Being Spiritual vs Being Christian #1

Hi all,

Barb and I have wildly differing practices concerning bars of soap. Barb uses soap until it is the size of a coin. Often several of these tiny fragments will congregate around sinks and showers like a herd of animals at a watering hole. One may have been a deodorant bar, another a moisturizing bar, and still another a no-perfume bar. But they all end up the size of a coin and gathered together at faucets just waiting for someone to have mercy on them and end their lives by tossing them in the trash.

That person would be me. About the time a bar of soap is small enough I keep dropping it or it breaks apart, I pull the shower curtain aside and underhand toss it in a long sweeping arc into the waste basket sitting next to the toilet. Have a nice flight, you’re history little bar of soap, you gave it all but now you are done!

Soap Christians, what fragrance are they?

Years ago it was easy to know who was a Christian or not. Back in the charismatic renewal days of the 1960′s and ’70′s, the Christians were the ones going to the home prayer meetings, Bible studies, got excited that Charles & Francis Hunter were coming to town for healing meetings, frequented Christian bookstores, and listened to this new Christian ‘rock’ or young women singers with names like ‘Honeytree’ and ‘Evie’.

If you didn’t do any of that, we were 90% sure you weren’t born again. If you had to ask if a guitar in a church service was ok with God, you probably weren’t born again. If you had to ask “What is an autoharp?” you probably weren’t. You certainly weren’t Charismatic. But other than that, it was easy to figure things out.

Then the lines became blurred in the 1980′s and ’90′s, like little soap bars you squish together to form one larger bar and you aren’t sure which scent or what kind of soap you now have. People asked if you were Evangelical or Charismatic, and if charismatic were you word of faith or Pentecostal? Still later you started seeing more bars of soap, like prophetic, apostolic, personal prophecy, a TACF, Brownsville or Lakeland

Christian, or maybe ‘an intercessor’ or ‘prophetic worship’ scent of Christian.

But today, like so many bars of soap of every type, we have “Christians” of every flavor, fragrance, and appearance. Some present themselves like brand new ‘look at me’ bars and some are like little coin-size “I’m a ______ Christian.” (Fill in the blank with some sexual orientation, political affiliation, alternate culture name, or other identifier).

Whatever happened to “I’m a Christian” with no modifiers to tell us what kind of Christian you are?Sometimes I just want to toss them aside like a coin-sized bar of soap and say ‘Either grow up in Christ and stop sinning, or stop calling yourself a Christian!’

Why does a believer in the New Testament look so different than many believers today?

In the days the New Testament was being written, disciples of Jesus, not just believers in Jesus, and yes there is a definite difference, met in homes as most Christians do today world-wide, gathered together as families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and often a non-born again person who was ‘a person of peace’ would join them.

The gospels were just being written and many of the eye-witnesses of the events in the gospels were still alive and would thrill households with stories of their time with Jesus. By the end of Paul and Peter’s life, Peter considered Paul’s letters to these home based gatherings of the church to be scripture, for he said in his last letter in the closing lines,

“And remember the writings of our beloved brother Paul…some things are hard to understand, which the unstable wrestle with, as they do also the other scriptures…” (II Peter 3:15-16)

Their excitement was all about the new birth and learning what this new life was about. The fact God moved out of the temple and into man at Pentecost amazed them and fill them with wonder. God living in man, who would have thought it!

Culture of the day

There were a total of 10 Roman Caesars who persecuted believers. These Caesars wanted to be acknowledged as gods, setting disciples of Jesus in direct conflict with a life or death decision to acknowledge Christ and die, or recant Christ and live.

Besides that, there was a common practice of sealing business contracts by making an offering to a god in a temple, and then having sex with a temple prostitute to seal the deal.

Thyatira was the most famous city for this practice, for the guilds, ancient types of labor unions, controlled all commerce in Thyatira. It may have been a contributing factor as to why Lydia from Thyatira moved her clothing material business from Thyatira to Philippi. The purple dye and clothing from Thyatira was the highest quality and most fashionable in that day. (Acts 16:14-40)

In the church at Thyatira, a woman nicknamed by the Lord, “Jezebel”, in Revelation 2:20 told the people as a prophetic word, that you could still be a Christian and have temple sex and make offerings to gods because God wanted you to be able to earn a living…(I have a series on the real Jezebel spirit if interested, but this gives you a good lead – it isn’t a woman stirring up trouble for some pastor)

Christians were in a difficult place. How were they to earn a living other than a low paying job, for to make business contracts or secure a supplier of say, leather, or copper or even purple material for your dress shop that ‘deal maker’ had to offer a sacrifice to a god and have sex with a temple prostitute?

Enter gnosticism

Somewhere towards the end of Paul and Peter’s lives around 66AD but before John died roughly 40 years later, a belief called Gnosticism arose (Greek, ‘learned’), probably in part due to the cultural pressures to be part of society and business like in Thyatira. Christians wanted to be like the world but still be Christian. They didn’t want to die for their faith if they didn’t have to. Jezebel said it was ok to be a Christian and be part of the culture, so people could ‘know’ God in their mind but didn’t have to separate themselves from culture.

The essence of Gnosticism is the body is from the earth and will return to dust, therefore it is inherently sinful and evil. But the spirit has been born again, with Christ in you, so your spirit is holy and going to heaven. Therefore because the body is of the earth anyway, you can live how you like because inside you are a believer in Jesus and will go to heaven. Over time this belief system meant people could be ‘believers’ in Jesus without actually being ‘disciples’ of Jesus, or even know Him in their heart.

Know the Holy Spirit but not born again

And this is why we have so many ‘soap fragrances’ of “Christians” today. They know God in their mind, they are Gnostics, agreeing that Jesus is God, but living like the world. If they do know Him, shouldn’t they be leaving sin and progressing towards holiness? Consider this:

Jesus told the disciples in John 14:17 of the Holy Spirit: “You know Him, because He lives with you. But He shall be in you.” The disciples knew the Holy Spirit because they were hanging around Jesus, saw Him do amazing miracles, and they even healed people and cast out demons by the Spirit. So they knew Him.

Remember, these disciples were not born again – yet they knew the Holy Spirit. In our day, many people have genuine experiences with the Holy Spirit. They hang around church, the altar call, and so forth. Some know Him by virtue of the fact they have a relative in the same home who is a disciple, or growing up they spent a lot of time in a Spirit-filled church. But they don’t have Him in them. And THAT is what makes a person a Christian.

Next week – more about ‘Christians’ who say they are believers in Jesus, but continue in sin. Stay tuned! Blessings,

John Fenn

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