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.

...no 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 Forrest Curo on 6th mo. 4, 2017 at 10:42am

Nice of you to be so helpful; but there are many more perspectives available than the canned answers of anybody's tradition; and no reason to think you've got the Ultimate Divine Take, rather than another in a long series of human approximations. Were those approximations Divine nudges and inspirations? -- certainly, to the people who'd received them.

But the true point of the awakenings of Fox's time was the need to stop using previous inspirations as if God had intended them to be the final ultimate Message -- the need to keep receiving whatever clarifications and developments might offer closer perspectives on that.

Not so necessarily 'obedience' vs 'disobedience' as the right take, nor the division of human beings into Good-Part-Not-Us & Bad-Part-Us. (I'd suggest something more like what William Stringfellow said about redemption, that it wasn't so much a matter of eliminating 'bad' character but of letting God tune the virtues and faults we'd been made with into a harmony in which a person could effectively apply these towards God's purposes.)

Jesus was depicted as having various feelings about what he was about to go through, showing more human-perspective in the Synoptics and becoming increasingly above-all-that as these got reworked and finally turned altogether above-it-all in John's story.

Like previous saviours of Israel, Jesus could have gotten himself up on a big white warhorse and applied a temporary patch to Judea's woes. I don't know that he was more 'obedient' than previous saviors -- but he had their stories to show him how that had worked in the past; and God's wisdom was awake in him, showing the folly of any such course. He was human, and no doubt suffered as much as the thousands of other Jews who'd met, and would meet, the same fate.

What God did with Jesus afterwards was a thorough vindication of what he'd been saying and doing as a human being beforehand -- and hardly just a demonstration of God's power (a demonstration after all which wasn't at all apparent to Jesus' enemies.) But the nature and direction of God's power were clearly shown, to anyone thinking about the way that power had been applied.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 6th mo. 4, 2017 at 9:51pm

Howard, your apology is very welcome. I want to write more about my use of scripture, that it is not invoking an authoritative body or rules etc. But I can't do that now. I find the words of scripture to be very precious and hope that your experiences have not poisoned you to their richness and their value. Hopefully, more on this later.

Comment by Howard Brod on 6th mo. 4, 2017 at 10:27pm

Thank you Ellis for accepting my apology.  I look forward to hearing about your walk.  Peace be with you, my brother.

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