It amazes me how people miss this truism. Truism? Yeah, a truism… click here.
I coined that opening phrase after observing lots of leaders who just didn’t seem to get it.
So let’s get this point straight, once and for all– explaining the truth in both negative and positive-statement forms:
People don’t follow people they don’t like
People generally follow people they do like
The answer isn’t the Mr. Nice Guy Dale Carnegie Solution: to ditch your convictions and to become a spineless wimp who believes nothing, has no opinions, and who only wants acceptance. You know, the Chamber of Commerce Guy.
But being a person of conviction doesn’t mean you need to earn a (D.D.) Doctorate of Disagreeability to “PROVE” just how much conviction you really have. Lots of leaders are so interested in COMPETENCE and IQ that they have no CHEMISTRY and EQ (emotional quotient). Good social skills are woefully lacking in many a leader and interpersonal interactions are half of our jobs as leaders.
I regularly work to evaluate my own likeability. Sure, people misread you and I sometimes– but that’s life. We can’t lose sleep over those who might assign false motives to us or have some kind of an axe to grind. But we can work to make the most of every opportunity to be our best selves because that’s the one that influences others.
The Christian life, and Christianity is general, is largely misunderstood in American and perhaps other cultures. There are many reasons, I’m sure, but I’m certain that part of it is because of caricatures assigned to it by non-adherents, and it is also due to the failure of many who profess Christ to articulate their faith with clarity AND TO LIVE their faith with integrity.
So I’m ask the question… What is the Christian life?
I am a Christian. That means I believe in Jesus Christ.
I follow Christ. I am wrapping my life and existence around the teachings of Jesus.
The Christian life is first and foremost about individual people who, in the warp and woof of life, have walked down the winnowing path of human existence and—through any number of experiences and events—come to a point in their thinking, where they realized that all was not well.
It happens in so many ways. This realization leads a person to a point where they feel drawn to God in an increasingly tangible way, and become more and more open to the possibility and—ultimately, the reality, that Jesus Christ is a living reality—an existential BEING who is capable of and interested in cultivating a relationship with each of us, and specifically ME—or, YOU, as the case may be.
And at some point, that person acknowledges the reality of God, and the truth of Christ, and commits his or her life to Jesus by surrendering to His authority.
This type of belief is sometimes called “saving faith.”It is called “Salvation” by Christians, because one is QUOTE, saved, from himself—saved from the ramifications of his or her decisions and actions that wounded their relationship to God and that violated God’s authority.
This belief is associated with a recognition of the fact that things in our lives didn’t go the way they ought to have gone—that we failed to be all we were created to be—that we often violated our consciences to recklessly pursue desires and directions that were fundamentally and diametrically opposed to that which is good. And this pursuit of vice ended up causing us to violate others, ourselves and most importantly, the God who created us in His image. And for that reason, because we have an obligation to him as our Maker—just as a child might be obligated to recognize the authority of his parent or parents, we must answer to Him for our disobedience and our loss or, perhaps better, the forfeiture of virtue.
This acknowledgment is essentially the recognition that, though we are persons of value, we are nonetheless soiled— that is, we are contaminated… and that the contamination we suffer and bear is the outcome of our own doing. We must recognize that, left unattended, that corruption will ultimately result in our undoing.
So a person in this condition calls out to God, silently or audibly—it matters not, and in the sanctuary of their hearts, their innermost beings, they admit to God that they are estranged from a right and harmonious and peaceful relationship with him—and that the reason for this is our own personal rebellion— something that could and should be rightly called “sin” meaning, disobedience toward God.
This disobedience was against God and we know that is the case because we understand and FEEL guilty and culpable for violating our conscience and, wittingly or unwittingly, have also violated the standards God articulated in his love letter to humanity—which is what the Holy Bible actually is.
So the Holy Bible provides us with the written standard of what God desires and expects, and what is required for us to live in harmony with him… and, incidentally, with others.
So the attitude of a person wanting to repair his relationship with God confesses this reality of sin and the resultant loss of inner peace and asks God to forgive him or her. What this means is that, such a person feels sorrow, contrition, regret, disappointment and even guilt for past thoughts, attitudes, and actions, and then ASKS FOR and receives forgiveness from God.. and this then INITIATES a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ. And such a person considers Jesus his only hope for abundant living now and eternal life now and later.
And what that means is that a person who desires to be reconciled with God and to patch up his or her relationship with God and to enter into a real and actual relationship with the God of the Universe invites the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ into his life and then begins a new life—ONE that seeks to cultivate a relationship with God.
That is what it means to become a Christian—being reconciled to God by Faith Alone through Christ Alone.
It begins with the assumption that Jesus DID come to earth.
Jesus is the most well-attested historical person from the ancient world.Historical knowledge and reference to him far exceeds that of any person of antiquity—this would include the likes of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Plato, Socrates, or anyone else a person could think of.
When it comes to leaders of various faiths, so little is known about some religious leaders of the past that they are more legendary than historical. Not so with Jesus. In fact, to deny the existence or historicity of Christ is as intellectually dishonest as it would be to deny the holocaust—no self-respecting or legitimate person would be so brazen to do it.
So Jesus did, in fact, come to earth.
And if so… what did he come to do?
Well, the Bible teaches that Jesus was not only a regular human being coming to earth in order to restore social justice or to point to a particular deity. Indeed! No, rather Jesus came as a being who was a single person, but one with two natures—that is to say, Jesus was God Incarnate… God in the flesh. And this Jesus—the Christ (Jesus, the Messiah) was what Christians call the God-Man. He was AND IS a person, the only person, with a divine and a human nature. Fully man, fully God. Jesus was and IS God in the flesh.
One wonders, Why in the world would God come to earth? And it’s important to understand that Christianity does not teach that it was God the Father who came to earth, but that God—in His infinite and unknowable wisdom, existed eternally in the past as Father, Son and Spirit—and that these three persons COLLECTIVELY formed one God. I know, it’s hard to wrap your mind around… but Christianity and the Bible and ALL GREAT LEADERS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH THROUGHOUT HISTORY who have held a biblical view on God, have taught that God existed in that Holy Tri-unity—the Holy Trinity, Father, Word or Son, and Spirit—a united and unified Spirit Being in three non-contradictory expressions, and that this God fashioned His eternal Son, often called the Second Person of the Trinity, into the likeness of a man—meaning, God the Son, who became the Person of Jesus Christ, took on flesh—a human body—and was implanted, mysteriously and supernaturally into the womb of the Virgin, Mary, and as the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” her—NOT IMPREGNATED HER, but as He caused her, non-sexually to conceive, this Mary became pregnant without the aid of man, and began to carry the God-Man, the Christ… the MESSIAH in her womb… and That Baby, secretly the God of the Universe in human form, the one and ONLY BEGOTTEN SON of God, was ultimately born and named Yeshua… Joshua the Messiah… or what the English speaking world knows as “Jesus Christ.”
Why did the Incarnation happen? Why did God become flesh? Why was there a theological need for God to enter time? Why did this being or personage need to be fully man? Why did he need to be fully God?
Oh, there’s so much to this… more will have to be said later, no doubt, but the primary answer lies in this:
Because the Bible says in Luke chapter 19 verse 10, that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost…. And HE DID THIS because Jesus came to RECONCILE HUMANITY WITH GOD.
In an earlier podcast I mentioned that humanity was estranged from God and that this existential lostness and brokenness of relationship was caused by sin. Meaning, that in the Garden of Eden, humanity began in innocence… but then humanity corrupted themselves through, first, being deceived treacherously, and ultimately, in willful disobedience.
This event is called The Fall of Humanity or, sometimes, the Fall of Man. And The Fall meant that the original state of innocence was now violated and that all humanity would thereafter be estranged from God due to sin.
But God sent Jesus as a MEDIATOR who would resolve that broken relationship by restoring it. A mediator is one who represents all parties involved. And Jesus became the One Mediator between God and Humanity—representing God AS GOD and representing Man AS A MAN. Hence, the God-Man. And because He was fully God and fully Man, Jesus was the only person fit to become the Messiah.
So AS A MAN, Jesus offered Himself to God, on a cross, as a blood sacrifice REPLACING AND SUPPLANTING ALL OTHER NECESSARY LIVING SACRIFICES TO GOD- ONCE AND FOR ALL—AND BECAUSE HE WAS A PERFECT MAN, He gave Himself as this offering FOR MAN… but because He was (and is) also God, this offering was accepted by God, because only God can forgive sin and save people from sin.
So, in a crude sense, Jesus came to save us from our sin— that is the CAUSE of Jesus’ coming, but the EFFECT of Jesus’ coming is reconciliation.
That Jesus, through his singular, unthinkable, unrepeatable, act of sacrifice, made the way for all people of all times and all places—to come to God and to receive forgiveness and to thereby restore their relationship with God in Christ alone through faith in Him alone.
And for a person to take advantage of that, an individual simply needs to place his or her faith in the finished work of Christ that he completed on the cross.
Of course you do. The Bible says a lot about power, after all. This includes the Power of God— both God Himself and His power lived out through people’s lives.
Then it’s important that you understand the nature of a person’s power. It may surprise you that “purity” begets personal power. Purity is moral integrity. It’s lifestyle consistency.
Interestingly, people can have a life of spiritual power even when mistakes have been made. We’ve all made them.
Of course, the fact that we’re not human doesn’t “excuse” the mistakes… it’s just to say simply that…. that we’re human. But if there’s one resource I love that speaks to the issue of power coming from personal brokenness, it has to be the amazing website, I am Second. WOW. Let that be the first website you visit… AFTER you finish reading this post!! (It can wait 3 minutes, right?)
But personal power comes from integrity. Integrity creates inner strength, which manifests itself in strong character. This ‘character’ increasingly produces unmitigated power in the life of the person possessing it– and such a person is fueled by nothing other than pure conviction.
Inner integrity manifests itself as a type of unstoppable force.
Put another way– the inner realization of a pure conscience leads to boundless personal power. So, BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT OUR HEARTS DO NOT CONDEMN US, we come to possess an absolute sense of internal integrity. This sense of personal “cleanness” instills an inner witness inside of us that creates utter liberation.
As a result of this liberation, the believer can truly (and finally) live with abandon– fearlessly, in fact. Holy Spirit Power
Ironically, instead of this liberated abandon (which SPENDS OUR ENERGY) leading to the loss of vitality and strength (the type of thing that would leave the average person burned out and burnt up), because of the power of God that is able to flow through such a person, the totally spirit-empowered believer finds himself surprisingly refurbished… moment by moment. And this experience (really… it’s more of an encounter than an experience) makes us the recipient of an ever-renewing and “just-made” or, may I say, fresh-squeezed brand of genuine Holy Spirit power.
Moreover, because of the integrity of the Spirit and the genuine honesty in the conscience of a person with a pure life, the power begotten by that pure life simply cannot be manufactured. And since few believers exhibit this type of consistent Christian living, this type of pure power is seldom seen. That’s by virtue of the fact that it cannot be produced apart from the life of Christ.
But if we will consciously and consistently submit ourselves to Him– we will be fueled by that clear conscience just mentioned… and that’s when we’ll begin to experience this unremitting surge of Supernatural Pneumatic vitality moment by amazing moment, viz., The Power of a Pure Life.
Envy. Entitlement. Those are two words I hate.
That isn’t to say I haven’t ever practiced those vices. But I really do hate them.
Envy is, of course, inward turmoil stimulated by a heart that cannot celebrate another’s good fortune. It involves wanting what another has. Jealousy, envy’s evil twin and hellacious handmaiden, involves personal resentment toward the one in question. Whereas an envious person wants what another has, jealousy [at least] simply doesn’t want the other person to have it.
Clearly, both usually go together: The envious person sometimes, if not usually, becomes jealous. The results of envy-jealousy includes the dropping of one’s countenance toward the fortunate (or blessed) person, then self-justifying (and sometimes-irrational) frustration which often deteriorates into further ungodly manifestations. Self contamination If I can take a bunny trail here— let me share a word about those ungodly manifestations. It seems to me that jealousy-envy often contaminates and/or wounds both the perpetrator and its victim(s). What I mean is that, once envy erodes into jealousy, it is not unusual for the jealous person to be contaminated by seething anger, internal rage, and finally contempt. Sometimes these emotions are accompanied by abuse and violence– verbal, physical, or both. As a result, the jealous person often ends up suffering a sense of guilt, personal condemnation, self-loathing, and, at worse, despair.
And if that were not enough, the victim of jealous envy also suffers, wittingly or not.
But this post is not only about envy; it’s also about entitlement. But I mentioned both because envy is often accompanied by entitlement. But entitlement can also be an “independent vice.” So entitlement doesn’t require the presence of envy though, like women who go to public restrooms in groups, they often appear together. So, what of “entitlement?”
Entitlement is a perspective… a mentality. It usually manifests itself as an assumption that one DESERVES something– an expectation of a perceived (or moral) right. Now keep in mind that there ARE legitimate entitlements. But those are not my concern, nor are they the topic of this post. Rather, I am concerned about the general and pervasive “entitlement mentality” that hangs like a dark cloud over many people, including certain sections of the American populous. And just as “groups” of people develop entitlement mentalities, individuals do it as well. Those who do so consider it an outrage that they sometimes must “do without” or otherwise should actually “do something”– rather than doing nothing but having an expectation of receiving something nevertheless. All this serves as a long introduction to the central idea of this post: The Elimination of Envy and Entitlement. In the past, I assumed several things… Things like:
BLESSINGS SPOIL PEOPLE
MATERIAL NICETIES STIMULATE THE BASE INSTINCTS OF OUR HUMANITY AND DRIVE ENVY INTO PEOPLE
THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN MUCH ALWAYS DEVELOP AN ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY THAT SPOILS THEM, AND FINALLY…
BLESSINGS PRODUCE ENTITLEMENT IN THE PERSON WHO RECEIVES THEM AND ENVY IN THOSE WHO DO NOT.
But I no longer think those things.
Oh, sure, we’ve SEEN EXAMPLES of those ideas– but I have come to believe that no cause-effect relationship exists between blessing and entitlement or envy. I remember when my elder son, Dakota, turned 11. For his birthday he got this insanely great gift that virtually no child his age has. To boot, Dakota enjoys a life foreign to my own early years. He (and his brother Christian) is, in many ways, a child of plenty. He has never known “need.” He would hardly even understand the concept of “want.” And yet, the enormous blessings he enjoys are (a) not “expected” by him, nor (b) have these opportunities and experiences soiled or spoiled him. Dakota is genuinely thankful and grateful. And though all the results aren’t in– his life and demeanor has shown me that envy, entitlement, and blessing CAN BE mutually exclusive. So what makes the difference? I believe that envy and entitlement are eliminated from blessed people when those people possesscharacter. Character (or its absence) is, I believe, the single arbiter of envy and entitlement mentalities. With character, those bad character qualities are not present. Without character, those vices breed, mutate, and multiply.
So now, instead of withholding “good” from my child/children, I feel the freedom to bless them liberally. And rather than spending all my energies regretting my generosity and battling their growing envy and entitlement, I work on ensuring that they are developing character. I think that’s the way God intended it to be, and it helps me enjoy being a generous father– just as my Heavenly Father is.
A leading Christian thinker, Dr. Perry Downs, is known for an important but surprising quote: “Truth-telling is an act of violence.” Who knew?
Regarding violence, anyone who has ever been victimized and that has suffered the resultant trauma knows its resonant results. It is like the proverbial pebble which causes a disproportionate effect– rows of ripples that circumnavigate far from the point of impact, long after the rock has settled in the silt below.
In this sense, violence forever affects those it touches. It should not be confused with a momentary, punctiliar event… violence is the initiation of an altered and completely re-arranged reality for all those it touches, be it directly or indirectly. Violence changes people’s lives. Some of that change is painful… and some of it, ultimately, can bring redemptive meaning and hope.
Now back to the central idea– truth.
Truth-telling can be a blunt object. I’ll never forget the words of a physician to me in the winter of 2006 when my mother was ailing in a Knoxville, Tennessee hospital. “Freddy, your mother is dead.” No mastery of language could ever help me communicate the thoughts and emotions I experienced in that moment. The statement, however true, was horribly blunt. Cold. Hurtful.Awful. That shows what is meant by the violence of truth. That statement forever affected my life and the lives of so many others.
The death of my mother caused profound hurt, but as the gaping wound has slowly begun to heal, God has used it to bring ephiphanies and moments of meaning that, apparently, I would have been unable to perceive otherwise. Does that mean that mom’s passing was ‘for the best?’ I don’t know if I could ever utter such a thing– it seems inconceivable. But since death is an irrevocable and necessary evil since the Fall (Genesis 3), the meaning and insights I’ve received are at least a modest consolation. And, at least for my mom, this discussion is academic. She wouldn’t return even if given the chance. If that’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
With these broad and sketchy ideas strewn about, I return to my original concept. The Violence of Truth.
Jesus said, “I came to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The truth of God, like violence, affects everything. It impacts people to different degrees, depending on their proximity to it. The effects of truth continue on and on. Truth alters and dictates reality. And though it can be painful, once it does its important work, truth brings intuitive insights and meaning. For those reasons, however painful truth sometimes is, knowing it is better than ignorance– because only the truth can set us free.
There are MANY options for playing podcasts— so you can enjoy them literally anywhere you are and anywhere you go.
But let’s take this one step at a time.
First, what is a “Podcast?”
What options do you have for enjoying podcasts?
The ways to use and enjoy podcast episodes are nearly endless. Seriously.
Want to listen to any of our classes on your home computer? No problem!
Want to view Podcast Seminary courses through your TV on Google Chromecast or Apple TV unit? Why not?
Maybe you want to go completely wireless and listen to our podcasts through your Bluetooth speaker outside at home, while showering, or at the beach. Nobody’s stopping you. Could this be true? Are Podcast Seminary Audio Courses truly that versatile? Absolutely.
In fact, there’s more.
All of our courses allow you to listen to sound doctrine and solid Christian teaching while in your car via AUX cable or by Bluetooth, or on Smart Phone and e-Reader browsers.
Concerned about the connectivity of your Microsoft, BlackBerry, or other device? No worries, connect easily with every imaginable digital media player, and with Microsoft, Android, or Apple Pads, and of course on your favorite Podcasting app or simply by headset.
The sky’s the limit. All you need to get started is to get a great podcast series and get going!
If you’re interested in filling the gaps in your Bible knowledge or to be equipped in your ministry, learn more about Podcast Seminary Audio Courses on podcast!
That said, there’s a ‘sense’ in which it doesn’t always matter whether one’s fear is rational or not. That’s because even if a particular fear happens to be irrational, that doesn’t necessarily make it any less troubling. In fact, irrationality doesn’t “negate” fear in the least– and, in some cases, it can even breed terror.
In the context of this discussion, it is important to remember that fear and danger are not one and the same. Fear is an emotion. Danger, however, is an actual threat to one’s safety.
Though fear and danger should appear together (and often do), interestingly, they can also be inexplicably separated. Note that a child may be in actual danger of physical harm, but have no fear whatsoever. In addition, a grown adult may be in absolutely no danger, yet be deathly afraid.
In the case of my dear mother who passed away a years ago (February 25, 2007), there was a time prior to our losing her that she struggled with a fear of death. She (like me… and you) did not want to die. Sadly, the fact that she was a Christian believer did not assuage her insecurity, nor did it eliminate her fear of the unknown. In fact, my mother was in the condition of many Christians– she “feared” though there was no “danger.”
In Christ, my mom’s eternal fate was absolutely secure– something she now knows full well. Yet that reality and fact never calculated into spiritual peace and inner security. So though my mother’s fear did not affect her destiny, she was still emotionally imprisoned—at least for a short time. The only thing I wish is that she could have lived free from what I wish to call the “dangerless fear.”
God is Sovereign
Similarly, in spite of the fact that God is sovereign, many Christians today live in fear. And though the world sometimes presents genuine threats where fear is not completely unfounded, in light of the Omnipotent Sovereign we serve, disciples should increasingly embrace and then embody the security and confidence which is very much found in Christ. As we do, we will become powerfully emboldened and increasingly learn to live with fearless abandon. This type of courageous Christianity is the only brand of faith that is capable of pushing back the darkness and advancing the light. As such, Christians must decide whether to cave… or to be brave.
I get it. But we all need to have a handle on truth. After all, we must “live!” It’s important to understand that “truth” isn’t just the stuff of people with really long Greek names like:
Pythagoras of Samos
Zeno of Elea
Diogenes of Sinope
What is the nature of truth?
Truth is what “is.” Truth is that which is real, true, or truth. Truth is that which is actual. It’s another way of saying that ‘Truth’ isn’t simply “what is ‘believed.’ ” What is ‘believed’ is subjective and may or may not have anything to do with reality. Sometimes belief is nothing more than fantasy. So ‘belief’ may not have a 1 to 1 relationship with reality. The only time belief is legitimized is when that which is believed is objectively true. Truth (or actuality) legitimizes belief. Anything less isn’t really “truth”– it’s just belief. The Point:Belief does not equal truth. And just as ‘belief’ doesn’t create truth… neither does disbelief destroy truth. Truth is ‘truth’ because it is ‘true,’ not simply because it is believed.
Shrink is a common, sometimes pejorative term, for psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. The term shrink comes from “head shrinker” which apparently developed in Hollywood, California (about 40 miles from where I’m sitting) sometime in the 1940s.
A“head shrinker” was someone who “helped you eliminate feelings of personal grandeur and greatness“ by telling you EXACTLY what is wrong with you. Later shortened to simply “shrink” the term stuck… and many people now call counselors by that term.
So shrinks are counselors, in a manner of speaking.
Counselors are typically equipped in the fields of either psychology or psychiatry. Psychiatry is more deeply based in the medical field (meaning psychiatrists can prescribe medications) while psychology is more based in the social or behavioral sciences.
Psychology is the ‘Science’ of Behavior
Psychologists and Psychiatrists seek to understand you and your motivations, and how motivations affect your behavior. If successful, people can have more self-awareness and begin to move toward wholeness. And that all begins with “knowing thyself” as the ancient philosopher Plato said.
Knowing ourselves has to do with our sense of identity.
The cultivation of a person’s identity, cumulatively~ over time, results in the formation of one’s persona. This persona is the fundamental basis from which someone thinks, feels, and acts (lives).
For this reason, an impaired personality (viz., a dysfunctional person) remains necessarily and existentially ‘lost.’ And until that person can find himself, he/she remains incapable of being truly happy, healthy, whole, and holy.
People Who Haven’t Found Themselves are “Lost” Emotionally and In Their Own Identity. People Who Haven’t Been Found by God are “Lost” Spiritually.
This leads to the pitiful phenomena of a person being estranged within his own existence.This possibility may sound strange but is, I believe, a common reality for a portion of our society, Christian or not.
The Haunted Self
But the one who has plumbed the depths of his haunted self,when guided into the light of selfhood by the truth of God’s Word & Spirit (Rom 12:3), ultimately finds himself.
Finding oneself is progressive– it can’t happen all at once.
That’s because our human nature is like an onion, wrapped or encased in layers upon layers of thoughts, ideas, reflections, self-evaluations, motives, feelings, and the like.
But if and when a person does the hard work of sorting through his or her soul, they ultimately gain the grace of finding themselves.
This liberating reality infuses such a person with a profound sense of identity. It is this (and only this) transformed individual who is able to shrug off the insecurities and limitations of the empty self to finally begin to become all that God has made him to be.
Becoming a Person of Power and Presence
Show me a person like this, and I will show you a man or woman of profound power and personal presence.
This is where God wants to transport all believers, but most are seemingly too fearful of their haunted and misunderstood humanity or are too in love with the illusion of godless liberation to ever be truly liberated. Don’t let that be said of you. Do the work of seeking and finding who you are by discovering who God made you to be. Then you’ll be free… liberated! “For where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” 2 Corinthians 3:17