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Christian Jargon

Agape - It's Greek, meaning a selfless love that wants the best for others, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

Born again - This phrase, which has unfortunately become trite by overuse, comes from John 3:1-20, in the New Testament, in which Jesus tells a religious leader, Nicodemus, that "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." In brief, Jesus tells Nicodemus to believe in him (Jesus) so that he (Nicodemus) can obtain eternal life. (Read the story. It's much better than I can do.)

Convert (Conversion) - Actually, Evangelicals seldom use this term, I think because it may have the casual feeling of switching political parties or service clubs, when what we want to convey is much closer to the heart.

John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This verse is sometimes called "the gospel in a nutshell" because it so neatly summarizes the path to eternal life.

Filled with the Holy Spirit/Ghost - This involves the distinction between being saved (which see) and living in a manner consistent with what God wants. The idea is to let the Holy Spirit have control of every aspect of our lives (to fill us, in other words) and completely guide us.

Holy Spirit/Ghost - The Holy Spirit (or "Ghost" in the King James Bible) is the third member of the Trinity (which see), and indwells and empowers believers in Jesus.

Know Jesus - To really be a Christian. For the Evangelical, asking someone, "Are you a Christian?" and having that person reply, "I've been a Presbyterian all my life," is very unsatisfying, because eternal life is a relationship with God, and membership in a church does not ensure that relationship exists. (If a mouse is in a cookie jar, as someone said, that does not make it a cookie.)

Led by the Spirit - To be obedient to the Spirit of God, which dwells within every believer.

Literalist - It would be nice if you didn't use this term as it can be very misleading. If you ask someone if he or she is a "literalist," meaning, "Do you believe the Bible is devoid of allegory and metaphor?" that person may think you are asking, "Do you literally believe the Bible is without error?" and answer "yes." Each of you will have misunderstood the other. Incidentally, I've never met anyone who believes there is no allegory or metaphor in the Bible, but in any case, being specific will avoid confusion.

Saved - It means the same as being born again, or knowing Jesus, but with an emphasis on being rescued from the consequences of our sin (spiritual death, Hell, separation from God).

Sword of the Spirit - The Bible. Frequently used when speaking of the Bible's power to affect the hearts of nonbelievers.

The Lamb of God - Jesus. So called because he was the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, as lambs in the Old Testament were sacrificed for sins.

The Light of the World - Jesus. The term is also used of believers, who should reflect the light of Jesus to the world.

The Word - We don't do this to confuse you, honest, but depending on the context it means either Jesus or the Bible.

The epistles - Letters, mostly from the Apostle Paul, which make up a good portion of the New Testament.

The flesh - If not used in the everyday sense of the word, then it is virtually synonymous with "the old man" (which see). It means our old tendencies, which tend to be in conflict with the new nature God has given us.

The good news - A modern way of saying, "the gospel" (which see).

The gospel - The good news of Jesus coming to earth to die for our sins. And, just to confuse you, we have ...

The gospels - The four biographies of Jesus in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The old man/nature - When we give our lives to Jesus, God gives us a new, holy nature. The old nature (or man) doesn't disappear, though it is dead to God. Therefore we have a constant battle on our hands.

The world - The first sense is the commonplace meaning - the planet we live on. In its second sense it means the lusts and greed that that are so natural to us, and which tempt our hearts away from God.

Tongues - Unknown languages spoken by many Christians (primarily Charismatic and Pentacostal Christians). See 1 Corinthians 14 for a discussion of tongues.

Trinity - Some people think Christians believe in three gods. No! God is one. We are monotheists. We'll stand up and shout it. But the confusion is understandable, because we believe God has three "persons." One essence, three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. Believe me, we don't teach this because it makes our message easy to understand. I don't know anybody who really understands this aspect of God's nature, though I think Archbishop Anselm gave the best explanation you're likely to get. We proclaim it because we see it, implicitly, in the Bible.

Walking with the Lord - To be living our lives in a manner pleasing to God. Notice the personal element. It doesn't just mean to obey, but rather to obey a loving, wise companion.

Washed in the blood - Okay, I grant this doesn't sound appealing, but what it means is that in love Jesus paid the ultimate cost for us. He shed his blood and died as a sacrifice for our sins; and it is this sacrifice that makes believers clean in God's eyes.