Friday, April 19, 2013

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A CHRISTIAN?


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"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, 
if you have love for one another."
John 13: 35

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Let us examine the words of Christ and ponder His meaning. 

All men: 
Who are these "all men"? It seems quite certain Christ meant people other than Christians themselves, for these people would be observing Christians. So, "all men" are the people of the world. 

Will know that you are my disciples:
The people of the world, everyone, can be utterly certain who Christ's disciples are by something. This thing is going to witness to the world and clearly identify Christians, making them stand out amongst all other people.

If you have love for one another: 
Love is the identifying mark of the Christian. But not just love for anyone, specifically your love one for another (or other Christians.) Christ is certainly not saying that we do not have responsibility to love everyone, but that this identifying mark is specific. This love you have for other Christians is so incredible that it impresses non-Christians. 

Think about that for a moment. The world expects married people to love each other or parents to love their children. This love Christ is commanding is not a "regular" kind of love; for the world wouldn't stop to take note of that kind of love. This is something different. 

This is a love, so impressive, so miraculous that it makes all men realize who the followers of Christ are. It is a love that stands out, that makes people breathless with wonder. 

Can Christians today really say that the world sees this kind of love among ourselves? 

Presently, God's people are so torn apart, so fractured into theological opponents, the most the world sees from us is a type of amicable divorce. Our relationship to each other is not making headlines.

Christians today have given up any hope of unity, true theological and physical unity among ourselves because we believe truth to be an essential of faith--but not unity. Yet, that is not what Christ said. He did not say that the world will stand in awe and wonder over the truth of believers, but their love one for another. 

I have heard over and over through the years that it would take a miracle from God for Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox to come together in unity. Because of course, we cannot ever compromise truth. That is true. 

I actually agree. It will take a miracle from God. But perhaps that is why the world will stand back and be astounded. Perhaps God is planning such a miracle. 

If the Muslim factions came together in unity and brotherhood, how would we look at it? Amazing and scary. They would take over the world. 

What would happen if miraculously all those who love Christ would join in unity and the world could see the fruits of such a love? The world would see who Christ really is, and then indeed, He would draw all men to Himself. 

Christ wasn't wishfully thinking when He told us His definition of His followers. He was commanding that His disciples love one another. In fact, His true disciples will be known by all men by their love for each other. 

Are you ready to be that miracle? Are you prepared to obey this command? God is ready to give His true followers that miracle, are you ready to love?

15 comments:

Arik said...

"Christians today have given up any hope of unity, true theological and physical unity among ourselves because we believe truth to be an essential of faith--but not unity. Yet, that is not what Christ said. He did not say that the world will stand in awe and wonder over the truth of believers, but their love one for another."

There can be no unity unless it is grounded in truth. In John 17 the prayer of Jesus to be one is not an appeal for the disciples to producs unity, but to God that He may keep His disciples in the unity He has already broght into existence. This spiritual unity has always existed among true belivers, it is not a superficial unity which negates God's Word for the sake of political or social goals.

Unity safeguards the Truth of God's Word, it does not change and accommodate it. True Christian unity comes from above, it is a God-created unity that comes from being sanctified by Truth and set free by Truth.

True charity is too pure to compromise with evil and cover unconfessed sin. Love cannot unite with the rebellous that deny God's commandments. Good and evil will never harmonize. Unity cannot be gained by a compromise of principle.

Teresa Beem said...

I would absolutely agree with your statement that there can be no unity unless it is grounded in truth. Certainly. We can easily see that unity in evil happens all the time--look at the anti-life forces in our culture. But Jesus clearly, in many statements, commanded NOT SUGGESTED, but commanded unity among His followers.

Unity certainly is not in existence today--neither physical, spiritual, theological.

I am glad you agree with my statement that unity is from above. We cannot force it ourselves. It is a grace. My question to you Arik is: Are you preparing your heart for the miracle of unity? Are you willing to accept the grace that will bring unity?

We all must ask ourselves this question. Have we put away our pride? Are we truly willing to go where God tells us to go? Are we willing to endure the humility of submission to God's will that we all be unified? For if we are unified in Christ--we ARE unified in Truth. For He is truth.

Claudia said...

Very good post, Teresa. Speaking of unity, have you ever heard about Chiara Lubich? She is the founder of the Focolare Movement, also known as Work of Mary (a Catholic ecclesial movement), which its spirituality is unity. Quoted from their website (www.focolare.org/en/):

"It was in Trent, Northern Italy, 1944 that Chiara and her first few companions attended the Mass on the Feast of Christ the King. At the end of the Mass she and her friends remained recollected and reflected on a phrase they had heard during the Mass: from the book of Psalms: “Ask me and I shall give you all the peoples and lands of the earth.” (Ps 2,8). They asked God to help them put this phrase into action by saying to God, ‘You know how to bring about unity. Here we are. Use us.’

For an ideal as vast as unity, the request from Jesus to his Father “May they all be one” (Jn 17, 21), the boundaries could be nothing other than the furthest corners of the earth. Right from the outset the embryonic Movement was far sighted. No-one at that time could have imagined that the dream of reaching the ends of the earth would be accomplished so quickly. There was no specific plan or blueprint for spreading the Movement but they followed the way lead by ‘Someone’."


The US website is www.focolare.us

Marcos David Torres said...

Great post! I especially like your emphasis on how our love for one another should be far different from the kind of love the world already witnesses, something so shocking that the world will take notice. This alone shows that we dont have this kind of love. Often times we treat our theological opponents as enemies. We slander them and insult them all because we disagree with them. And as you mentioned, the world notices!

Now I have a quote page on my blog and I was wondering if I could quote you on there. The quote I would like to share on there is:

"Love is the identifying mark of the Christian.... Presently, God's people are so torn apart, so fractured into theological opponents, the most the world sees from us is a type of amicable divorce."

Thats a powerful statement. Id love to share it on my site!

God bless!

Teresa Beem said...

Ahhh, what a sweetheart you are Marcos. Feel most free to quote me or steal anything I ever say or write. It is rare that I am not writing something I processed from another writer myself!! I don't know if anything I ever write is original to me. I just forget I read it and then think it is my own! God bless you and I have been enjoying reading your blog.

Arik said...

In John 4 we are commanded to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. If Christians would do this, the unity Christ is speaking about would be a natural (or supernatural) result.

Jesus links love with obedience, "If you love me keep my commandments" bringing out the significant thought that obedience is the natural result of love. Paul also echoes Jesus when he says "love fulfills the law." All God's commandments are based upon the one principle of love. This is the love that unites true worshipers of God verses professed worshippers, who honor Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him.

Unless worshippers are united in worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth, obeying Him who created us, all attempts to unite are superficial. A church that denies God's law or changed God's law can not be united in Christian love because it does not worship God in Spirit and in Truth. After all if "love fulfills the law," then denying or changing His law is not love and therefore will not produce the unity in us as is in the Father and the Son.

Teresa Beem said...

Arik,

This is where you and I are in complete agreement. Christians are to be obedient to God and His Commandments. That is HOW we love God. Love is not a sentiment, love for our Creator is in submission to His Will and not ours.

Where we differ with Adventists is that when John talks about the commandments, He is not talking specifically about the Ten Commandments, but the New Covenant commandments for Christians. Thi is far greater than the Old Covenant commandments written on stone.

New Covenant commandments include forgiving "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." This goes far beyond the Ten. We are commanded to be merciful, to be careful in how we speak. The New Covenant specifically lays out commandments for Christians that the Torah never--or to a lesser extent addresses.

Any change in the covenant wasn't man's it was God's. And we are to be obedient to God's New Covenant Commandments. Adventists misunderstand that text.

Arik said...

Ahh such a false dichotomy of love between the OT and NT, Old Covenant and New Covenant. Jesus was not giving a new New Covenant command to forgive one another. He was clearly expanding on the concept of love. How or why could love be any different in the OT and the NT under any covenant? Is not the love of God the same yesterday, today and forever?

Taken from yor own teaching:

2052 states: That Jesus was citing for the rich young ruler "the precepts that concern love of neighbor" summing up the commandments that Jesus spoke as "Ye shall love your'e neighbor as yourself".

2054: "Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments"...."He unfolded all the demands of the commandments"

2055: the greatest commandment as quoted byJesus "You shall love the Lord your'e God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it:you shall love your neighbor as yourself..." "The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fulness of the law."

2067: "The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and the love of neighbor..."

So I would have to disagree that the Ten Commandments are not New Covenant law and that love does not fulfill them. Especially since 2068 is clear Ten Commandments are obligatory and therefore they are NT law.

I am glad you agree that "Christians are to be obedient to God and His commandments," but as far as covenants go, you miss the mark entirely.

Teresa Beem said...

Catholics believe in the spirit of the Ten Commandments, not their literal interpretation. Please read all of the Catechism and you will discover this. The New Covenant is of spirit not of letter.

Indeed, God never changes, but His will has been slowly unfolding since the beginning. That entailed different covenants through human history. There was the covenant with Noah, with Abraham, with Jacob, with David and Solomon and then finally the culmination of all: Jesus. This covenant with Jesus opened up the covenant for the whole world.

The two commandments of the New Covenant are indeed the basis for all covenants: Love God and love your neighbor. But the details are where there are differences. All covenants are about love.

While Jesus reiterated nine of the Ten in the New Covenant... one was not mentioned. That is the Sabbath commandment. The spirit of the Sabbath is still there--giving one's time to Christ. However the commandment basis was even more than a day. The Sabbath rest pointed to Christ and His rest in the tomb that would fulfill all. Now our Sabbath is IN Christ. Faith IN Him is our rest.

"Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Now Jesus gives us rest.

Blessings Arik! I have no problem at all if you keep Sabbath. I commend you. Catholics also go to church on Saturday! We, like the early church, worship corporately every day. We are thrilled you attend church on Saturday!

Arik said...

What you miss entirely is the Old Covenant was the means for Israel to receive the New Covenant experience. It was always meant to be temporary. The New Covenant experience is found in Hebrews 8, and part of that is vs 10-"I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their heart." This is spiritual, and guess what? This is exactly what God wanted for Israel when He gave the Ten Commandments! Deut. 5:29-"Oh that they had such a heart in them..." Deut 6:6- "And these words (Ten Commandments)....shall be in your heart."

The law of God was and is always spiritual. This is not a new New Covenant experience. When Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, it was not a new New Covenant law He was giving, He was freeing the law from the Causitry of the unsanctified Jewish leaders. Psalm 40:8"...your law is within my heart." sounds spiritual to me and Paul agrees- Romans 7:14 "The law is spiritual..." Not a new concept at all. God has never been interested in mere outward attempts to follow the letter of His law. Remember Israel was to place the law in their heart, becase the principle inclding the 4the Commandment (the symbol of entering into His rest) is love, and love does not and can not change.

You speak of Jesus giving rest, Israel was offered the same exact rest. Hebrews 4:2 "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them (Israel)....6-"...and those (Israel) to whom it (gospel) was preached did not enter(rest) becase of disobedience." Yes Jesus gives us rest, the same rest He would have given Israel.

It is you who are drawing conclsions that are simply unscriptural. Love is the same, becase God who is love never changes. It was always right to forgive in both Old Covenant and New Covenant, no "new details". Have you read the prayer of Moses?

Jesus did much better than give a command to keep the Sabbath, He showed how the Sabbath is kept, and no where not He or anyone else in Scripture ever says "Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath." The Fact is the Ten Commandments are part of the New Covenant law that is written in the mind and heart, if we as Christians would allow God to write His law of love within us, then and only then can there be the unity among us that exist between He and the Father!

Keeping the Sabbath is not "going to church on [Saturday]" it is meeting God on the day He says He has blessed and sanctified and made holy, it is doing what Jesus did as our example. It is obeying God rather than man.







Teresa Beem said...

Arik,

All Christians for all time have understood the New Covenant differently than Adventists. This isn't my personal opinion. What the SDA church proposes is a new interpretation unknown to all Christians from the beginning. You will find that all Christians worshipped on Sunday (as all Christians worshipped together daily. Acts. 2:46) For a church to teach that somehow you are not being obedient to God to worship on Sunday, is in fact a true misunderstanding of Christ, Christian history and scripture.

You (Adventists) spend a lot of time trying to redefine scriptural interpretation and history because you must find a way to make yourself different than others. If Adventists are not the remnant then the whole system of Adventism falls. This is a position of pride. Not even Catholics teach that they are the remnant. Catholics do not believe everyone needs to become Catholic. Only Mormons and Adventists and sects teach this.

Arik, if you know Christ and are following Him, I am happy for you and I never, ever have attempted to convince you to leave Adventism. In fact, I believe God is allowing many gospel-understanding Christians to remain inside Adventism to teach them the authentic gospel. Be at peace brother. Christians have nothing against Adventists.

This blog is for people who did not receive the authentic gospel inside Adventism. They have searched the scriptures and are leaving Adventism because they want to follow Christ and the fullness of His truth. It is the SDA obsession with Sabbath that makes them panic when people leave their church. Instead of finding joy in their pursuit of truth (even if they disagree with them) Adventists think they are rebellious or deceived. That is just heartbreaking.

Let us love one another. If you wish to keep Sabbath and are convinced it is the right thing to do. Amen!! Keep Sabbath and be blessed. But if other Christians do not find Sabbatarianism necessary in the New Covenant, that is their prerogative as St. Paul said, "some keep one day holy...." (you know the reference.) Sabbath is not a salvific issue. It is not an issue that places one person above another as more "obedient."

This is a matter of interpretation of scripture rather than an issue of obedience/disobedience. Those of us who have looked at the evidence and reject the necessity of Sabbath keeping are just as sincere and love Christ just as much and are just as willing to be utterly submissive to His Will as any Sabbatarian. If you believe the Sabbath issue to be a salvation-based issue, then you need to pray for us.

At this point, I can't imagine there would be any new information former Adventists haven't already debated and researched ad nauseum about the subject.

I think sometimes, and I keep open that I am misunderstanding Adventists, but sometimes I believe that Adventists feel that if they can convince a former that Sabbath is necessary (and bring them back into the fold) that somehow bolsters their tentative theological position. As if the more they can convince others they are right it will convince themselves of something they are not quite certain of. They work so hard at debating their position, that somehow they are really attempting to prove something more to themselves than to anyone else.

Adventism is a new sect. It has new doctrine and theology. In Christendom, that is not a good thing.

Arik said...

"This is a matter of interpretation of scripture rather than an issue of obedience/disobedience. Those of us who have looked at the evidence and reject the necessity of Sabbath keeping are just as sincere and love Christ just as much and are just as willing to be utterly submissive to His Will as any Sabbatarian. If you believe the Sabbath issue to be a salvation-based issue, then you need to pray for us."

Can the Sabbath issue really be so easily dismissed when we have already determined that obedience to God is necessary for unity?
You said it so well "Christians are to be obedient to God and His Commandments. That is HOW we love God." Although I would disagree slightly, for it is not through the law we love God but rather through Christ who prodces obedience in us, the basic sentiment is the same. Obedience to God's commandments is a necessary ingredient for unity.

Your'e cry to "let us love one another" is not the issue at all. It sounds too much like the popular ecumenical movements of our day, as though we can put aside our "interpretations" of truth by just "loving each other" will produce unity. But we again have established that unity outside of truth is not the unity that the Father and the Son share and will produce in us.

Adventism does not teach that worshipping God on any other day than the Sabbath is "not being obedient." What a misrepresentation! Adventistism says that if you want heavenly rest and if you want heavenly unity, than recognize that the New Covenant law (same as the Ten Commandments) through Christ must be written in the heart and mind. To have the Ten Commandments written in or heart and mind is to have the character of Christ written into our character. The Catechism sums up the Decalogue so well:
2067: "The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and the love of neighbor..."

Most Protestants do not recognize your'e (Catholic) changing God's fourth commandment Sabbath to the third commandment Sunday. When did the third commandment Sunday become a law of the God? Surely Jesus when He ratified the New Covenant with His blood would have given it, yet I search Scripture and see no change. What I do find is that no one can change the covenant once the testator has died. No Teresa, in the end Adventism is not new, its just not based on traditions of uninspired men who also lost the significance of being obedient to God.

Teresa Beem said...

Arik,
You are fudging with SDA teachings. Adventist prophecy is that all those who worship on Sunday will receive the Mark of the Beast. Now why would they receive this if worshipping on Sunday was okay?

If you will re-read the post you will see that nowhere did I say that unity was up to us or by us. I said we should be ready for the miracle of unity that Christ is going to do. Sometimes Arik, I think you deliberately misread my posts.

Arik, if you find no change in the law in the New Covenant you are either utterly unable to think outside of Adventism or you are simply not reading scripture. All Christians throughout history understood the scriptures with a New Covenant that does not require Sabbatarianism. For some reason Adventists must read in a new and erroneous interpretation.

My blog is not to convince you of anything Arik. I am okay with you thinking how you wish to think. I have presented more than enough historical and Biblical evidence on my blogs. If that doesn't convince you, that is between you and God. Blessings and best wishes to you. I have no animosity towards you at all. Everyone has the right to obey his or her own conscience and if you are unconvinced, that's certainly okay with me.

Arik said...

"Arik, if you find no change in the law in the New Covenant you are either utterly unable to think outside of Adventism or you are simply not reading scripture."

Let's be clear here, was there a change in the law between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant?

2056 The word "Decalogue" means literally "ten words." God revealed these "ten words" to his people on the holy mountain. They were written "with the finger of God,UNLIKE THE OTHER COMMANDMENTS WRITTEN BY MOSES".They are pre-eminently the words of God. They are handed on to us in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Beginning with the Old Testament, the sacred books refer to the "ten words," but it is in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ that their full meaning will be revealed.

I am in full agreement with the Catechism that there is a distinction between the laws written by Moses in a book located on the side of the ark and the Ten Commandments written by God and placed inside the ark under the mercy seat. So I do not think it is my "Adventist interpretation" that is blinding me from seeing that some laws were nailed to cross and some laws are still binding under the New Covanant and some are not. Hence there was a change.

Where I disagree with the Catholic church is that it can not change the 4th Commandment into the 3rd commandment to keep Sunday holy. You must agree that this change can not be found in Scripture, and I think you do agree because you have twice now appealed to traditions of uninspired men in history.

So lets recap atleast on what we agree on:

The Ten Commandments are binding in the New Covenant (2068). The Ten Commandments are spiritual (2067). The Ten Commandments should be recognized as love, the fulness of the law (2055). In fact combining what I have found in the Catechism I'd say your church can fully agree with our fundamental belief: "The great principles of God's law are embodied in the Ten Commandments and exemplified in the life of Christ. They express God's love, will, and purposes concerning human conduct and relationships and are binding upon all people in every age." Belief # 19.

2172: "God's action is the model for human action"

2169: "In speaking of the Sabbath, Scripture recalls CREATION."

I agree, and God's action here on earth was keeping the Sabbath. He did not need to give a command to keep the Sabbath, 1-as we observed the commandment was already there, The Ten commandments were still binding. 2-Keeping the Sabbath wasn't the issue it was how to keep the Sabbath and what the Sabbath meant that He showed by His example. Your Catechism is again correct:

2172: "God's action is the model for human action"

2173: "The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God. "The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

Not only does Jesus not "fail to respect the holiness of this day" He never transfered the holines of this day to another day, not He nor the Apostles, whom we know for sure were inspired.

Arik said...

"You are fudging with SDA teachings. Adventist prophecy is that all those who worship on Sunday will receive the Mark of the Beast. Now why would they receive this if worshipping on Sunday was okay?"

The seal of God and the mark of the beast are not Sabbath vs Sunday. You previosly agreed that worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth will bring about unity that exists between the Father and the Son.

As described in Hebrews 8, part of the New Covenant experience is: "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their heart." If you believe your Catechism this law "[Decalogue]interpreted by love...the fulness of the law (2055)" is nothing less than love being written into our heart and mind. And as you have said "Love is the identifying mark of a Christian." This New Covenant experience is the sealing work of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13,14)and Revelation 14 is clear that the Everlasting Gospel will go out to all the world dividing people into two classes, those that are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Seal of God)and those that refuse the power of God unto salvation and receive the mark of the beast.

One class will be unified with the unity that exist between the Father and the Son, and again Reveleation 14 gives this class two distinctions-1-Faith of Christ,-2- keep the Commandments (have law of God written in heart and mind). As you agree "Christians are to be obedient to God and His commandments. This is HOW we love God."

By contrast the mark of the beast is given under the false gospel and though this second class is unified it is not the unity of the Father and Son, they do not have the distinguishing mark of the necessary ingredient of the law written in their heart and mind.

Can you guess which commandment will be the one that stands out the most between the true Gospel and the false one? Why it can only be the 4th or your 3rd which the Catholic church readily admits she changed. The Seal of God is the sealing work of the Holy Spirit and it will manifest itself by obedience to God's law (the writing of His law (love the fulness of the law) in the heart and mind. The 4th Commandment will stand out more prominently, and it will be the outward sign (among the other 9) that this class is worshipping the Creator who "made the heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water" (Rev 14:7).