh and die at the hands of evil men for you and me. We deserved His judgment and wrath, sinners that we are, but He offers us grace and mercy and, best of all, Himself instead!

    The abundant life God invites us into is only possible when we really sink into the truth of His love for us and are fully convinced of it.

    Read 1 John 4:16-19.
     
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  15. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    You haven't read my posts on this thread, have you? The Scripture I offered indicate a very different experience with God than you describe here.
     
  16. Junia

    Junia Well-Known Member

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    No sorry I had to see to my girls just now. Am back
     
  17. timothyu

    timothyu Well-Known Member

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    Actually no, that is falling by the wayside as in the Sower parable, and it is the world man has created in our own image that will vent it's self serving wrath upon you, as it always has, as we always do to each other. God frees us from that self serving behaviour and it's resulting oppression.
     
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  18. Junia

    Junia Well-Known Member

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    I am finding teaching by Andrew Farley, Paul Ellis and Graham Cooke quite helpful

    The hyper grace ones seem to be most helpful and reassuring to my mental health
     
  19. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

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    I would recommend letting God speak to you directly through His word, as much as possible. Getting all your truth "pre- chewed" puts a layer of other people's thinking and influence between you and God.
     
  20. xaris

    xaris Active Member

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    that's what 'they' say, but not what God's Word says about Himself
    To those In Christ (through the new birth), that is exactly how He treats his own.
     
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