If you’ve ever stood in the line at Starbucks you know what it’s like to be labeled. The coffee giant labels each one of its white and green cups with the specific order of each coffee consumer. Some are as simple as, “coffee, black” others can be as complicated as, “grande, iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk.” Both are essentially coffee drinks, but both are very different in their taste, appearance, and label. My Starbucks order is pretty simple, “grande, cafe latte, with soy or almond milk.” You can read more about my Starbucks experiences and orders in a previous blog post here. When it comes to coffee labels things can get complicated and in the same way when you mention the term Christian, things can get as easily complicated. Between denominations—baptist, lutheran, pentecostal, methodist, church of Christ, Catholic, worship styles—hymns, contemporary, hands raised, hands down, choir, live band, and Bible translations—King James Version, New Living, The Message, New International, Amplified, and my personal favorite New King James Version—things can get pretty sticky when it comes to being a Christian. But what does it really mean to be a Christian? When you dig down to the foundation of all Christianity, what holds the church together and what does a person who calls themself a Christian actually look like? This post is not about church attire, worship styles, or even your preferred Bible version, but more about what the core of Christianity is.
When I was 9 years old I gave my life to Jesus. I remember the little church we attended and being asked one straightforward question, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of GOD and that He died for your sins?” With my simple “yes” I was welcomed into the world of Christianity and all its different traditions, denominations, and unfortunately arguments. But through all the noise of doctrinal disputes, hermeneutical interpretations, and theological examinations, what being a Christian actually means is having a real intimate relationship with Jesus. That is the only label that truly matters and its the only label that we should allow to stick. Jesus is the reason we came to be a Christian. Romans 5:8 says, “But GOD demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is why we are Christians and that is why we want to have an intimate relationship with the One who gave everything for us. One of the most famous scriptures in all the world sums it up like this, “For GOD so loved the world (thats me and you!) that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16. For GOD so loved you, before you cleaned yourself up, before you had your act together, before you knew you needed a Savior He loved you in the before. And He gave everything for you. Can you imagine sacrificing one of your children for someone else? How about your only child? I know I couldn't! But that is what GOD did and that is why today, more than 2.2 billion people around the globe declare that they are Christian. But here is another reality check for you: our planets population is 7.53 billion individuals. That means that more than 5 billion people are destined for an eternity separated from GOD if we don’t do something about it. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
There is no other way to GOD except through Jesus and as Christians we have the answer that the world is looking for. Since the beginning of time, people have been looking for the secret to everlasting life. During the time of the conquistadors, they searched for “The Fountain of Youth.” Today, researchers look for it in medical advances and artificial technology. Why such interest among people who don’t know GOD? Because deep down they fear what happens after death, but that is why Jesus came. The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus, “That He, by the grace of GOD, might taste death for everyone.” Jesus has already experienced, tasted, and defeated death for all 7.53 billion people living on the planet today and the billions more to come. With one simple answer, each one of those individuals, no matter what they have done in the past, or where they were born, or how they grew up, or even how old they are now, can make that decision to give their life to Jesus Christ. The question is, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of GOD and that He died for your sins?”
If you’d like to make Jesus the Lord of your life, click here to learn how to do that and pray a simple prayer with Drew. If you made that decision today or recently and would like us to pray for you, click here to connect with Valerie and Drew.
Over the next several weeks and months, Anchor Movement is going to focus on a series called “Back to the Basics” where we answer and define what it actually means to be a Christian. We want to answer some of the questions that new and old believers have in their walk of faith. Some examples include, “How to study the Bible,” and “Why should I go to church.” If you have a question you’d like us to answer or explore on the blog, go to our connect page and leave your response or visit our Instagram page here and leave your response in the comments.
This week I had a few spare moments so I turned on ESPN to catch up on the daily sports news. For me, it’s a slow time of the year when it comes to sports. College football starts in 1 month and college basketball doesn’t start until November, so most the sports news right now is who is signing where and who got injured in practice, but on this day what I saw was something very different. Sitting for an interview on live TV was 10 time NBA All Star, Olympic Gold Medal winner, and 2003 Final Four MVP Carmelo Anthony. As a college basketball fanatic and all around basketball fan, getting to watch Carmelo from his National Championship at Syracuse in 2003 all the way through his NBA career has been amazing, but this interview was different. It didn’t take long to realize that instead of promoting the many accomplishments of Carmelo Anthony, the real reason for the interview was to answer all the questions surrounding his last few years on the court. As the discussion dived deeper into the misses and mistakes, you could almost see and feel Carmelo replaying those missteps on live TV. As a fan you never get to see the human side of the athletes we watch on TV, but in this moment I could see the vulnerability and humility of a man who has defined himself by the game in which he plays. At one particular moment, Stephen A Smith who is interviewing Carmelo, begins questioning the contracts Carmelo has signed and the teams that he has played for. As the camera focuses on Carmelo you can see him second guessing some of the directions that he had taken along his journey in the NBA, but sitting here now, 15 years later, there was nothing he could do to change the past. As I sat and watched, my mind went to a discussion Jesus was having with his disciples in John 16:13:
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. John 16:13 NKJV
I know it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has had the opportunity to play professional basketball for 15 years and make over 150 million dollars doing it, but I did feel sympathy for Carmelo in this moment. You could hear the regret in his voice with some of his answers and see the desperation in his eyes for just wanting to play one more season. The “what could have beens” for him in this interview were championships, wins, and contracts but for me watching the TV I thought of all the memories I wish I could go back and change. Many decisions that I made were not harmful decisions, but could have been easier. For many of you reading this, you might never step foot on a basketball court, but you will step into a specific career or direction for your life. Wouldn’t you like to know that GOD is guiding you in all your decisions? I kept thinking about John 16:13 as the interview went on and I just couldn’t shake the thought that “what if we allowed ourselves to be led completely by the Holy Spirit?” Would we have these moments where we second guessed many of the decisions we made over the last 15 years? Would we look back on decades of our life and wish we could have done something different?
If you read the rest of John 16, Jesus is basically saying goodbye to his disciples and giving them guidance for when he is gone. In just a few short hours, Jesus would be standing before Pontius Pilot and his crucifixion would be at hand. Jesus knew that His time on Earth was winding down and in the short amount of time He had left, He gave the disciples a game changer when it came to living the rest of their lives. Of course, we now know Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit and the guidance that comes from being led by Him. As Christians, we have a huge advantage in this life because the GOD who created the entire universe lives on the inside of us and wants to lead us into all truth. We don’t have to wonder what direction we should go or decision we should make. The scripture says that “He will guide you into all truth” and “He will tell you things to come.” If He is telling us and guiding us, that means we need to ask and listen to what He is saying. Too often in our lives, we feel pressured to make an immediate decision and that ends up costing us in the future. Instead, let’s slow down and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirt. Let’s take some time to be still and listen to our Creator and really come to know where He wants to guide our life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” GOD’s thoughts toward you are for peace, blessing, and hope, but we have to be listening. GOD wants to guide you and tell you the future of your life, the only question is, “Are you listening?”