Believers and worshippers are not the same

A believer can be defined as one duplicating Jesus’ teachings, as having acquired spiritual deliverance. A worshipper is not a believer, but one piously committed to obeying God’s Laws. Paul confronted converts manifesting being worshippers, rather than believers. The problem translated into divisions among believers. In attempting to address that conundrum, without offending anyone, Paul declared himself to be everything to everyone.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I am not under the law), to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:20-23 NIV).

These were the formative years of Christianity, where worshipping God had all along been considered virtuous. And yet in Christ, worshipping is not necessarily the yardstick for believing in Jesus. A believer appreciates being God’s child, just as Jesus was the Son of God. A believer thinks like God, as he/she would be at one with God. There is no difference between a believer and Jesus Christ.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:18-21 NIV).

Sadly, the problems that affected the early Church still manifest, even today. One would have assumed that those reading the Bible today are more informed, due to the advancement of scientific technology. Paul referred to worshippers as weak, needing careful handling. This particularly affected Jewish converts.

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:5-9 NIV).

Paul insinuated that one could be a worshipper and a believer, at the same time. However, such believers should, for that reason, not necessarily be caught up in using their standards to prescribe Christianity. This is what caused divisions. Paul attempted to be everything to everyone, to avoid offence.

The last portion of the above passage of Scripture empowers believers with a sense of responsibility. Bearing with others cannot appeal to worshippers, but to believers. As preoccupied with piety, assumed as necessary for pleasing God, worshipers can’t do more than law-keeping. Believers behave like Jesus, including willingness to bear other people’s sins.

This is commendable, as also practised by Jesus. It requires understanding other people, more than being understood by other people. Jesus bore our sins on the cross, absolving us from condemnation. Believers adopt the same attitude, encouraging the deliverance of others. Rather than being worried about their own salvation, believers are also preoccupied with other people’s salvation.

“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” (John 3:13-19 NIV).

A worshipper strives to meet standards that please God, assuming that God rewards worshipping. Hypocrisy visits such people, as it is impossible to please God in physical nature. Believers are committed to bearing other people’s sinful problems. They think as God thinks; while worshippers separate themselves from God. Believers and worshippers are different in that the former is God’s child, while the latter is God’s worshipper.

Nothing appears wrong, except separation from God. Obeying God’s laws is for those of this world. In a bamboozled world like ours, worshippers have their role in making this world a better place, somehow. Worshippers reduce criminality in the environment, which is commendable. Undoubtedly, this world remains sustainable, as long as more worshippers are intact.

The role of worshippers should not be mistaken for believers who are the salt of the Earth. Believers decry wrong conducts, challenging worldly opinions, seeking to enforce God’s will on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Yet, worshipers prefer not to disturb authorities, for the purpose of them enjoying worshipping in peace.

Generally, worshippers are not hated on earth, like believers. In short, worshippers protect their conditions of worship, by avoiding disturbing the existent tranquillity, enforced by autocratic rulers. As a believer, Paul spent most of his lifetime in prison. Believers cannot be intimidated by autocratic rulers or anything. Like Jesus, they are not intimidated by the authorities of this world.

Believers are willing to confront evil authorities. As not scared of death, believers are willing to die for the honest causes of human survival. That behaviour cannot appeal to worshippers, who would be unaware of death being what believers consider as gain, rather than loss. Academically, as Jesus never confronted Gentile rulers, others assume doing likewise, avoiding confronting Gentile rulers.

The groundwork activities can be burdensome. The structure of the building cannot be noticeable at foundational levels. But as the author and finisher of His work, Jesus is in charge of every activity in all levels of Christian involvement. Jesus’ mission was directed to the Jews, more than to the Gentile kings.

Paul was specifically sent to the Gentiles, more than he reached out to the Jews. The fact that Jesus did not antagonize Roman politicians does not mean His mission was limited to the Israelites. His work is complemented by believers, as everything is tailor-made to suit God’s mission to save humanity.

The work of the apostles did not duplicate Jesus’ works, just as the apostles’ works cannot be duplicated by today’s Christians. Each is sent, according to the builder’s requirements. The mandate of believers projects the supremacy of God’s Kingdom to a dying world. This can be regarded as an impossible mission, but deliberately designed to look that way.

Anyone doubting the risk in Christianity ought to revisit the crucifixion story. This includes what befell the entire believers at the foundational work of the apostles. Jesus never suggested an easy-going for believers. Hence, He pre-warned potential followers to count the costs (Luke 14:30-33).

Jesus’ passionate prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, with sweat profusely appearing as drops of blood, casts the grievous intensity of His mission. One cannot blindly fall into Christianity without considering the realities of the crucifixion. Before ascension, Jesus clearly articulated that His followers would not be treated better than He was treated.

Sceptics and cynics deride Christianity, principally on glaring reasons of hypocrisy among those fallaciously declaring to be Jesus’ followers. Nevertheless, true believers are not discouraged by such degradations. They seek being causative, rather than being reactive to what goes on in the environment.

Sceptics and cynics have always been there, since Jesus’ time. They present side-shows, without relevance to the mission of redemption, calculated on gradient scales. In short, believers are not cowards, seeking to protect their physical lives. Worshippers are preoccupied with protecting their physical lives, unaware of there being life after death.

Worshippers are classified as good people, who, generally, are submissive to the oppressive authorities of this world. They do not necessarily regard themselves as cowards, except being unaware of the role of Christianity, which was clearly articulated by the early apostles.

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they are in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment: In this world, we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:13-21)

One cannot talk of loving God when unable to love humanity. Believers can duplicate what Jesus did, by holding the unquenchable spirit, promised by Jesus. In short, worshippers do not have the Holy Spirit, while believers are distinguished by possessing God’s Spirit. This is what makes them not different from God.

The responsibility of loving the unlovable cannot be practised by worshippers but by believers. Jesus managed to do everything that His Father sought to achieve in this world. Similarly, believers do anything for God, without worshipping, necessarily. Those in the realm of the flesh can’t please God.

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:9-17 NIV).

Christianity remains unachievable, even to the unassuming characters, as long as without the Holy Spirit. Paul says, without the Holy Spirit, that person would be a liar. Nothing else measures Christianity. Those unwilling to commit themselves to the teachings of Jesus are liars.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those who have witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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