17 November 2010

"become a Christian"

As we're reading through the Gospel of Matthew with some friends, I have been trying to figure out what it means to become a Christian. Or how to do it. I've heard the phrases all my life: become a Christian, ask Jesus in your heart. But how? And what do they mean? Where did we come up with those ideas? Does it happen like that?

Those all sound like items on a check list.

And I'm confused because Jesus doesn't talk like that. Last week we read this in chapter 25. Jesus speaking:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.... Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
So, there are those that are cursed--"thrown into a fire prepared for the devil and his angels." And there are those that are blessed--"to inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

And then, in his letter to the saints in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote,
You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Dead in sins, sons of disobedience, children of wrath, goats. He made it clear that all of us start out this way. 

But God made us alive together with Christ. And those of us that are alive, and recipients of great grace and kindness...we should walk in the good works he's prepared for us!

Maybe that's key. Maybe it's not so much that caring for those in need created the distinction between the goats and the sheep, the cursed and the blessed, the dead and the alive, but maybe it's that it shows the distinction between those who know the King and who have received his gift of grace and those who won't.

So what about those who live and love like sheep, but haven't "become a Christian"?

"Praying a prayer" isn't enough to transform a person, is it?
Is it?

This is crazy and inflammatory stuff that Jesus said. And I don't get it. Or maybe I'm starting to get it. I experience it...
but the pieces of this puzzle are all over the floor right now. They were under the rug and we've lifted the rug. I can't quite get pieces back together yet.

Wrestlings? Passages? Thoughts?

1 comment:

Neja said...

Good thinking! I'd have all the interns write a 20 pages paper before they do an internship in SLO on this. Cuz I think saying a prayer isn't becoming a Christian. I think it's a process. So a prayer is just a start. And then it takes you a tons of belief and hope to keep going. Unless you live in a Christian bubble.(think of kids who did become Christians and then walked away after few years) This theme could take up a whole day of talking :)