Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What About Faith?- How Religious are You?

I have a friend that grew up as a Catholic. She sent me an email asking if I knew the various differences between Evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Culturally, the two can be worlds apart, but I think she was a little shocked by the religious divide.

Honestly, every denomination has it's problems... primarily humans like you and me are the root of them. Have you noticed that the body of Christ is so fractured that non-believers think all religions are the same?

God is not god, he is GOD! Honest!

As Christians, it is easy to claim unwavering faith in the knowledge of our little corner of Christianity. We may have been saved in a certain church, or brought up with a liturgical background (Episcopalian, Lutheran etc.). Add to that worldviews, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and we find that traditional Christianity is very, very diverse. (Geeze I almost feel bad using a cultural buzzword, diverse!)

Hundreds of years ago the religious world split Christianity in two; Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In the end there are differences, but for the most part, they are simply religious differences. Sure, there are those that believe that the bread and wine turn into the actual body and blood of Christ during communion, and those that see the bread and grape juice as a symbol. If this is a "deal breaker" for you, you might want to go and enjoy your debate with someone that cares. If this makes you shudder, then read on, there is a message here for you. I also suppose there are others that are so symbolic that they could use Coke and potato chips for communion. Hopefully you see the gamut of belief/understanding that exist in one small facet of what Jesus commanded us to do.

Before you get out your stones and call me a heretic, you might want to sit down and think about what it really means to be a Christian. Paul said that if we confess Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart, we are saved. Romans 10:9-10. Isn't that the bottom line? When we add all kinds of other rules, and try to enforce certain man made principals, we become like the Pharisees, well educated, very religious looking and empty inside. That is the problem, when we get all religious, we miss what God is really doing; creating a deep and loving relationship with us.

What makes a man or woman a child of God is FAITH! It is not belief, not religion, not philosophy, not being good, not anything but receiving this wonderful, free, and everlasting grace in our heart.
I loved it when a preacher said, "just because I go to McDonalds that doesn't make me a hamburger!" The other analogy was this: "just because you know a lot about the a celebrity-- where they live, what they like, who they are married to, what clothes they wear, where they vacation, that doesn't mean that you know them." Real faith is about knowing Jesus, not about some sort of book knowledge or degree. Thermometers have degrees, and you know where some people put those.

Now that we have established the door for entering into God's grace; called salvation, there are loads of other things that we might want to consider as we become disciples. They are prudent and worthwhile commands, not requirement for entrance into heaven. These include: character, gifting, worship, prayer, fellowship, Bible reading, communion, forgiveness, letting the old man die, loving our neighbors, stopping cheating on our income taxes, ending our addictions, giving, serving, mentoring, and just plain growing up! I was going to copy and paste my concordance, but you get the the idea.

What we focus on is not always what God is focuses on. Once we are through the door, the process of sanctification is different for everyone, and we all don't progress at that same speed, or in the same areas.

The problem with the "Christianity in a box" is that it fails to magnify the personal relationship with the Lord. Which, is different then any other person's relationship with the Master. Even twins have different relationships with friends, classmates and others in their sphere of acquaintances. That simply means that we can't tell someone else what it is like to love Jesus. What we can tell, is if they do love Jesus. This is by the fruit. We can see where their time, their money and their passion goes.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV)

And let's not be confused about what God's love looks like.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

As we see what is important to God, we can certainly see that how we worship, where we worship, they type of music we have in service, how we dress, and the church culture we may have grown up in doesn't really matter. It does matter what we have faith in, and here's the facts on that. HERE And yes, God uses our environments to carry out His will, but don't be so certain that the American Dream is always God's will.

So here's a little test to see if you can tell what is religious, and what is not. (T-F):

-1 A church has to have music.

-2 A church needs a building.

-3 A church has to have bylaws.

-4 A church has to have deacons.

-5 A church has to have a priest or pastor.

-6 A church has to have chairs or pews.

-7 A church needs a cross.

-8 A church has to celebrate communion.

-9 A church has to have a sermon during the service.

-10 A church has to have prayer during the service.

-11 A church has to have a respectful dress code.

-12 A church has to have an altar call.

-13 A church has to have prophesy.

-14 A church has to have tongues and interpretations.

-15 A church has to have a mid-week Bible study or service.

Answer key:

1 False

2 False

3 False

4 False

5 False

6 False

7 False

8 False

9 False

10 False

11 False

12 False

13 False

14 False

15 False

"For wherever two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).

In the end, we simply need to let Jesus come in us, and in our midst. If we do that, He will decide what we must do next. Every service may different, but when He is there it will be God. We are after Him, not after religion.

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