Sunday, February 19, 2012

PROFESSING CHRIST AND POSSESSING CHRIST...IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

I've been reading a great deal lately about politicians who are saying of one another where the other stands in relation to being a true Christian. The Democratic President, at present, professes to be a Christian. But the Republican candidate for the presidency says that the current President is not, in fact, a true Christian at all. Someone else I read defended the current President and said the Republican candidate is the "pretend Christian" as evidenced by his judgmental attitude. No true believer would do that, those critics say.


They are not speaking about holding to Christian beliefs because both men have stated scripture as the basis for what they believe. They are referring to whether or not the other is a"real Christian." So on and on we go.


Now let's be clear, I didn't vote for the current President and I've not yet decided who I will vote for in the next election. But I do have a question for the two politicians debating whether the other is a christian or not. I have the same question for ALL candidates from whatever political party they might come. Is any one of them a "real Christian"? How would I know? Is it indicated by what they say they believe? Is it even indicated by how they act?


Maybe only Democrats are really Christian...wait, I mean...Maybe only Republicans are really Christian. Goodness...how can ANYONE really tell whether ANYONE is a "real Christian" or not? Can someone profess Christ and really not possess Christ at all? How are we to know who it is that is professing Christ and yet, in actual fact, is a hypocrite in the doing of it? [Pretending]


It is interesting to me that the scriptures indicate that there are two qualities that will be found in any person who is declaring themselves to be a true believer. Those qualities are faith and love. The writer of Hebrews said,"Without faith it is impossible to please God," [Hebrews 11:6]  But then Paul himself said that while faith would ultimately pass away, love never does. [1 Corinthians 13:8]


So love AND faith are present in a true believer. No matter what we say we believe or how much good we do, it is the presence of love and faith that indicates the validity or realness of a relationship with Christ. [We can discuss monergism vs. synergism later.]

But...and here is the rub...it is a certain KIND of love and faith. It is an "unfeigned" kind as described by the NT writers. In fact, in that 1 Timothy verse Paul tells Timothy it must be a "sincere" kind of faith. That word sincere is translated "unfeigned" in the KJV and Darby translation. "Unfeigned" would simply mean.. "non-hypocritical" faith or.. "real as opposed to pretended." 


The same is true of love as Peter declares..."That you love one another with an unfeigned [there it is] love. [1 Peter 1:22] Remember, the word means "non-hypocritical" or "real as opposed to pretended" love.


It is quite significant, I would think, that both Apostles would write about both love and faith to different people at different times using the same word to qualify each, UNFEIGNED or NON-HYPOCRITICAL. If nothing else, this shows that you can PRETEND to be a person of love and a person of faith and not really possess those two qualities at all.


NOW we can understand WHY Paul wrote to the Corinthians these words, "Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts and each man's praise will come to him from God." [1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB]


So..it is obvious that ONLY Christ can know what's in a person's heart.  And He WILL ultimately reveal whether a person's love and faith are real or are just pretended. I think it is safe to say in THAT day the truth about every politician's Christianity will be revealed. [Along with all the rest of us as well.]


Maybe the Politicians had better leave that kind of assessment to a different Person for a different time.


Maybe we ALL should.


Paul B.

10 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

1 John 5:12 says, pretty plainly, that whoever has the Son of God has life, and whoever does not have the Son, does not have life. As I read the magic Strong's page here, "has" seems to mean to have, to hold, to hold one's self to, to possess.

Jesus pointed out that there would be many who just said "Lord, Lord" to Him, would not inherit eternal life.

Sounds like there's some sort of eternal and serious difference in professing .. saying .. you're a Christian, and actually being one.

Rex Ray said...

Bob,
You’re sure right about “saying” and “being” is a “serious difference”.

If judging makes a person a “pretend Christian”, then Paul wasn’t the real deal. Even though Paul said not to pass judgment before the Lord returns, he sure didn’t practice what he preached did he?

In my opinion, next to Jesus, Paul was the most ’judgmental’ man in the Bible:

1. “If anyone even an angel from heaven preaches any other way to be saved than the one we told you, let him forever be cursed.” (Galatians 1:8)

2. “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved.” (Philippians 3:2)

3. “…false teachers…bring long letters of recommendation…” (2 Corinthians 3:1 Living)

4. “…so-called Christians there—false ones really…They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 2:4)

5. “…I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.” (2 Corinthians 11:26)

6. “…with tears in my eyes, there are many who walk along the Christian road who are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18 Living)

I believe Obama saying he prayed everyday is not the answer to prove he was a Christian.

I mean it seems a crowbar is needed on his lips for him to say Jesus.

Paul Burleson said...

Rex,

I appreciate the verses. My take on them is...each one is speaking to an "action done."

“If anyone even an angel from heaven preaches"...

"those people who do evil"...

"false teachers…bring long letters of recommendation"....

"They sneaked in"....

"I have faced danger [perils they did to me] from false brethren"...

"enemies of the cross" [Do things to stop the message of the cross]...

I think it wise to make judgments [discernment[ of behavior. But to make a judgment [condemnation] of someone's heart or their motive for their behavior is what I'm speaking to.

We can't know the heart of another..even if we deem their performance inadequate or lacking according to our standard.

To say.."I believe a person is failing to act as I believe a christian is to act"....is an assessment of behavior with my judgment about it. [Discernment]

To say.." I believe that person is not a true believer at heart and doesn't really know Jesus at all."...is to assume knowledge that only God can know. [Condemnation]

It may seem to be a fine line, but I believe it is one that is being crossed far too often by Christians and I am simply raising my voice against that kind of behavior.

But the heart matter of "why" I'm raising my voice against it only God really knows and will one day make known. Regardless of what I say.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Thank you, again, for a fine article, and exposition of one of my pet aversions.

In your reply to Rex you summed it up well:
'To say.."I believe a person is failing to act as I believe a christian is to act"....is an assessment of behavior with my judgment about it. [Discernment]

'To say.." I believe that person is not a true believer at heart and doesn't really know Jesus at all."...is to assume knowledge that only God can know. [Condemnation]'

I have never known a person,who professes Christ as Lord and Savior, who has not revealed, at least, some, un-Christian behavior, including myself,whether Pope,Priest,Pastor, Elder, Deacon.

That is, what you have labelled "[Discernment]".

I would call it a "value judgement" which reveals more about the one making that judgment,than about the person being judged.

I so applaud your last two paragraphs!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

This..."I would call it a "value judgement" which reveals more about the one making that judgment, than about the person being judged."...has been my thoughts on things of this nature for some time now. Well said.

Rex Ray said...

Paul,

Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruits.” “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:16, 20)

I don’t think the subject couldn’t be any clearer than the advice of Jesus.

Was Jesus judging as God or man when he condemned Pharisees’ actions as being hypocrites and blind fools?

Paul Burleson said...

Rex,

We could go tit for tat in giving verses. For example I could give Matthew 7:1-5. Matthew 13:18-30, John 8:1-11 or Romans 14:10-12 and a host of others.

But when all is said and done with all the verses investigated, I think it would be safe to say a distinction is made in them ALL between actions and the heart. One [actions] can be weighed as to a standard but the other [heart] is incapable of being known except by God.

It may be as simple as saying we can evaluate a person's "doings" but we cannot evaluate a person's "reasons for doing their doings."

So, if we're willing to stick with the "doings" of any person, we can give our opinion as to the legitimacy of the actions from our viewpoint with some confidence. [Depending on what measurement we're using.]

But when we go to the "why" of their doings, [heart] we better not trust our ability to know that very much at all. We don't even know our own that well.

Honestly, I'm not trying to get you or anyone to AGREE with what I'm saying, but, rather, to be clear in WHAT I'm trying to say. So, I think I've gone as far as I can go in shedding light on this.

But you and others may continue to comment, according to the standard for comments on this blog, I think I've said all I need to on this subject. I've enjoyed the back and forth. Thanks.

You've certainly been willing to abide by that in my judgment, {there it is} which I appreciate. LOL

Rex Ray said...

Paul,

It’s a joy to converse with someone that can laugh at himself. I’m referring to your “in my judgment”.

I would have missed it if not for “[there it is] LOL”

That’s almost the same with the next verse that follows Matthew 7:1-5:

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!...”

I mean how do we know who is “unholy” and “pigs” if we don’t judge?

Matthew 13:1-30
“…I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds…”

How did the workers know which are “weeds” if they didn’t judge?

John 8:1-11
Sure this trap for Jesus backfired, but didn’t Jesus ‘judge’ the woman when he said, “Go and sin no more”?

Romans 14:10-12
This Scripture should be interpreted in light of the whole chapter. Paul sums it up with verse 14.

“I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat…”

Paul was ‘fighting’ AGAINST the JUDGMENT of James where James named foods that could not be eaten if Gentiles were to be accepted by Christian Jews. In essence, Paul was telling his brothers to STOP IT. Stop judging which foods were right or wrong.

Paul, you’re 100% right that ‘actions’ cannot always tell the why of the heart.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

May I add a further two bits worth from the Apostle Paul?

"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Rom,14:10-13)

There’s an old saying, “Remember! When you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself!”

The accusative finger has, always, to base its judgment on legal precedent!

The Apostle Paul well understood that. For most of his adult life he had been, as he described himself, “ ….a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees.” (Acts 23:6b). Furthermore, he described himself, “…circumcised on the eighth day,of the people of Israel,of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness, under the law blameless.”(Philippians 3:5)

Paul had every reason to point the finger at those who didn’t keep the law. He was a well indoctrinated, practicioner and purveyor of the legal system of Old Covenant law.

Something dramatic happened to Paul to change his life and allow him to write as he did in our passage from Romans 14.

Paul came face to face with the New Covenant person, on that road to Damascus, where that Amazing Grace, about which we so easily sing, was eternally applied to him.

He realized that to qualify as one who could use law to judge the spiritual position of others, we had to be prepared to give account of ourselves at the very same legal tribunal. Paul well understood that, as far as the law is concerned, we all must stand before that bench, on the same basis of every other human being.

This enabled Paul to not make the supposition that believers have a right, or even responsibility to sit in judgment on our fellow-Christians.

Paul’s confrontation with the living Lord Jesus Christ, had been the beginning of a radical change in his thinking. In fact the very opposite of what he had practiced, apparently, for the whole of his adult life.

He realized that ALL of the demands of the law had been fulfilled in the life,death, and resurrection of Jesus. He had learned, as he said, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8)

Now, there is a very wise, and Scriptural "judgment”, or “determination" we can, and ought to make, as Paul says in our passage, “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”

I wonder at how much injury, to the cause of Christ, is caused by a believer making judgments about another, whose situation, only God can possibly know.

It has been my sad duty to help a believer negotiate the "stumbling-block" of a personal judgment, made on the basis of a verse of Scripture, which was taken out of context, and personally interpreted instead of by Scripture.

No human being, Christian or otherwise, is without sin. For the believer in Christ judgment by a fellow believer, can be the very “stumbling block: which causes more sin, such as anger and resentment.

In fact, the very judgment we make, is, in itself sin, the sin of self elevation to a position above the judged sinner!

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