What Are We Actually Choosing When We Choose To Be Christians? 1

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I have seen and heard so many misrepresentations of the term ‘Christian’ or ‘Christianity’ to the extent that the one-line statement I could have used to answer this question proves a little futile. Therefore, instead of providing an immediate answer to the question, I humbly ask that you follow me closely as I put some bits and pieces of information together first.

This question interests me a lot. It’s got to do with the fact that it captures the word ‘choose’. Becoming a Christian was, is and will always be a matter of CHOICE and not COERCION. In addition, it isn’t genetic too; you don’t become one by inheriting some genes from your parents who are Christians. You don’t become one by associating yourself with people who have deep reverence for God. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a decision you make on your own after weighing all the options in life; no one else makes (or has to make) that decision for you. People can be of positive influence to you in helping you make that decision but it still boils down to you. It’s a personal choice. Please note that.

The best way to know and understand what we are actually choosing when we choose to be Christians is to first know and understand what it means to be a Christian. I prefer we make a very short journey into the past for the purpose. The reason? Simple. I believe strongly that the usage of the term has lost critical weight in this modern era because of how it’s been emptied of its true meaning. That’s rather unfortunate. A Christian must be a disciple of Christ. I’ve been looking for a better way to describe this term and thank goodness, I found one simple power-packed definition by the Methodist Minister, Rev John Farrar (1804-1884). He said a disciple of Christ is “one who believes His doctrine, rests upon His sacrifice, imbibes His spirit, and imitates His example”.

It’s not just about belonging to a Christian church or just practising some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ recorded in an ancient manuscript. It’s much deeper than that. If you’re in to follow Christ’s lead, it means you’re ready to listen and accept the fact that the wisdom from His teaching works. Of course, you cannot do away with valuing what He values most. Wisdom. Integrity. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Honesty. Selflessness. All of these encapsulated in what He holds dear most—Love. Once you’ve established that, you’re ready to move onto the next step: Act. Stepping out to think, talk and act just like how Christ thought, talked and acted. For example, Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies. Love my enemies? You mean those seeking my downfall? Well, let’s look at the statistics. Does that kind of wisdom work at all? What happens when you genuinely love your enemies? Well, there are a lot of benefits: emotional, psychological, spiritual, even physical. Some people develop nasty heartaches not because of high salt or fat intake but because they’ve harbored some bitterness in their hearts for a long time. They could have avoided that unpleasant feeling if they chose to let go and let love lead. You won’t experience that kind of health benefit if you choose to sit and just believe. You have to act by forgiving the other party. That’s imitating His example. You’re out there to do a live presentation of how He lived. To represent. RE-PRESENT. Let that word sink in. ‘RE-PRESENTING’ Christ wherever you find yourself. If He was a person of influence, you have to be a person of influence. If He was down-to-earth, the same goes for you. Having this foreknowledge at hand, you quickly get an idea of what it is you’re choosing/about to choose.

Now, let’s tackle the crux of the matter briefly. Choosing to be a Christian means choosing to reshuffle priorities. You are in to exchange what you feel is more important to you with that which God knows is more important to you. That exchange doesn’t look pleasant at all in the beginning. Take the rich man who approached Jesus as an example. Jesus gave him the opportunity to reprioritize his life by exchanging his love for riches with something far more valuable, but he rejected that precious offer. I’m pretty sure he thought accepting it meant no association with money anymore. In other words, poverty and misery all the days of his life. And that’s how most of us feel sometimes.

There’s that feeling that once we become Christians, we will be quarantined from so many things like sex, beauty, money, power and so forth. That sounds funny considering the fact that God created all these for us to enjoy to the max (within proper limits). So what’s the problem? Our problem is that we allow these things to have us instead of us having them. These things easily possess us when we fail to prioritize rightly. Now, remember that ‘possession’ is a very strong word so we have no business playing around with it.

Knowing the danger it carries, isn’t it rather safe to trust the Creator of the universe when He says that we should look out for Him first in everything we do so that every other thing on the priority list falls in its pleasant place? I believe it is! We get to enjoy all that He has created fully with no limits – signed from above! You find true fulfillment in them too! When we fail to see through heaven’s eye, we begin to get greedy, lustful, corrupt and materialistic. We fail to set the balance between fun and fulfillment and we miss the beauty of everything. When Jesus said ‘REPENT’ (change your mind for the better), it was because He saw misplaced priorities among His audience. You and I also mean a lot to Him that’s why He still speaks to us. Repent! Change your mind for the better. It’s for this reason that when you make the choice, you’ve actually chosen to revamp the entire show of your life.

Having said all this, I proceed to answer the question: What we are actually choosing when we choose to be Christians is choosing to live the Christ-like life.

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When You Don’t Feel Like Worshipping

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So here I am, my bent knees pressed to the cold wet ground;

The skin of my face glistening with the tears of unending despair and hopelessness.

North, South, East, West, I search earnestly for answers;

Nothing but thick, gray, soupy fog!

Where is He who laid the foundations of the earth?

Where is He whose breath gives ice and freezes the broad waters?

Has Heaven shut its eyes and ears to my pain?

Has the Immortal King perhaps fallen into a deep sleep?

Is anybody even listening? Does anybody even hear me?

Oh my! I feel my soul no more. Can I even offer worship?

Pretense it may be, for I will go through the motion;

What do I do now? What do I do?

Oh no! The pressure is building up, I can’t contain it anymore.

Argh! Lord, please quiet the noise

[I pause for a few moment. I feel total silence within now.]

Be still. Be still. Be still and know that I am.

I AM THAT I AM, AND ALL THAT I COULD EVER BE.

I AM He who commands the morning to appear and cause the dawn to rise in the East

I AM He who gives strength to the horse and adorns his neck with a shimmering mane

Look at the birds of the air;

Not tied down to a job description, yet I feed them

Forgotten so soon?

You are on Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem

You are in the presence of thousands and thousands of angels,

Ready to be dispatched on your behalf.

How close you are to me!

Now spread your case before Me and let Me handle the rest.

Lies and a change of mind? Not my game

Just the thought of it desecrates my Name

If I did it before, I will do it again

My promises never fail

So my child, I say, wait in faith

It’s just a matter of time before the wind of the Spirit starts to blow

The Great Physician’s Report: ‘Anorexic or Obese in the Spirit’?

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Excessive weight gain or weight loss has never been a healthy cause to champion in life. The frustration that comes with knowing that you’ve gained/lost extra pounds—your ‘cosmetic makeup’— isn’t the major concern. The real danger is you stand the risk of developing health-related diseases that have the propensity to cause long-term health complications later in life—disability and death. This is why it stands as one of the world’s major public health concern because of its rising incidence and high death rate among individuals worldwide. Moreover, it may interest Christians to know that not only does the physical human body experience these conditions, the spirit man is also highly susceptible to them—and it’s also life-threatening! Kindly join me as we read the Great Physician’s report on this sensitive subject.

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What does it mean to be ‘anorexic or obese in the spirit’? An ‘anorexic spirit’ is one that has undergone deliberate starvation of God’s Word resulting in a ‘spiritual weight loss’. An ‘obese spirit’ on the other hand piles up lots of ‘spiritual calories’ and fails to burn them, leading to weight gain. The interesting thing is both do not necessarily plan to lose or gain ‘spiritual weight’ in an unhealthy way but their choice of action unfortunately leads them to unhealthy outcomes.

 CAUSES

How does it come about? Let’s start with the ‘anorexic Christian’. The problem here isn’t laziness. Rather, it stems from mere misconception about studying God’s Word.

Misconception #1: Following biblical instructions is pure legalism. Such people perceive the reading and studying of God’s Word as adhering to some strict rules of ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ in order to be in right standing with God. It feels like ‘checking the box’ as one will say.

Misconception #2: You don’t have to know so much of the Bible to be effective in your output. The ideology states that once a person trusts the Holy Spirit to the letter, he (she) doesn’t necessarily have to be head over heels about studying the Bible into details as the Spirit can equally equip him (her) to fight daily battles, not forgetting the promise that ‘He will teach you all things and remind you of everything…’.

And because of that, the passion to consume the Word of God—the food for the soul and spirit—is lost. End result: Excessive weight loss.

The ‘obese christian’ delights in spending time to read and study God’s Word into detail. As if that isn’t enough, he (she) consumes numerous Christian tapes and sermons from other preachers in addition to reading Christian articles, blog-posts, novels and other Christian-related write-ups. In other words, there’s a lot of packing and packing and packing and…yeah, lots of packing BUT ZERO PROCESSING. And this marks the dawn of excessive weight gain—more ‘spiritual calories’ are taken in than the spirit man burns, and the excess is stored as ‘spiritual fat’. End result: Excessive weight gain.

 TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

Lifestyle Modification. The solution to these conditions rests upon life-long behavioral changes.

Diet. Watch what and how you eat. Not everything you come across on the internet or the bookshop is safe for ‘consumption’. Just as you make time to visit the ‘customer review’ section to check the integrity of a product when making an order online, develop that same habit to test the integrity of every Christian material you come across because some are meant to build you up while others will show no mercy in tearing you apart.

How do you eat at home? You make every effort to eat properly, to eat a balanced diet that meets your body’s requirement for healthy growth and development. In a balanced diet, you find the body-builders, the energy-boosters and the immune boosters. In the same way, don’t be too one-sided with your Bible study. Learn to explore other areas of God’s Word. Build a solid foundation (body-builders) by reading the Historical Books of both the Old and New Testaments to learn the story of Israel and Jesus Christ (and the Church) respectively. Boost your spiritual energy with revelations and encouragement from the Prophetical Books of the Bible. Make an appointment with the Poetical Books. These are ‘high-fiber diets’ (rich in wisdom) required to loosen up your ‘spiritual bowels’ so that your spirit man can empty any junk that isn’t profitable from its system. Don’t skip the Epistles, visit them too. While they carefully instruct you on Christian doctrine, they also offer protection by teaching you how to fight against similar attacks that hit the Early Church (immune boosters). And as you do that, spend ample time to research more into your findings by using reliable Bible tools, not forgetting the power of prayer and meditation. This way you’re less likely to develop stunted growth in any area of your life.

Exercise. Make every effort to live out what you learn from the scriptures. Don’t just stockpile biblical teachings into your spirit. The weightlifter doesn’t build muscles by watching them self-inflate miraculously. No. He puts his knowledge about bodybuilding into practice. He works out tirelessly (despite the many failures that may come his/her way) until the desired outcome is seen. The same applies to the Christian. Once you receive the Word, step out of your comfort zone and live it out. Better to always try and even fail at something than to fail to try because belief without corresponding actions is dead. Someone once said that ‘those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.’ A similar lesson to take home; if you have no time to build up your spirit man now, prepare then to find time to deal with the avalanche of trouble that is ready to come your way soon.

Develop the right mindset. Concerning Misconception #1, living according to God’s Word isn’t a legalistic practice UNLESS your motive behind your actions are ‘I have to do this and that in order to make the man upstairs happy and probably get to heaven’. That’s a wrong mindset. Your total obedience to God’s Word—an act of the will to align our lives with His commands—must be driven by a genuine love to live an honorable life that is so much pleasing to the One who gave His life as a ransom for you. Once you set your motive right, you come to know and understand that you delight to study God’s Word because of an inexplicable love that has captured your soul.

Concerning Misconception #2, one example for illustration. You hear people say that one doesn’t have to be so knowledgeable in the scriptures when going out to evangelize as it’s the Holy Spirit who does the conviction and not us. That is very true. The work of a Christian is not to do the conviction because no man draws ANY soul to Christ; it is the work of the Spirit of God to draw men unto Himself. But don’t forget that we are the ones called to go out and announce this good news. Yes, we are not alone because we have the Holy Spirit to direct our paths so we act in line with God’s word to be efficient and effective. But how can we effectively reach out to someone if we don’t even know how to blend into the culture of our surroundings as per what the Bible teaches? How can we be useful out there, if we are ignorant of how the apostles went about soul winning? How can we even tell when and when not to visit a particular vicinity to spread the good news? The Bible was documented for a purpose: to teach us what is right, what is not right, how to get right and how to stay right. The only way to become complete and efficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for the tasks God has for us is if we make a conscious effort to study what the Bible teaches. This is the reason why we can’t lazy about by clasping our hands together and offering prayers wrapped around the mindset that the Holy Spirit is going out there to do our work for us while we sit in our small corners looking out for the miracle of people trooping into the church in their numbers. Be reminded that you also have the responsibility to study to know how to approach your hearers. As for the Holy Spirit, the ‘paraclete’ (Greek word which is translated as ‘Comforter’ which means ‘One called alongside to help’), He was not sent to come do our job for us. He was sent to come HELP us carry out OUR responsibility. All He does is to lead, guide and push us gently. We are expected to yield to all these promptings, step out there and proclaim the glad tidings. Develop a wrong mindset concerning this or any other portion of scripture in the Bible and the whole purpose of what it desires to communicate becomes defeated.

The ‘anorexic christian’ shouldn’t be the only one advised to develop a right mindset. The ‘obese christian’ must pay heed to this caution too. And once you begin to feed on God’s Word, remember to eat a balanced diet and don’t forget to work out your ‘spiritual calories’.

 Physician’s remarks: Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God — the free life! —even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. (James 1:22-25 MSG)