Listen, I know it took me way longer to pump these out than I said it would. Life gets in the way. Please pray about it, and I hope you forgive me. If you’ve been following this very slow blog series, good. If you haven’t, even better. For the last several months, I’ve been working on what I think the top 5 things a Christian ought to be pursuing are. The first one is daily engagement with Christ. The second one is sharing the Gospel. The third one is service. The fourth one is a solid witness. Here we are a the final one. And this is perhaps the most difficult and off-putting one. Rounding out the bottom of the list as your 5th non-negotiable (in Cooper’s opinion)…. knowledge.
Let me back way up and hit a point I’ve made before in this series. I don’t know that I’ve put enough emphasis on it, though. I have come to these 5 things as a result of a few things. One of the influences on my list is personal conviction. I feel as if I’m underachieving for Christ without these 5 things in my life. Another influence on my list is scripture. I do not endorse any of these because they came out of my head. That, in and of itself, is a very dangerous game. I find all of these to be rooted in biblical truths and the Word of God. Lastly, yet another influence on my list is practicality. Of all of the mature believers I know personally, they exhibit these 5 things in some form or fashion. Everyone has their strong suit. But these things are present.
This fifth non-negotiable of being a Christian is easy to say and hard to do. Knowledge implies a lot of things. There are plenty of atheists who are Bible scholars. There are plenty of ignoramuses who are firmly committed believers. We are not talking about something that is quantitatively black and white. This is one of the few times you will ever see someone try to qualitatively classify knowledge. Just keep hanging on. This is not as dense as you think.
When I was really thinking about this 5th element of the life of a believer, I was really thinking about one verse: 1 Peter 3:15.
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect […]” (ESV).
This verse is really the whole idea I’ve been hitting. Peter writes that first, we must honor Christ as holy. This comes from knowing Him and serving Him– non-negotiables 1 through 4. But look at where Peter goes next: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” Knowing Christ is awesome. Serving Christ is fantastic. But people are going to take shots at both of those realities. And God is calling us to know how to defend ourselves. We are going to look at the reasoning for pursuing the knowledge of faith. And then we are going to tackle how to truly do that.
Why do I need to know?
Lifeway conducted a poll in 2017. In this poll, they aimed to find out why so many people aged 23-30 left the local church after college. Roughly a quarter of the responses were church members seeming hypocritical/judgemental. Another quarter of the responses cited that the church didn’t agree with their political/social views. What do these two things have in common? They have ignorance in common.
I’m not here to pick apart any type of specific arguments. Do that on your own time. But let’s really look at this for what it is. Let’s assess each of these two poll responses. First, ignorance is being shown in the response that church members are seen as hypocritical. I 1000% agree that Christians in the local church are hypocrites. But this begs several questions each person must ask themselves. Why is it that only the other members are the hypocrites, but I’m not? Why does a person being a hypocrite all of a sudden matter more at church than at, let’s say, Planet Fitness? What do I think makes them a hypocrite? These all need answers. And they often can’t be answered. This is due to ignorance.
No one is expected to casually be a Bible expert. I’m 0.01% of a Bible expert. But I truly believe that there are a list of things we should all know, if we call ourselves a believer. That verse in 1 Peter is very interesting. It calls us to give a defense for the hope that we have. What are the real facets of this hope? What are the things intellectually I ought to know as a believer? Well, as you probably guessed, I have a list of things for that. These are the things I personally deem to be intellectual musts if you are going to claim to be a Christian. The bottom line is that if you don’t know these things, I don’t know how you are a Christian. I’m not doubting your salvation, but I’m impressed by your faith. These were my roadblocks. And now that I know them, they are my stepping stones. But I digress. Let’s jump right in.
Stuff you should know: The Gospel
I don’t know how you could have responded to the Gospel, become a Christian, and then not know the Gospel by heart. But stranger things have happened. This one is pretty simple and matches up with 1 Peter 3:15 quite nicely. God created humanity perfect– Genesis 1/2. Man chose sin over God– Genesis 3. Everyone is born into this sin– Psalm 51. Everyone is a victim of this sin– Psalm 14/Romans 3. Everyone deserves death for this sin– Romans 6. God, being rich in grace and mercy, chose to send His Son as an atoning sacrifice for this sin, which we could not pay– John 3/Romans 5/Ephesians 2. All we have to do is confess our sins, repent of these sins, submit to God’s gift of salvation, and public profess this decision– Romans 10. Upon this life-altering event, our lives should start to slowly resemble Christ– Romans 12/Galatians. This is the Gospel in a very basic form. If you call yourself a Christian and you do not know this… that’s not very good.
Stuff you should know: Jesus was a real person who fulfilled over 300 prophecies, died, was buried, and came back to life.
I have done some pretty extensive blogging and podcasting on this subject. In order to save you reading time and myself typing time, let me link to those things real fast: The Historical Jesus, the Prophetic Jesus, The Resurrection of Jesus, the significance of Easter, etc. Jesus is not a fictitious figure. His resurrection from the dead is not subjective. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity. Do you know this? Or do you just go along with the charade because you live in a bubble where no one challenges you on it? I can assure those days are slowly coming to a close.
Stuff you should know: Christianity has requirements.
Salvation is awesome. Being eternally atoned for is absolutely beyond incredible. Praise God for the Cross. But that is merely the beginning. If you have no idea what the Greek and Hebrew words for “evangelism” are, that’s okay. We will forgive you. But if you are spending extensive time trying to figure out the basics, that’s a problem. This is the moment in which all 5 of these blogs really come full circle.
We are not Christians, first and foremost, if we have never humbly and authentically responded to the Gospel. Secondly, we are not growing if we neglect daily engagement with Christ. You’ll never get to know someone you never talk to. If we are growing, we ought to be sharing this experience with the world. The more we share, the more we ought to realize and grow in the desire to serve as Christ’s love served us on the Cross. All of this would be for naught if we did not have the character of Christ in the process. And we must begin to grow in our knowledge of this salvation we cling to.
If you get nothing from anything I ever say and write, get this: meeting Jesus is a life-changing event. If your life isn’t changing, did you actually meet Him? Everything about faith in Jesus is counter-cultural. Everything about God’s nature is perfect. Everything about the Cross is radical. Everything about Christianity is contrary to human nature. The Church needs to step up to the plate. I’m not the end-all, be-all of Christian thought. I have almost zero experience in ministry. What I do know are these things:
- Jesus Christ died for my sins.
- I have been saved by His grace and mercy.
- I’m different because of that.
- There must be signs that point to my being different now.
2 Timothy 2 tells us, Galatians tells us, Ephesians tells us, Deuteronomy 6 tells us, John 8 tells us… being a believer has results. Salvation is not an all-eternity pass to get dunked in the water and do whatever we want. We must be growing in our relationship with Christ. We must be getting closer to perfection. We must be changing. We must be impacting the lives of those around us. And we must always be sharing the Good News– The Gospel– that only one person in history defeated death, and we know Him personally.
Ask yourself: where is my life right now? Which of these non-negotiables are present? Which are not? These are not somewhere in scripture. But in my view, they are everywhere in scripture.
If you are going to call yourself a Christian, there needs to be evidence– Matthew 7.
So, if you do call yourself a Christian… what’s your evidence?
Soli Deo Gloria.