Faith Identity

Paradigm Shift

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Stop calling yourself a Christian.  That word is a religious label placed on people who align with Christianity.  The reality is a lot of people check the box “Christian” when their life has no resemblance to Jesus whatsoever.

The real question is, Do you follow Jesus?

I didn’t ask, Do you attend church?

Nor am I asking if you do religious activities like attend a Bible study or tithe or help at the local soup kitchen.

Not that Bible study or prayer or anything listed above is wrong. But those things are not to be your life; Jesus is.

It’s not you trying harder, but you willingly yielding to Jesus in all things as you go through life.

Jesus grew up a Jew in what is now modern-day Israel. He was called a Rabbi because he learned from Rabbis in the Jewish faith.  Jesus is also the Messiah. He is the very one Jews were looking for. But they missed him. They looked right past him and saw religion. Law. Rules. Grace was not in their vocabulary or their way of living. 

When Jesus called his twelve disciples, they were commoners. Not Jewish religious men in the next graduating class from a Rabbinical school.  Rather, they were fishermen, and tax collectors.

Jesus was teaching them how to have a relationship with Father God and with him.  He told them the truth, showed them how to live, and how to build Jesus-centered loving relationships with others.

When was the last time you simply enjoyed a relationship with Jesus?  Not doing things for Jesus. Not being religious. Not even telling Jesus you love him?

When was the last time you experienced his love for you?

Loving you because you are you.

The story is told of three men who do not call themselves Christians but have committed to following Jesus for their entire lives together in a covenantal brother-to-brother relationship. A relationship where NOTHING is off limits for being vulnerable with each other. Meaning, allowing each other to be used by Jesus to speak the truth and love into each other because that is exactly what Jesus wants them to do.

These men understand the call to take this life in Jesus to the next generation. They intentionally mentor young men in their twenties not to become stellar Christians but Jesus’ followers where they end up doing the same with others.

Some of the young men who come and live in their city for a 9-month internship have tremendous baggage. Anger. Fractured parental relationships. Sexual confusion. Entitlement attitudes.  And, yes, many come from homes that incorporated church and religion into their growing up, but not following Jesus.

“I don’t care if you are addicted to pornography or are involved with homosexuality.” One of the mentors commented. 

“When you grow in following Jesus, those sins will resolve themselves because Jesus is healing the brokenness in your heart that is causing you to act out.”

“We foster a Christ-centered identity. We challenge them to see every aspect of their lives saturated with Jesus.”

When I mentor young men my deepest desire is for them NOT to be a better Christian.  Rather, to follow Jesus in all things them.

Is Jesus impacting how they build loving relationships?

Is Jesus affecting how they manage and steward time and resources?

Are they growing in their faith to listen and follow through with what Jesus asks them to do?

This is a paradigm shift in thinking.

Stop calling yourself a Christian. Focus on your relationship with Jesus.

It begins by admitting your brokenness, your sin, and that Jesus is the only way out of the mess you are in.

He is who the scriptures say he is. He can be trusted. His every move towards you is rooted in his unconditional love for you. 

Jesus didn’t have much good to say about the Pharisees of his day.  He was hard on them because they saw religion. Jesus didn’t fit their template for the Messiah. Today, in most churches, Jesus wouldn’t be invited because he disrupts the religious construct they’ve built.

The question is “If Jesus were to walk up to you and say “Follow me.” would you?”

I am not a Christian. Don’t call me that.  What I pray is that in watching my life from whatever distance, you see Jesus not perfectly but increasingly so.

What about you? Are you a Christian, or do you follow Jesus? It cannot be both.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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