As I start this post, I know right up front, I am going to seriously offend a lot of readers. So, maybe I just shouldn’t say it. But, I need to say it. And, I will say it, with the hope and faith that you will understand the point I’m trying to make.
Has it ever occurred to you that all Christians belong to the same church – God’s Church. And what have we done to it? Those of us who are Christians need to take a big step back, and examine our hearts as God would (and will).
I frequently use the term, “unity without uniformity”. And, I also speak about “…unity within the body of believers”. Yet, when I look around, it seems like I see far more division and dissension than unity. Yes, within the body of believers. How can this be?
I’m no expert on church history. I did read about the Reformation in a college course entitled Western Cultural Traditions. But, the Catholic Church was already split by the time of Martin Luther; and look at what has happened with the Protestant Church in the (almost) 500 years since its formation. How many denominations are there? Do you have any idea? I certainly don’t. A better question would be, “Why are there so many denominations – or any?” Oh, and what is this thing we call ‘church politics’? And, why is it so important that it splits churches, even denominations?
The answer to those question is, “It’s all tied up in Religion.” And, Religion is an invention of man.
You have probably heard, “…God reaches down to man through His great love; and, man reaches up to God through his (man’s) Religion.” Sadly, I think it’s a true statement for both God and man. I also think, man is dead wrong (pun intended).
Man has taken something that should be pure and simple (our love relationship with God); perverted it through pride, greed, and ignorance, and called it Religion.
Let’s look at the basics.
1. Through God’s Grace, Christianity is available to the world. All, people are God’s creation. Every single one of us was intended to have a perfect relationship with God – for eternity. But man, using his free-will, ushered sin into the world and drove a wedge between himself and God. God, through His Grace, then sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to become the blood sacrifice required to cover our sins, so that we might once again enter into God’s presence. Romans 3:23,24 states, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
In John 17: 13-18 Jesus makes it very clear that just as He was sent into the world, He sent the Apostles into the world so that they could spread His message of truth. What is Jesus’ message of truth?
2. Jesus is the only way to the Father and eternal life. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But how is that actually accomplished? Very simply. We must recognize that Jesus is the Son of God, and ask Him to forgive our sins. Jesus says that when we do that, several things will happen. Through God’s mercy we will receive forgiveness for our sins (Acts 10:43); the Holy Spirit will come to live within us (John 16:7-15); and our faith is established. Thus begins our walk, or relationship, with Jesus.
Jesus tells us that when the Holy Spirit enters us, He will be our advocate, and our counselor. (The Holy Spirit performs many more functions, but these two titles are key, at least to me). As my Advocate, the Holy Spirit interprets my prayers to God. As my Counselor, He interprets scripture and leads me into all truth. Whoa! Now those are two things I really need when struggling to live a Christian life in modern American society. And note, all this is just between me, or you, and God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This is how I worded it in a previous post – slightly edited…
… it truly is all about Christ and what He offers each and every one of us.
It will make no difference who we are; who our parents were; what color we are; what nation we are from; what church we go to; how much power we have, or how little; how much wealth we have, or how little; how many charities we support with our money, or with our time; how good we are, or aren’t. How many mission trips we have or have not been on. All that, …will make no difference!
We do, however, share two common traits. We are, all, His creation; and, we are, all, eternal beings. The day will come when we will stand before the one true God who created the Universe. On that day we will enter either into God’s Kingdom or into eternal separation from God, aka hell. The only way into God’s Kingdom is if we individually, are covered in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. If we have subjugated our free-will to His will. It is the only way, and it is available to everyone… anyone. FREE. You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. It as simple as believing, asking and committing. (end previous post)
OK. Now it may get a bit more dicey. Folks, I don’t think it matters if we serve communion at every service or only once a year. I don’t think it will cost you your salvation if you’re not baptized by immersion. I don’t think dead saints need, or can, intercede with God for us. Candles are pretty; but they play no role in my relationship with Jesus. Tithing is not a condition of salvation. I’m pretty sure rote prayers have no value. (Intentional prayers, on the other hand, have great value).
Now, if you believe otherwise… I’m fine with that. Because that’s your Religion; and, it’s between you and God. What church you go to is also immaterial to me. What counts is this: If you have accepted Christ as your Savior; and, if you are striving to live a life patterned after, and directed by Jesus, that’s good enough for me. I should be able to work with you in Christian love. In John 17:22,23 Jesus is praying for future believers – that’s you and me. Here’s what He asked His father for:
“22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they might be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
I don’t expect to start a great ecumenical movement of church unification. But, we can start by simply loving our brothers and sisters in Christ – in our own churches for crying out loud. Instead of looking for differences, why don’t we look for ways to help one another? Then, maybe, we could look outside the walls of our church. After all, we do share some critical (and common) ground.
What could God accomplish through us, if we start working together?