True Christians: How Do You Know Them?

The following is an excerpt from my blog, of the same title, posted on This Was the True Light. good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like... (Luke 6: 43-47 RSV)

The Matthew rendition of this portion of scripture states:

Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven... (Matt. 7:21 RSV)

The popular definition of Christian, whether by people in favor of or people in opposition to Christianity, has more to do with calling "Lord, Lord" and little to do with hearing and following the words of Jesus as he reveals to us the Father's will. The popular definition of Christian has mostly to do with whether or not you believe in Jesus.

All manner of atrocities have been and still are done in the name of belief. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of various groups, modern day wars; all done in and justified by the name of belief. Yet, looking back, one has a hard time stating that those actions were "Christian."

Many quote John 1:12:

But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name...

and extol the power of belief without any understanding of what is involved in that scripture. To "believe on his name" is to believe in his authority. You demonstrate your belief in his authority only when you accept his command. You encounter Jesus' command as you encounter the light of Christ within you. (See John 1 and elsewhere.) Thus, John 3:18-21 says:

He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the [authority] of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

Concerning the light that Christ has enlightened us with, George Fox wrote:

And to you that tempt God, and say, the Lord give us a sight of our sins, priests and people, does not the light, which Christ hath enlightened you with, let you see your sins, that lying and swearing, cursed speaking, theft, murder, and whoredom, and covetousness, and pride, and lust, and pleasures, all these to be the works of flesh, and fruits of darkness? this light within you lets you see it, so you need not tempt God to give you a sight of your sins, for ye know enough; and waiting in the light, power and strength will be given to you; for they that wait upon the Lord, their strength shall be renewed; and living in the light, and walking up to God, it will bring you to true hunger and thirst after righteousness, that you may receive the blessing from God; and give over tempting of God, as if he had not given you a sight of your sins. And to all ye that say, God give us grace, and we shall refrain from our sin, there ye have got a tempting customary word, for the free grace of God hath appeared to all men, and this is the grace of God, which shews thee ungodliness and worldly lusts. Now thou that livest in ungodliness, lying, and swearing, and theft, and murder, and drunkenness, and filthy pleasures, and lusting after the world, thou art he that turnest the free grace of God into wantonness, and casteth his laws behind thy back, and walkest despitefully against the spirit of grace; here the scripture is fulfilled upon thee! oh vain man! yet thou canst say, God is merciful; he is merciful and just, and that shalt thou see, when destruction comes upon thee; for thou canst say, God is merciful, yet liveth in thy wickedness, passing on thy time without the fear of God, sporting thyself in thy wickedness. (Works of Fox, Vol. IV, p.21) [For the full text, see Fox's To All That Would Know The Way To The Kingdom.]

So, let me define a Christian as one who lives in and by this light and believes in the authority of Christ from whom the light comes. Now, if we adopt this definition, won't we be leaving out many who base their claim on "I have repented of my sins, have believed that Jesus suffered and died for me, and have accepted his substitutionary death?" The existence of this question betrays our underlying assumption that it is we, not God, who are in charge of defining who is Christian and who is not.

The Matthew 7 text continues:

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 evildoers." (Matt. 7:22-23)

To act in Jesus' name is to act in his authority. To act in his authority is to first sit in council with God, to know his will, and then to act by his command. Otherwise you are acting in your own name. In and by your own authority you can do nothing but evil, for there is none good but God alone...

....Continue reading this blog on my wordpress site....

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Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 5th mo. 15, 2017 at 10:21am

 Barclay describes the feelings and reasons behind the process of adopting a notional apprehension of God, the state  you have described in this post:

Thus when a man first proposeth to himself the knowledge of God, from a sense of his own unworthiness, and from the great weariness of his mind, occasioned by the secret checks of his conscience, and the tender, yet real glances of God's Light upon his heart; the earnest desires he has to be redeemed from his present trouble, and the fervent breathings he has to be eased of his disordered passions and lusts, and to find quietness and peace in the certain knowledge of God, and in the assurance of his love and good-will towards him, makes his heart tender, and ready to receive any impression; and so (not having then a distinct discerning) through forwardness, embraceth any thing that brings present ease. If either through the reverence he bears to certain persons, or from the secret inclination to what doth comply with his natural disposition, he fall upon any principles or means, by which he apprehends he may come to know God, and so doth center himself, it will be hard to remove him thence again, how wrong so ever they may be; for the first anguish being over, he becomes more hardy; and the enemy being near creates a false peace, and a certain confidence, which is strengthened by the mind's unwillingness to enter again into new doubtfulness, or the former anxiety of a search (Apology, The First Proposition).

Barclay goes on to make an example of the Pharisees "who most resisted Christ" "for their vain opinion [of their own knowledge]...hindered them from the true knowledge." He states that it is harder to disentangle wrong opinions of God than to work from  a "soul [which] remains a blank, or tabula rasa." 

The Quakers realized that notional apprehensions about God, both individual and cultural, were the most difficult problem they confronted. You've drawn a clear distinction, Ellis, between the different behaviors of true Christians and those who only claim the name: it is the Author of our faith, Christ Jesus, who is directly revealed and known, and is the true Christian's (Quaker's) living authority.  

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God (Rom. 14:11).

Comment by James C Schultz on 5th mo. 16, 2017 at 12:17am

Act 11:26  And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Joh 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 5th mo. 16, 2017 at 9:04am

Pat, Thank you for reminding me of Barclay's insights about how difficult it is to dislodge error. Your comments have triggered the following thoughts. Maybe it is "natural" or perhaps built into our physical make-up to be complacent when there are no inward disturbances, to stop there and assume that all is well. But we can choose to live our lives on another basis. Fox said "Let the weight and preciousness of truth be in your eye and esteemed above all things by you." (Vol. VII, 109) Thanks again.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 5th mo. 16, 2017 at 9:12am

Thanks, James, for pointing out those scriptures. I love Jesus' definition of a disciple. "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32) If you dwell in my teaching...

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 5th mo. 16, 2017 at 11:07am

Yes, Fox rightly held forth "the weight and preciousness of truth" to be sought "and esteemed above all things." It is that high esteem of truth that eventually leads to what Barclay referred to in the above quotation as "a distinct discerning," which does not allow one to succumb to embracing a false "thing that brings present ease." If one holds to the truth above all, regardless of the difficulty, we are truly given the one thing needful: Christ, in which there is both liberty and unity. 

Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 17, 2017 at 9:51am

So far as I understand this man Jesus rightly, true Christians would presumably not be those making a fuss about "Who is really..." and "Who is not".

And those persons who qualify for and receive God's mercy would include not only them, but everyone else.

Meanwhile, anyone at all might well pray for God to establish Hsr Heavenly rule palpably here on Earth also, to bring us our food as needed, help us forgive those who annoy us, much as we and they are undoubtedly already forgiven. (But might well want to change our ways, our minds, and the hard set of our hearts before these get us further into trouble than we already are, yes?)

Comment by Ellis Hein on 5th mo. 17, 2017 at 10:21pm

In response to Forrest Curo. Yes God's mercy is extended to all mankind for he causes his rain to fall and his sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike. His light has enlightened everyone that comes into the world. He has poured forth his spirit upon all flesh. His grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men, as written in Titus 2:11-12, this grace teaches us to deny  ungodliness and worldly lusts and that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly. Yet God's mercy and grace is of no use to those who turn their backs upon this teaching and hate the light that would expose/reveal that their deeds are evil. See also the quote above concerning God's mercy from Fox's "To All That Would Know the Way to the Kingdom." 

"Meanwhile, anyone at all might well pray for God to establish [His] Heavenly rule palpably here on Earth..." We have been given sufficient resources--the light of Christ that enlightens everyone, the grace of God that teaches us and brings us salvation and wisdom, God's spirit to quicken us and make us living beings--to begin living in God's kingdom now. These are sufficient resources to bring down the kingdom of the god of this world, to overcome strongholds of wickedness within and without. Walking in obedience to the voice of the living Christ, who is to be known in and among us in all his offices, is living in the kingdom of God now. The kingdom of God is at hand. The kingdom of God on Earth begins within the hearts of those who walk in obedience to the inward teaching of Christ. So, repeating myself, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.

Comment by Howard Brod on 5th mo. 17, 2017 at 11:04pm

It amazes me that so many make a big deal about being called a "Christian" when there is no record of Jesus ever referring to the word. 

It appears to me that his concern while on Earth was simply to bring to the consciousness of humankind their divine nature if only they wanted to acknowledge it.  He was not concerned with the labels and exclusivity that so many of his "followers" have fallen victim to soon after he was crucified.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 17, 2017 at 11:47pm

God's reign has always been established over the Earth; the hard part is for this to become manifest to everyone, while entanglement in worldly ambitions and fears precludes people recognizing the harmony in an order that so often frustrates these. Too often people want things that imply deprivation for other people (even though that was not their intention.)

So people live in suffering, even though it has never been God's intention to condemn anyone -- and God, unlike human beings, owns the wisdom and power and love to realize Hsr intentions.

So I live within God's growing 'kingdom', while regretfully observing that many perfectly good people remain caught up in worlds of suffering, while God keeps on raising their bets. So it must continue until God, not I, finds them ripe to be healed and freed of all that. Hence, as we've been told to do, I pray for that to come soon.

God already lives in all living beings (but as Fox noted, is typically kept locked up out of sight within.) The light of Christ continues to enlighten all -- but some resist, and take so long that anyone who cares could get very impatient, as certainly I have, with them and with myself, even with God.

But God's mercy and grace are clearly not subject to defeat; people can resist them; but these can hardly be "of no use." It comes down to something policemen sometimes say: "We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way." The easy way would be far less trouble; I'm sure we're agreed on that.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 5th mo. 18, 2017 at 8:17am
I am come into the Life itself in itself and participate in it directly without regard for outward rationalizations and the words and letters of others. I am the Life itself which is discovered immanently. This is immanent will experienced directly and the manifestation of Heaven.


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