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What is an Authentic Christian?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

In our last two devotionals, we discussed the importance of honest and authentic communication in the body of Christ. Along the way, we touched briefly on the question of what it means to be an “authentic Christian.” Today, we’ll dig a little deeper into that subject.

As was noted in our discussion, there are thousands of books and sermons addressing what it means to be an authentic Christian, even though the term never actually appears in the Bible. Most writers and expositors define an authentic Christian in terms of performance (what a person does, or how he/she behaves.)  However looking at the primary definition of “authentic”; of undisputed origin, we concluded that authenticity as a Christian has more to do with nature than performance. As we discussed, just as an authentic apple tree will ultimately bear apples, so also, an authentic Christian will ultimately be inclined to walk in a manner that is consistent with his/her nature.

What then is an “authentic Christian?” Ontology is the study of the nature of being. An ontologist would tell us there is a significant relationship between the nature of a being and the life of a being. So, in order to understand the nature, and hopefully the definition, of an “authentic Christian,” let’s look at a word that does appear in Scripture; “life.”

In the New Testament, three Greek words are translated as the word, life.

  1. Bios (used over 10 times in the New Testament) is the life of the physical body. It is where we get the word biology.
  2. Psuche or Psyche (used over 100 times in the New Testament) is the life of the human soul, that is, the mind, emotion, and will. It is where we get the word psychology.
  3. Zoe (used over 130 times in the New Testament) is the divine life uniquely possessed by God. It is real life in all its fullness. “I have come that they may have life (zoe) and may have (zoe) abundantly.” – John 10:10

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains the significant difference between Bios and Zoe.

“In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which come to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc. is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man. And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going around that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

In this excerpt, C.S. Lewis deals with the difference between Zoe and Bios. However, the difference between Zoe and Psuche is just as significant. Whether a person is “born again” (John 3:3–7) and has Zoe, or not, the soul is eternal. The difference that Zoe makes has to do with the eternal destiny and quality of the life of the soul.

I came to faith in Christ at the age of 22. Prior to that time, I was involved in Eastern mysticism. I had a very active Psuche (Soul), but I did not have Zoe (His Life). When Jesus flooded my life (Psuche) with His Life (Zoe), I immediately sensed a change. The blinders were lifted from the eyes of my soul. The world seemed brighter and more vivid. Time seemed to move slower. It was as if the whole universe has suddenly come into focus. That was His life in me. That was Zoe!

I’ve talked with many others about their “born again” experience; what theologians call regeneration.  Not everyone has such a dramatic experience, particularly those who came to faith in Christ at an early age. Coming to Christ as a young child doesn’t allow much time for the world to shape a soul. So then, I would not propose that the dramatic change I experienced is the only defining, or even the main, evidence of Zoe in a person.

I would propose that the main evidence of Zoe has to do with our disposition toward God, and toward sin.  And by sin, I not only refer to actions that offend God, I also refer to the power of sin that dwells in the flesh of every person. I have talked with people who struggle with a habit they know is harmful and does not honor God, even to the point of questioning their salvation. Their behavior and struggle may be chronic, but they are not “OK” with it. They never stop wanting to live in a way that pleases God. I believe that it is the Zoe in them that gives them the motivation to get back up and continue seeking God, no matter how many times they fall.

Dear friend, please to do not miss the significance of what I am trying to communicate. Some people would say that the sign of an authentic Christian is how well he/she walks the walk. While there is some truth in that statement, I would strongly insist it is not the main sign. Anyone can fake the Christian walk for short periods of time. In my opinion, it is the person who never stops struggling, who never gives up the fight, who is never “OK” with sin, who gets up when he/she falls and keeps going. It is the Zoe (His Life) in a person that makes this possible.

Simply stated, an authentic Christian is a person who has Zoe.  How’s the Zoe in you today?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. – John 6:35

 


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Embrace the Tension!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

Part 2 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication

Last week, in our devotional, we discussed the need for honest and authentic communication in the Body of Christ. This week, we’re going to dig a little deeper into this issue, focusing on the idea of “authentic communication.”  What is it, what is the basis for this kind of communication, and what does it look like?

What is it?

If you Google the term “authentic Christianity,” you’ll get 121,000 results . . . books, articles, sermons, blogs, etc. Most all of them have to do with what a person does . . . performance.

Because the word “authentic” does not appear in the Bible, I turned to Webster. Authentic means – of undisputed origin.  Applying this definition then, we can conclude that authenticity is really more a matter of nature and identity (origin) than performance.  Just as we should expect an apple tree to bear apples, so also, we should expect an authentic Christian to communicate in an authentic manner.

So, what is it about being a Christian that provides a basis for this kind of communication?

Chapter 4 Ephesians of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has a lot to say about unity in the Body of Christ. To lay a foundation for today’s subject read Eph.4:20-25.

Eph 4:20  But you did not learn Christ in this way,
Eph 4:21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
Eph 4:22  that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
Eph 4:23  and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
Eph 4:24  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Eph 4:25  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.

Verse 25 tells us that Christians should “SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you.” The word “speak” here is a present active imperative indicating that we are to make a habit of speaking the truth . . . of communicating in an authentic manner.

Verses 22-24 tell us why we should communicate in this manner. Like an apple tree bearing apples, it is simply something we do, if in fact we are laying aside the old self and putting on the new self . . . if we are being renewed in the spirit of our mind.

Stephen Mcalpin, Lead Pastor of Adorn Church in Los Angeles writes, “Authenticity in the Church is the quality of our exposure of brokenness and adornment in God’s grace. An authentic person is one who is both privately and publically putting off the old self and, by God’s grace, putting on the new self.”

Christ followers are a people caught in between two worlds; one that is broken and one that is adorned in the glory of God’s grace. If we are not OK with living in the tension between these two worlds, we will live a dishonest life. We must fully embrace both realities, for that is Truth.

I’ve always been intrigued with a certain aspect of the Chronicles of Narnia. The children who traveled to the world of Narnia found themselves in the middle of a fierce war. And like all wars, it was violent and ugly with life and death consequences. All the while, the children knew that Narnia was not their home. It was not their ultimate reality.  And yet, with arrows flying and swords flashing they fully embraced their role in the battle for Narnia.

How about us? Are we OK enough with living in this fallen world that is not our home that we can be honest about our pain and struggle, and at the same time honest about our true identity in Christ and our citizenship in His Kingdom?

What does authentic communication in the Body of Christ look like?

This question is answered for us Ephesians 4:26-32.

Eph 4:26  BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Eph 4:27  and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Eph 4:28  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Eph 4:29  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Eph 4:30  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Eph 4:31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Eph 4:32  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

People of Truth are not fake. They communicate what is really going on in their lives, but they do it in ways that are appropriate, not grieving the Holy Spirit, and being sensitive to the one to whom they are speaking.


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Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

A Verse That Will Change Your Life
from Fred Carpenter

If I had to name a handful of Bible verses that have most changed my life and work with Mars Hill, Galatians 2:20 would definitely be one of them.

“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.” – Galatians 2:20 NASB

Giving it All and Hitting the Wall – How this Came to be Such an Important Verse to Me

In 1983, I had just completed our most difficult film project to that date. Although the project was highly successful, I was totally spent from all the pressures of making it happen. I hit the wall hard and found myself wondering if I could keep this up and do it all over again. Not only had the stress drained me mentally, but I wound up in the hospital with some physical issues caused by the way I had pushed myself. I remember my Dad saying, “Fred, you have to quit trying to save the world in your own strength.”

It was at this time that I was introduced to a book by Dr. Bill and Annabel Gillham called “Lifetime Guarantee.” Their teaching in this book expanded on the truths we find in Galatians 2:20. It set me free. I discovered that the life God has for us is not really about what we do for Christ, but rather, what He does through us.

The Exchanged Life – His New Life for Our Old One

Hudson Taylor said that Galatians 2:20 taught what he referred to as “The Exchanged Life” (Consider investing a few hours and read his short but powerful story of the exchanged life in Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret). Taylor understood that none of us can live the Christian life in our own strength or resist temptation by our own will power. He came to realize that only Christ can successfully live the victorious Christian life for it is, after all, His resurrection life which reflects His victory over the power of sin and death. Continue reading


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A Tale of Three Kings- A Study in Brokenness

The Prologue

Today we begin a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We will be sharing highlights from the book in the weeks ahead, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us; the story offers hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God.

The Prologue sets the stage as God assigns certain divine giftings to two men who will become earthly kings.  The first man is given a gift of external power. However, the messenger of God shares with the man that when his earthly pilgrimage is done, his true character will be known; it will be revealed by means of this power.

“Outer power will always unveil the inner resources or the lack thereof.”

The second man is given an internal inheritance, an inward seed planted deep in his heart. This promise will grow to a glorious thing, but not without pain, sorrow, and crushing.

The introduction to our story begs the question, “Does our time on earth shape our identity or reveal our identity?” As followers of Christ, we know that God is in control and that He has a plan, set in motion from before the foundations of the world. Would you agree that the way we respond to everyday circumstances reveals what we think about the Sovereign Lord in our hearts?

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB)

How are you seeing this play out in your life?


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Are You Poor in Spirit?

I have heard it said by scoffers that Christianity (or any religion for that matter) is just a crutch for those who are too weak to live life on their own. The world admires a strong independent spirit and looks down upon weakness and dependence.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

According to, Greek scholar, Kenneth Wuest, to be blessed is to be spiritually prosperous. At first pass, this might seem to contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 5; how can the ‘blessed’ be both ‘poor’ and ‘prosperous’ at the same time? But as someone has pointed out, in order to get your cup filled (of Him), it must first be empty (of us)!

James Smith was a reformed Baptist preacher and predecessor of Charles Spurgeon at New Park Street Chapel in London from 1841 until 1850. From his notes we read . . .

I. “Poverty of spirit” is not something put on, but that which concerns the inner character (spirit). The characteristics of those who are “poor in spirit” are –

A. BROKENNESS OF HEART (Psa. 51:4-7). A deep sense of personal unworthiness.

B. SELF-DISTRUST. “No confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). “In me dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).

C. ENTIRE DEPENDENCE. Living by faith. “Apart from Me, nothing” (John15:5).

II. The nature of this blessedness. This is the kingdom. They come under the reign of grace. A present possession.

A. CHOSEN BY GOD (1 Cor. 1:28, 29). The poor in spirit are the chosen of Heaven.

B. INDWELT BY GOD (Isa. 57:15). The humble heart is the abode of God.

C. RICH IN FAITH (Jas. 2:5). Faith will buy anything from God. It is the current coin of the kingdom.

D. DIVINELY CARED FOR (Isa. 66:2). “To this man will I look that is poor, and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2). This is the look of continual favour, which is the blessedness of the poor in spirit.

How do we become “poor in spirit?” Throughout the ages, there have been those who have believed that an external life of poverty produces an internal life of poverty. However, we cannot, through human effort, manufacture the condition of being poor in spirit. Such a spiritual disposition is not a goal. Rather, it is the result of making God our goal.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by our­selves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become ‘poor in spirit’. Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness.

FB Meyer – To be poor in spirit is to be vacant of self and waiting for God. To have no confidence in the flesh; to be emptied of self-reliance to be conscious of absolute insufficiency; to be thankfully dependent on the life-energy of the living God, that is poverty of spirit; and it has been characteristic of some of the noblest, richest, most glorious natures, that have ever trodden the shores of Time. Happy are they who are conscious of a poverty which only the Divine indwelling can change into wealth, and who are willing to confess that they would rather be in hell and have God, than in heaven and not have Him.

Yes, there are those who say that Christianity (or more specifically Christ) is just a crutch for those who are too weak to live life on their own. They are right, and I am so glad they are, for I would much rather live under the reign of grace than under the law of vain and perishable works.

 

 


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Man’s Thoughts – God’s Thoughts

The following is a list of thoughts and attitudes, common to us all. But, each and every discouraging statement is countered by a glorious truth from God and His Word. If you are struggling or downhearted, read His words; let His declarations wash over you and renew your perspective.

 

“It’s impossible”
All things are possible with Me.
“The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” – Luke 18:27

“I’m too tired”
 I will give you rest.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

“I feel unloved”
I love you.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“I can’t go on”
My grace is sufficient.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, So that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” –2Corinthians 12:9

“I can’t figure this out”
 I will direct your steps.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5,6
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

“I can’t do it”
You can do all things.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

“I’m not able”
I am able.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” – 2Corinthians 9:8

“It’s not worth it”
It will be worth it.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” – Galatians 6:9

“I can’t forgive myself”
I forgive you.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1John 1:9
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“I can’t resist this temptation”
I have provided a way.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” – 1Corinthians 10:13
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

“I don’t have enough to make it”
 I will supply all your needs.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

“I’m afraid”
 You do not have to be afraid. I am here and I’ve got this.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. – 2Timothy 1:7
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“I am anxious and stressed”
You can cast all your cares on Me.
“. . . humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1Peter 5:7

“I don’t have enough faith”
I have given you all the faith you need.
“God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3

“I’m not smart enough”
 I give you wisdom and the mind of Christ.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James – 1:5
“Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:16

“I feel alone”
I am with you.
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
“I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” – Hebrews 13:5

“I feel inadequate”
You are complete.
“. . . in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” – Colossians 2:10


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Who are You?

In Adam vs. In Christ

The Lord sees the spiritual condition of mankind in two ways…we are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” In today’s devotional,  we examined the following scriptures which reveal to us the characteristics of one who is “in Adam,” that is one who has not yet accepted the substitutionary death of Christ on their behalf vs. the realities of one who is “in Christ.” If you are in Christ, you have recognized your need to be freed from the sin which indwells your flesh. You acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God, made flesh, and is the only one, ever, capable of paying your debt and providing the way for you to be restored to a relationship with our creator.

As you read these verses, let them remind you who you were…but more importantly, meditate on the verses that declare who you are…now…in Christ! Let them change you and free you to let Christ live His life through you.

In Adam You Were:

  • Alienated from God. – Col 1:21 >  . . .  you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
  • Condemned to death. – Rom 6:23 >  For the wages of sin is death . . .
  • Separated from God without hope. – Eph 2:12 >  remember that you were at that time separate from Chris . . . hope and without God in the world.
  • A slave of sin. – Rom 6:17 >  . . . you were slaves of sin . . .
  • Spiritually dead. – Eph 2:1>  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  Rom 5:12 >  Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men
  • An enemy of God. – Rom 5:10 >  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
  • Spiritually deaf and blind. – Eze 12:2 >  Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear;  2Co 4:4 >  in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • By nature a child of wrath. – Eph 2:3 >  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath . . .
  • Darkened in your understanding, excluded from the Life of God and hardened in heart. – Eph 4:17 >  So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  Eph 4:18 >  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
  • Patterned after your spiritual father, Satan. – Joh 8:44 >  “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In Christ You Are Now:

  • Washed, sanctified, justified. – 1Co 6:11 >  . . .  you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  Rom 3:24 >  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
  • Indemnified (Though God rejects your sinful performance, He does not reject you!). – Rom 8:1 >  Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Alive (formerly dead). – 1Co 15:22 >  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  Eph 2:4 >  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,      Eph 2:5 >  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
  • A new creation. – 2Co 5:17 >  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come
  • Seated in heaven (present tense). – Eph 2:6 >  and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
  • Complete. – Col 2:10 >  and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

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