devos from the hill


Leave a comment

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

 


Leave a comment

What is a “strong Christian”?

Have you ever heard this phrase used to describe someone? “Oh, he (or she) is a strong Christian.” When I hear that I can’t help but wonder, what is really being communicated? Is this describing someone who has been a Christian for many years, or perhaps a person with a lot of Bible knowledge, or maybe a teacher or a leader in the Church?

If these are the marks that define a strong Christian, then I’ve got to take what I am hearing with a grain of salt. Why? Well, for one thing, the Bible never uses that term to describe a Christ-follower. Secondly, in my 41 years of following Jesus, I have seen many people who could be described by those characteristics and yet they have faltered and fallen in their walk. In fact, I would count myself in that number.

Consider these verses . . .

Eph. 6:10 (NASB) – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

2 Cor. 12:9 (ESV) – “for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Cor. 12:10 (NASB) – “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Psa. 27:1 (KJV) – “the LORD is the strength of my life.”

John 15:5 (NASB) – “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

These verses make it clear that when it comes to the Christian life, our strength is not in and of ourselves. Our strength is in Jesus!  I love the observation that I picked up years ago from Bill Gillham. “The Christian life is not difficult. It is impossible. Jesus is the only one who had ever really lived the Christian life, and that is what He wants to do today, through you!”

The measure of a “strong Christian” is not how much he or she knows about God and His word, but rather how much he or she is depending on Jesus today. And please note that “today” is italicized for emphasis. The degree to which you depended on Jesus in the past will not make you strong today. Our dependency on Jesus must be present tense.

“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.

Who are you depending on right now? Are you drawing on your own resources to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1) or are you drawing upon His resource? If you are depending on His life in you (Gal.2:20), then you are a strong Christian.

 


Leave a comment

The Model Prayer – Pt 3/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 3 of 6
Expanded and Adapted From The HOPE Study Guide

 

If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can   find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important aspect of prayer. This is part 2 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 11.

Give us the day our daily bread.” – Matthew 6:11

When you give your life to God, you are no longer your own. You belong to Him, and your well-being is His responsibility. He is your Father, and He promises to provide what you need to live the life He has called you to live. Consider the following verses – Matthew 6:25-33, Psalm 37:25Philippians 4:19. It has been said that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision. That statement is most often applied to ministries, but it is equally applicable to people.

A plural prayer – Notice that this prayer instructs us to pray in the plural; “us” and “our”, not “me” and “my.”  As a child of your heavenly Father, you are a member of the Body of Christ. Your identity is only fully understood and experienced in relationship to His Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). If God has given you two loaves of bread, and you only need one, then He has given you your brother’s loaf. Your mission as a member of the Body of Christ is to allow your Father to show you who is to receive that second loaf.  In this, the Body will be built up, and the character of our Father will be made known.

A daily prayer – Why the “daily” part? For one thing, depending on God for your daily needs keeps your relationship with Him current and fresh. It also helps you to see a clear relationship between your need and His provision. Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of prayer is not to get things or to get things done. It is to glorify God by knowing Him and making Him known. When you pray specifically for a specific need and that prayer is answered in a specific way, then God becomes more real to you and to those around you who know what He has done. He receives glory, and you grow in your understanding of His character, His nature, and His ways.

A page from the life of George Mueller (1805-1898) – Prayer was the vital component of George Mueller’s nineteenth-century ministry to England’s orphans. As founder of several orphanages, he handled more than $8 million, although his own worldly possessions were valued at about $800 at his death. The following is just one example among many of Mueller’s dependency on God through prayer.

“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.*

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (petition) with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added).

* http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/george-mueller-orphanages-built-by-prayer-11634869.html

 


1 Comment

Creation of Adam & Eve – Part 1

What makes a human different from all of creation?
Lesson 9 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

– Genesis 1: 26-27

And on the sixth day, after God had created everything else, He formed the first man out of the dust of the earth. Then He breathed life into the man and the man became a living being. God called him Adam. And from the very flesh of the man, God created the first woman. Adam called her Eve. And Adam and Eve were different from all of creation, for God created them in His own image.

– The HOPE, Chapter 1

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Notice from The HOPE excerpt and the Bible verse above that man was created “in the image of God.” What does it mean to be made in God’s image? To answer this question people often cite characteristics in humans that are similar to the characteristics they attribute to God. These might include the capacity to be creative, to reason, to make choices, communicate, and experience complex emotions.

Some would argue that certain animals display (to some extent or another) many of these same “God–like” characteristics. They would say (rightly or wrongly) that the primary distinction between humans and animals is not one of essence or nature, but rather one of degree, and that humans are only more highly developed (or evolved) animals. Yet the Bible says that “God created man in His own image,” a distinction not given to any other creature.

Genesis 2:7 offers some important insight in this issue:

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Notice from this verse that after forming man’s physical being from the dust of the ground, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Hebrew word (nephesh) translated here as “being” may also be translated as “soul.” Soul refers to the nonphysical or nonmaterial part of a person. Some people believe that animals, too, have “souls.” Whether that is the case is not the point here. What’s significant is that – according to the Bible – the way in which man received a soul is entirely unique to man. He received it directly from God Himself! Continue reading


2 Comments

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The Grand Story that explains every other story.
Lesson 5 from The HOPE Study Guide

Observe & Consider

At heart, we are storytellers. Most of us have been in situations where a story is told, and then someone else responds by telling a related story of their own, which evokes a similar response from yet another person. And on it goes. We are all drawn to the power of a great story, and even more, we desire to identify with and enter into a story greater than our own.

In fact, some sociologists say that the essential quest of humankind can be understood as a search for “metanarrative” or “metanarra.”1 This term refers to a grand story or archetypal account or ideology in which other stories find their meaning. Regardless of culture or rank or station or occupation, man quite naturally searches for some story in which all other stories find their meaning…a story in which we ourselves find our meaning.

Throughout time, people have derived meaning and purpose from stories (metanarra) handed down to them through culture or religion. But in the late 19th century a worldview called modernism2 emerged, claiming that those kinds of traditional metanarra are no longer relevant to our modern world. Modernism sought to replace the “old” stories and religious values with the arguments of reason and the findings of science. These, the modernists said, would define for us the meaning and purpose of our lives, thus creating the new metanarra. Continue reading