Tag Archives: faith in God

Why Are We Christians? — Stephen Scaggs

Our inquiry is a personal one.  “Why are we Christians?”  Indeed, each of us owes an enormous debt to those who have gone on before us, from the faith of Abraham to the courage of restorationists like Guy N. Woods.  Many of us would not be Christians if it were not for our familial heritage, which seemed to be the case with Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).  Yet when it boils down to it, each of us is a Christian because each of us chose it.

The inspired physician tells us “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26c).  Since that day, this name “Christian” has bound all disciples together, whether Jew or Greek, whether male or female, whether black or white.  In a short time, this name infiltrated the houses of royalty and spread across the Roman Sea (Acts 28:14ff).  By sharing some of the reasons that we are Christians, we might persuade those who hear us each day to become just as we are (Acts 26:28-29).

We Are Christians Because God Has Called Us 

No list would be complete without mentioning God.  The apostle Peter wrote that we are Christians because of God who called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (2 Pet. 2:9).  Our English word “call” is quite vague, but the Greek word kaleo can either refer to the act of naming (e.g., as in Acts 11:26 mentioned earlier, or “He was called Jesus” [Luke 2:21], or summoning as in a court summons).  Peter uses the latter sense.  How does God summon us?  He beckons to us through the preaching of His gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14).  When people believe and surrender to the gospel call, God has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The apostle Peter repeatedly refers to our calling (i.e., when man responds to His calling) as a point of reference for the excellence of moral character.  His calling sets the precedence for our holy conduct (1 Pet. 1:15); that we may proclaim His excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9); for our following in Jesus’ steps (1 Pet 2:21); for how we retaliate (1 Pet. 3:9); and His calling is how we will inherit His eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:10; cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).

Let us “give the more diligence to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10) by living up to His holy calling.

We Are Christians Because We Believe In Jesus

At the very heart of Christianity is the person and work of Jesus Christ.  After all, He is the namesake of our religion.  Fifty days after Passover during the Jewish festival of Pentecost, the apostle Peter stood up and preached, “God hath raised [Jesus] up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).  The Christ, “though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:8-9).

At the center of Christianity are Jesus and His resurrection.  The fact of Jesus’ present living gives Him precedence over all false religions.  Indeed, as one poet writes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow/Because He lives, all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

By inspiration, Peter and John declared boldly before the Sanhedrin, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation is no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).

We Are Christians Because It Matters

The motivation for the Christian walk is the prize.  This was the case for the apostle Paul.  He wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  This was Paul’s driving force behind all that he did.  Paul pressed on because he understood his labors mattered.  As the apostle concisely wrote after discussing the general resurrection, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

“The uttermost hevel, says the Preacher, the uttermost hevel!  All is hevel!” (Eccl. 1:2, paraphrased).  This word hevel is a difficult to translate (and it is repeated several times in the Hebrew, simply underscoring the intensity of the word).  In an effort to translate it, some have rendered it “meaningless” (NIV, NLT); “vanity” (ESV; KJV; NASB; YLT); “futility” (HCSB); “pointless” (ISV).  While these words try to capture the meaning of the Hebrew word hevel, the point is not the life has no meaning, but that its meaning is not always readily apparent.  The Hebrew word hevel literally refers to “smoke.”  Just like being in a thick cloud of smoke, the meaning of life is not readily visible.  Yet there is meaning in what is concluded: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the totality of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

One day when Jesus returns, He will clear the smoke (hevel) and all the pains of this life will dissolve into eternity.  As we often sing, “Soon we will see our dear loving Savior/Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky/Then we will meet those gone on before us/Then we shall know and understand why…Farther along we’ll know all about it/Farther along we’ll understand why/Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine/We’ll understand it all by and by” (W.B. Stevens, “Farther Along”).

Conclusion 

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it contains sufficient reason for this writer to be a Christian.  We are Christians because God has called us, because we believe in Christ, and because it matters.  If you have never surrendered to Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so.  If you have any questions, the writers of the Carolina Messenger publication would be pleased to give you a Bible answer to any query you may have.

Stephen is a 2012 alumnus of the Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN.  He is currently living in Dublin, GA, where he is seeking to further his education in ministry.  He is married to Rebekah and they have two children, Emmett and Edison.

 

 

Psalm 73: Drawing Near To God – Samantha Harvey

Psalm 73 is unique in that it tells a story about the psalmist’s struggles with envy, doubts, and his faith in God. However, through his struggles the psalmist Asaph learned to trust in God.

Asaph describes what the pleasures of life could offer him based on the fortunes and prosperity of those around him (vs. 3-5). They had everything their hearts wanted and more and did not lack for anything. They had the confidence of one who could do anything he wished because he had no fear of the consequences. The psalmist describes his temptation to be envious of those earthly possessions because of how much easier they made living.

Asaph also observed the wickedness of his neighbors. They clothed themselves with violence to protect the pride they wore as jewelry (v. 6). The wicked mocked the Almighty God. Their attitude expressed an atheistic view by showing their doubt to His existence. One could say their attitude also expressed a deistic view in that if He did exist He was disengaged from the people (v. 11). Because they had no fear of or respect for God, the wicked felt and accordingly behaved as though there was no reason to give thought to their actions, to care for others, or to filter what comes out of their mouth (vs. 6-12). After all, if one does not believe in God, then he does not have to fear any consequences of committing sin not punishable by human law.

Asaph began to doubt himself for being good because he was plagued and chastened every morning (vs. 13-14). What was the point of all his suffering if this is what being good cost? It was too painful for Asaph to comprehend… until he went into the sanctuary of God (vs. 16-17). Only then did he come to understand the ultimate destiny of the wicked: destruction (vs. 18-20, 27).

Ladies, the world seems like it has a lot to offer us. Wealth, pride, and pleasures of all kinds are at the top of the list. However, in reality the world is a sinking ship. Asaph observed how the wicked spoke loftily, and the unfaithful of today share the same attitude (v. 8). The Hebrew word used for loftily means “‘haughtily,’ as if from on high.’” If we don’t serve the Most High God, we become self-serving and lead a sinful life. How would we be different than those evil people described in the psalm?

When we seek to serve ourselves, we don’t always make the right choices. Just look at the way people dress immodestly, speak hatefully to one another, use foul language, treat others disrespectfully, lie, steal, cheat and use the name of our God and Savior in vain. In addition, we see how people are affected negatively by greed and power every day. The news and cable programs on television reflect society’s unscriptural view of marriage and its promotion of irresponsible parenthood. The media also promotes premarital lust and fornication. Furthermore, people turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their troubled hearts, minds, and souls instead of turning to God for relief and comfort. I’m sure Asaph witnessed many of these same sins.

Feminism in some ways has been detrimental to the mindset of Christian women. God instructs women to be submissive to their husbands in everything “for the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Eph. 5:22-24). Ladies, do not think because you can gain power and money in your place of employment that you are entitled to rule your household. It is good for a woman to be able to provide for herself and her family within the guidelines set by God. Paul writes to Titus beseeching the older women to admonish the younger women to be home-makers and obedient to their own husbands (Titus 2:3-5). When choosing to work outside the home, ask yourself “Am I doing this because I want to or because I need to?”

Ladies, you don’t have to go down with the ship. Satan made his choice. He took the pathway that leads to destruction and awaits eternal damnation. He wants you to come with him. That is why he fuels your selfish desires. Abandon ship! Ladies, remember that you have a life preserver in Jesus Christ. He has planned to rescue you before the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). Yes, you are that important to Him! Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6).

Sadly, choosing to serve Jesus is a choice that few make “because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life” (Matt. 7:13-14). It is easier to serve ourselves and obtain our own satisfaction than it is to serve God. In order to serve God, we must make sacrifices of what we have, such as money and personal time, as well as what we allow ourselves to do. Asaph realized how the wicked are on the brink of disaster and how their wealth and pride are valueless in the place of eternity (vs. 18-19). Although we can empathize with Asaph for wanting to make things easy for himself, we can rejoice in his decision to renew his trust in God and his commitment to Him. Ladies, are we making the same decision?

When life gets hard and you start to doubt yourself or your faith weakens, do what Asaph did. Go to God and He will straighten things out for you. It was after doing this that Asaph realized his foolishness and was penitently thankful for God’s protection, counsel and reward (vs. 21-24). As a result, his trust in God was renewed as we can see in verses 25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Although being righteous as God asks will cost you things you could have while you are here on earth, it is something worth dying for because the reward is far greater than any pleasure this world could give. Going to God is no further than a prayer away and the effort of studying God’s Word is well worth it. It is the most important investment you could ever make and it has the most rewarding return! As Asaph said in verses 27-28, “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.”

James instructs us to “submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:7-8). Ladies, we are drawing near to God when we study our Bibles, pray, thank Him for all our many blessings, sing hymns and spiritual songs, and keep His commandments. I have found that I have to consciously make these decisions. Sometimes I struggle to study and pray as I should because I would rather read a novel, watch a movie, take a nap with my son, or run errands. However, when I choose to do God’s will for me, I benefit tremendously. The more I study and meditate upon God’s Word, the closer His teachings are at the front of my mind. Consequently I become more proactive with initial godly choices instead of reactive with self-serving choices. I can tell when I have not studied God’s Word enough because I end up looking back at a situation with remorse and repentance on what I should have done because the biblical teachings were at the back of my mind at the time. If only I had remembered God’s counsel when I needed to remember it! Ladies, only with continual study and meditation will we store up God’s words in our hearts so that we don’t sin against Him (Ps. 119:11).

It is best to approach situations with God in mind in foresight rather than hindsight. Asaph and James would agree that one can only do this if he or she is drawing near to God. When I draw near to God in the ways described above, my relationship with my husband is better because I remember to be submissive and exhort the qualities found in Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31. I feel like I am a better mother, a better friend, and a better teacher when I put to practice what I study in 1 Corinthians 13 where love is described. In these ways God has drawn near to me because I have drawn near to Him by studying His Word. Furthermore, studying has improved my prayer life because I learn the areas in my life that need improvement and can therefore petition the Almighty for assistance. Since there is always room for improvement, this will be a life- long process that takes a life-long commitment. However, we can accomplish it with God’s help (Phil. 4:13)!

In conclusion, we must regard the warning of Psalm 73 to not be envious of the prosperity of the wicked for they will receive their judgment in due time. Let us renew our trust and confidence in God by drawing near to Him through studying the Bible and prayer. I am thankful that God has given us in written form the tools to help us be successful in keeping His commandments. When we choose to use them, we will be better Christian women overall.

sharvey08@att.net