One time a friend sent me an email that read, SUBJECT: PARAPROSDOKIANS. Now, that’s a mouthful! But I learned something new (which I do enjoy!). A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of the sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and frequently humorous. According to the email, Winston Churchill loved them. So here are a few examples: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. You do not need a parachute to skydive; you only need a parachute to skydive twice. I used to be indecisive; now, I’m not sure. And my favorite: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
As fun and humorous as paraprosdokians can be, that last one did make me think again. For as silly as it sounds, there is also a great deal of truth in it. The fact of the matter is that going to church, singing praise songs, saying the Lord’s Prayer or even putting a tithe in the offering plate so that God’s work can be carried on, does not make you a Christian. Papa Ten Boom once replied to his daughter Corrie when she questioned him about the character of a “so-called” Christian, “Just because a mouse is in the cookie jar, that doesn’t mean it’s a cookie!” So then, what does make you a Christian?
The most fundamental aspect of being a Christian is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Rom. 1:3-4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) and that His sacrificial death on the cross has paid for the Sin (Rom. 5:12) which separates you from God (Ps. 14:1-3; Gal. 1:3-5; Heb. 9:11-12). There are two aspects of Christ’s nature which are important here. The first aspect is His humanity (Jn. 1:14; Gal. 4:4). As God in the flesh, Jesus represents humankind (Heb. 7:26-27), however, unlike us, Jesus had no sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). That Jesus had no sin testifies to the second aspect of His nature- His Divinity (Jn. 20:30-31; Col. 2:9). Because Jesus was God, His atoning death is eternal and because He is human it is possible for Jesus to take the punishment that each and every one of us deserves. When we believe that Jesus has done this for us personally and say it is true, we are Christians because we have put our faith in Him (Rom. 5:6-21; Rom. 10:8-13; Tit. 3:4-5). There is a second aspect to being a Christian which happens at the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ. The first component of this is that the Holy Spirit (who is called the “Spirit of Christ” in Rom. 8:9) dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13-14). And the second component is the work of the Holy Spirit Who helps us to become more like Jesus Christ in both our attitudes and actions (Jn. 15:26, 16:13-14; Gal. 5:22-23).
Carbon atoms don’t start out looking like the beautiful gems they will become. But with the right depth in the earth’s surface, along with the right amount of pressure and heat, carbon atoms will turn into a Diamonds. Our initial proclamation of faith in Jesus may be a simple statement, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died to set me free from sin.” We may not realize the Holy Spirit has “moved in” when we profess our new-found faith. As the Holy Spirit works in our life we become more like Jesus every day and our perspective changes (Rom. 12:1-2). That is what makes you a Christian.
The Cross is not only a pivotal aspect of what makes you a Christian it is an important element of discipleship as well. In Matthew 10:38 Jesus says that “anyone who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” The image of a criminal carrying the heavy crossbar from which he would eventually hang to the crucifixion site was not uncommon in Israel under Roman rule in the first century A. D. Jesus is saying that the evidence of one’s life, if one is truly a disciple, is enough to “convict” them. That is the bottom line of discipleship- not only learning what the Master teaches, but living the way He does. The Holy Spirit guides us in this task, but we must listen to and obey Him, so that the evidence of our faith is seen by others just as graphically as a man carrying his cross to his execution. So, how about you? What do people see when they look at you? Do they see one of Jesus’ disciples?
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
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