Wednesday, 15 June 2016 10:07

What Are Your "Essentials"?

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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The image is clear from John chapter 15...Jesus said in verse 5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (NKJV)


We derive our spiritual life from the life of Jesus, the vine to whom we are each connected.  He teaches us later in the chapter in verses 7 and 8: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (NKJV)


Recently, on The Meeting House program on Faith Radio, I referred to a new Pew Research study release about how religion affects everyday life.  I would like to discuss a list that is found in the data - a list of essentials.  The Pew people wanted to examine a link between what people view as “essential” in their lives and the degree to which they actually act in accordance with what they say is important to them.


This supplemental survey, according to the summary, asked U.S. adults whether each of a series of 16 beliefs and behaviors is “essential,” “important but not essential,” or “not important” to what their religion means to them, personally.


Among Christians, believing in God tops the list, with 86% of those identified as Christians saying belief in God is “essential” to their Christian identity.  Which means you have about 1-in-7 who don’t think that believing in God is essential to being a Christian.  Hmmmm...


Moving on: 71% of Christians say being grateful for what they have is an essential, 69% say forgiving those who have wronged them is one, and 67% relate that always being honest is essential to being Christian.  63% - just under two-thirds - believe that praying regularly is an essential component of their lives as Christians.  Just over a third say that attending religious services is essential. 


At the bottom of the list, 18% say that living a healthy lifestyle and/or resting on the Sabbath are essential, and 14% say buying from companies that pay fair wage is essential.


The Pew summary also says that:


The survey shows a clear link between what people see as essential to their faith and their self-reported day-to-day behavior. Simply put, those who believe that behaving in a particular way or performing certain actions are key elements of their faith are much more likely to say they actually perform those actions on a regular basis.

For example, among Christians who say that working to help the poor is essential to what being Christian means to them, about six-in-ten say they donated time, money or goods to help the poor in the past week. By comparison, fewer Christians who do not see helping the poor as central to their religious identity say they worked to help the poor during the previous week (42%). The survey also indicates that Christians are more likely to live healthy lives or behave in environmentally conscious ways if they consider these things essential to what it means to be a Christian.


There are two questions I want to mention that each of us can examine.  One is: what do we consider “essential” in the Christian life?  And the other is: do our actions line up with what we regard as “essential?”


While that listing of essentials from the Pew survey does seem to be rather works-based, still we recognize that our outward expressions flow from our inward beliefs.  In determining what is essential to us, we can recognize that our list of “essentials” should be based on and compatible with the principles of the Scriptures.  The principle of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is certainly the pre-requisite for calling oneself a Christian, and the beliefs we consider “essential” will ideally flow from that foundational decision.


Our relationship with Him is displayed through the fruit we bear - remember that Jesus said that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we will bear fruit; i.e., our actions will line up with our beliefs.  If they don’t line up, well, maybe we didn’t believe it in the first place.  If we believe Jesus lives in us, then we acknowledge that His nature resides in us.  He has declared us to be holy and righteous, and as we walk with Him, He shows us what that means and empowers us to live in a manner consistent with that identity.  A growing Christian, I believe, is characterized by the degree to which his or her beliefs line up with actions.  Our outward performance flows from the person inside; our outward performance does not determine who we really are.


Last modified on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 10:15
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