Religion of Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Source: Mensah, Richard Obeng
“…And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” – Acts 11:26(NIV).
The terms believer, Christian, and disciple have one thing in common; relationship. Despite this, they have some striking differences although each one leads to the other. For instance, believing births a person into a family; an intimate relationship with the head of that family makes that person a disciple of the head of the family; and that disciple while fulfilling his assignments as Jesus did is christened as a Christian by others. Thus a disciple of Jesus who executes her divine mandates is usually referred to as a Christian by other people. At what point then can a disciple be referred as a Christian? Till we see Christ in that disciple. A certain philosopher once said, “I will become a Christian the day I see one”. Thus a real Christian is Jesus in the flesh (visible Jesus). That person is like a written letter, the content of which is Jesus! Christianity is all about relationships; it is never a religion. The relationships are two-fold: absolute love for God, and qualified love for one’s neighbours. In other words, a person who desires to have a fruitful relationship with God must love Him with all of that person’s heart, might, and soul. Besides, that person must love his neighbour as himself. In Christianity, there are levels of relationships with God – believer (childhood), disciple (adulthood), and Christian (epistle of Christ). However, each level of the relationships must be founded on Jesus Christ.
God gives power to all persons who believe in the name of Jesus and receive him to become His sons (John 1:12). The power denotes the leadings of the Holy Spirit; become indicates a process and sons signifies maturity. Thus believing Jesus births a child of God. This child must grow in her faith in God through Jesus Christ in order to become a daughter of God. A real daughter or son of God must be lead by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of that person’s life. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” – Romans 8:14(KJV). All persons who are truly led by the Holy Spirit primarily seek to expand God’s kingdom on earth. They have also totally surrendered to the directions of the Holy Spirit by crucifying their personal desires. Thus a son of God becomes a disciple if that person takes up his cross (God-given assignment (purpose)) and follows Jesus Christ always. Following Jesus requires that that son must abide in God’s Word (John 15). The Word of God is thus the standard for everything that son does. This son then becomes a disciple of Jesus. Real disciples of Jesus are called Christians by others; but Jesus calls them friends! Besides, Jesus sees obedient disciples as his brothers and sisters.
A “born again” person is not necessarily a Christian! Similarly, a Law student is not a lawyer; he is only a potential lawyer. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, ‘…Through Christ, a repentant humanity may yet receive God’s GIFT of His Holy Spirit. To Nicodemus Christ said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”…Jesus explained, “That which is born of the flesh IS FLESH, and that which is born of the Spirit IS SPIRIT” (John 3:6). Man came from the ground. He IS flesh. Jesus was not talking about another physical birth or experience of conversion in this life – but about a spiritual birth…This Spirit-begotten Christian now has, conditionally, the PRESENCE OF ETERNAL LIFE-GOD LIFE-within him(or her), but He is NOT YET born an immortal SPIRIT BEING-not yet composed wholly of SPIRIT. He is now an heir of God as the son of a wealthy man is the heir of his father-but NOT YET “born again” –NOT YET an inheritor or a possessor. But IF His Holy Spirit dwells in us, God will, at Christ’s coming back to Earth as King of kings, “quicken” to immortality our mortal bodies BY His Spirit that dwells in us (Rom. 8:11; 1Cor. 15:49-53).’
Truly, ‘Satan has managed to deceive most of fundamentalist Christianity into believing they are already “born again” on accepting Christ. But just as in human reproduction when the HUMAN characteristics of form and shape and the human body and brain gradually begin to form during the period of gestation, so now the RIGHTEOUS and HOLY CHARACTER of God begins to take form and GROW”. This means that becoming a real Christian is not a sprint but a marathon. A believer of Jesus Christ ought not to just end at conversion but must be nourished and fed on God’s Word always. Besides, there must be continual and earnest prayer. These enhance the growth and character development (the fruit of the Spirit) process of that believer. Armstrong added, “Yet much of this spiritual character development comes through the Christian fellowship with other spiritually begotten people in God’s Church. Further, just as the human physical embryo and fetus are given physical nourishment through the human mother, God’s Church is the spiritual MOTHER of its members”. A believer does not become a Christian merely by a passage of time and experience in Christianity. Jimmy Carter, before he became the 39th president of the USA, was caged in this deception. He once confessed, “…I was asked by my denominational leaders to go on a pioneer mission effort. On the telephone, I said, ‘What am I supposed to do? I don’t know anything about mission work’. They said, ‘You just have to be willing, for a one-week period, to give your life completely to God, with no strings attached.’ Carter paused, smiled, and then resumed a serious expression. “At first I said, ‘Well, that’s easy.’ And then I reflected that, although I had been a Christian for thirty years, I had probably never given my life to God with no strings attached for even fifteen minutes.” The pause was even longer. And there was no smile. “And I went off on this mission later on and got a new perspective for Christianity, what it meant, in a personal way.” This means that a real Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ who has wholly given his life to God with no strings attached for even a second! Are you a real Christian?
Richard Obeng Mensah, author of Persecutions are Promotions.