Tag Archives: jesus

I believe in Jesus Christ

Say what you will about the state of our culture.  Personally, I think that one we have going for us is that—for better or for worse—people do not take the statement, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” lightly.

To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ” implies much more than an affirmation of the existence of an historical person.  It implies a whole set of beliefs, a certain lifestyle.  To proclaim belief in Jesus Christ is a bold statement.

Why?  Because “belief” means more than you might realize on the surface.

You can’t believe in a dead person.  Many admirable men and women have gone before us, and we can certainly acknowledge their achievements and seek to emulate them, but we would not say, for example, “I believe in Martin Luther King Jr.”  It sounds weird, right?  We could certainly say, “I believe in what MLK Jr. stood for,” or, “I believe we should all try to be more like him,” but to say “I believe in him” today sounds odd to us.  And it should.  You can’t believe (present-tense) in a person that is not alive.

So when you say, “I believe in Jesus,” you’re saying that you believe Jesus is alive today.  That’s huge; and that by itself would be enough to make you pause and reflect before speaking, but it goes even deeper.

When you profess belief in Jesus, you’re professing belief in a living person, but this belief means more than acknowledging the existence of a living person.  Think about the people you know in your life today.  I have a close friend named Jaclyn.  For me to say, “I believe in Jaclyn,” of course implies a lot more than if I were to simply say, “I believe that a person named Jaclyn exists today.”  We all know this from experience.  For me to say, “I believe in Jaclyn” means that I have confidence in the person that Jaclyn is.  It means that I know her on some sort of deeper level; and it means that I trust her based on my relationship with her.

Apply this to the claim, “I believe in Jesus Christ” and you will spend your lifetime realizing the implications.  Do we have confidence in the Person of Jesus Christ?  Do we know who He is and what he stands for?  Can we trust Him?  Can we really say we believe in Jesus Christ if we only half-heartedly believe in His teachings?

The bottom line of all of this is that you can’t claim to believe in somebody you don’t know.  This should be a wakeup call to us all, because there is always room to grow in our relationship with Jesus.  If we’re not growing in relationship, our confidence—our belief—will start to fade.  So let’s boldly proclaim belief in Jesus, but let’s make sure that claim constantly reminds us of our need to grow in deeper relationship with Him.

 

Why I Love Jesus AND Religion

[Please, if you would, take a moment right now to pray for a special intention of mine today.  Thank you so much!]

This video was making the rounds on my Facebook news feed yesterday.  You may have seen it:

Now I was a fan of this guy’s last video.  And in this video, he does say some things that are right, and I get that his heart is in the right place.  Where I take issue is that he is not merely saying that Jesus is greater than Religion (which, by the way, I agree with).  He is saying that Jesus hates religion.  And while it may be tempting to play the, “yeah, I think religious people are lame, too” card in an attempt to get more people to hear our message, we need to be careful that our message does not fly in the face of the Gospel.  I don’t have time to cover everything misleading in the video here, but I will try to hit the main points.

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?

…Then I’d say you probably haven’t read the New Testament very carefully.  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 5:17 when He says,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

The Law, of course, being the Law of Moses, i.e. The Old Covenant, i.e. RELIGION.

In the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores

Yes, God called some religious people whores in the Old Testament—when they were being unfaithful to the Law (in other words: when they were disobeying the laws of their RELIGION—their religion given to them by God, by the way)

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites an awful lot, but remember the definition of a hypocrite: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.  Jesus actually told the disciples that they should DO what the scribes and Pharisees tell them.

“…practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3).

“Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20)

Doesn’t sound like Jesus hates religion to me.  In fact it sounds like He takes it pretty seriously.

When individuals use religion as a mask or for personal gain?  Yes, Jesus hates that.  But only because religion is not (and never was) meant to be a mask.  It’s meant to be an aid.

If I’m sick, knowing the doctor is definitely going to be important.  I’m going to need a relationship with him in order to let him know what is hurting me so that he can heal me.  But the fact of the matter is, if there’s no hospital, I’m not going to be able to find a doctor.  If I don’t go in for regular check-ups (even when I don’t feel like I’m sick), I’m not going to remain healthy.  If there’s no medicine when I am sick, my relationship with the doctor isn’t going to be enough to make me well again.  There’s a reason the doctor prescribes medicine, just like there is a reason God gave us the rules of religion.

The Rules

As young people, we’re generally not huge fans of rules.  We like to make up our own minds using our own reason and we hate being told what to do—especially if we are told to do something for seemingly no reason at all (like making your bed in the morning when you’re just going to sleep in it again at night).

At first, we may just put up with the nonsensical rules out of fear of getting in trouble.  When this is no longer enough, we’re faced with two options:

1)   We decide that we know better and we figure that the fun we’ll have breaking the rules is worth the consequences or punishments that will most likely befall us.

2)   We talk to the boss (usually mom and dad) and figure out what the deal is with the rules.  And even if we still don’t quite understand them, we figure that our parents have our best interest at heart, and the love and respect we have for them is enough to get us to obey the rules.

If you paid attention closely, you may have noticed that it all really comes down to some form of love.  When we obey rules out of fear of punishment, it’s because we’re smart enough to love ourselves enough to not want to get punished.  On the other hand, when we break rules, we’re declaring that we love pleasures or laziness so much that we don’t even care that we’ll eventually be hurt by the punishment our actions bring with them.

This is why our faith cannot be merely a set of rules.  Faith, in order to be fruitful, has to be based on the love of a person outside of ourselves—the person of Jesus Christ.  We need Jesus to teach us how and why to love.  We need Him to teach us why the rules are there, and if we don’t understand some of them, we need to know that, like a father, He only gives us rules for our own happiness and well-being.  We can’t know this simply by being told.  We have to know it for ourselves; we have to know Him.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You,
I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.”

-St. John Vianney

Being Catholic vs. Following Christ

Question:

Why do Catholics refer to themselves as “Catholic” and not as “Christians”?  For instance, when I am asked what I believe, I don’t say I’m Lutheran or Presbyterian, I say I am Christian. But I have noticed that my Catholic friends identify themselves not as Christian, but as Catholic. 

Do not we all believe that Christ died for sins and rose again, and that this is the essence of our faith? So then why does there seem to be this distinction between us? I know that there are many theological and liturgical differences that separate Catholics from the denominations, but I think that we should all come under one umbrella on one point: that we are all professors of Christ’s redeeming grace and, therefore, all Christians.

This is not to say that Catholics are not Christians, but to ask why I do not hear my friends who are Catholic referring to themselves as Christians.

 

Answer:

Thanks for the question!

First of all, you are absolutely right.  Catholics are Christian.  In fact, before the Protestant Reformation, most people who identified themselves as Christians were Catholic-Christians (give or take a few heretics).  Saint Peter was the first Pope of the Catholic Church (and I don’t think anyone would argue that he wasn’t a follower of Christ!), and we have had an unbroken line of popes since Saint Peter, that goes all the way to our current pope, Pope Benedict XVI.

Catholic actually means “universal,” so when someone says, “I belong to the Catholic Church,” they are really saying, “I belong to the universal church.”  So it’s a little ironic that nowadays it can sometimes feel divisive among other Christians.  Our earliest written record of the term “catholic” to describe the Church is from Saint Ignatius of Antioch, in AD 107.  Ignatius was a bishop who, like a lot of the early Christians, was arrested and killed for his faith.  In his final letter to his fellow Christians in Smyrna (a city in modern-day Turkey), he wrote, “Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic [universal] Church” (To the Smyrnaeans 8:2).  The term sort of caught on after that.

Why don’t your Catholic friends refer to themselves as Christians, you ask?  I can’t be sure.  It could be that they don’t know for sure whether Catholics really are Christian.  I’ve been asked this question a lot by kids on retreats or at youth group, and I often get the sense that most of these young people know that Catholics are Christian, but they also know that our brand of Christianity is different than a lot of their friends’, and they’re not really sure how to articulate why that is.

For me, if someone asks if I am a Christian, I unhesitatingly tell them yes.  I am a proud believer in Jesus Christ.  But if asked what faith I am or religion I am apart of, I proudly say that I am a Catholic.  Why?  Because while all Catholics are Christian, not all Christians are Catholic.  To be a Catholic means that I am under the authority of the Church that Christ established over 2,000 years ago when he gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:18).  To be a Catholic means that I can run to Christ in the sacrament of reconciliation when I have sinned, and truly know that I have been forgiven.  To be a Catholic means that I believe that Christ meant it at the Last Supper when He said the words, “This is my body…take and eat,” and I get to receive Him on a regular basis in the Eucharist.  Jesus commanded us to follow Him, but I believe He gave us the Catholic Church as a means to do that in the fullest way possible.

You are right, though.  It was Christ’s prayer that we “may all be one,” as He is one with the Father (John 17:21).  There is definitely a balance to strike between only focusing on our differences, and ignoring them completely.  In the end, we will only ever be truly united when we all believe in the one truth that Christ Himself meant for us to believe in.  Until then, we love each other as Christ has commanded us to 🙂

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