Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 1:53 pm | Fair 77º

 
 
 
 
Faith

D.C. Collier: Me? Live the Christian Life? Impossible!

An ugly rumor about the Bible has been in circulation for more than 2,000 years. It insinuates that the Bible is no more than another rulebook to live by, like any other holy book or man-made religious system.

This is a direct attack upon Christianity’s most distinctive feature (more on that later). In fact, if that rumor were true, Christianity would have been dead-on-arrival under the sheer size and pressure of the natural and supernatural forces arrayed against it.

In a BBC history article, the question was asked, “In the space of a few hundred years, a small, often brutally persecuted cult (Christianity) rose to become the dominant religion of the West. How did it happen?”

The article went on to attribute Christianity’s success to sociological, political and demographic forces. But this doesn’t come close to explaining why tens of thousands of ordinary, sane peasants, merchants, aristocrats and soldiers risked near-certain death to declare their deeply held convictions that Christianity is true, and that Caesar was nothing more than a phony deity.

Imagine facing bloodthirsty savages gleefully sharpening spikes with which to impale you before soaking you in oil and turning you into one more blazing tiki torch to enhance Nero’s outdoor patio décor. Again, these weren’t zealots, radicals or extremists, yet they held their ground.

Who can forget the heart-rending, yet inspirational testimony of the first Christian martyr, Stephen:

“At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed — he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all His glory with Jesus standing at His side. He said, ‘Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!’

“Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.

“As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, ‘Master Jesus, take my life.’ Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘Master, don’t blame them for this sin’—his last words. Then he died.”1

And then there is the highly improbable overnight transformation that took place among Jesus’ closest followers, the Apostles, who went from cowardly deserters to bold proclaimers — which in those days, was a sure ticket to martyrdom by ghastly means.

Then there was Saul of Tarsus, later renamed Paul, who went from hunting Christians to being hunted as one of them. This was a man with a lot to lose, including, eventually, his own head.

Further, consider the millions of ordinary people who have given their lives for their Christian faith over the intervening centuries up to the present day.

According to the charity, Open Doors, “More than 3,000 Christians were killed worldwide last year for their faith, twice as many as the previous year ... Of the 11 worst countries for Christians to live in, all are now classed as places of extreme persecution — more than ever before in 26 years of the World Watch List ... in 50 countries persecution of Christians is most extreme.”

So, what accounts for this apparent collective “madness?” What gives these ordinary people the supranormal power to endure, and even triumph over such atrocities? And what about the millions of Christians today who, while not in the extremes of the people above, find power and victory in their faith despite the overwhelming opposition of an increasingly Christ-rejecting world?

There must be “more to the story,” and there is ...

Power From Above

Before his death at Roman hands, Jesus made a startling promise:

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see — these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.

“From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.”2

The countless versions of man-made religions in the world share a common feature: the entire process of belonging, adhering and maintaining is left up to you. The organization provides the system, and it’s up to you to follow it.

And that is where Christianity parts company with all other belief systems entirely. Jesus said, “I’ll do it.” His followers are told, “stand aside,” and watch me do even greater things through you. The intention, energy and power come directly from Jesus — all eternally lasting works begin and end with God.

Someone has said that man-made religions are always saying, “do, do, do,” but the Christian message is, “done, done, done.” Done by the power of the resident Holy Spirit ... and that constitutes Christianity’s most distinctive feature. Of course, you can’t live the Christian life, you were never meant to. Let Christ do the living in you. All you need is the right “fuel ...”

A River of Living Water

Jesus invited any willing hearer to join Him in His kingdom and tap into an inexhaustible supply of “spiritual fuel” to power a transformative life in the here and now. Here is Christ’s own invitation, which still stands today:

“On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.’ (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)”3

The single qualification is that you come thirsty.

How About You?

Without that living water, all we’ve got is a little religious zeal, which won’t take us very far in the spiritual realm.

So, how does a person tap into that river of living water? Stay tuned for next week’s column.

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

1. Acts 7:54-60 The Message (MSG)

2. John 14:11-14 (MSG)

3. John 7:37-39 (MSG)

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