Saturday, June 30, 2012


The question "What is a true Christian" has been asked countless times throughout the two thousand plus years since Christ founded His church in Jerusalem. It has been preached on, written about and contemplated  by those seeking to live a Christ centered life. There are many views and there are many different Christian denominations, sects and cults that teach a variety of things each believes necessary to be considered a true Christian and required to obtain salvation and eternal life. That is the Christian objective based upon the promise given by Jesus Christ of eternal life in His kingdom.

Many Christian churches teach many similar things. They have doctrines that have been passed on from the original Apostles. Then some churches have vastly different doctrines. Some Christian Churches hold to Old Testament teachings and blend them with New Testament teachings. These have a hybrid sort of  religion that is legalistic, neither old or new covenant theology and require many rituals and observances of the law they claim brings righteousness.

Amid religious confusion many may be discouraged from seeking the true answer to our question, "What is a true Christian," while it is actually quite easy to find. For the moment, ignore all of the noise coming from the corporate religious community that uses mass media to disseminate their religious views and ask for your money. Ignore your own pastor for a bit and go to the source where the true Shepherd has left us His answer. Jesus gives believers what He expects of us in the pages of our own Bibles. But we may need to dust them off and have a look for ourselves to see if what we are being told is the truth. Do not just assume what we are being told is the "gospel" truth, because all to often, it is at best half truth. And as Benjamin Franklin stated; "Half a truth is often a great lie."

Let us then begin in the Gospels to find the answer that Christ Himself gave in the sheep and goats story found in Matthew chapter 25 verses 31 through 46.

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” (NIV)

Jesus is teaching here a continuation of the Ten Commandments from the Old Covenant given at Mt. Sinai in Exodus chapter 20 that commanded the Israelites to do no harm to their neighbors. But He is also magnifying the old covenant laws into the form of a new commandment which says, " Love your neighbor as yourself."  And in effect He is telling us that by doing good to our neighbor we are likewise doing good to Him.  This is the answer to a utopian society when every man looks to the needs of his neighbor. Not a government, but every one individually living this way. There would be no stealing and  no coveting, all would be a good neighbor to others in their community.

So Who Is My Neighbor?

A man asked Jesus the question, "who is my neighbor." Jesus answered this man with a parable of the Good Samaratin found in Luke chapter 10 verses 25 through 37;

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So the question is not, "who is my neighbor"  that I must do good to, but that you must BECOME that good neighbor to others by YOUR actions. Also of interest was that a priest who knew the law and teachings of the Old Testament walked on by refusing to offer help to his fellow country man who had come from Jerusalem. Then a levite, a man, like the priest, well educated in the Torah and Judaism passed him by.  Then a Samaritan, a man considered a "dog" by the priest and the levite and unclean in their eyes had shown love and was a good neighbor to the man. 

Jesus is teaching a very important lesson here. No matter what your religious affiliation, if any. What church or denomination you may belong to - being a professing Christian - is nothing without actions. The priest and the levite held high positions of power and authority in Judaism and served at the Temple in Jerusalem, but neither one were a neighbor to the man who lay half dead along the road. So their religion was of no use in the eyes of Jesus.

     be continued

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