What is a Christian?

1 Peter 4:16 says, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." What is a Christian? Very simply, a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ.

The word was first used at Antioch when the Greeks called Jesus followers Christians. Before that the followers of Christ referred to themselves as disciples. So, what is a disciple then? Well, a disciple is... a follower of Jesus. But what does that mean to follow Jesus?

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits himself? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words," I will be ashamed of him on the day of judgment.

Jesus also said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Meaning that you must value Christ above everything. After all, Jesus gives us everything, dying on the cross for our sins, so that all who believe in Him will live forever in heaven.

Being a Christian means you follow Jesus with your whole life. You turn from sin and be holy. You obey His word, the Bible. You love His people, the church. You love others and share His gospel.

Following Jesus is not easy road. Jesus Himself said people will hate us just for His name. But praise God, we're following the one who rose from the dead. He will bring us into His kingdom. Being a Christian will cost you everything. But it's worth the cost, when we understand the text.

What is the Church?

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."

Church is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, meaning a called-out assembly. The church of God is a congregation, made up of all kinds of people on earth, called out from the world through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be followers of Christ.

The Bible says to the church, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Since the church has been called out from the world, the church shouldn't look like the world. It's not a social club, it's not entertainment, it doesn't tolerate sin. It's not money-making organization, it's not a brand or a company, it's not a magic show full of illusions. It's not a platform for politics or new philosophies. The church is not a denomination or a building.

The true church is a people, sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption, assembling together in the name of Christ, who gave Himself for us, dying on the cross, "to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).

The church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head, growing us together in Him. The church is the bride of Christ, being sanctified by His word. The church is the work of Christ, and hell will not prevail against it. Rather, His church will prevail against hell, when we understand the text.

Is Smoking Marijuana a Sin?

Is smoking marijuana a sin? Well, you used to be able to say "Yes, because it's illegal," and that would be that. But now that marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally, is it still sin? Yes -- 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."

Often marijuana is compared to drinking alcohol or caffeine, but they are not the same. You can drink a glass of wine and not get drunk, or have a cup of coffee and still operate heavy machinery. But if you take one puff on a joint or take one bite of Aunt Mary Jane's special brownies, you get high.

The whole point of marijuana is to alter the consciousness, which diminishes your thinking and functioning. While God does not put an absolute prohibition on drinking alcohol, it is always sin to be intoxicated. Drunkenness, whether by the vine or the weed, is not of the Spirit but of the flesh. Those who do it will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But marijuana is a plant, and it was made by God, so that makes it good for us! Yeah, there are plenty of poisonous plants you don't apply that logic to. Adam and Eve ate of a forbidden plant. How did that turn out for them?

1 Peter 4:1-5 says to no longer live for human passions but for the will of God. Unbelievers live in sensuality, passions, intoxication, and lawless idolatry. "They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you. But they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."

The Bible says to "Be sober-minded" (1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8) and "have the mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5). Your mind should not be mastered by anything else, when we understand the text.

Should Christians Make New Years Resolutions?

Ah, the new year! Time for a fresh start. New beginnings. Bogus prophesies that don't mean anything! (Seriously, watch out for those yahoos declaring, "This is the year of your breakthrough!")

By now you've  made a few New Years resolutions of your own. Perhaps you want to lose a few pounds or break a bad habit or learn a new skill. And then two weeks later when you epicly fail at your resolution, you'll say, "Eh, there's always next year."

Is it a good idea for Christians to be making New Years resolutions? Sure, why not? There's nothing wrong with setting personal goals. Just remember that whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)! Er, unless your new years resolution is to diet, in which case don't eat and don't drink to the glory of God...?

Consider also these words from James 4:13-16. "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,' yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the  Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."

Yeah, it's straight-up evil to think that you control your destiny. But as Job understood, the days of a man are like the days of a hired hand. His days are few and pre-determined, and God has appointed our limits that we cannot pass (Job 14:1-6).

Jesus said not to be anxious about anything, what you shall eat or drink or wear. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you (Matthew 6:31-34), when we understand the text.
Special thanks to Nate Pickowicz, who let us pick on him in this video. Find his book on the five solas of the protestant reformation here.
Thank you also to Rob Stiles just for being cool.

Should Christians Celebrate Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga (formerly Ronald Everett). The holiday draws from African rituals and black national ideology to create the seven principles of Kwanza, called the Nguzo Saba. Among these principles are racial and national unity, self-determination, and faith in humanity.

Decorations feature colorful art and foods that represent African idealism. Ceremonies include showing gratitude to ancestors, drink offerings and feasts, and reading the African Pledge and Principles of Blackness.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of humanism, in which human fulfillment and values are the focus. This mindset is of the flesh and hostile toward God. The seven principles teach that people can improve their lives by sheer will and self-determination. For the holiday's founder, apparently that means abusing drugs and women. In 1971, he was sentenced to prison for the sexual assault and torture of two women.

In the 60s, Karenga founded a black power movement called Organization US (as in "us vs. them"). The group was so radical, they killed two members of the Black Panthers in on January 17, 1969, on the UCLA campus. So much for unity. Karenga is a fraud and a dark reflection of his humanist ideal.

Humanistic traditions never unify. Jeremiah 17:5 says ,"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength." Titus 3:3 explains that before coming to Christ, we were enslaved to our passions and pleasures, full of malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

It is God alone who saves, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy. Peter explains that in Christ, we are a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for His own possession. Apart from Christ, we are not a people. In Christ, we are God's people.

It is only Jesus Christ who gives unity, not man-centered holidays. Christians should have nothing to do with Kwanzaa. We must stand firm and hold to the traditions that we are taught by the word of God, when we understand the text.