What does it Mean to be a Christian? Part 1: Intro

This has to be one of the most important questions that we need to answer here in the U.S.A. The term “Christian” has been so watered down during my life experience that it is time to take a step back to understand what it truly means.

Why is this an important question? Simply because whenever someone who claims to be a Christian fails to follow Jesus and his teachings, there is temptation for non-Christians to believe that the problem was not that the Christian has poorly represented his faith, but that God, Jesus, and Jesus’ teachings, simply don’t work. This can then lead that person to believe that God doesn’t exist, or that Jesus and his teachings don’t really have any life-changing power. Also, the term Christian is used so loosely that there is a blurring in the vision of those who are not Christian. This is because it is difficult for them to see the difference between those who are truly Christians, and those who merely ascribe to the term on a nominal basis.

Now I do want to clarify at the start that I do not mean to say that all Christians “look alike”. Unity in faith does not mean uniformity in expression. When someone loves another person, this can be demonstrated through many different words, and many different actions. Love is in this sense the “principle”, and the words and actions are the “expression”.

This concept of unity without uniformity illustrates the beauty of God’s creative nature since it is rooted in diversity. Since we are His creation, and are made in his image, we mirror this attribute. We all have different and unique ways of expressing our faith as followers of Christ and that is okay. However, there still remains a difference between diverse ways of expressing our faith, and words and actions that are contradictory to it. This is what prompted me to write about the topic of what it means to be a Christian.

In this series of posts, I will begin to unravel what I believe it means to be a Christian, based on what I have learned from the Bible, from other Christians, and from my own relationship with Jesus Christ. It is important to note, that since I am human, I can make mistakes. Therefore, I ask you to test everything that I say by the foundational concepts and principles that are laid out in the Scriptures. Don’t simply take my word as the truth. Test it, measure it, weigh it, and see for yourself if what I say is true.

“Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul.When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)” – Acts 11:25-27

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” – Jesus in John 17:20 – 21

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What is your End in Mind?

The other day while I was at work, a co-worker mentioned that she was reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. She told me that one of the habits listed in the book was that with every goal, a person should begin with the end in mind, and work backwards in order to identify the steps needed to reach it.

I immediately nodded my head in agreement because I have found that to be true in many aspects of my life, and in the lives of others. When we begin a diet, or start an exercise routine, we envision what we want to look like in the future and begin to make the changes necessary in order to align our actions with our goal. We may not have every little detail planned out, but we do at least create a basic outline of what is going to help us get to our goal. Rarely do we ever accidentally reach some new height without some sort of plan in the process.

As a matter of fact, Stephen R. Covey (the author of the book), did not come up with something entirely new when he wrote about that concept. It is something that is innate to all of us. We have been practicing that method to achieve goals ever since we can remember.

For example, if you are hungry, you know that what will satisfy your desire is food. You then might think, “What do I want to eat?”. At this point, certain foods may come to mind that would bring you more pleasure than others (for me, a sandwich or chocolate usually does the trick). Suppose you decided on a sandwich. You have now created a goal: Eat a sandwich. What do you think happens next? Well, you will begin to identify the steps needed to reach this goal. You may prepare a sandwich using the ingredients available to you in your home, or you may drive to the store to purchase one, or you may find some other way to get one into your hands. Whatever the steps may be, you know intuitively that this is how you reach goals that you have the power to achieve.

So if this is something that we all understand, why did Steven R. Covey have to re-emphasize this point in his book? I believe the reason is because we don’t always apply it towards all of our goals, all of the time. Sometimes we only apply it towards the goals that are comfortable or easy for us to accomplish, or the ones that we regard as important. Sometimes we get so bogged down with everything that life may bring our way, that we forget there are other goals that are more important.

As pondered this concept, I remembered the ultimate goal that God has in mind for us, namely, our attainment of eternal life. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Have you ever pondered this question? In other words, what is the ultimate end? What is the ultimate goal of our lives? Is it to become rich? Famous perhaps? To find the perfect spouse or career? We should always ask ourselves the question, “Are these things worth more than living forever?”

I believe that if you are reading this, you think that your life, however bad it may be in your eyes, is still better than not being alive. If I am right, then wouldn’t eternal life, which the Scriptures promise would bring true satisfaction and joy in our hearts, be even better than living a mere 70 or so troublesome, weary, and sometimes painful, years on this planet?

I am perplexed sometimes as to how little those who claim to be Christians, align their lives with the goal that Jesus re-emphasized over and over to us during his earthly years. As a matter of fact, Jesus was so emphatic about the importance of thinking with an eternal end in mind, that he would sometimes address the questions that were embedded in a secular/earthly context directly with an answer that was in a strictly eternal context, with no apology or explanation as to why.

Take for instance the passage found in Luke 13 where Jesus is told about the way that some people had died. Those who told him about this were perhaps implicitly highlighting their belief that the dreadfulness of someone’s death depends on the degree of the sins they committed before their death. Jesus then responds, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

It is clear that everyone who lives on this earth will die, regardless of whether they repent of their sins or not. But what is interesting is that when Jesus says the word “perish” in this context, he is referring to the eternal death, not the physical death that we all must endure. Jesus responds to their questions with answers that draw their attention to the eternal consequences of their own decisions, instead of answers that entertain their unfruitful pursuits.

Sometimes we can become so committed to having a perfect earthly life that we completely forget that this is simply a phase in our eternal state of being. I remember hearing a sermon once by a pastor who gave the illustration of this life’s pursuits through the playing of a board game. He talked about how whenever he would play a particular board game with his sister, he would get very angry whenever things didn’t go his way. Not only that, but he would almost always lose! Whenever she won the game, she would say the phrase, “now it all goes back in the box.” Meaning, that the game is over, and now it is time to turn our attention back to real life, the matters that we need to pay more attention to.

Do we spend too much time and effort trying to attain earthly pleasures without ensuring that they are part of the eternal goal? Do we view the goals in our life as ends in and of themselves, or as steps that will help us achieve our supreme goal of eternal life? Do we often try to trade that which lasts forever for that which is only temporary?

I believe that if we remind ourselves daily that our eternal life, and secondly the eternal life of others, is what is most important to us, then we will make decisions that will lead to an accomplishment that surpasses anything that this world and life can offer. And with that reward will come the greatest accolade that one could ever receive: “Well done, good and faithful servant“.

Remember, whenever you want to achieve something, start with the end in mind and work backwards.

What is your end in mind?

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” – John 17:3

Re-Introduction

Hello everyone!

I’m back to submit my second post…13 months after my first post! I must say that this is a bit embarrassing since I mentioned in my first post that I would be sharing my journey with you starting last year. Oh well, I guess sometimes we make plans and fail to execute them in the time that we had hoped. But I will not quit because there are still things that I want to share with you from the bottom of my heart, so Lord willing I will write again. I would like to apologize for misleading you and hope that I can still provoke some thought and provide guidance that will help in your journey through life as I make another attempt to share with you what it means for me to be totally transparent.

I should clarify at the outset however, that being “transparent”, in the sense of the word that I am using it in, means to reveal my understanding and beliefs in matters concerning God, life, religion, Christianity, and other topics that should arise with the purpose of bringing some sort of healing to those who choose to read this blog.

As I continue to hear about the atrocities that are being committed all around the world, witness the crippling diseases that are disabling and destroying our loved ones, and live in a generation that is quickly losing an absolute notion of truth that as a result is leading most of us into a path of confusion, lies, and hopelessness, it seems to me that what we need to hear is something that is true, healing, life-giving, hopeful, testable, and relevant to this generation. This blog is my humble attempt to do just that.

I promise you, that I will post again this year and not commit the same mistake that I made last year. Until then, I leave you with a beautiful promise that Jesus Christ has made for us who feel as if we want to give up on life or are facing death:

because I live, you will live also.” – John 14:19

May the Lord bless you and hope to write to you soon,

Alex

What is “Transparency Heals”?

I’m sure you are wondering what “Transparency Heals” is all about… so here it is. Transparency Heals is a blog committed to sharing with others the idea that being transparent, meaning the quality of being emptied of oneself so as to allow Light to shine through, will ultimately bring spiritual, emotional, and psychological healing to all who receive and transfer it. In a world that is full of darkness, what we need more than ever are transparent people who will be the channels through which the Light can bring healing and clarity to a world that is quickly dying.

This year, I will begin to share some of the things that I have learned, and am learning, in my journey towards total transparency. My hope is that you will see how it has brought healing to my life, and in the process become persuaded to join me in this beautiful journey. I think you will find that as you begin to make your way towards the Light, towards that which allows us to see things as they really are, the once intriguing darkness that keeps a large portion of humanity lost, will slowly begin to lose its appeal,  and most importantly, its power in the world.

Let the healing begin…

“In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” – John 1:4,5