Christian Enough?

Last night I had a wonderful conversation with a UD student over dinner. The topic of our conversation could be the subject of entire conferences – is it ever appropriate to use the N word?  Considering I had, earlier that morning, read a Facebook status in which a friend referred to “Nigga squirrels” messing in her yard, I was prepared to give my comments on usage. But I digress. As I said, that’s another topic altogether.  What captured my attention then and has continued to stir my spirit was his response to my question about whether or not he was a Christian. My young friend told me that he was probably as much a Christian as I. My response – there are no degrees to salvation. Either a person is saved or not. If he is a Christian, he IS as much a Christian as I am – no more, no less.  I find nothing in scripture that supports the notion that some people are super Christians and others are not. Scripture teaches that all fall short of the glory of God and are in need of God’s mercy, that’s from the pulpit to the farthest reaches of the sanctuary, from senior citizen to young child, from the ‘been saved all my life’ to the person who just asked Christ into her heart.

Becoming a Christian is a very simple matter: Romans 10:9 If  you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. You don’t have to jump up and down and twirl around four times, say 200 hallelujahs, There are no super Christians but there certainly are carnal or baby Christians (Read 1 Cor. 3:1-9). I had another conversation with students in my sacred music and worship class (I love my job!) about this. The Church has established all kinds of traditions (rites/rituals) and doctrines – very important ones to be sure – that are too often elevated above the simple truth of the Gospel of Christ. I reminded my students that Christ didn’t have this conversation with the thief on Golgatha’s hill.

Thief – will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?

JC – I’d love to my friend but see, you haven’t been baptized and it’s obvious that I can’t give you communion right now. There is no time for you to get your life together and change your thieving ways. As much as I’d love to help you, if you don’t do these things, I’m going to have to let you roast in hell.

No, Jesus very simply told the man ‘today you’ll be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43)

So, I reminded my students that once they accept Christ as savior it is a done deal. Don’t misunderstand, it is possible to accept Christ and still live a life of total depravity and in such a way that you are responsible for ushering others into hell.  None of it would undo the completed work that Christ did on your behalf. YET, why would you want to live so far beneath the life Christ came to give? Becoming a Christian is easy. Being a Christian is the journey! Christ came so that you could have and live an abundant life! But,  in order to experience the abundant life you need to move beyond the carnal/baby Christian stage so you can feast on the meat of the Word instead of continue to drink its milk! There is only one degree of salvation – saved or not. But, there is a wealth of difference in the way that salvation is lived out.

In some sense, perhaps my young friend’s response to my query about his salvation helps us to think more fully about this important season. We owed a debt we could not pay. God loved with a love we cannot understand. Because of that matchless love, God sent His only son to earth to pay our debt. Christ willingly took upon Himself each and every one of your sins and my sins. He willingly allowed Himself to be hung on the cruel cross, to suffer, and ultimately to die in your place, to die in my place. That makes us equal! And when Jesus thwarted death who thought he could keep Jesus in that borrowed tomb, He brought each of us into a resurrected, new life. This life demands an individual and daily response – to choose life instead of death.

How do you answer the question? Are you a Christian? If so, you’re already as saved as you will ever be. The question, then, is not related to how saved you are. The question is Where are you on the journey?

 

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Why Spring?

At first glance it seems interesting, perhaps even counter intuitive that we would celebrate the resurrection at this time of the year. The sorrow of the cross seems better suited for the dark days of winter. Instead, as the days continue to lengthen and flowers push their way out of ground that’s been hardened and compacted by winter, we remember the day Jesus pushed His way up, out of grave cloths that had Him bound. As we watch trees sprout leaves and showy spring blossoms, we think of Jesus shaking off the stench of death from the cruel crucifixion and three days of decomposition. By all things… normal?… Jesus should have been dead, never to be seen again. As I survey my yard I see the tenacious plants defying the gravel we use for mulch to take their rightful place in the garden. No stones will keep them in the ground. And in seeing them, I imagine Jesus commanding a much larger, more imposing stone to get out of His way! No rock would hold Him in a tomb when His work had not been completed. For, if Jesus’ story ended in the dark days of winter, in His death and burial, my own story would be totally meaningless.

Why spring? Because, our plants are a constant reminder, in miniature form, of the way Jesus shook off the ravages of winter’s death, stretched His limbs while they reactivated and GOT UP! As our plants make their presence made known, we see the power of life over death. Winter reminds us of the seemingly barrenness of death (a subject for another time). Spring reminds us that we live because Jesus got up and yet lives! We can turn our faces to the warming sun and let it thaw the ravages of cold deep in our spirits. We can open our souls to the healing and nurturing rains and be glad!

If we but only take the time to really look, we can see evidences of new life, new hope, new reasons to rejoice!

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