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Sunday, November 14, 2004

What is a Christian?

I would like to respond to Patrick Henry's op ed in November 14th's Star Tribune.

I acknowledge that Christians, and very devout Christians at that, voted for John Kerry. I understand that Christians have differing views on Social Justice issues, such as affirmative action, welfare, the poor, illegal immagration, and other issues that should be of concern to Christians.

However, this is my problem with Mr. Henry's piece: if you are a Christian, a TRUE and ORTHODOX Christian, you believe that there is only one way to be saved, and that is through Jesus. There is no room for "well, if you're a good person and try hard" stuff.

I would like to address what a Christian believes and how a Christian acts. If you disagree and say that you're a Christian and believe differently, then you need to re-examine your faith by reading the Bible. As a reference, I will use documents from the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church web site. I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran. However, I have attended a variety of churches from a variety of denominations in my life. I am using the LCMS web-site because I am familar with it.

In general, one would say that an orthodox Christian believes the words of the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. On study of these creeds, especially the Athanasian Creed, a Christian MUST believe that Jesus is God, that he suffered for the sins of mankind, rose from the dead, assended into Heaven, and will come to judge the living and the dead; and that adherence to this faith is the only way to get to Heaven. These creeds reflect what is in scriptures. If you do not believe these creeds reflect scripture, read the Bible for yourself.

I wish to expand on the judgement of mankind. I'm not going to argue pre-trib, mid-trib, or any other time frame of when the judgement of the living and dead takes place. I believe that when the judgement happens is a non-salvation issue and that devout Christians can disagree on the when. First, we must understand that God does not have to justify himself to mankind. People ask all the time: Would a loving God send anyone to Hell? Well, would Winston Churchill have killed Hitler? You bet. People, in general, believe in the existance of crimes so horrible that those who committ these crimes deserve death. We do not have to justify to those who committ these crimes why they deserve to die. God does not have to justify to anyone why he sends people to Hell.

The arguement continues: Do I deserve to go to Hell? This is the hardest question for Christians to answer. If a Christian says, "Yes," the pagen says, "Jesus says 'Judge lest ye be judged.'" If a Christian answers, "No," they are probably a heretic. All mankind deserves damnation in Hell, even Christians. "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Romans 3:10-12. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23. "For the wages of sin is death" Romans 6:23. All have sinned and are worthless, we fall short of God's standards, and we deserve death. How are we redeemed? "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5:6-8. "For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith-and this not of your own, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no man can boast," Ephesians 2:8-9. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death," Romans 8:1-2. However, even though Christ died for our sins, we must be repentent of our sins. "what shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6:1-2.

So, what does a Christian look like. John 14:21 "Who ever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Obey Jesus's commands: "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." Follow the 10 commandments; Exodus 20:1-17. "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teacing them to obey everything I have commanded you, "Matthew 28:20. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; atred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you , as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kindgom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control," Galations 5:19-23.

I am not the perfect example of what a Christian behaves like; but I try, with the help of the Holy Spirit to leave my sinful nature behind. A good Christian will be loving. A good Christian will be kind to the poor. A good Christian performs charitable acts. How Christians perform these acts or think about government involvement in these acts may be an issue of disagreement, and this is not an economic or social welfare policy discussion.

For further resources on Christian theology, I would recommend the following extra reading:
The Bible (all of it)
The Augsburg Confession
The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
The Small Lutheran Catechism


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