President Ronald Reagan was accused by candidate Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984, of not being a good Christian. Who decides what is "Christian" and what is not?
THE PRESIDENT walks around calling himself a good Christian," Mrs. Ferraro declared during last year's election campaign. "I don't for one minute believe it, because his policies are so terribly unfair." Meanwhile, we have been reading for years about the Christian militiamen in Lebanon fighting their Moslem adversaries, and vice versa. Then there are the sickening sagas of murders in Northern Ireland and Central America. And today even practicing homosexuals claim to be Christian. Several Protestant denominations are seriously considering the issue of ordaining homosexuals into the ministry! Think about it. Is it merely left to each individual to decide for himself or herself what the term Christian means? God — the ultimate authority — decides! And he does not whisper in our ears about who is and who is not a Christian. Or about anything else. How, then, does the God of creation communicate to us his will? God's will is found revealed in the inspired book we call the Holy Bible. Jesus himself said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Jesus also stated, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). The apostle Paul wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). Are we willing to be taught and corrected by the very inspired words of God? Are we willing to let the Bible tell us — in plain language — what is "Christian" and what is not? Jesus stated: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
What BIBLE Says About "Christianity"
But how many so-called Christians ever really study the Bible to find out what God's will is? It may be shocking to realize, but religious surveys have repeatedly found that most Americans and Britons are not even able to name the four gospels — let alone have any idea what is in them! Jesus challenges us, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). According to Jesus himself, to be his real followers — genuine Christians — we must learn to do what Jesus taught! The key is not merely believing on Jesus Christ, but believing him and doing what he says! A young man came asking Jesus what to do to have eternal life. What was Jesus' answer? "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). Then Jesus proceeded to name some of the Ten Commandments. Jesus magnified the Ten Commandments and made them even more binding on his followers. He said that we are not only not to kill, but are to avoid the kind of anger which is, in fact, the spirit of murder (Matt. 5:21-22). Christians are not only to remain faithful to their mates and never commit adultery, but, Jesus said: "I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). Later in this same passage, Jesus said: "LOVE your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (verse 44). The unvarnished words of Jesus of Nazareth are POWERFUL. How difficult it is to make these inspired words of Christ "acceptable" to mainstream Christianity today! For what would happen if they were' obeyed literally as the inspired teachings of the Son of God? If everyone truly loved his enemies, there would be no more wars and no more murders — none! Under Jesus' teachings, there would be no more adultery — none! And the divorce rate would quickly come screeching to a halt. For regarding marriage, Jesus said: "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6).
The Key of OBEDIENCE
John was the apostle whom Jesus loved. He wrote about the deepest meanings of Christianity and about how we are to have fellowship with God and with Christ. He wrote: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:3-4). The apostle John plainly indicted those who say they are Christians and yet do not keep God's commandments! Why? Because to "know" God and Christ — and they are "one," as Jesus said — you need to experience the kind of character they possess. And God's very character is expressed in his law — the Ten Commandments. Notice! "For God is love" (I John 4:8). Again, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3). So a true Christian will "walk with God." He will literally live by God's law of love — the Ten Commandments. And, by exercising this kind of godly character, he will come to understand and "know" God. The true Christian will have God living in him.
HOLY SPIRIT Gives POWER
At this point, many are wondering how they can be so "perfect." Most theologians are saying, "The law is spiritual, and you can't keep it." Both are absolutely right! The law of God is spiritual. And man, by himself, cut off from God, cannot keep that spiritual law perfectly. The answer? First, God does not demand instant perfection. Rather, through his inspired Word, he tells us, "But GROW in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). The true Christian life is one of learning, overcoming and growing toward the God — like character that is our ideal. But it is not a life of excuses, or a life of misunderstanding — saying that we do not even try to keep God's law and follow the example Jesus set for us. For Jesus said, "I have kept my Father's commandments" (John 15:10). And Peter wrote of Jesus that he left us "an example, that [ we] should follow his steps" (I Pet. 2:21). But, as many modern theologians insist, how can we keep the spiritual principles of the Ten Commandments when we ourselves are weak, physical and inherently sinful human beings? Notice the apostle Paul's description of the problem: "The carnal [natural] mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8). Paul is clearly saying that what — causes the normal, fleshly (carnal) human being a "problem" with God is that he is antagonistic to God's law and will not submit to it! You and I are certainly "in the flesh," in the sense that we are human, aren't we? But is that what Paul means? Continue reading: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (verse 9). In other words, unless Christ dwells in you through the Holy Spirit, you are not his; you are not a truly converted Christian! Again: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (verse 14). This is the ultimate key to true Christianity! If you have been deeply humbled and converted by your Creator, have surrendered — even though not yet perfectly — to allow God and Christ to literally live in you through the power of the Holy Spirit, then and only then are you truly a Christian! Of course, you will still have human nature, the world around you and the invisible influence of Satan the devil to overcome. You will still make mistakes and commit many sins — though fewer and fewer as you grow in grace and in knowledge. You will be studying the Bible for instruction with an open mind and heart. You will be praying for understanding of what you read and for the spiritual strength to live God's way. Then, through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, you will be growing in the knowledge and in the very character of Jesus Christ. God will be literally making you his child by putting his very nature in you through the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:4). Step by step, you will reflect in your daily life the character and the obedience to God the Father that Jesus demonstrated in his human flesh. You will become more and more Christ — like. You will then truly become "a Christian" — one in whom Christ literally lives through the Holy Spirit! This is the Bible definition of a Christian.
Christ Must Be "in" the True Christian!
With his help, and through his Holy Spirit, it will not seem so difficult to refrain from killing, committing adultery, stealing, lying and dishonoring your parents. As you truly study and research the Bible to understand it, and as you pray to God daily on your knees for guidance and strength, God will become more and more real to you. You will see that his laws are living laws — just like the law of gravity. They work automatically — no matter whether you, or this or that theologian, believes in them or not. With this in mind, it will become progressively easier for you not to have any other gods before the true God, not to bow down to or worship images or idols, not to take God's name in vain. And, as God becomes increasingly the very center of your life as a true Christian, you will want to keep holy his Sabbath — the very day Jesus made holy. Through all of this Bible study, prayer and dedication of your life to live as Jesus did, you will come to know God in a way very few people in our modern age ever experience. For Christ will be living in you. That's what true Christianity is all about! The apostle Paul stated: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of [not merely "in"] the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). How will Christ literally "live" his life in you through the Holy Spirit? Will he refuse to keep his Father's law — the Ten Commandments — which he faithfully kept and even magnified during his human life on earth? Will he keep different days holy than the ones his Father commanded and that he kept during his physical lifetime? No! For your Bible says very plainly, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). The true Christ of the Bible was the Word — the Spokesman of the Hebrew Scriptures (John 1:1-3). He was the God of Israel — the Rock that protected and guided ancient Israel throughout their history (I Cor. 10:4). He is the one who gave and spoke the Ten Commandments! And he said, "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Mal. 3:6). So the key is to realize that the true Christ of your Bible will live exactly the same life in you that he lived on earth some 1,900 years ago! Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). God and Christ preexisted together from eternity. They are one in mind and purpose and in character. Through the Holy Spirit, they both come to live in, strengthen and guide the true Christian! As Jesus said: "If a man love me, he will keep my words [the "words" of the Bible!]: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Why don't you hear this kind of preaching and teaching about Christianity in our present society?
Jesus said: "For many shall come in my name [obviously calling themselves Christian], saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:5). Regarding the time of Christ's Second Coming, the apostle Paul warned: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first..." (II Thess. 2:3). Throughout the New Testament we are warned of men who would come preaching "another Jesus" (II Cor. 11:4) — not the Jesus of the Bible! And it is clearly indicated that these false teachers would lead astray the vast majority of those who call themselves and think themselves Christians. In other words, false teachers have taken over the name of Jesus Christ and of Christianity. They are willing to have you believe "in" their concept of Jesus, but they deny the message he preached, the law of God that he magnified, and the way of life he set us an example in living! The true Christians are always described as scattered and few — the little flock (Luke 12:32), the "woman" who flees from the politico — religious system during the Middle Ages (Rev. 12:6). But Christians have always existed who believed in living by the inspired words of the Bible, and who grasped the key of understanding that Jesus is to live his very life in them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scattered and persecuted, these people have always constituted the true Church of God. Though far from perfect, they walk in the way of life of the Ten Commandments. They keep holy the days God made holy — the same days Jesus and the apostles kept. They study and understand prophecy and the awesome purpose that is being worked out here below among men and nations. They know what is just ahead on the world scene and are preparing for the specific prophesied events to come! They help support and publish this very magazine — "a magazine of understanding." If you want to know more about the understanding of true Christianity, as revealed in this article, please read our free booklet entitled The Ten Commandments. This booklet will explain in detail — with clear Bible proof — the way of life described in this article. Also, be sure to study the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. There has never been anything like it! It will open your eyes to the purpose of life more than anything you have read or heard. And it is sent free and without obligation if you request it for yourself. The real Christ of true Christianity is destined soon to return to this earth as King of kings. God's angels will shout, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Before he gets here, it would be a good idea to make sure what his message really is and to get your life in line with it.