Most of us have a working definition of what life is. We can tell that a couch is non-living and that the cat sleeping on its cushions is alive without thinking about it much at all. But ask the question, “What is life?” and we have a little more trouble answering. We might fall back on a biology textbook definition and list properties of life like organization, metabolism, homeostasis, growth, and response. Or maybe we’ll go with a more philosophical approach and discuss the meaning or purpose of life. Either way, you’ll find there isn’t a single consensus on how we should define and think about life.
As people who believe in a creator God, Christians have another factor to consider when coming up with a definition of life. We have God as the starting point for all life, and so our definition could add a phrase such as, “Life is something given and sustained by a creator.” And more philosophically, we can talk about human life as distinct from animal or plant life because we have a chance at eternal life. Read more →
What do you do after becoming a Christian? You’ve acknowledged your need for a savior, repented of your past sins, confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and received the gift of God’s grace. The foundations are in place. Now what?
There are some Christians, even Christian teachers, who don’t really know how to answer this question. Those who teach we have no role to play in our salvations and that nothing’s expected of us after conversion are left in a tough pickle. One could, according to this theory, have someone convert to Christianity then go out lying, sleeping around, and stealing but still be considered saved as a part of God’s family. And even the good people who wouldn’t dream of doing something like that are still left with the question, “What do I do now?”
God answers this question for us in the pages of His Bible. You can’t do anything to make God owe you salvation; it is a gift that He chooses to give freely to those who respond to His call. But once you’ve been given this gift your life is supposed to change. Salvation transforms the way you live and gives us a purpose.
Choose A Way
In Acts, Christians are described as people who follow “the way” of the Lord (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). It’s a metaphorical use of the Greek word hodos (G3598), meaning “a course of conduct.” When used literally, hodos refers to the roadway you travel on a journey. In both cases, use of this word implies motion, travel, and activity.
Christians aren’t meant to stagnate. They’re meant to walk through life in a certain way. We get to choose whether we’ll walk in the ways of men or the way of God. And God’s instructions in the New Testament for how to walk look a lot like His laws about how to behave from the Old Testament. The law can’t bring salvation and it was never intended to. But it was a revelation of God’s character and He hasn’t changed. Our conduct still matters to Him.
Ephesians is a fantastic place to start diving deeper into this topic. Here, Paul reminds his readers that they “once walked according to the course of this world.” They were “children of disobedience” influenced by God’s adversary and acting in ways contrary to God’s teachings (Eph. 2:2-3, WEB).
But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)(Eph. 2:4-5, WEB)
Trespasses — sin — kills people. That’s why the choice of whether or not to follow God has always been presented as a choice between life and death (Deut. 30:15-18). Grace lets us choose life even after we’ve done things worthy of death. But it doesn’t give us license to sin or permission to sit around twiddling our thumbs. Read more →
“Do what feels right.” “Follow your heart.” That’s the sort of advice we’ve steeped in living in Western culture. Problem is, that’s not really good advice. Sometimes your heart is wrong. Sometimes what feels good isn’t right.
Speaking more specifically to Christians, one of the hard truths we need to learn is that something can feel okay to you yet still be a sin in God’s eyes. Just because you’re okay with something doesn’t mean God is. And, on the flip side, your dislike of something doesn’t make it a sin. In short, how we feel does not define God’s truth.
God defines truth. Those truths are contained in His word (John 17:17), His law (Ps. 119:142), and His commandments (Ps. 119:151). Either you accept His standards as the basis for truth, or you’re not a Christian. You might be a decent sort of person on the whole, but you’re certainly not a follower of Christ. The Bible is our main link with God. It’s how He has revealed Himself to us. Rejecting the standards outlined in God’s word means we reject His mind and block the Spirit’s work to enlighten and transform us.
A Simple Test
Accepting an outside source as our ultimate authority doesn’t sit well with modern society. We tend to focus on individual freedom and self expression to the exclusion of objective morality. But the Bible says “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). A heart following its own desires is moving away from God.
The season touted as “the most wonderful time of the year” is my least favorite. I’ve found a few things I can appreciate about December (BBC specials, Star Wars film releases, Hanukkah, sales on baking ingredients). But mostly the unrelenting holiday cheer blaring from radios and dripping from public locations tries my soul.
Even though I don’t keep Christmas I try not to be a Grinch about it (which, by definition, means a person “who is mean-spirited and unfriendly” and “spoils or dampens the pleasure of others”). If you wish me a “Merry Christmas” I’ll just smile and thank you. I might even appreciate it because I understand the sentiment behind your greeting. I’m certainly not going to launch into a rant about how much Christmas offends me or how insensitive you are to assume everyone keeps Christmas.
But for some reason, not enjoying/keeping Christmas horrifies some people. In an age where people go nuts if someone tries to “cram your religion down my throat,” you can still be shamed for not keeping Christmas. And I think that’s weird.
Here’s one example of people “grinch-ing” someone for not being Christmassy enough. Yesterday I saw an article from Young Conservatives critiquing the fact that the Obama’s final White House Christmas card doesn’t feature the White House and wasn’t explicitly Christmas related. “It’s basically a ‘Holiday’ card,” they wined, “because writing the word ‘Christmas’ would hurt too many feelings.” Apparently, their feelings were hurt by the leader of a very diverse country trying to cover all the winter holidays observed by the people he’s leading.
It’s not just articles from biased political sites about public figures. It’s the unrelenting Christmas music for a full month on the radio. It’s the pressure to enjoy the decorations and participate in the “spirit of Christmas.” It’s when you say don’t keep Christmas and someone shoots back “Couldn’t you just go caroling?” or “Don’t you love Jesus?”
I don’t really deal with much pressure to keep Christmas. Most of the people I attend church with don’t keep Christmas either (a few Messianics do, but most people I know gave up Christmas when they discovered God’s holy days). When people ask, I’ll explain why I don’t keep Christmas. Mostly, though, I just try to ignore it. But I still see people, mostly online, talking about Christmas and shaming those who don’t get into the seasonal spirit. I don’t care if you want to keep Christmas. I’d just like a little space peacefully not keep it without being bombarded with holiday cheer that makes me feel anything but merry.
Most modern Christian churches develop a culture that prioritizes marriage. We know marriage is a good thing and that it’s part of God’s plan for humanity. Marriage pictures the union between Christ and His church. Beyond the spiritual aspects, it’s also held-out to young people as a sort of “prize” for listening to what the Bible says about purity pre-marriage.
Since we think of marriage as such a good thing, we think of the opposite as something negative. Western culture is, on the whole, very binary. If something is good, the opposite is bad. Our minds don’t naturally consider that both could be good in the proper context. With this mindset, singleness is treated as less-desirable and if a single person doesn’t want to marry we think there’s “something wrong” with them. But is this really how God views things?
It’s a safe bet all my Christian readers know of the verses discussing marriage in a positive light. The marriage relationship was established at creation and in the New Testament Paul connects it to Christ and the church (Gen. 2:18-24; Eph. 5:22-32). Proverbs 18:22 maintains that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” Marriage is certainly seen as a good thing in the Bible. I’m not disputing that and I still hope someday to get married. But I think we make a mistake if we assume marriage’s goodness makes being single a bad thing. Read more →
Once again, I failed to introduce myself to someone. I’m 27 years old — by now I should have mastered the incredibly complicated art of walking up to someone visiting my own church group and simply saying, “Hi, I’m Marissa. Welcome. What’s your name?”
It would probably come out more as a squeaky “Hi” followed by awkward silence as I frantically tried to come up with words resembling normal small talk.
*sigh* So much for INFJs being “the most extroverted introvert.” Perhaps some INFJs are, but I’m not. I’m shy. I thought it was getting better, but apparently I still need more work battling my social anxiety.
Introversion is healthy for introverts. Shyness … not so much
Despite Google’s antiquated definition of introvert as “a shy, reticent person,” shyness and introversion are far from the same thing. “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments” (quote from “Are You Shy, Introverted, Both, or Neither (and Why Does It Matter)?” by Susan Cain). Shyness produces anxiety in social situations, while introversion means you lose energy when around other people. The traits often go together, but extroverts can also be shy.
Introverts who aren’t shy still prefer the inner world of thoughts and ideas to the outer world of people and things, but they’re capable of socializing and even enjoy it. Extroverts who are shy want to spend their time in the outer world, but they’re scared of people.
One of the most genuinely friendly extroverted women I know was once shy. For her, the turning point from shy to social was when she realized her fear of talking was rooted in self-focus. It was about “I’m scared to talk with people,” or “Socializing makes me nervous,” or “What if they don’t like me?” Read more →