Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Who Are You?

I am in the process of rereading one of my favorite books, Neil T. Anderson's "Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of your Identity in Christ." It is the perhaps the most pivotal book I have read since becoming a Christian in 1991. I've read it a bunch of times and I always learn from it.

Today I just wanted to share what I feel is perhaps the most fundamental paragraph of the book; at least it is something that strikes me as the single-most paramount issue in actually living in a Christ-like manner. You might want to read the paragraph below a couple times and really understand what Neil Anderson is saying. I will leave you with his words and spare you from any commentary following the Anderson quote. Suffice it to say that I think this is absolutely HUGE. If you ever want to dialogue more on the topic of our identity in Christ, I'd love to do so.

Here it is:

Understanding your identity in Christ is essential for living the Christian life. People cannot consistently behave in ways that are inconsistent with the way they perceive themselves. You don't change yourself by your perception. You change your perception of yourself by believing the truth. If you perceive yourself wrongly, you will live wrongly because what you are believing is not true. If you think you are a no-good bum, you will probably live like a no-good bum. If, however, you see yourself as a child of God who is spiritually alive in Christ, you will begin to live accordingly. Next to a knowledge of God, a knowledge of who you are is by far the most important truth you can possess.

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Anonymous thomas aquinas said...

Okay, what if you are lying to yourself and you are living wrongly? Is there a penalty?

For instance, I can think of several public people who believe they are a "child of God" but they are really no-good bums (ie. Tom Delay, Jack Abramhof, Ralph Reed, Bob Nay).

Can they still know God even though they don't know themselves? What if nobody ever found out about their improprieties?

Is Neil Anderson saying, If a person is lying to themselves, they cannot know God? If so, do all Christians have to know this personal truth to live a "Christian life?" In other words, without this type of deep, "truthful" introspection can one still be considered a Christian?

Then again, who are we to judge them?

Just stirring the pot.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Doah said...

Dear Mr. Aquinas,

Thank you for stirring the pot. Seriously, I love pot stirrers. Jesus Christ was certainly a pot stirrer himself! I love this post and you are someone I would enjoy having coffee or dinner with. After all, I was a philosophy minor and love this stuff, faith questioning or whatever. Indeed, Jesus himself loved people who wrestled with faith and were not "cookie cutter" or "Kool-aide drinking" followers. Case in point, I love the story in the Gospel of Mark when this dad brings his son who has been having convulsions to Jesus. The dad says, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." (notice the "if" there). Jesus says, "Everything is possible for him who believes" and the father says, get this: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." I love that, it doesn't make sense! I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief. Jesus honored that, lack of faith and all, and healed the boy. Point being, Christ is okay with all of us having questions like this. He loves it.

You ask "What if I am lying to myself and living wrongly." That's a good question. Then no harm is done because the life Jesus commands to live is a life of loving. There are a few things you cannot do wrong, loving is one of them. Is there I penalty? I don't think so.

I don't know about Tom Delay, Jack Abramhof, Ralph Reed, or Bob Nay. I don't know for sure about anyone else, even people in my family. Only God knows the heart. Frankly, I would not gamble my salvation on anybody elses' right standing with God. One of my favorite quotes is: "When I get to Heaven I am going to be surprised by some of the people who are there, I'm going to be even more surprised by some of the people who are not there, but I will be most surprised of all that I am there."

How can I know I am right about my beliefs then? To me that question is like me asking, "How can you know you're an American?" Or, "How can you know you, Thomas, are the son of Mr. and Mrs. Aquinas?" I just know, I am a child of the Risen Christ.

One reason I know is best summed up in my favorite all-time greatest "testimony" there is. In the Gospel of John 9:25 this guy who had been blind since birth had been healed by Jesus and the religous leaders were mad. They questioned the ex-blind man about who Jesus was and he said: "I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see!" That is me. I see what putting my total faith in the Jesus of the Cross has done in my life. I have been changed. I can love better and I have this self-control that I never had before. One easy example is the supernatural ability I have to not drink any longer, I was blind and now I see!

I don't think Neil Anderson is saying if a person is lying to themselves they cannot know God. I don't really know what "lie" that might be. Is it the lie, "I am a good enough person." or the lie, "If I eat this Ben and Jerry's, I will feel better tonight" or maybe the lie, "It doesn't matter if I pitch-in here or help this person there."??

Here's what I know. This is what I believe it means to be a Christian, it's understanding these four truths:

1. All people, I mean all, have sinned and fall short of God's glory and standards.

2. The wages of sin is death (meaning seperation from God).

3. But God demonstrates his love for us by this: While we were STILL sinners, Christ died for US (including you Thomas).

4. If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved (that is no longer seperated from God).

Notice it doesn't say that you have to act a certain way or NOT do something any more (like drink or smoke) or do something more (like go to church or "know this personal truth") or talk a certain way. So your second to last question, "Can one still be considered a Christian?" I would have to say, "Yes." So long as they have believe and confess Jesus. I did this on September 22, 1991, I said, "Jesus I believe you died for me and were raised again and I want to live a life fully surrendered to you." All the other stuff, the "fruits" if you will come in time at different paces for different people.

Also, after that number 4 (that is surrender to Christ), I belive you will be filled with the Holy Spirt of the Living God. Then you will see things like love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control.

Regarding those people who think they are a "Child of God" and are really no-good bums. My closing thoughts are this. Jesus said two things that impress me. First, when asked what would make it clear to the world that somebody was his followers, he said it was one thing that would let you know they actually knew him. It wasn't a pro-life sticker on their car or a contribution to the Republican party or the lack of alcohol or going to church on Sundays. He said, "If you love one another" (John 13:35). Also, Jesus didn't come so that we could get into Heaven; rather, as he said, he came so we could have abundant life now.

My question to you is this Thomas, no matter where you are with God would you have the courage to pray a prayer? Let's say you don't believe in God at all then here's a prayer. "God, I don't believe in you, but I'm willing to consider anything if you show me." Let's say you think there might be a creator, but you don't think it's a Christian god, then the prayer may be, "God, creator of the universe, I believe you're there, but I don't know who you are, will you show me?" Maybe you like Aquinas think faith is reasonable not blind and you believe in Christ already then pray, "Christ, I already have made you my savior, but I don't know about some of these teachings, please let me know if I am lying to myself. Give me wisdom."

That's my challenge to you, pray an honest prayer for the next month to God. Even if it is "Hey, non-existant God, I think Doah and the Bible are full of crap, but go ahead and prove otherwise," I think that would be cool and courageous. Forget about Delay, Bush, Mel Gibson, and the other humans that have nothing to do with your abundant life and scream something up to the sky, admit your unbelief like the aforementioned father, just do something.

Most of all, thanks for the most awesome comment on my blog ever!

Finally, leave you with your own quote:

"Divine Wisdom judged it fitting that God should become man, so that thus one and the same person would be able both to restore man and to offer satisfaction."
--Aquinas's Shorter Summa (1273?)

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