Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A radical Islamic Taliban Roman...? (Part 2)

(To make better sense of today's post you'd be well served to read part 1 first)

Clearly, when Peter was saved he became a ‘Christ-following Jew’ since there was no group or organized religion to belong to. By the same token when Cornelius was saved he became a ‘Christ-following gentile.’ This is key in recognizing that our goal is not to make people Christian, but to make them Christ followers. Neither Peter nor Cornelius was Christian. In fact, they were called by many other monikers such as “Followers of The Way,” “Disciples,” “Apostles” and various other designations that spoke to having experienced a vertical transition as opposed to a horizontal or lateral transition. Peter didn’t go from being a Jew to being a Christian which merely marked a change of religion. This is not just a semantic difference. We are all acquainted with Christians that aren’t Christ followers, and, if you live in a Muslim country that’s hostile to the gospel, you may well be a Christ follower that’s not a Christian because, while you may have experienced a conversion like Cornelius, you’ve never been introduced to the Church and Christianity.

If we take a hidebound approach to thinking that people must become Christians or there is no transformation at all, we might miss the work of God in the Cornelius’s of the world. I would argue that a man who is saved by divine revelation (such as Paul was on the road to Damascus), who happens to live in the epicenter of radical Islam and has no church to belong to, does not become a ‘Christian’ but a Christ follower. In other words he doesn’t change religious camps. If we grasp this idea, then we are less likely to try and convert people to Christianity as much as we would seek to convert them to Christ.

God creates in all of us an awareness of His existence. He woos us and draws us to Himself, and He paves the way for all men to find a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus, which is the only way to true salvation. I like the way a friend of mine puts it: “Before there can be an acceptance of certain truths (such as the resurrection of Jesus) or an adherence to a humane life (such as giving to the poor or prayer) there must be a prior connection to God.” Please understand me clearly; it is impossible to find salvation outside of a relationship with Christ. Jesus Himself stated, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” but God draws men to Himself by His sovereign will, and provides opportunities for ‘Peter’ to encounter ‘Cornelius.’ Do you recognize that, in order for Cornelius to experience his transformation as he heard Peter unfold the truth about Jesus Christ, Peter had to first experience a paradigm shift of his own. He had to come to the realization that Salvation was for both the Jew and the gentile (the “clean” and the “unclean”) and that the social taboo of crossing the threshold of a gentile home was worth violating in order to present truth to Cornelius.

Tomorrow, I’ll touch on some deeper heart issues about Christianity and salvation.


Ash said...

i like this idea of christ follower. i would venture to say that many in my generation also do. there is a thought that being "christian" often puts us in a box- with a set of regulations or "else"- a culture specific that must be lived out- at least there are times it feels like this. and if God Almighty is so big and outside the box, outside of time and space even, than why must following him be in an "organized square of worship and communication...or community"...b/c jesus certainly didn't live like that. do i make sense? i think you said it well "vertical" vs. "horizontal"...

Joseph said...

Ashley, your assertion about many in your generation is affirmation enough for me. I know this to be a fact (I'm raising kids in your generation, albeit a tad younger)and I'm convinced that we must take a different approach if the gospel is to make inroads in your generation.

Joseph said...

Ash, as I reread your response, I wanted to ensure that I didn't communicate the idea that I'm against Christianity or belonging to community. I will speak to that in some detail in tomorrows post.