Aletheia, part one

I was really delighted to be asked to speak at a local retreat! When I was asked if I would speak on “truth that shines,” I simply began to pray that God would lead me to the topic that the women would need to hear. I had no idea who would be attending this event, the background or baggage, preconceived notions or presuppositions that would be coming along for the ride.

In the end, I decided to focus on a very high-flying, broad view of how to discern truth from Scripture about who we are as Christians, women, wives, and mothers—and how we ought to live in light of those realities of Truth. The Greek word for truth is a beautiful term: αλήθεια (aletheia). In ancient Greece, this was used in a lot of philosophy, to designate full disclosure and the reality of being unconcealed: truth.

The Truth of Who We Are

  • as Christians
  • as women
  • as wives
  • as mothers

and how the light of the Gospel shines here

In case you are new around here, I will briefly introduce myself. I’m Melissa Joy, and I have been married to my husband Steven for almost fourteen years. Ten years ago we built our house on a plot of land beside my parents’ property in the Pacific Northwest—there, my husband runs his Bible software company Olive Tree—there, I plan annual Paideia Northwest conferences to encourage moms in the Christian education & upbringing of their children—and, most importantly, there we seek to raise our five children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I am a second generation homeschooling mama, and I love spending my days delving into stories, songs, histories, sciences, and messes of all kinds with my always-too-precocious children.

I am also a who-knows-how-many generations back Christian mama. I was raised with five generations of Christians alive at once, attending the same church (we regularly filled two long pews in the balcony) & having Sunday evening dinners together every week at Grandma’s house. The faithfulness of God to my great-great grandparents and beyond is astounding. Having such a long standing line of faithful Christians to stand on is a humbling thing, but a glorious heritage to follow. We take up our cross to follow Him, but His burden is easy.

As we look together now at the subject of discerning truths, those are just little pieces of truth about me as an individual. Telling the truth about me allows you to know me. The truths that we now turn to are what allow us to know God. He is truth, and so my hope is that by time we are done here, we will all know our Lord a little more intimately. These truths are not new—they are as old as creation. And they are graciously, generously both broad and simple.

We turn to Scripture in order to seek truth. I believe in (and love) 66 fully inspired and Spirit-breathed books in the canon of Scripture. When it comes to certain topics especially, I just don’t even see the need to try saying anything eloquently because the Word of God is right here at my fingertips! My desire is to thumb through the Scriptures now in search of Truth, beginning with this Psalm 139:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”

Something that really strikes me in this particular Psalm is the way David writes about both our spiritual selves and our physical selves. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the glory of God is expounded when we contemplate His hand in both our spiritual and physical life. Those are the two things we will begin contemplating—who are we spiritually and physically?

The majority of people who would read my blog, probably including you, are Christian women. That is both a spiritual and a physical designation. Fearfully and wonderfully Christian. Fearfully and wonderfully female.

So what does it mean to be a Christian?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our Christianity, corporate and personal?

I would like to suggest that three ways we ought to shine truthful light as Christians are by being disciples, evangelists, and worshipers. We are disciples when we seek the face of the Lord to learn at His feet, like Mary the sister of Martha, in Luke 10. You know the story, right? Martha was bustling about the house, and fretted because Mary was sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said. Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, but Mary was singleminded. In fact, Scripture says in Luke 10:42, “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” She was taking the part of a disciple, and Jesus says that this is good. So we must begin with being disciples, eager to learn truth at the feet of Jesus, saturated in His Word.

Throughout the history of the church, true ideas and false ideas have grown together, and it’s up to faithful Christians to be watchful and diligent to compare every idea with the Word of God—we must prayerfully consider His Word as we discern everything else life and culture throws our way. Especially in this world of having a “31 flavors of ice cream” kind of Christianity smorgasbord, we must be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

On an average Sunday, my family drives almost an hour to reach our church. I have not tried to count all of the churches we pass directly on our way, but it is undoubtedly dozens—including my parents’ church, my brother’s church, and multiple churches where good friends of ours worship. And the point is this: there are countless houses of worship even right in our county. Many of them are definitely preaching Scripture, gospel truth, and pursuit of faithful living. (Amen! Praise the Lord!) But many of them likely are not. How are we to discern the truth of the Gospel? How do I even know what it means to be a Christian?

According to Scripture, the term “Christian” was first used in Antioch—Acts 11:26 is the first place where the Greek word Χριστιανός was used. It is a noun which literally means “one who is like Christ.” It is not a casual participle saying that those folks over there are kind of Christ-ish. It is its own designation. Christian. One who belongs to Christ. One who is part of His body. There are multiple ways this can be nuanced, probably according to which church tradition you study: and, often, it can be associated with the time of baptism or some kind of conversion experience.

So, the truth is, I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was baptized in 1996—I can tell you the jumper I was wearing (it had sunflowers on it) and some of the people who were in the room—because that is the time when I visibly joined the Church.
Or I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was a toddler—I don’t remember it, but my parents have told me that at bedtime one night while my daddy was playing guitar and singing to me, I said I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart—so that is probably the time where I prayed some semblance of “a sinner’s prayer.”
Or I could tell you that I was a Christian by the time I was born—I had faithful Christian parents, (some) faithful Christian grandparents & great grandparents—and I was raised in the church from the womb, not ever knowing a single day where I was not taught to sing and pray and read my Bible and repent and forgive and trust in Jesus.
But then again, the truth is, it was two millennia ago when Christ died at Calvary, thus atoning for my sins and sealing His promise of everlasting life to me… and it was long before even that when God chose me to be one of His children—in fact, Ephesians 1:4-5 says that He chose His people before the foundation of the world, predestining us for adoption as His children.

But what does this mean or why does it matter? How does this tell me anything about the truth of who I am as a Christian?

At its most basic level, to be a Christian is to belong to Christ.

I think a lot of times, we think that being a Christian means doing certain things, living a certain way, checking off certain boxes—like reading your Bible, believing in the dual nature of Jesus as both God and man, attending public worship on Sundays. Or maybe even legalistic things like dressing a certain way, avoiding certain substances, praying certain prayers.

But here is the thing: too often we focus on what we are doing as Christians. We need to focus on what Christ has done for us.

We don’t belong to Christ because of the things we do, the theology we believe, or the way we live our life.

Rather, we do the things we do, believe the things we believe, and live the way we do because we belong to Christ. Who we are is Christ’s! What we do flows out of that reality.

When we belong to Him, we walk in His ways, we seek to become more like Him, and His Spirit produces fruit in us. These things, like salvation itself, are by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Salvation is not procured by our good works, it is a gift of God. He gives us this salvation and eternal life as a gift to receive with humility, thanksgiving, and joy. We can not boast about it, except for boasting in Him (Galatians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:31).

(…continued in Aletheia, part two…)

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