Are You A Good Christian?

In 1955, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed a diagram they called the Johari Window. The purpose of the diagram was  to help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships. The diagram looks like this:

A person’s answers to a battery of questions–along with input from their peers–helps them determine whether or not they are cognizant of their  strengths and weaknesses.

But does a “Johari Window” of sorts exist that helps us determine whether or not a person is a good Christian?

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation to find out.

TODAY’S READING

Amos 4:1-9:15
Revelation 2:18-3:22
Psalm 130:1-131:3
Proverbs 29:21-23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Amos 4:1-9:15. God criticizes the wealthy women of Israel, calling them “cows of Bashan,” because they were being fattened for slaughter. The women enjoyed lives of indulgence while ignoring the plight of the poor. These women weren’t completely pagan, though. They brought their sacrifices and tithes to God but failed to see the needs around them. What they failed to realize was that the need around them was an opportunity to return to God: “‘I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord” (Amos 4:6).

God sent hardship on the people in order to get their attention, but they looked anywhere but him.

So how do they escape the impending destruction? “Seek me and live,” he answers. Paired with that command, he adds, “Seek good, not evil” (Amos 5:14). Seeking God and seeking good are nearly one and the same. We cannot separate our faith from our actions. We live what we believe. Yet doing good is not enough:

I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.
Amos 5:21–22

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Over the past few days, we’ve read seven letters Jesus dictated through John the apostle to churches in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) in the book of Revelation. But really, the letters focus on two areas: Spiritual Vitality vs. Spiritual Deadness, and Legalism vs. License.

As I explain the differences, remember that churches are composed of people like you and me. Dead churches are filled with dead Christians. The same goes with spiritually alive churches.

The difference between Spiritual Vitality and Spiritual Deadness is pretty self-explanatory. Some churches are spiritually vibrant, even in the face of persecution. The two prime examples in Revelation are the churches in Smyrna (2:8-11) and Philadelphia (3:7-13). On the other hand, we also read about dead churches in Ephesus (2:1-7) and Sardis (3:1-6).

Legalism and License require a little more explanation. Legalism, according to the Klassen Dictionary of Religious Terms, is the belief that following the rules brings us into a right relationship with God. If the Bible says to observe the Sabbath, then legalistic people do absolutely nothing to violate it–and believe that it makes them better Christians. License, on the other hand, is the belief that our actions have nothing to do with our relationship with God. If it feels good, baby, do it.

The tendency for most of us is to place ourselves in one category or the other. But in reality, they really appear on a continuum, like this:

No follower of Christ lives in total legalism or license, nor does any follower of Christ experience a completely spiritually vital or dead life. It’s also helpful to know that our places on these continuums are always changing.

When we place these two continuums into a diagram, they look like this:

So, after reading the letters to the seven churches, I placed them into the diagram. Here’s my version of where the seven churches appear on the diagram:

For good measure, I also placed the prophet Amos’s Israel in the diagram.

The churches in Thyatira and Pergamum appeared on the “license” side of the spectrum, yet notice that no churches appear on the “legalism” side. That probably wasn’t as much of an issue for the churches in Asia Minor, although the church in Galatia would probably appear up there.

The church in Thyatira was vibrant, but also soft on the affects on sin. Sardis and Ephesus committed themselves to many good deeds but they were spiritually dead.

Then we read about the church in Philadelphia. Jesus affirmed them for their deeds and their perseverance under trial. I want to be like them.

What I find most interesting is that among the seven churches, the church in Laodicea was the most repugnant to Jesus (3:14-21). Because the church was lukewarm, Jesus said he wanted to spit them out of his mouth. They played it safe in every way. They appear even worse in God’s eyes than the churches that followed the sexual practices of the Nicolaitans—people who indulged in sexual immortality and believed it didn’t affect them spiritually.

Here’s what I glean from all of this:

1. We are how we live. We cannot separate our spiritual vitality from our everyday lives.

2. God doesn’t want us to live safe. Laodicea did all the right things, but that wasn’t enough. God wanted them to be either hot or cold–anything but lukewarm.

3. Spiritual vitality is more than doing good deeds and following the rules. The esteemed church in Ephesus is a good example of appearing spiritual, yet lacking any life.

I’ve been playing around with these ideas, but I’m interested to read your thoughts. Any insights you care to share with the rest of us?

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Where do you appear on the diagram?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Are You A Good Christian?

  1. Jim

    Spiritual Vitality of course is the goal.
    But Spiritual Deadness is just around the corner (we can be spiritual dead and not know it).
    As for Legalism and License it seems like a balancing act to stay
    “balanced”. Who wants to be legalistic or give a license for sin?
    No sincere Christian. I believe only by trusting in the Lord and His wonderful Grace is the only way to live in the place good wants you.

    Hope this adds some thought to this subject: Key is GRACE!

  2. Pingback: Why You Shouldn’t Live A Balanced Life | The Neighborhood Café

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