Becoming More Christlike Than American: Part 7

Part 7: Answers about who

“Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:29 NLT

If you’ve never read Acts 21-28, where Paul defends the faith in front of Jewish and Roman government officials, first go read it. Especially read Acts 26:1-29.

This blog series started with a focus on “Why?” questions. And acknowledged that currently a lot of questions are being asked – especially “Why?” questions and especially by young Christians – within the church today.

And this series will end where all of our “Why?” questions should really end: with a focus on “Who.”

Questions are an important part of spiritual growth. They allow for the testing of our mind, heart, and even soul.

But the answers to the questions in and of themselves are not the goal. They are a means to an end. That is a vital differentiation between how the rest of the world asks questions, and how Christians do. It requires knowing the end in order to not lose yourself in the process of asking questions…

And for Christians, the end is an actual person. Not the answers to the questions. But the answer to all the questions. The end is a “Who.” It is God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

It’s God the Father.

It’s Jesus.

It’s Holy Spirit.

And in discovering God as the end, it also ultimately helps you find out who you are – your true self in Christ – as well.

The personal discovery of a relationship with God that we each have the opportunity to experience happens fully within the context of a spiritual family. It’s amazing how Acts unfolds in such a way to emphasize this reality all along the way.

A personal experience with God’s presence. Which leads to communities that form Christlike character. Which are based upon a resilience only produced in relationships that form thru difficulty. Which happens as people advocate for the kingdom of heaven here on earth. And which ultimately leads to the experience of spiritual family with those who are personally living out a relationship with God.

All of this is ultimately centered upon not the answers to “Why?” questions, but the foundation of “Who” – the person of God and the personhood of each believer as the family of God is formed here on earth.

This is why Paul’s testimony in Acts 26:1-29 shows such extreme confidence. And why Paul does not lack confidence in any of his interactions with any of the officials throughout Acts 21-28.

It’s not because of some generalized version of self-worth. It’s not because he talked himself into showing confidence. It’s not a “fake it ’til you make it” approach to life.

It is because he knows exactly who he is in light of who he personally knows God to be, as a part of a family of God here on earth that He has been welcome into.

In Acts 26:8, he asks the Roman official: “Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?”

Paul knows God, and he’s saying if they truly knew God too they would not be surprised by what the Christians are telling them is true.

When questioned about his faith, Paul is giving clear answers about Who. Who God is. Who Paul is. Because he knows the answer to all life’s questions personally – and that answer is Jesus.

And thus we should find ourselves coming to that same sort of place. Having clarity and thus confidence about who God is and who we are thru our relationship with Jesus and journey to become like Jesus as the Spirit lives within us.

It may take starting with “Why?” questions to get there (Jesus mostly asked questions during His ministry as opposed to giving answers). But the only worthwhile destination for those “Why?” questions must be the answer about “Who.”

By the time we get to the end of the book of Acts, and at the same time on our own journey toward Christlikeness, what we find is that the faith we may have started with in part has become much more wholistic. God has become much more personal. And our lives have become very much centered around a personal relationship with Him that directly impacts our personal relationships with everyone else around us.

Instead of Acts leaving us with a continued “strategy for church growth,” or a “model for ministry,” it leaves us the same way it starts: Jesus.

Acts 28:30-31: “For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.”

Our Christlikeness really is just all about a personal relationship with God, with others. We welcome God to make His home in us. And we welcome others into our home. 

The simplicity of it is almost scary. But it’s truly what we see at the core of what it means to be like Christ.

Just as God came and dwelt among us in the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus, He desires to continue to be incarnate in the world thru the body of Christ – in us, “the church,” as we are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

May we fully give ourselves to this simple vision of the kingdom of God.

May we fully receive into our midst the fullness of God’s presence.

And may we together reach full maturity into the likeness of Christ, so that the whole world (obviously including America) may know the love of God – as displayed thru the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

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Son. Brother. Husband. Father. Friend. Mentor. Spiritual Director. Consultant. Student. Communicator. Organizer.

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