How Are You Called?

**Guest article by al Hartman**

Spanish speaking people get acquainted differently than English speakers.  When an Anglo would ask, “What’s your name,” the question stated in Spanish is, “How are you called?”  We humans seem to need a label for everything.  Tagging something or someone seems to eliminate the need for discussion in any detail.  If I tell you that Bob is a biochemist, you may be clueless as to what he actually does to earn his paycheck, but you’ll also probably be far less inclined to ask.  Sometimes we refer to this process of categorization as “pigeonholing.”  As we apply such technique across the broad spectrum of our experience, so we use it to identify (or misidentify) people’s belief systems.

Take for example the atheist.

Everyone knows that atheists don’t believe in God, right?

And that places them all in one box, right?


Atheists come from every imaginable demographic, and there are probably at least a few from backgrounds that most of us wouldn’t imagine.  They all have only two things in common: they are living human beings and they don’t believe in a supreme being or beings.  Even the second of these similarities may have wide variations.  But aside from such instruction as Paul’s examples of being “all things to all men” and his speaking to the Athenians in terms familiar to their own culture, the Bible gives us a lot of latitude in relating to nonbelievers.  Atheists, agnostics, polytheists, monotheists, ad infinitum are all biblically qualified together as “lost,” as opposed to those who are “saved.”

It is the identification of the redeemed elect of God that requires the most caution, for the sake of accuracy.  Commonly throughout the world today, anyone who attends church, or ever has, or claims to believe in one God, or the Trinity, or Jesus Christ, or the virgin Mary, or who even wears a cross or an ictheus as jewelry, or a T-shirt with a religious symbol or saying on it, is considered a Christian.  Many are called Christians who simply live in a geographic area known as a “Christian” community, region, or state.  In other words, mankind’s definition of a Christian is skewed into numerous angles.  But what is God’s view?

The word translated “Christian” is found only three times in Scripture, its obvious purpose being to label the followers of Christ.  Its first occurrence (Acts 11:26) was in Antioch, where “the disciples were first called Christians.”  Note that this nickname was not self applied by the believers, but others gave them the title, most likely as a derogatory term to separate them from “normal” people.  Then at Caesarea, Agrippa used the sobriquet “Christian” mockingly in addressing Paul, who was a prisoner there.  Finally, Peter says, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16), clearly showing that the label is applied from outside the community of saints, for intended reasons of shame and disgrace.  It seems odd that over time believers have adopted the disgrace of the epithet as a beast adapts to its master’s halter.

Paul’s cautioning is stronger still, as he serves notice to the Corinthian church, “there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or “‘ follow Cephas’, or ‘I follow Christ.’  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11b-13).  In so saying, Paul highlights the inadvisability of believers’ labeling ourselves for the convenience of others or even for our own ease of reference.  This he bears out with the shocking revelation that it may be as damaging to call oneself a follower of Jesus Christ himself as to be self dubbed the follower of a favorite preacher or theologian.  I.e. our Lord declares it equally inappropriate for us to call ourselves after our most darling of Jesus’ disciples, e.g. Calvin, Luther, Wesley, etc., or to describe ourselves as “Christians.”

Finally, consider Jesus own words on the matter of how we are called:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23).  Observe that He doesn’t deny their claims of great works done in His name, but simply declares that He never knew them, nor (He implies) they Him, for they were “workers of iniquity,” pointing up two key factors in the business of wearing labels:

First, it matters not what we think of God, but what He thinks of us, and, second, whatever we may call ourselves means nothing in light of the terminology by which our Lord identifies us.  In the final analysis, no matter what account we give on our own behalf, we are who and what He says we are—no less and certainly no more.

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The Page from C.S. Lewis that Changed John Piper’s Life [Weekend Resource]

I’m always looking for good material to feature for the Weekend Resources series.

This week, C.S. Lewis has graciously agreed to do a guest post (meaning, I have more or less picked over some of his work and found a short, profitable piece for readers).

This happens to be the page from C.S. Lewis that John Piper says changed his life [PDF].

**The following is an except of The Weight of Glory [PDF], by C.S. Lewis.**

What is the Highest Virtue?

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.

But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love- You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.

Replacing Love With the Negative Ideal of Unselfishness

The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.

I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

We are Far Too Easily Pleased

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Now I encourage you to  download and read the remaining eight pages of The Weight of Glory.

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An Open Letter to Non-Christians

Dear Non-Christian,

I’ve known you for a while now, ever since I broke out of my Christian bubble and met you on the college campus. It has been refreshing to engage a bigger world. It has spurred me along in growth and understanding.

Yeah, I Envied Your Swagger

To be honest, I was a bit envious of you when we first met. I envied your humor, your carefree attitude, and your swagger. So when you first opened up and told me you were insecure and desperately seeking hope and change…it came as a bit of a shock. I didn’t know you were so much like me.

What I Never Told You, and Why

There’s something I never told you though. I knew where to find those things. I knew where to find hope. I knew the secret to change. I knew the path to peace. I knew the key to unlocking joy. It is all found in a relationship with God through salvation in Jesus Christ.

Why didn’t I tell you? I blamed it on fear. What if you rejected me, scorned my message, mocked my weakness, or laughed at my childlike faith?

Fear Wasn’t The Root Problem

Fear, though, never was my problem. It was just a convenient excuse. You see, fear is just a surface symptom of a deeper problem. I myself lacked deep enough relationship with God in Christ. I had been able to speak of Him as a lover speaking of his loved one, I would been unafraid.

But things have changed now. I’ve never known God before like I do now. I’ve never loved the gospel of Jesus Christ like I do now. And I want you to find the same things. It is impossible to have such a high appreciation of Christ and have a silent tongue. There is real change and hope in Jesus Christ.

I’m not talking about using a lot of vague theological terms to describe some sort of uselessly abstract path to salvation.

Know the Real God

I’m talking about really knowing the real God. Stop running from Him towards things that never satisfy. Find freedom from destructive desires and habits, and replace them with a lifestyle that is filled with hope, love, sacrifice, humility, security, and contentment. It is all found in Jesus Christ. It is radical. It will completely change who you are, how you view life, work and people.

I hope to keep writing and explain these things further. There isn’t a discussion of greater importance that we could engage in together.


Daniel Wilson

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Where Else Can We Go?

You can almost see Peter throw up open hands when he replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of Israel.”

As many of Jesus’ disciples were leaving (John 6:60-68), Jesus turned to the twelve and asked them if they were next. Peter’s response has been echoing in my head.

Where else would we go?

Peter didn’t play down the reasons others had for leaving Jesus Christ. Peter didn’t deny contemplating it himself. Peter just asked a question that demands a reasonable answer.

Look around – is there any other option? Where else can you turn for eternal life if you turn away from Christ?

Would you reject the Fountain of Living Water to hew broken cisterns for yourself? Peter realized that no matter who or what you turned to, it would be less than Christ. It wouldn’t offers the eternal life that our souls long for. It would be a vain attempt to satisfy oneself outside of God, where satisfaction cannot be found. How futile it is to look for something in a place other than where it is.

Where I’ve Been and Where We’re Headed

I flew the coop for a couple weeks because midterms had me in a headlock. But what I learned while I was away from the blogosphere is worth coming back to share in the coming weeks.

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