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If a person has been involved in more than one abusive relationship, healing can feel even more challenging. They will often say things like, “How do I keep getting into these situations?” or “What is it about me that attracts abusive partners?” These feelings of self-blame or guilt are normal, and if you’re experiencing them, you’re not alone. However, you definitely don’t deserve to feel this way. Because abuse is never the survivor’s fault and definitely not caused by the survivor. 

There are many people who have never experienced an abusive relationship that feel that those who have been in multiple abusive relationships should have seen the warning signs and should have known better. However, to say that someone chooses to enter into another abusive relationship is not necessarily an accurate description of what goes on in a survivor’s mind and emotions when navigating dating and intimate relationships. Placing the expectation on victims to always recognize red flags for potential abuse is not as easy for them as it is for us who are looking from the outside in.

Trust is an important part of any relationship, and it wouldn’t be healthy for a survivor to go into every new relationship expecting that their new partner may become abusive Especially when there aren’t yet any obvious behaviors that should concern them.

It can also be hard to identify warning signs at the beginning of a relationship because abusive partners are typically on their best behavior until a bond has been established, hiding their controlling and abusive tendencies. How many times have we heard a friend say, “He/she was so sweet in the beginning, and then they just changed overnight”? 

For survivors who experienced abuse in a previous relationship are subject not only to more confusion, but also to the effects of their self-esteem having been torn down by their previous abusive partner(s). And because their self-worth was taken away, they are more likely to believe that they are unlovable. They may believe that no healthy partner will ever want them. Those who have been abused in past relationships may even believe that they deserve what their abuser chooses to do to them. Nothing could be further from the truth! 

Unfortunately, some abusers recognize this, and may seek out to form new relationships with survivors of past abuse to more easily manipulate them. Once they bond to their victim, they will isolate them from friends and relatives, control their phone, emails, and finances so that eventually they have to rely totally on their abuser. (This type of abuse happens more often to women than to men)

If you’ve had negative feelings like these about yourself, you have to understand that feelings lie and emotions are unreliable. Nothing a partner or anyone else chooses to do is ever reflective of your worth or your value as a human being. And you are not responsible for someone else’s decision to control, hurt or manipulate you. 

Society misses the mark when it comes to normal, healthy relationships. Some of us are lead to believe that unhealthy relationships and behaviors are normal—or even romantic. (Especially with young people with no experience in relationships) Constant declarations of love and grand gestures of affection early in the relationship is seen as sweet rather than too much too soon and a possible violation of boundaries. Jealousy may be seen as caring or protective when it can actually lead to controlling behavior. Characteristics such as persistence in the face of rejection may be thought of as cute, but this can also be warning sign of a form of control.

It can be hard to reconcile what we think we should be excited about in a new partner with what may actually be triggering concerns about abuse. When things like open, honest communication, healthy boundaries, equality and trust are not taught as the norm, we can’t expect survivors to identify them as such—especially if they have never been in a heathy relationship where these things existed.

There are some who have been abused for so long that it’s difficult for them to differentiate between a healthy and abusive relationship. Below are a few behaviors that you can look out for: 

  • Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do
  • Isolating you from friends and family 
  • Controlling money and refusing to give you any for expenses 
  • Preventing you from working or attending school 
  • Blaming you for the abuse, or acting like it’s not really happening 
  • Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets 
  • Threatening to harm or take away your children 
  • Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons 
  • Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you 
  • Threatening to commit suicide if you leave 
  • Attempting to stop you from pressing charges 
  • Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to 
  • Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol

There are some who believe that thoughts of low self-esteem and low self-worth are the result of a person’s upbringing. That is true to a point. But outside influences, (school bullying, social media, peer pressure) also play a big part on how a child thinks of themselves. 

1 Timothy 3 in the Bible tells women positive attributes to look for in a man:

He must be above reproach, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not dependent on wine, not violent but gentle, peaceable, and free of the love of money. He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same condemnation as the devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the snare of the devil. Additionally, the Bibles says that they must first be tested. These qualities refer to a leader in the church, but they can also apply to someone you are considering being in a relationship with. 

Therapy and aftercare support go a long way in restoring a person’s self-worth. Many treatment programs discourage people from pursuing romantic or sexual relationships for at least one year. Yes, it may be lonely at times, but with therapy and support you can find many other things to fill up your days. And in the end you will be stronger, healthier, and ready for a heathy relationship.   

If you’re concerned about some of these things happening in your relationship, please feel free to give contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7/365 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat at www.thehotline.org.

This is not the end of your story. You can still be a warrior!

Post Script:

Children are also affected by domestic violence and abuse. It has been proven that children who witness domestic abuse suffer the same trauma as if they were abused themselves. And sometimes will defend the victim of abuse (a parent) as well as their abuser.

That is what has happened in my own family:

In 2013 my wife and I discovered that our oldest granddaughter Seana, was sexually abused by her then step-father, Case Cline, when she was only 11 years old. My wife and I were able to be granted guardianship of her and get her into therapy. We spent most of our retirement savings on attorney fees and therapy for her. My granddaughter is now 20 years old but is still struggling mentally and emotionally. My daughter, Leah Cline, blames us for her ex-husband’s legal problems and her divorce and has not spoken to us or allowed us to see her other three children for almost four years. The only contact we have with her children is through Facebook.

Since then she has had one live-in boyfriend that was on the sex offender registry for having sex with a child. He was later he suffered a tragic brain injury when he crashed his scooter into another car while he was drunk. She is now living with an even more abusive man, Mathew Kochen. 

On April 11, 2019 Mathew Kochen was charged with kidnapping and domestic abuse and using a weapon against another woman. The police said that he told the woman he was going to “bury her in Crescent” (Iowa) after refusing to let her out of his car. Fortunately, she was able to escape. The police discovered later that he was waiting inside the woman’s house, but when he saw the police he ran out the back and was watching them from the nearby woods. That’s where the police arrested him. Then on May 30th, 2019 a Sheriff’s Deputy in Council Bluffs, Iowa was dispatched to the same house and arrested Mathew again for violation of a No Contact Order, and Contempt of Court. He was held in the Pottawattamie County Jail and later released on a $25,000.00 bond. This all happened while my daughter was living with him with her three children! Click HERE: https://dcs-inmatesearch.ne.gov/Corrections/InmateDisplayServlet?DcsId=74185

Mathew also talked my daughter into using drugs. We convinced her to get into treatment, but after only a week, Matthew talked her into leaving treatment. He recently began making lewd comments toward my 13 year old granddaughter, Rebecca Cline, and has admitted to being sexually aroused by her. And my daughter blamed Rebecca because she was wearing shorts! Mathew has been emotionally and physically abusive to the kids too—With my daughter’s approval! 

After seeing Rebecca’s photo she posted on Facebook, I reported it to the Plattsmouth police, where they live now, but they refused to do anything and said that there was nothing they could do unless Rebecca files a report herself. Mathew has isolated Leah her from friends and family. He has made Leah take down her Facebook page because he believed that she was communicating with other guys. He also took Leah’s phone away from her and then pretended to be Leah and texted all of her male contacts asking them if they wanted to have sex! Many of them contacted my granddaughter Seana and asked her what was going on. It’s like Casey Cline all over again—only worse! Because  my daughter has succeeded in turning her three children who lives with her against us by filling their heads with lies about us. All we have ever tried to do to help them and protect them from abuse. But I would do it all over again in order to save one of them from abuse. 

If you have been wondering how and why the church today has become so weak and ineffective, all you have to do is look at what they’ve done over the years.

Churches have repeated the motto: “Every is welcome here.”  This may sound harsh and intolerant, but everyone is NOT welcome into churches! The enemy is very subtle and very seldom plans a direct attack. Like a frog that is slowly boiled in water, he will start so slow so that most will never sense what he’s trying to do until it’s too late.

At first the church welcomed unbelievers into their worship services with open arms. Then in order to make them feel even more welcomed, they allowed them to be part of the congregation by allowing them to join the choir or work in the church nursery. Then they allowed them to teach a Sunday school class. And before you know it, they‘re preaching their unbiblical and humanistic views from the pulpit! 

Haggai dealt with the same problem in his day. This is how he handled it: He asked a priest, “If a man carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does that item become holy?’” “No,” replied the priests. So Haggai asked, “If one who is defiled by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled?” “Yes, it becomes defiled,” the priests answered. Then Haggai replied, “So it is with this people and this nation before Me, declares the LORD, and so it is with every work of their hands; whatever they offer there is defiled.” (Haggai 2:12-14)

I’m not suggesting that we post guards at the church doors and check people for their salvation. But I am suggesting that we become more discerning on who we invite to worship with us. 

Many have told me that they invite unsaved friends and loved ones to join them at church so they can hear the gospel. Then they need to repent of their laziness and share the gospel with them theirself as Jesus commanded! There is not one place in Scripture where we are commanded to invite unbelievers into a congregation so that they can hear the word of God.

Go ahead and check. I’ll wait.

If you wash your hair, shower and put on deodorant, and then hug a skunk, will the skunk begin to smell good, or will you become stinky? If you are in good health and visit a contagious friend in the hospital, will your good health make your sick friend well, or will his contagious disease make you sick? It is the same with sin. As the apostle Paul wrote: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33—Taken from Deuteronomy 7:25)

This has been proven true time and time again when our teenagers get “mixed up in the wrong crowd” and get into trouble.

It would do us well to remember Psalm 106: 32-43: “…but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them…So the anger of the LORD burned against His people, and He abhorred His own inheritance. He delivered them into the hand of the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them.”

The attitude of most church goers has gotten so bad that it’s hard to tell the difference between those who CLAIM to be believers in Jesus and those who refuse to even acknowledge that God exists! 

So many Christians talk about how we are living in the last days before Jesus returns, but we need to remind each other that judgment will begin in the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17) So let us pray for God’s people to repent and return to God, seek His face and obey His word. 

To obey is better than sacrifice

I don’t need your money

I want your life

And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon

But you act like I’ll never return

The U.S. is now less than a year away from the most consequential election, and not one of the remaining presidential candidates has prioritized addressing child sexual abuse (CSA) as a platform issue. 

Many of these survivors of CSA are now adult voters and they aren’t just people looking for services. They are constituents looking for a change to the system. They are working people, taxpayers and consumers who push through their trauma every day— despite being erased by a world that tells them they aren’t as important as the economy and climate change. The MeToo movement began to shed light on the behavior of wealthy and powerful predators, but the media and politicians are more focused on sexual harassment in the workplace than on the sexual assaults on children taking place in our homes across the country! 

If it is traumatic for a grown woman to be groped or sexually assaulted by a man, how much more traumatic must it be for a 7, 8 or 9 year old to be sexually assaulted by someone they know and trust?

90% of victims of CSA know their abuser well. Many of them live in the same home with them. And even when a perpetrator is arrested and convicted, most judges only sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender. But 23 states in America place no restrictions on child sex offenders. So many of them return to and continue their daily lives without much consequence or repercussions. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13. 

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental, emotional and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. 

A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can even become suicidal. 

Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. But many times the mandated reporter is also the perpetrator! 

President Trump recently made animal cruelty a felony. But there is no federal law that places restrictions on convicted perpetrators of CSA. In fact, there are stricter restrictions on those who abuse animals than for those who abuse children!

With no presidential candidate that seems willing to publicly grapple with this bipartisan issue, we must raise our voices and demand that the men and women who want to represent us in the White House, as well as those in local political offices, speak directly to and respond to this national epidemic. And it is especially important that adult survivors of CSA speak out.

Many politicians often say that children are our future. But what kind of future will we have if millions of our children will be wounded adults who struggle with emotional and mental problems because of childhood trauma? 

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” If this quote is to be believed, where does that leave us? We deserve a country that values the safety of our children, since our future well being and prosperity depends on it.

Many are wondering why the world has become so ugly and hate filled—even by those who claim to be God’s people. The Bible gives us a very direct answer:

“Where there is no prophetic vision or divine guidance, the people cast off restraint. But blessed is he who obeys God’s law.” (Proverbs 29:18)

What is this prophetic vision or divine guidance? It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Col. 1:26) If a people do not hear and obey God’s Word, then we can only expect society to break down—even within local churches. 

We see it within our own government officials and throughout the world. With the next presidential election coming up this year we hear all kinds of promises from the candidates: Immigration reform, equality for women, ending sex trafficking, Medicare for all, free college education, higher minimum wage, and taxing the wealthy to pay for it all. 

But do you know what won’t be mentioned in any of the speeches? Human rights for children, how to prevent sexual abuse of children and how to protect children from pedophiles living in their own homes or employed at their schools and daycares.

It was recently reported that at least 56 Nebraska educators were linked to sexual misconduct since 2014! Fifty six! And that’s only the ones who were reported! 

At least 74 students or recent high school graduates were victimized. In some cases, the abuse occurred years before the perpetrators were caught!  

  • In return for pictures of a 14-year-old student’s naked breasts, a Norfolk student teacher bumped the girl’s grade from a 79 to a 95. (He was only sentenced to six months in jail)
  • A Loup City teacher set up a camera in a locker room to spy on high school girls changing their clothes. 
  • An Omaha middle school math teacher groomed and then sexually assaulted a female student in his classroom during lunch.

A national expert said less than 10% of abused students tell somebody about the abuse because of fear, guilt or a misguided desire to protect the educator.

(read more at https://www.omaha.com/news/plus/i-m-really-disgusted-to-see-that-number-nebraska-educators/article_3fd2f36a-d6d2-59ae-baab-74fbb029f90c.html)

While many will be outraged by this, (and rightly so) they may be ringing their hands and asking, “How could this happen?” The truth is the reason there is so much immorality today is because God’s Word is not obeyed. And God’s way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30) But the real danger lies in defiling a holy God by transgressing His boundaries. Our God is a God of justice, and “the ways of man are before the eyes of the Jehovah, and all his ways He observes.” (Proverbs 5:21)

Stories of racism and anti-semitism has been in all of the news outlets lately. I just want to say that I love the people of Israel. But I also love the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia—Just as much as I love the mixed people living in the United States. The problem is not the people, but the political and military leaders of these people. 

It is time that the God fearing people in the world today put away their hate, repent, turn back to God and pray for our enemies. Remember: 

“You are far across the ocean in a war that’s your own—And while you’re winning theirs, you’re gonna lose the one at home—Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace—Is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?” — Great American Novel by Larry Norman

 

 

Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein all have inspired the #metoo movement. Many celebrities came forward (and continue to do so) to publicly relate their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault by powerful men.

Sadly, the public has remained silent when it come to the same thing perpetrated on children.  

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 683,000 children experienced some form of child maltreatment in 2015. Child sexual abuse is just one kind of maltreatment, and it happens with alarming frequency. Because of the stigma associated with child sexual abuse and children’s dependence on their perpetrators, this type of crime often goes unreported. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13. 

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can even become suicidal. 

Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. But there is no federal law requiring mandated reporting except for professionals, (teachers, nurses, doctors) so many instances of child sexual abuse go unreported. 

Researchers have found that people tend not to report abuse when there are no bruises or other physical signs and avoid contacting authorities based on suspicions alone even though mandated reporting laws require them to do so. This has become even more prevalent when the perpetrator is a family member living with the child.

These types of egregious failures happen more frequently in our court system, despite the laws in place to deter them from shirking from their responsibility. 90 percent of those convicted of sexually abusing a child living in their home are allowed to plead guilty to a lesser crime and are sentenced to probation and required to register as a sex offender. 

Many mistakenly believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws (SOR) keep children in their community safer. Nothing could be further from the truth! The SOR law in most states do not place any restrictions on registered sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victims! Thus, allowing perpetrators to continue their abuse without consequences! 

I have written to the Nebraska governor and over 20 Nebraska state legislators pleading with them to make changes in the SOR law to better protect our children. The very few that responded, (less than 8) told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? The Nebraska Senate website states that a senator is called (among other things) to: 

  • Represent the people and the best interests of his or her legislative district
  • Appropriate funds to protect property and persons 
  • Right injustices involving the public
  • Establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed 

The health and social impacts of child sexual abuse on a survivor last a lifetime and affect us all socially and financially. Delinquency and crime, often stemming from substance abuse, are more prevalent in adolescents with a history of child sexual abuse. Adults survivors are also more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Child sexual abuse is costing taxpayers over $200 billion each year! The costs include: 

  • Mental and physical healthcare costs 
  • Criminal justice costs 
  • Child welfare costs 
  • Special education costs 
  • Productivity losses 
  • Academic problems 
  • Teen pregnancy 
  • Sexual behavior problems

I know there are many who would rather I remain silent on this subject—at the very least stop using my religious beliefs as a solution to the problem. But I happen to know that the Bible IS the solution to this problem. But most don’t want to follow it. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) 

But I will not go quietly into the night. I will not remain silent without a fight. Just as Tom Petty sang, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

 

Why am I so passionate about this? Because child victims of abuse are rarely in a position to advocate for themselves. Since their safety depends on adult intervention, it is absolutely critical that adults stand up and speak out for victims of child sexual abuse, or any type of child abuse—Publicly and loudly. If not, we will all be judged by what we did or did not do to prevent it. 

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

 

Some may wonder why I’m so passionate about being an advocate for abused children and survivors of child sexual abuse.

Maybe it’s because I was abused as a child myself—verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Maybe it’s because of the trauma I suffered I ended up in the hospital for anemia. Maybe it’s because I became a target for even more abuse and bullying throughout my school years. 

And because I desired so much to be accepted and loved that I suffered many failed relationships and a few failed marriages. But in spite of all this I still tried to serve God the best way he could: Ministering to the homeless, organizing youth events in churches, starting a home Bible study group, using my musical talents to reach others for God. But it seemed that nothing I did worked out.  

To make things worse, Christians ridiculed me for my “new beliefs” while unbelievers accused him of being gay because I didn’t chase after women. But there is one person who truly loves me and continues to believe in me. A few years after reconnecting with a girl I knew from high school, we were married and have been happily married for over 12 years now.

Maybe I became an advocate for abused children because a trusted friend from church ended up sexually abusing my own 13 year old son. Maybe it’s because I reported it to CPS and nothing was done. Or maybe it’s because me and my wife discovered that our own grandchildren were abused as children. Maybe it’s because I have witnessed how perpetrators convicted of child sexual abuse are only sentenced to probation and allowed to have contact with other children.

But even after all I’ve been through, I still refuse to remain silent about those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. I writes to legislators, asking them to change the sex offender registry laws, I write to judges, asking them not to be so lenient on those convicted of child sexual abuse.  And even though I have not received any positive responses, I am even more determined than ever to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

Maybe you feel the same way—That nothing that you have tried has worked out. But Thomas Edison once said, “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” 

I didn’t fail to serve God. I just found several ways NOT to serve God. I only needed to find that one thing that God wanted me to do. And I think I found it in being a strong advocate for victims and survivors of child abuse like me.  

If you are a survivor of child abuse, maybe you too should consider being an advocate. It will not only help heal those who have survived childhood trauma, it will also help you to heal as well. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

One Thing

Murders, violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. What causes these things? And how do we put and end to it?

The solution is simple, but not so easy. 

The Bible teaches us that if we repent of our wickedness, return to God and obey His commandments, He will bless every aspect of our lives, but if we continue in our wickedness and follow after other gods, all we can expect is more evil in our lives and in the end, destruction. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. “ (Deuteronomy 28: 1-6) 

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.” (vs 15-19)

Although many Christians place the blame for all the trouble in the world on unbelievers and the devil, these words were directed at God’s people. They were never directed to those who rejected God and worshipped idols. Read what God told Solomon after he finished building the Temple for God: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

You see, all the problems we see in the world can all be solved if only Christians would repent and turn back to God and obey Him. Even the apostle Paul wrote, “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) So the Bible makes clear that Christians are not to judge unbelievers, but those who claim to be Christians inside the Church. But to do that we must first understand what it means to be a true Christian.

True Christianity—What is it? 

The basic definition of a Christian is a person who professes belief in Jesus as the Messiah based on the teachings of the Bible. People often consider themselves Christians if they were brought up in a religious family or if they go to church. But does this make someone a true Christian? Keith Green once said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

The Bible has a lot to say about being a true Christian. The word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible. In Acts 11:26, the believers of Jesus were first called Christians because their actions resembled Jesus’ behavior. The word is also used in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. 

The Bible teaches that a follower of Christ is one who has been born again. In John 3:3 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The term “born again” has been used (and abused) by many in our generations. But it was considered nonsense by the man Jesus was talking to in this passage. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?”  What Nicodemus couldn’t know until later on, was that the phrase “born again” literally means born from above. It indicates a change in one’s heart—a spiritual transformation of someone’s life. 

What is the Result? 

A realization of one’s sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This sin results in death according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The death that the apostle Paul is speaking of is not an earthly death but the second death after the Resurrection. The term “second death” appears only in the book of Revelation. It appears four times: Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 20:14-15; and 21:8. Revelation mentions that there is no second death for those who have repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to God. Only those who have rejected God and His gift of salvation through His son, Jesus.

A true Christian has faith in only Jesus

Having faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and accepting that salvation is a free gift of God—acknowledging that we can’t do enough good deeds to work our way into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We cannot become holy by doing things, helping people, giving money, being kind or polite. We can only become holy by believing in Jesus Christ and letting him take control of our lives.

What are the characteristics of a true Christian? 

A true Christian is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old nature—pride, love of sin, negative habits and evil passions. We do not inherit the new nature from our parents, nor can we re-create a new nature for ourselves, no matter how good and moral of a person we are. And it doesn’t mean that God simply cleans up our old nature. He creates in us an entirely new and unique person! 

A true Christian is dead to sin. 

Romans 6:11-12 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” A Christian may still struggle with temptation to sin, but they repent to God and are forgiven because of the sacrifice that Jesus made. Repentance is not parroting a prayer and asking Jesus to come into your life. And it doesn’t mean that you’re sorry you got caught in the sin. Repentance means that you’re sorry for the sin itself—that your sin hurt God and damaged your relationship with Him. Repentance means that you turn from your old life of sin and surrender every aspect of your life to God—A life no longer ruled by sin. 

A true Christian is conformed to God’s Spirit.

A true Christian allows God’s Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.The fruit of the Spirit has nothing to do with soul winning, or preaching, or being successful financially, or even discipling others. The fruit of the Spirit has to do with how one lives their life. I have met many who are homeless, who struggle with health issues and have never won anyone to Jesus, and yet lived their lives according to God’s word. And we have all witnessed so-called successful Christian preachers and evangelists who have never displayed any of the fruit of the Spirit in their personal, private and/ or public life. 

A true Christian is called to live a holy life. 

That means not being conformed to the ways of the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul gives us instructions on how to live our new life in Christ: “…put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I believe this would apply to our social media posts and Twitter feeds as well.

 A true Christian is to read and obey God’s Word. 

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are many professing Christians today who say, “Because we are now under grace we don’t need to  obey the Old Testament law.”  And, “It’s impossible for us to obey God’s commandments. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.” 

But why would God give us commandments that He knew were impossible for us to obey? He wouldn’t. In 1 John 5:3 we read, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” And again in 1 John 2:3: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” When God gave His commandments of blessing and cursing to Moses and to the Hebrew people he said, “…For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that YOU CAN DO IT.” – Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (Emphasis mine) 

A New Commandment or just the same old one?

Many Christians believe that because Jesus gave us a “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 that he replaced the Old Testament Law. They even give proof by pointing to what Jesus said in Luke 10:27: One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.” 

So what was this expert in the Law referring to? Possibly the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5? “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And Leviticus 19:18? “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” 

Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is only about strictly obeying the Law and lacks God’s grace, has not studied the Old Testament. It was out of God’s love for His people that He continued to pour out His grace on them—time and time again. The people would rebel against God and serve idols, then they would bring trouble and destruction on themselves. Then they repented and cried out to God, and God saved them—time and time again. And that is exactly how God expects us to love each other. The same way He loves us.

God’s Laws and His Holy festivals that He commands us to obey are not to keep us under His thumb or hold them over our heads. His commandments are for our own safety. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that if they disobeyed I would love them less. But BECAUSE they loved me they obeyed me. And they knew that my rules would keep them safe. We do not obey God’s commandments because we think God will love us more if we obey, or we’re afraid that God will love us less if we don’t. But BECAUSE we love God we obey His commandments. (1 John 5:3)

Now there will always be sin in the world until Jesus returns and rules on the earth. But the problems plaguing our world today would be greatly reduced if only God’s people would repent of their wickedness and turn again to God and obey only Him. It’s all up to us. 

Listen to what God said: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)