A Secular Christian ?
Is there such a thing as a “secular Christian”? That question was posed in an article that I just read concerning whether or not you can be a Christian, and at the same time have doubts about the virgin birth, or the resurrection. Another question in the article was, “What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century?” That question alone, let’s you know that there’s probably a fairly common view, that the idea of Christianity is a rather subjective concept. When something is “subjective”, it means that it’s “subject” to outside influences. And I also get the impression from that question, that many people probably think that Christianity can be changed, according to cultural changes, or personal feelings. But in reality, no idea could be further from the truth.
Consider the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century?” That implies that it might mean something different now, than it meant at some point in the past. Maybe the implication is that being a Christian means something different in all generations. But we need to ask ourselves; If Christ doesn’t change, how can Christianity change? DOES Christ change? The bible says, NO!
We’re told in Hebrews 13:8, “He is the same yesterday, today, and to the ages.” So we’re talking about being a follower of Christ, right? Isn’t that what the word Christian means? The word “Christian” comes from the Greek word, “Christianos”, and it simply means.. “a follower of Christ”. So then, if being a Christian means to follow Christ, and if Christ never changes, then how could following Christ change? The answer is simple.. Following Christ doesn’t change! It can’t change! If what you follow changes, then you wouldn’t BE following Christ anymore, you’d be following someone, or something different.
It’s truly amazing how people can use logic all day long, every day, in their daily lives and in their daily interaction with other people, but when it comes to religion, their sense of logic goes out the window! Why do you think God had these words written, in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” Christianity, and the belief in the God of the bible, is founded on logical reasoning. That’s why prophecies are given, and then prophecies are fulfilled. That’s why the bible uses the word, “therefore” so many times, in laying out it’s argument for believing the word of God. It’s because everything “makes sense”, and the claims of the bible are backed up by “proofs”. Such as the eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Christ Himself! Eyewitnesses, wrote down what they saw.
That’s why the book of 1st John begins with these words.. “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have beheld and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life..” Then V-3 says, “What we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you also..” An “eyewitness” account, of the resurrected Christ!
Here’s another “eyewitness” account from the apostle Paul, “For I delivered to you among the first, what also I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. (that’s the old testament prophecies) And that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures.” (again, old testament prophecies)
“And that He appeared to Cephas (that’s Peter), and then to the twelve (the twelve apostles). After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time! Most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.”
“Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Eyewitness, after eyewitness, after eyewitness; People who all SAW the resurrected Christ in person! And the accounts of some of those eyewitnesses, have been recorded and preserved for us today, in the bible.
The bible is all about, reason, and logical thinking, and proof !
What About the Resurrection ?
That same apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:13–19, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ is not raised. And if Christ is not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.”
“Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed concerning God, that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.”
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins! Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished! If we have hoped in Christ in this life ONLY, we are of all men, most to be pitied.”
Verse 20 says.. “But now, Christ HAS been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”
Can you see how Paul’s whole argument here, is overwhelmingly based on LOGIC and sound reasoning? That’s the way the whole bible is. Therefore, you CANNOT be a follower of Christ and NOT believe in the resurrection! The fact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, is the very FOUNDATION of the GOSPEL, and the foundation of our faith! How could anyone even claim to be a Christian, and not believe in one of the foundational tenants of Christianity?
The apostle Paul had begun that section of his letter to the Corinthians with these words.. “Now I make known to you brethren, THE GOSPEL, which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which you are saved. IF you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
Then he said what we looked at earlier from V’s 3-4, “That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures.”
Articles like the one that I referred to at the beginning here, will not come right out and say what I’m going to say, because they’re afraid of offending someone. But I would rather offend someone, than to be content to see them lose their soul. And so, I’ll say this.. If you do NOT believe in the resurrection of Christ, YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN, and you cannot be a Christian!
Jesus said in John 8:24, “If you believe NOT that I am he, you will die in your sins.” What do you think Jesus meant when He said, that “I am He”? What does, “I am he” mean?
He meant clearly, that He is the risen Christ, the Son of God! And if you don’t believe that, then you will die in your sins.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins.” 1 Cor 15:17. Nothing is more paramount, to being a Christian, than the belief in Christ’s resurrection!
A Secular Christian
What about that question? Can a person be a “secular Christian”? The simple answer is NO! The words “secular”, and “Christian”, have contradictory meanings.
Here’s the definition of “secular”.. “denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have NO religious or spiritual basis”.
Synonyms of the word secular, are.. “NON-religious, worldly, earthly, temporal, profane”. Secular things are against spiritual things. They are the opposite of being “Christ-like”.
So how on earth could anyone be a “secular” Christian? That’s like saying: I’m bald, but have a full head of hair. If you’re bald, but you have a full head of hair, you must be wearing a wig, right? In other words, your full head of hair is a pretense! It’s not the truth. That’s exactly how a “secular” Christian would be. It would be a total pretense! If you are of a secular nature and attitude, then you are NOT following Christ, and consequently NOT a Christian. And if anyone CLAIMED to be a “secular” Christian, they would NOT be telling the truth, because they wouldn’t be a Christian at all.
What Does it mean to be a Christian, in the 21st century?
To be a Christian in this 21st century, means exactly the same thing it’s always meant.
It means that we have to “Therefore, come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17. That’s actually a quote, not verbatim, but a quote nonetheless, of what was said in Isaiah 52:11, “Depart, depart, go out from there. Touch no unclean thing. Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.”
So it was true in the days of Isaiah (around 700 BC), and it was true in the first century AD when the apostle Paul quoted it, and it’s true today. A follower of God MUST come out from among the world, and be separate!
To be a Christian in the 21st century means to “Love the Lord Thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”, Mathew 22:37.
And it means to “Love your neighbor as yourself”, V-39.
It means to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, Luke 6:31.
It means that “Anyone who goes too far, and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does NOT have God; The one who abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9.
And it means that, “If anyone comes to you and does NOT bring this teaching, do NOT receive him into your house, and do NOT bid him God-speed.”
“For the one who bids him God-speed, participates in his evil deeds.” 2 John 10-11.
The phrase, “bid him God-speed” literally means.. “to wish him well”, and to be “happy” for his words.
Some versions say, “do not give him a greeting”. And again, that simply means do not agree with the teaching he brings. So, if anyone comes to you and does not bring the teachings of Jesus, exactly as they are in His word, do NOT accept him OR his words, and do NOT give your APPROVAL to them! For the one who gives his approval to any teaching, contrary to the teaching of Christ, “is a partaker of his evil deeds”. Plainly enough said. And this goes for people in the day when this was written, and for all days, from then till eternity. Remember, “anyone who goes too far, and does not abide in the teachings of Christ, does NOT have God!”
To be a Christian in the 21st century is difficult. But then, it’s always been difficult.
Jesus said in Mathew 10:34, “Do not assume that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
He said in Luke 21:16, “But you will be delivered up even by parents, and brothers, and relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.” In both of those verses, the point is, that if we are faithful to God, and to His word, there’ll be “a price to pay”. People of this world will not like us. Sometimes they’ll even hate us! Even our own families could disown us! It’s never been “easy” to be a Christian.
“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
“If you were OF the world, the world would love it’s own. But because you are NOT of the world, but I have chosen you OUT of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19.
To be a Christian today, and for all days, it means to.. “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
It means.. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another, as more important than yourself. Do not look out for your personal interests, but for the interests of others!” Philippians 2:3-4
It means to be filled with, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control..” Galatians 5:22-23
The Virgin Birth
I just want to touch briefly on the virgin birth. In Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore.. (there’s that word “therefore” again. Logic and reasoning, right?).. “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin will be with child, and will bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Now there’s the prophecy..
And here’s the fulfillment.. “Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God, to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, the angel said to her; “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26-28.
“And the angel said to her; Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” V’s 30-31.
The name “Jesus”, in Greek, means.. “God saves”. The name “Immanuel”, prophesied about in Isaiah 7:14, means.. “God is with us”.
“And Mary said to the angel; How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered and said; The Holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; (the Holy Spirit IS the power of the Most High, isn’t it?) and for this reason, the holy offspring shall be called, “the Son of God”. V’s 34-35.
Let me tell you about that word “overshadow”. It comes from a Greek word that means.. “to cast a shadow on, to overshadow, which leaves a natural result.”
It’s used in the new testament, to speak of God’s “overshadowing presence”, which always brings His plan, to come to pass.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says this.. “to throw a shadow upon, to envelope in shadow.”
Remember how a cloud covered Mt Sinai, when God descended upon the mountain? How about when a pillar of cloud lead Israel through the wilderness by day?
Remember the transfiguration? Moses, Elijah, and Jesus appeared to Peter and James and John, on a high mountain, in Mark 9. And it says in V-7, “Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud; This is MY beloved Son, listen to Him.” And when they looked again, only Jesus stood there.
Remember when Jesus ascended back to heaven? Acts 1:9 says, “A cloud received Him out of their sight”.
Remember how Jesus is going to return? Revelation 1:7 says, “He is coming with the clouds”.
Luke 21:27 says, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with power and glory”.
Here’s what else Thayer’s Lexicon says about the word “overshadow”.. “From a vaporous cloud that casts a shadow, the word is transferred to a shinning cloud, surrounding and enveloping a person with brightness.”
The angel Gabriel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and for THAT reason, the holy offspring will be called the Son of God!”
Luke 1:37 says, “For nothing will be impossible with God!”
Is that hard to believe? Is it hard to believe that the God, who created the heavens and the earth, and all things in them; the God who created man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils, “the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7); Is it too hard to believe that this same God, could cause a virgin to be with child? Can anyone really say that it doesn’t make sense?
Mary’s husband Joseph, did DOUBT at first. Mathew 1:19 tells us, “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.” Joseph didn’t understand, how a virgin could be with child.
But V-20-21 says, “But when he had considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying; Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; For that which has been conceived in her, is of the Holy Spirit.”
“And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is HE, who will save His people from their sins!”
V’s 24-25 tell us, “And Joseph arose from his sleep, and he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son, and he called His name, Jesus.”
Righteous people, do things that people of the world wouldn’t do. And Joseph is the perfect example of that.
What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century? Well, a Christian is a child of God, just like Joseph was. What he did, probably wasn’t very popular. And what a Christian will do today, won’t be very popular either. But he/she will do it, because they “Love the Lord your God with their your heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind”.
Can you be a “secular” Christian? NO! Can you be a Christian and not believe in the virgin birth, or the resurrection? NO! What does it mean to be a Christian, in ANY century? It means to love and obey our God!
Immanuel means, “God with us”. Jesus means, “God saves”. And Jesus is.. “The author of salvation to all those who OBEY Him!” Hebrews 5:9
Will you obey Jesus, so He can be “with you” and so He can “save you”?
Believe that Jesus is the resurrected Christ. He said in John 8:24, “If you believe not that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
Repent of your sins. Jesus said in Luke 13;3, ” Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Confess His name. Jesus said in Mathew 10:32-33, “If you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father who is in heaven. But if you deny Me, I will deny you before My Father who is in heaven.”
Be Baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He who believes AND is baptized, shall be saved.”
Remain faithful unto death. Jesus said in Rev 2:10, “Continue faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.”
And anything else that you can find in the bible, that’s applicable to us, that God says to DO.. Just Do It! And everything that you can find, that God says NOT to do, DON’T do it!
Be a Christian for ALL ages! May God bless you in the study of His word.