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Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Firefighter Parables #6 - A Clarification and Conclusions

A Clarification:

A number of commenters have brought the ubiquitous, "Who are you/me/anyone to judge who is and is not a Christian?"

It is a good question - however, I do not advocate judging.

Judging is the declaration of guilt or non-guilt by a court of law with jurisdiction over the case at hand. Once a case has been judged, its decision is applicable and enforced under the laws of the land.

In the case of an individual's salvation, there is only one judge - Jehovah. God is the one who will tell you what your eternal fate is - not me or anyone who is not you, and certainly not yourself.

This set of parables is about discernment. An individual who is a Christian has two modes of dealing with other people. The one is to discuss spiritual things with other Christians which will help them, and you, to become better disciples. The second is to lead the lost to Christ. While both are actually pointing others toward Christ, the details are different.

We need to be able to discern for ourselves who is, and who is not, a Christian. Simply put, you can't disciple someone who is not a disciple. If someone is not saved in Christ, we cannot expect them to live for him in every way, or even attempt to. First, they must be saved.

These parables are designed to help explain how we discern who is where, and thus aid us in choosing our communication approach.


A summary of the five identifying features of Christians are:

1. Christians are often in the fellowship of believers (church). However, being in church does not make one a Christian.

2. Christians are familiar with the Bible and memorize key passages, as they are able and increasing over time. However, knowing the Bible does not make one a Christian.

3. Christians love others, in a way that brings others closer to Christ. However, loving others does not make one a Christian.

4. Christians are involved in works of helps, both as part of the church and as an individual. However, being involved in works of helps does not make one a Christian.

5. Christians tell others they are Christians. However, telling someone you are a Christian does not make one a Christian...even if that someone is your pastor, youth leader, or God in a prayer.

The purpose of the parable isn't to define what a Christian is or how one is saved. It is to demonstrate what real Christians do. If you think you are or were a Christian, and you were not engaged in any one of the five above states, you aren't a Christian and never were.

I know to many, especially in the evangelical circles that I inhabit, this is next to blasphemy. As a commenter pointed out, it is a faith that saves, and nothing else. However that faith, a faith that saves, drives us to these works. Examine what Jesus said about those who are saved:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

-The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Sixteen, Verses 24-25

Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Christ. That is not "say a prayer, now you're good! See you on the other side!"

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

-The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Ten, Verses 32-42

Confession of Christ to others - required evidence. The result of following Christ - discord in families and among friends. Absence of service in your life - evidence of an absence of faith. The fellowship of believers - blessed. Works of helps - glorious.

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

-The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Ten, Verse 22

The opinions of non-Christians of you - hatred. Falling away from the faith - evidence that faith was never there.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

-The Gospel of St. Mark, Chapter Ten, Verses 17-22

It's not, "Say a prayer, and we're tight!" It's not, "Join my group of followers, and it is all good!" Instead, it is - Take an action. Step out in a radical way, because that is evidence of your faith for everyone to see.

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

- The Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 13, Verses 23-27

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

- The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Seven, Verses 13-23

Clearly, not everyone who thinks they are a Christian, is. The parable of the sower makes it clear that it is not those who rejoice upon hearing the word, but are choked by the cares of this world, the allure of things and philosphies ungodly or by persecution, are not saved. It is only those who bear fruit through their faith that actually have it.

If we know that being in a firehouse doesn't make someone a firefighter; if we know that wearing a fire uniform doens't make you a firefighter; if, clearly, putting out a match with a garden hose doesn't make me a firefighter; if knowing firefighting regulations aren't enough to be a firefighter; and if merely saying you are a firefighter, by anyone's measure, doesn't make you a firefighter - why would we apply such a standard to Christians? Why do we think that going to church, or being nice, or giving money, or knowing the Bible, or saying we believe make anyone a Christian? Why is it the only label that has no real qualifications?

Because there are many who want to feel they are Christians, or were. It helps to salve their conscience or buttress their argument against Christ.

Denying yourself daily. The death of the old self. The dedication to Christ, in spite of and especially in the face of, persecution. Taking up the cross.

Why did Paul have to say, "I am not ashamed by the gospel of Christ"? If the gospel was, "Say a prayer, walk up an aisle, join the church, and everything will be great!" was the message, he would not be tempted to be ashamed. However a message that demands we die daily to our selves and live by faith is a hard message to hear.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

- The Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 9, Verses 23-25.

A message of an easy "Come to Jesus without any cost" is false. Jesus demands we give our lives to him. It is something that can be seen by anyone - but of course, only those who already follow Christ will know that you do those things for Him. Others will wonder why, and ask.

You'll be labeled a fundamentalist, intolerant, close-minded, and hateful. He did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.

-The Gospel of St. John, Chapter 15, Verses 18-21

If you haven't been hated, if you are not looked upon as some kind of religious wacko by most, if you have never been mocked for the sake of Christ (not for your political beliefs!), then it is because you do not follow the one who was, and is hated and mocked Himself.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

- The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, Chapter Twelve, Verse One

(note - after this post has made its way off of the front page, it will be redistributed, with the Clarification becoming part of the intro post and The Conclusion remaining as its own)


  • Good arguments…but…I think you’ve omitted the most crucial element of salvation. I know you’ll correct me if I’m wrong. I see the Bible as having three main sections: OT, the Gospels and NT.

    The OT demands obedience to the Law, but demonstrates man’s inability to meet his obligations as ‘expected’ by God. The Gospels are the transition from law to grace, but without the internal witness of the Holy Spirit in the disciples, Jesus had to speak in parables and use language from the OT so that his followers could relate. The NT reveals more of the plan, which is that one must be regenerated (born again). The Holy Spirit imprints the ‘law’ indelibly on the ‘heart’ of the regenerate (after replacing the heart of stone with one of flesh), which is the product of grace and mercy, not works...’not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’ (Romans 9:16).

    You’re post concentrates on Christ’s ‘pre-Pentecost’ parables which is fine, but I get the impression that you’re arguing that the ‘work’ of salvation/sanctification/justification is the individual’s primary responsibility. ‘We’ play our role, to be sure, but the prime mover is God. Just as when Saul was converted and became Paul, it wasn’t a ‘chore’ to desire God’s will. He struggled as a Pharisee, but as an Apostle he gladly suffered for Christ. My point is that ‘faith-fueled works’ must be one’s natural (Spirit led) inclination rather than a check-list of responsibilities. Since the Lord steers the ship, it goes wherever He wants it to go. More often than not, my idea of when/what/whether is different from His. In other words, I believe in ‘blessed assurance’, but not ‘easy believism’…per se.

    By Blogger Robert, at 5/22/2005 03:49:00 PM  

  • Robert,
    That's an excellent point, which I clearly omitted. I am in total agreement with you. I have to do some grammar editing already, and some simple shifts in focus of the language should make this important point evident. Thanks for pointing that out - it is a crucial elemnt, indeed.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 5/23/2005 12:21:00 AM  

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