Thursday, April 28, 2011

# 307: Christian Works and the Cross

In Christianity, all spiritual virtues must spring from a faith-filled life, which includes the love we have for God and receive from God, along with the love we have for the needy. And of utmost importance is our firm connection with God’s Holy Spirit/the Spirit of Christ, which we received and which lives in us. That Spirit is the supreme motivating power that inspires and enables all genuine Christians to live and do all that the Word of God (New Testament) teaches. This is not an option; it is mandatory. The above word “genuine” implies that not all people who call themselves Christians are real Christians; just because they belong to a certain denomination, or because their parents were Christians, or because they go to church regularly and pay their tithe, or believe that because they live in a “Christian” country, etc., does not automatically make them Christians.

In the New Testament, the words “fruit,” “works,” and “deeds,” which are almost one and the same, are what we do and how we live by continually promoting the works that Jesus Christ started. Only thing, the word “fruit” sometimes is tangible; it has been produced by our holy actions. Galatians 5:22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control . . .” And much, much more. John 15:8: "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

The only thing is that some atheists could and do practice all these virtues. In fact, I believe there are many, many atheists who have been pretending to be Christians all their lives, and some may know the New Testament as well as any Biblical scholar. Then there are atheists like Joel Osteen who are silver-tongued preachers who customize the holy gospel message to fit snugly into our modern affluent society. The reason I say that is that virtues do not and cannot make us Christians, but are a result of our connection and obedience to Jesus Christ.

Now the universal question that has silently plagued the Christian church for centuries, is what must a Christian do, other than living a holy life, to be doing what is required in the New Testament?

The overall answer is this: As Christ’s disciples, we are taught to continually promote the Holy works that Jesus Christ started. The key word is “promote.” It means to help bring about or further the growth of the Christian cause. That is the job (works) of every real Christian. That is just one way God, our peers, and the world will know who the real Christians are.

One of the most important works/deeds we can and must do is to share our faith in whatever way is best for us and fits our situation in life. Philemon 1:8. “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full knowledge of every good thing we have in Christ. Some will say, “Everyone has a right to believe as they do, right or wrong, without our interference.” I say, that is the belief of an unloving, lazy dodo. That statement is evidence that something is radically wrong/missing in the lives of many professed Christians who don’t have a need or desire to share their faith. If one’s Christian life is what it is supposed to be—something unbelievably wonderful—a pack of wild horses couldn’t stop them from sharing it with the world.

Now to expand on the above-cited question: Are we real or incomplete/immature Christians? If we are real, let us give praise and glory to God. If we are not, we first have to personally acknowledge where we are at, and then realize it will require a lot of work as we venture into a dynamic, blessed, and mature life change.

We must be bold in spreading the truth in personal contacts, which has been avoided for so long by those who claim Christianity; they are not aware that they are neglecting some very important New Testament commands, which most will deny. This will take a lot of guts and the outcome may be that we have become enemies or are ignored by those who once were our dear friends. Whatever the outcome, we are/will be doing the works/deeds that will further the cause of Christ; that is, if we don’t quit. This is an extremely difficult and important type of Christian work.

It is a shame to say that at least two Christian denominations—if they could be called that—are vigorously doing door-to-door work to solicit their beliefs. That is the type of work that most, if not all, genuine Christians should be doing. Why are the vast majority of church-going Christians not doing that sort of soliciting? Answer: They can’t be doing that type of work if they don’t know the whole truth or don’t have any spiritually controversial subjects to discuss. And believe me, most could not discuss the whole gospel, including the avoided sections that are very contentious and controversial—the parts not practiced in many churches because most have been obscured and they don’t dare or care to discuss. This blog continually brings those topics to the surface.

Don’t let this statement shock you. The only way any Christian can avoid these above- mentioned requirements is to disregard the New Testament. Once a person does that, it is erroneous to call oneself a Christian. The name “Christian” belongs only to those who are actually saved by faith, love God, actively love his/her neighbor, and obey all pertinent commands and teachings in the New Testament.

I don’t think anyone in the world would enjoy any type of suffering. There is physical suffering, and then there is mental suffering. As anyone leaves traditional-type Christianity, and gets into complete New Testament Christianity—there is a world of difference—we will expose ourselves to much mental and possibly physical suffering from church-going people, etc. because of our new Bible-based beliefs. Hebrews 12:7. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” Revelation 3:19: “Those whom I (the resurrected Christ) love I rebuke and discipline.” This type of adversity will produce much inward strength; that is, if we don’t give up. But never forget this: With this suffering we will also be experiencing lasting, Godly joy, the type that this world can never duplicate. This is a guarantee.

We will be hated—although most often silently—by dedicated church people, because we will expose their beliefs as non-Biblical. John 7:7. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me (Jesus Christ) because I testify that what it does is evil.” No one likes to be hated, but we will be hated.

Matthew 10:22. “All men will hate you because of me.” This verse that genuine modern-day disciples will be hated is not mentioned in most traditional churches. Or they say that type of hatred was only for the early Christians. Regardless, it is mentioned in a verbatim fashion four times in the gospels. Being hated quite often is an important part and a result of living and preaching (works) from the complete gospel message. Acts 5:20. “‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he (an angel of the Lord) said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’”

One of the biggest and most shocking misconceptions of all Biblical teachings by most, if not all, churches and religious people is the word “cross.” The word “cross” has twenty different meanings according to Webster’s dictionary. 1) “an upright post with a cross bar across it near to the top.” Listen to this one: 7) “any trouble or affliction that one has to bear.” Luke 14:27. “And anyone who does not carry [take up] his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This verse with different variations of words—but with the same meaning—is mentioned five times in three gospels. Let me give the five verses for anyone who may think I am making this up: 1) Matthew 10:38. 2) Matthew 16:24. 3) Mark 8:34. 4) Luke 9:23, and the above-mentioned 5) Luke 14:27. This repetition strongly indicates that this verse is of great importance. And it must be heeded.

To give these above-mentioned five verses more teeth and to be extra-certain we are not taking the meaning of the cross out of context, every one of these five verses is surrounded with a verse/s that tells that the cross will not be easy to bear. Let me give the verses that are either before or after these five verses that will convince anyone who doubts what is being taught about the cross:

Matthew 10:37. “Anyone who loves his father or his mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Verse 39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:25. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

Mark 8:35. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Luke 9:24. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

Luke 14:26. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

When the cross was mentioned in these five verses, none of His disciples or anyone else knew at that time that Jesus was going to be crucified on a wooden cross, or they would have questioned Him concerning what He was talking about. They instinctively knew the cross meant hardships and possible death. That seems to indicate that His disciples understood that He was teaching them that they would have much trouble as they continued the work that He started, and would possibly be killed. The words “trouble/d” and “hardship/s” are mentioned no less than twenty- one times in the New Testament concerning how tough life would be for His disciples. I will mention one: Acts 14:22. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” These troubles and hardships (the cross) are one of the works that Christians will have to bear.

I am compelled to say that the cross Jesus was talking about is/was not a wooden cross, but a life filled with affliction and hardships. Could you see His followers or modern Christians carrying wooden crosses, no matter where they went, in order to obey the command of taking up/carrying the cross of Christ, or they cannot be His disciples? That is stupidity on the highest Christian level. What would stop a person from carrying a cross who is just pretending to be a Christian? You see, the wooden cross/crucifix is the wrong symbol for Christianity.

The reason those verses were said the way they were is because the cross of hardship was meant to be an intricate 24-7 part in the lives of Christ’s disciples. I am certain these words are foreign to American Christians. And the reason today’s Christians don’t experience this holy affliction in their lives is because most Christians love to go with the flow of their entertaining worldly church. The reason they love this world, they say: It is the only world we know. Poor excuse! 1st John 2:15. “Do not love the world or anything in the world [which includes worldly churches]. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Also, James 4:4. “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Nowadays, many people who claim to be Christians wear a cross around their neck, or display it on their walls and in their statues, etc. In other words, since being a Christian is now an honorable undertaking in America, they want to tell the world that they are the good guys/gals with the white hats.

Then there is another unbiblical practice that many churches have implemented, and that is that anyone can be a Christian, a believer or a brother, and not be a disciple. Please, anyone, show me one verse that even implies that Christians, disciples or believers, etc. are different classes of followers of Christ? I believe this type of teaching got a foothold to relieve many weak/new “believers” from many hard-to-implement commands that mentioned disciples, like the one about the cross. Even though there were/are immature Christians who are new to the faith, and seasoned Christians, they all are equal in every aspect as to the sacred and holy position they are in. They are all holy children of God.

The word “disciple” is the only accurate word to describe what a Christian consists of, because the phrase “disciples of Christ” means anyone disciplined in the teaching of Jesus Christ. Let me put it this way: Of all the people in the world who for whatever reason claim to be Christians, how many would truly classify themselves as disciples of Christ?

Our cross (affiliation) was/is the trademark for all Christ’s disciples, and the actual wooden cross was the Roman symbol of punishment for wrong-doers/criminals.

In the epistles, the word “cross” was mentioned five times when it referred to a wooden cross, and nine times when it was referring to the cross of trouble and hardship and possible death. There is a difference between the two when one studies the context of these thirteen verses carefully.

Also, at other times in the Roman Empire, real Christians who would not deny Christ verbally as their Savior were sentenced to death along with criminals; they were stripped naked and taken into the coliseum/arena to be eaten by lions for the joy and excitement of blood-thirsty spectators. Of course, wealthy “Christians” most likely will miss out on being eaten by lions because they have too much to lose. (At times, a little satire is needed to make a point).

I wonder how many penitentiaries and churches would be thriving in America if all hardened criminals and genuine Christians were sentenced to death in modern coliseums to be eaten by lions? The most likely answer: Conventional churches would eventually be empty, and our prisons would be near-empty. What I am saying is that the vast majority of modern American Christians don’t want to be eaten by lions; guess why? Most would say or do anything to avoid the lions. Only those who would be willing to be eaten by lions would be the genuine Christians. They are willing to die a horrific death because they have a much, much better place waiting for them. Where would you and I stand if we had to make that choice? The answer to this question would candidly reveal more about the geniuses of one’s Salvation/faith than thousands of beautiful, holy and religious words, regardless of how many good works one could have done in a lifetime. Philippians 1:23. “I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

Actually, knowing the frugality of the “waste-nothing” attitude of the Roman Empire, some believe as I do, that Jesus was hung on a tree without the cross bar—because of the extra work, time and material it would take to install the cross bars. That is why the words “on the tree” or “on a tree” (concerning Jesus’ crucifixion) are mentioned five times in Scripture. Acts 5:30, Acts 10:39, Acts 13:29, Galatians 3:13, and 1st Peter 2:24.

Rome didn’t bother or execute Christians regardless of what their religious beliefs were unless they broke (crossed) Roman law. It was the Jewish leaders and the die-hard circumcision group who made it difficult for the disciples, and persecuted them whenever and wherever the opportunity arose.

In conclusion: Living a Holy life in obedience to New Testament Scripture is not an effortless undertaking. It is the most important and challenging work we must continually be engaged in. If, by some chance, a few Christian bloggers don’t give this post credence, I pray that God will have mercy on them.

Nowhere in Scripture does it even give a hint that living the Christian life will be easy, even though it will be a joyful life, as Scripture reiterated over and over again. Why? Just about everything taught in the New Testament about how we must live and love is contrary to what our sinful human nature dictates (the way Satan’s enticing but evil world operates).

If anyone can demonstrate, via the New Testament, that any part of this post is in error—give the name of the book, chapter and verse/s—concerning Christian works or the real meaning of the cross, please leave a comment. I will respond to all noteworthy comments.

Let me make this perfectly clear: Even though I am the author of this post, I take very little, if any, credit for disclosing many of the New Testament’s spiritual and holy concepts. It was the Spirit of Christ who dictated/inspired most, if not all, of the content. And still, by telling the truth in this blog for six years, I may be the most hated man in this country by religious people. jc

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Anonymous said...

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ericva said...

As anyone leaves traditional-type Christianity, and gets into complete New Testament Christianity—there is a world of difference—we will expose ourselves to much mental and possibly physical suffering from church-going people, etc. because of our new Bible-based beliefs. Hebrews 12:7. “Endure hardship as discipline;

Apostle Eric says;Amen!http://apostlestoday.net/

Hiram said...

If you really want to have the religious having a sacred cow you can address the true reason for the Gospel being the Good News. That is the fact that the power of resurrection is that Jesus rose without Blood and therefore there is no more sin in the heavens and it is no longer based on works.

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