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Bible Insights

Count the Cost: Is Christianity Easy or Hard?

Regardless of Circumstances, God Walks With Us

In Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth, he warns them not to deceive others or distort God’s word (2 Corinthians 4:2). That is, don’t misrepresent God’s character or intent to the world.

Yet, this happens. Some people, in their zeal for Jesus, promise those on the outside that if they just say “yes” to Jesus, then all their problems will go away and life will become easy.

It doesn’t work that way.

Jesus says to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), that his followers may pay a price for their commitment to him.

God promises we will not be defeated, anguished, forgotten, or ruined. Click To Tweet

Paul details this heavy cost. But along with each threat he gives assurance of God’s provision (2 Corinthians 4:8-9):

  • Hard pressed from every direction, but not crushed
  • Perplexed, but not in despair.
  • Persecuted, but not abandoned.
  • Struck down, but not destroyed.

So when we follow Jesus we can expect to be harassed, mystified, attacked, and hurt. Yet in this, God promises we will not be defeated, anguished, forgotten, or ruined.

We must count the cost before we follow Jesus, because committing ourselves to him may bring about hardship, but take courage knowing that God will prevail and help us through these trying situations.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 4:2, 8-9.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Peter DeHaan News

Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide

Celebrating the Spirituality of Everyday Life

Are You a Spiritual Person?

What parts of your life are spiritual?

Sorry. Trick question.

All parts of our lives are spiritual. Seriously. It’s just that most people don’t know it.

Most people think of church as a spiritual activity and everything else is not, as in secular. They live their life with a spiritual/secular divide. They compartmentalize their spiritual activity, shoving it aside so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of their life.

It’s time we (re)discover the spirituality of everyday life. It’s time we celebrate the spirituality of living.

  • Our family and our holidays are spiritual.
  • Our work and our passions are spiritual.
  • Our money is spiritual and so is our health.
  • Our existence in God’s creation is spiritual.
  • Yes, every aspect of our life is spiritual.

Let’s explore the spirituality of everyday life. Let’s embrace the spirituality of living.

Read Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide to discover more. It’s playful yet profound, quirky yet insightful. Get your copy today.

[Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide was originally published as Woodpecker Wars.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Is Christian a Noun or an Adjective?

Let’s Stop Using Christian as an Adjective

Do you call yourself a Christian? What does that word mean to you? What might it mean to others? Especially to those who aren’t part of our faith community? Let us consider if we should use Christian as a noun, Christian as an adjective, or Christian as something else.

Christian in the Bible

The word Christian does occur in Scripture, but not often.

Luke uses it twice in the book of Acts. He first confirms that the word popped up in Antioch (Acts 11:26). It was a label given to those who follow Jesus, that is, the Christ (the Messiah). Later King Agrippa uses it when talking to Paul at his trial (Acts 26:28).

Peter is the only other biblical writer who uses the word, Christian. He writes about those who suffer for their faith as followers of Jesus. He encourages them to not be ashamed but to praise God (1 Peter 4:16). Implicitly, when our walk with Jesus aligns so closely with him, that we face attack, this persecution, in effect, confirms our faith. Although unwanted, this opposition becomes a praiseworthy event.

Noun Versus Adjective

In each of these cases, the writers use Christian as a noun. This is an appropriate convention for us to follow. However, we often encounter this word misused as an adjective: as in Christian music, Christian movie, Christian business, Christian community, and Christian book, to name a few common usages. And singer Steve Taylor facetiously sang a song that mentioned a Christian cow. This jest certainly shows the absurdity of employing Christian as an adjective

Although the dictionary now permits using Christian as an adjective—no doubt prompted because of its common misuse—we must remind ourselves that this usage isn’t a biblical application for the word. Rob Bell writes that “Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective” (Velvet Elvis, page 84).

Yet even as a noun, Christian means different things to different people. Because of that it’s a label packed with misunderstanding. For this reason, I personally don’t like the tag of Christian, and I try to minimize using it. I prefer calling myself a follower of Jesus, or if I’m being overly confident, a disciple of Jesus. Yet to avoid confusing my audience, I sometimes resort to saying that I’m a Christian.

As an author who often writes books for the Christian market—that is, for followers of Jesus—I’m often confronted with the need to use Christian as an adjective for the sake of clarity. This results in admitting that I am a Christian author and that I write Christian books. (More correctly, I am an author who is a Christian—that is, I follow Jesus. And my books are for other Christians—that is, other followers of Jesus.) My attempts to explain these two truths without using the word Christian, only confuses people and leads them to make wrong assumptions about me and the topics I cover.

Would we benefit by thinking of Christian as a verb? Click To Tweet

Should Christian be a Verb?

I, along with many others, have advocated that love is a verb. That is, love isn’t how we feel or think; it’s how we act. We show our love by what we do.

I wonder if we would likewise benefit by thinking of Christian as a verb. Yes, being a Christian is about belief and faith, but if we don’t put our faith into action, what good is it? Can we have a true faith without doing good (James 2:14-19)?

Moving Forward as Christians

I encourage you to embrace Christian as a noun, stop using it as an adjective, and explore how you can turn it into a verb. This may be the most effective witness we can offer.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should We Deconstruct Christianity?

Celebrate Reformation as an Ongoing Process

If you investigate what the word deconstructionism means, you may encounter a disconnected understanding, which seems to vary depending on the context. At a basic level, to deconstruct means looking at what is and asking, “Why?”

This question opens the door to dismantle status quo conventions and practices to explore the foundation beneath them. Then deconstruction rebuilds on that foundation from an informed perspective. The effort to deconstruct results in the opportunity to reconstruct.

Deconstruction

Deconstructionism is something most Millennials embrace. Though I’m not a Millennial by birth, I do share much of their mindset and many of their ideals. To adapt the present-day lingo, I identify as Millennial.

Most of what I write about in my books and blog posts embrace this underlying theme of deconstruction from a Christian perspective. I look at what is and ask why?

It seems, I’m always wondering, “why?

I dismantle the status quo to its biblical foundation. From there I reconstruct faith practices using Scripture as the basis for truth. For example, at a basic level, I recently looked at the proper posture for prayer. On a more serious note, I also explored how to be saved.

In between these bookends, I’ve examined and attempted to reform a plethora of God-honoring spiritual practices and faith perspectives over the years.

I don’t do this because I’m questioning my faith. I do it to grow my faith and my relationship with Jesus.

Reformation

If the idea to deconstruct concerns you, here’s another word: reform. To me, spiritual deconstruction and reformation are two words with the same lofty goal.

The Protestant Reformation happened five centuries ago, often pinned to the date Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door on October 31, 1517. But this work of Luther and other like-minded Christian inquisitors wasn’t a once-and-done initiative. Reformation is ongoing. And we may need it today more than any other time in the past 500 years.

Though Luther’s reform efforts eventually expanded to cover a wide plethora of unbiblical faith practices, it all started with indulgences. For many followers of Jesus, the word indulgence is an unknown idea and a confusing concept. In simple terms, an indulgence is a way to reduce the amount of punishment for sins by taking an action, such as saying a specific prayer (often a stipulated number of times), going to a certain place, or performing a specified good deed—as in doing penance.

These actions are all admirable, yet in Luther’s day the practice of indulgences expanded to an unbiblical, unhealthy, and selfish level. Indulgences, which, at the risk of oversimplification, allowed people to effectively buy their salvation without repenting or making any effort to follow Jesus. It was a church fundraising effort run amuck.

This practice of indulgences so concerned Luther that he wrote a treatise listing ninety-five concerns he had that related to the churches then practice of indulgences. We refer to this list as Luther’s ninety-five theses. His goal was to reform—that is, to deconstruct and then reconstruct—indulgences.

Though Luther sought a respectful discussion among church leaders about the overreach of indulgences, he lost control of the discussion when his well-meaning followers translated his concerns into German, printed the list, and shared them with the masses. This removed his hope for making an informed and intentional change within the Church.

Many other voices lent their concerns to the church’s practices of the day, with each one pointing toward the need for reform—to deconstruct and reconstruct. But it was Luther’s 95 theses that we often point to as the central impetus for the Protestant Reformation. The date pinned to this Reformation is the above-mentioned October 31, 1517, even though significant reform work by others preceded and followed that date.

The collective result of all this work to deconstruct and reconstruct was a new faith practice, eventually known as Protestantism. Note the root word protest, which is what the movement was: a protest against the Church. For its part, the Roman Catholic church later embarked on its own mini reformation, addressing many of Luther’s concerns.

Let us better inform and reform our spiritual practices to grow our faith and walk closer with our Lord. Click To Tweet

Ongoing Reforms

Many who embrace the Protestant Reformation don’t view reform as a singular act. Instead, they see it as a principal that points to the need for ongoing reformation.

Whether we call this work deconstruct or reform, may we forever ask the imperative question of why? As we do so, let us better reform and inform our spiritual practices to grow our faith and walk closer with our Lord.

Toward that end, I pledge to continue to ask why and will share my conclusions here and in my books.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Does Going to Church Make You a Christian?

The World’s Answer Doesn’t Align with the Truth

I recently read an article about church attendance that vexed me. It came from a Christian magazine. It addressed going to church. The author claimed to have statistical proof that Christians were turning their backs on their faith. What was the stat that caused him to make this rash conclusion?

Quite simply that overall church attendance is down. He made the erroneous assumption that church attendance equated to faith. In his mind, no church attendance meant no faith.

Sadly, I’ve heard the same misguided assumption too many times.

Joyce Meyer, however, smartly puts this in perspective. She says, “Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn’t make me a car.”

Well said, Joyce.

Christians in Church

Many Christians attend church. Some go every week, some go once or twice a month, and a few go sporadically. That’s what good Christians do; they have a practice of going to church. At least that’s the conventional wisdom from those on the inside.

I’m there most every week, but the hour I spend at church each Sunday morning isn’t central to my faith. My faith grows most at other times of the week. The Sunday service is an ancillary practice.

Christians Not in Church

Yet not all Christians are in church on Sunday. Some stay away, either through circumstances or preference. I don’t view these folks as less than, even though most well-meaning church proponents do.

I don’t know who said it first, but many have repeated it over the years or agree with its sentiment. “I didn’t leave the church because I lost my faith. I left the church to keep it.”

Yes, there are those who stopped going to church because the experience detracted from their faith instead of enhancing it. Their meaningful spiritual experiences happen outside the four walls of the traditional church on Sunday morning.

Non-Christians in Church

There are three groups of people at most churches each Sunday:

  1. Christians
  2. People who think they’re Christians
  3. Non-Christians who want to learn more

Most churches are comprised of people in the first two groups. The third group rarely comes to church anymore. The church was once a respected institution, a safe place to go to find answers, but few in the non-churched portion of society feel that way anymore.

They may have needs, but they stay away. This brings us to the final category.

Non-Christians Not in Church

Aside from the people who think they’re Christians and aren’t, most non-Christians would never dream of walking into a church building to seek answers or have their spiritual needs met.

These people reside outside the church. If the church wants to reach them, they need to leave the comfort of their building and go out into the world to tell others about Jesus and make disciples (see Matthew 28:19-20).

Church is not a building. The true church of Jesus is the people who follow him as his disciples. Click To Tweet

The Truth about Church

In our discussion about church, we’ve not addressed the most critical consideration. That is, church is not a building. The true church of Jesus is the people. We are—or at least we should be—one united, universal collection of people who follow Jesus as his disciples.

Given this perspective, going to church each Sunday morning doesn’t matter too much. How we live our faith the other 167 hours of the week is where we need to focus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Don’t Make Christians; Make Disciples

Go into All the World and Make Disciples

About two billion people in the world call themselves Christians, more than those who align themselves with any other religion. But how many will call themselves disciples of Jesus? The Bible never tells us to make Christians or even to be a Christian. But it talks a lot about disciples and discipleship.

Make Christians

For most people, at least in developed nations, becoming a Christian is easy. For many it involves saying a prayer. For others, going to church is all it takes. Some even look at their family tree as the only requirement for them to call themselves Christian.

Other considerations that carry the Christian label might involve joining a church, checking off a box on a commitment card, or donating money.

With these things standing as the only prerequisite, being a Christian is simple and requires little effort. Churches smugly count members, attendance, or decisions. And that seems good enough for them.

Yet to mean something worthwhile, Christianity must be more than a trivial, one-time act. It must be a commitment to live a changed life that makes a difference.

That may be why Jesus told us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

Stop being a Christian and instead become a disciple of Jesus. Click To Tweet

Make Disciples

A disciple is someone who follows and wants to be like their master, their Rabbi. It’s a total, all-in commitment to a different lifestyle.

Look at Jesus’s disciples. To start, they left their old life behind. Then they spent their time with him. They listened to his teaching and asked him questions. Later they told others about him and healed people in his name.

This was their training. Their prep. Then, just before he left Earth to return to heaven, Jesus told them to make disciples throughout the world.

First, they waited for Holy Spirit power. Then, when they told people about Jesus, thousands responded. The disciples continued to heal the hurting and help those in need. They taught people about Jesus and what it means to follow him and be his disciple.

They formed the first churches, which are far different than today’s versions and which pale in contrast to the gatherings that Jesus’s disciples started. They ignited a spiritual movement that spread around the world.

This is what it means to be a disciple. Few Christians do this. It’s easy to be a Christian, but Jesus doesn’t want us to be Christians. He wants us to be disciples. As disciples we point people to him and make a difference in our world—a difference that matters, both here and into eternity.

Go and Make Disciples

Stop being a Christian and instead be a disciple maker. And it starts by becoming a disciple of Jesus ourselves.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

They’ll Know We’re Christians By Our Love

Followers of Jesus Should Carefully Consider the Message We Send to the World

A song from my youth carries the title, which repeats in the chorus, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” If you’re not familiar with this song, check out the lyrics or watch a video.

Though not the style of music I listened to then or prefer now, the haunting melody drew me in and served as a bridge to connect my growing, yet questioning, faith with the 60s Jesus movement, for which I was born a bit too late. Christian love became my focus in all that I did.

Christian Love

This phrase, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” became my anthem then and persists today as a key guiding principle for life and living. In Paul’s popular teaching on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he ends by saying that three things will last forever, faith, hope, and love.

In this trio, love stands above the other two. That means, love is the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The biblical basis for this song’s title and chorus is perhaps John 13:35, where Jesus says to his disciples that everyone will know they follow him if they love each other.

That is, “They’ll know you’re my followers by your love.” Of course, the Bible has many other verses about love and the importance of loving one another.

When we truly love one another, we point people to Jesus. Isn’t that our purpose?

Christianity Unity

A secondary theme in this song is unity, specifically Christian unity. It says we are one in the Holy Spirit and one through Jesus. It also prays for the restoration of unity and ends with an acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit unites us.

Jesus echoes this need for unity. In his final prayer before his execution, he asks his father that all his followers—both present and future—will be one—that is, united—just as he and Papa are (John 17:21). Christian unity then, is another trait that points people to Jesus.

We must pursue Christian love and unity, Click To Tweet

Christian Love and Unity

Sadly, our world today does not celebrate Christianity for our love or our unity. Instead too often society views Christians as purveyors of hate and the cause of division. Our 42,000 Protestant denominations prove that we can’t get along and don’t care about unity.

The world hears these messages and rejects Jesus because of them—because of us.

Instead we must pursue Christian love and unity. And not just for the sake of love and unity, but for the sake of pointing people to Jesus. May the world know we are Christians because we love one another, and may they know we are Christians because we all get along.

If we can master Christian love and unity, everything else will fall into place.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should Christians Follow Jesus, Be His Disciple, or Go as a Missionary?

We Must Choose Labels with Care for They Reflect Our Identity and Our Theology

By definition I am a Christian, but I’ve always shied away from that word. It means different things to different people, not all of which are positive. For too many, Christian is a negative label implying narrow minded, bigoted, or hate-filled people.

Since these things make me cringe and don’t describe me, I typically avoid saying or writing the word Christian. Instead I say I’m a follower of Jesus.

I could also say I’m a disciple of Jesus, but I’m wary of that for fear that I too often fall short. Others say that they’re missionaries for Jesus, which implies following him and being his disciple. But that label never clicked with me either.

What insight does the Bible give us about which label we should use?

Christian

Interestingly, the word Christian only appears three times in the Bible, twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter. People who know Greek tell me it means “little Christs.” It may have first been a derisive term (Acts 11:26 and Acts 26:28), which was later accepted by Jesus’s squad (1 Peter 4:16).

But the fact that the Bible rarely uses Christian is telling. I wonder if we should avoid it too, especially given how emotionally laden this word has become.

Follower of Jesus

In the Bible, the idea of following Jesus occurs a lot in its various forms. This includes, they “followed him” (27 times), “follow me” (22), “followed Jesus” (5), and “following Jesus” (2).

The command Jesus seems to give most often to people who approach him is to follow him. Though he sometimes says, “repent and follow me,” the idea of following implies a prior repentance. Think of repent as doing a U-turn; we must do a U-turn if we follow Jesus.

Disciple of Jesus

Disciple, which means an “active adherent” or “someone who embraces and spreads the teachings of another,” occurs in the Bible a lot. It occurs nearly three hundred times in the New Testament, all in the four biographies of Jesus and the book of Acts.

Disciple emerges as the preferred descriptive term in the Bible for those who follow Jesus, a.k.a. Christians. I suppose disciples refers to the early church, but church isn’t used nearly as often (114 times), mostly by Paul. Besides church is perhaps an even bigger misused and misunderstood term.

A disciple is someone who embraces and spreads the teachings of Jesus. Click To Tweet

Missionary of Jesus

In last week’s post on the Great Commission, which many see as a call to be a missionary, the word go emerges as the first action step. Missionary refers to someone who goes to persuade or convert others, but it doesn’t appear in the Bible at all. It’s a word we added after the Bible was written.

I wonder if we should likewise avoid using it. That doesn’t mean being a missionary of Jesus isn’t biblical or is wrong, but it does imply it might be the wrong label.

Let’s go back to the definition of disciple. A disciple is someone who embraces and spreads the teachings of another person, in our case Jesus. This means that as a disciple, we are by default a missionary—or at least we should be.

Frankly, that makes me squirm a bit. It’s easy for me to be a missionary for Jesus in the words I write, but it’s a much more challenging task to be a missionary with the words I say, at least to those opposed to Jesus.

Conclusion: Be a Disciple of Jesus

Though we can call ourselves Christians or identify as part of the church, being a disciple of Jesus emerges as the most accurate, biblical, and appropriate label to use. Both following Jesus and being a missionary for Jesus are embedded in what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus.

I’m going to start making that mental shift from being a follower of Jesus to being a disciple of Jesus. Will you join me in this journey? It could change everything.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do You Hold an Unexamined Theology?

Accepting What We’re Taught Without Scrutiny May Cause Us to Believe Things That Aren’t True

In the book of Acts, Dr. Luke writes about the Jews that lived in the town of Berea. He called them people with a “more noble character.” What did they do to deserve this label of respect? This was due to their reaction to Paul’s teaching.

Each day they listened attentively to what Paul said, and then they studied their scriptures to see if Paul’s teaching aligned with it. They checked to see if Paul spoke truth (Acts 17:11).

We should follow their example.

Seriously.

If we don’t we’re likely to hold an unexamined theology. In fact, we’re likely to hold many of them. Sometimes an unexamined theology will turn out to be sound, but other times it’s incorrect.

That’s why we need to carefully examine everything we’re taught about spiritual matters and make sure we only accept what the Bible backs.

Consider these three examples.

Unexamined Theology about Prayer

My parents and my church taught me three key requisites to prayer. We must close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads before we pray. When young me asked why, I received a logical explanation. By closing my eyes, I shut myself off from distraction.

By folding my hands, I kept them from wayward movement. And by bowing my head, I showed reverence to God. It made sense. I accepted this is truth and obeyed.

Yet I don’t find any of these praying requirements supported in Scripture. I’ve not found a biblical command to do these things or even a verse that describes people doing them. But I have found verses of people gazing upward into heaven when they pray (such as Jesus in Mark 7:34).

Even though this isn’t a command, it’s more biblical than the three things I was taught.

Closing our eyes, folding our hands, and bowing our head as part of prayer isn’t in the Bible. It’s an unexamined part of our theology.

Unexamined Theology about Christian Life

Have you ever heard someone say that when you become a Christian, all your problems will go away and life will become easy? I have. I’ve heard it many times over the years, from well-meaning preachers and earnest proselytizers. But this isn’t in the Bible either.

Instead, Jesus tells us to count the cost and be willing to give up everything to follow him (Luke 14:33). This doesn’t sound like an easy life but a hard one.

Another time Jesus says that we should expect trouble (John 16:33). And James talks about us facing trials, as if it were normal. He tells us to accept these with joy and to persevere (James 1:2-4, 12).

Believing that following Jesus will erase our problems and produce an easy life is another unexamined theology.

How much of our theology do we blindly accept as fact when there is no biblical basis for it? Click To Tweet

Unexamined Theology about God’s Provision

Have you ever heard the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” or perhaps stated a bit differently, as “the Good Lord helps them who helps themselves.”? Though it sounds biblical and even offers comfort, it’s not in the Bible either. Yet many people, perhaps most people, think it is.

Though this message of self-sufficiency may play well with the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” culture of the United States, it’s not a biblically sound concept. Instead we’re supposed to seek God first (Matthew 6:33).

Unexamined Theology about Becoming a Christian

Having an unexamined theology about the proper way to pray is of no damaging consequence. However, holding unexamined theologies about Christian living and God’s provision is more significant.

But the most damaging—perhaps damning—is what people teach about how to become a Christian. Many things loudly proclaimed from the pulpit aren’t in the Bible. These include asking Jesus into our heart or saying the sinner’s prayer.

True, these things may be loosely based on biblical teaching, but they aren’t the requirement many people make them out to be. Jesus never said these things, but what he did often say is “follow me.” (I cover this in detail in my book How Big is Your Tent?).

Yet I never heard a preacher teach that all we need to do to become a Christian is to follow Jesus.

How much of our theology do we blindly accept as fact when there is no biblical basis for it? We will do well to follow the example of the Bereans who accepted what they were taught with eagerness but then studied the Scriptures to make sure it was true.

When we do this, it will help us from embracing an unexamined theology that is in error.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Are You a Christian?

Discover What Label Best Describes Our Faith

Are you a Christian? Be careful before you answer. By definition I am a Christian, though I seldom use the Christian label. Why?

In my book How Big is Your Tent?, I write: “Christian is a loaded term. It means many things to different people. To some, Christian implies narrow-minded.

To others, Christian means hateful. Still others think Christian is a political party or secular movement. And what about mean, militant, murdering, manipulative, and money-mongering?” (page 32).

This explains why I don’t like the Christian label. Most non-Christians think negatively towards Christians. Though Jesus has a different goal in mind, that our love for others will create a positive impression, we’ve given the world many reasons to conclude the opposite.

Christian in the Bible

It’s interesting that the word Christian only appears three times in the Bible (four more if you count subheadings that aren’t part of the original text). The most notable is in Acts when Luke introduces the term as a new name for Jesus’s squad (Acts 11:26).

However, after what seems to emerge as a significant development, Luke only uses the term one more time, as does Peter. The word Christian doesn’t catch on in the Bible.

Obviously, Scripture doesn’t favor the Christian label. So what does it use?

Followers in the Bible

Instead of using the Christian label, I often say, “I’m a follower of Jesus.” One of the most common instructions Jesus gives people is to follow him. That’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m a follower of Jesus.

The word follower appears twenty-four times in both the Old and New Testaments, but most references are to following someone else, such as Korah, Abimelek, David, and Omri in the Old Testament, as well as Paul and Judas (not the disciple) in the New Testament. And, of course, we can follow Jesus.

The Way in the Bible

The Way is another label the Bible uses to refer to the group of people who align with Jesus. Though intriguing, it only occurs twice in the Bible, both in the book of Acts.

Believers in the Bible

Making one appearance in the Old Testament, the word believer occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, half of them in the book of Acts, but it only shows up three times in the Gospels, all in the book of John.

Though I’m tempted to call myself a believer, I shy away from this label because of what James writes. He says that even the demons believe in God—and shutter (James 2:19). This tells me that believing isn’t enough.

If we say we’re with Jesus, we need to start acting like it. Click To Tweet

Disciples in the Bible

Another intriguing label is disciple. With the exception of twice in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the word disciple pops up almost 300 times in the New Testament, all in the biographies of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the book of Acts.

Some references specifically address the twelve disciples and a few others to John the Baptist’s disciples, but most are to the larger group of Jesus’s disciples.

It’s one thing to follow Jesus: to make a U-turn in our life and go all in for him. However, being his disciple implies an even greater level of commitment. Though I like to think of myself as a disciple of Jesus, it’s a weighty claim. I question if I live up to it, despite striving to do that exact thing.

But the Label Doesn’t Matter

However, whether we call ourselves a Christian, a follower of Jesus, a follower of The Way, a believer in Jesus, or a disciple of Jesus, it doesn’t matter.

Until we change our behavior and love others as Jesus tells us to, the world will still think less of us and have a negative impression of our faith, along with the God we claim to serve.

If we say we’re with Jesus, we need to start acting like it. Then our faith label won’t so much matter.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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