Christ and Christianity are two different things, just as God and theology are not the same thing. There are many theologies depicting God as man sees Him, and there are many branches of Christianity that represent Christ as they want to. Within the many theologies and many branches there may be those who have it right about God and the Christ but this is very hard to define. Definition is subject to those who see the object being defined and in this case it is God.
The definition for God is not something we can explain completely and Christianity is not something that man can perfectly gear to represent Christ. The reason I say this is because we are trying to define & mean to represent is the only uncreated One that always was. He has defined Himself in very simple terms for humanity so that we would keep it simple. We are not satisfied with simple.
Science is not simple. Religion is complex. Faith however, is simple where humanity is concerned. God asks those who want to join Him to do so by faith, otherwise it becomes impossible to please God, for the Scripture says, ” And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hb 11:6). Faith means we believe He exists & rewards those who seek Him. So when do we start?
Faith is not good enough for most people for it represents humility and simplicity. So the theologian might define faith in terms that God never did, his reason being: there are others who say they have faith in God, through Christ (this means you’re a Christian), but they are not like me. He is right in his observation, but he is wrong to believe that everyone must be like him. They are not like him and the goal of faith is not to be like our brethren but to believe in Christ.
Some believe that all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament are still in operation in the Church, some believe only some of them are in operation in the church, and some believe there are more spiritual gifts in operation than the New Testament mentions. From our point of view we observe those who are not like us and conclude that they are wrong. They may be.
Some believe communion is a sacrament and the bread and wine become the body of Jesus Christ when it is ingested, some believe the elements of communion only represent Christ’s body and blood and communion is not a sacrament, but an ordinance. Some believe that grape juice must be substituted for wine (fermented) because drunkeness is a sin and any alcohol at all begins to make a man inebriated. Somebody is wrong, somebody may be right, but all miss the point.
Faith causes men to seek God and there is only One. He cannot be what everyone wants Him to be for He only is Who He is. Things like communion and spiritual gifts are given to us to help us, not divide us. Once we define God in scientific terms He automatically is reduced to the common thought of man, who is only a creation. Once we define Him in religious terms we determine that others whose faith looks different than ours are outside the true realm of Christian faith (because ours is the true model).
We must never stop seeking God for without seeking, faith has been quenched and the rewards of God are given to those who seek Him. We are not seeking God so that we elevate ourselves beyond our brethren, for Christianity is not a contest to see who wins. We seek God because we are lost without Him. Christianity is faith that following God’s Son, the Christ, brings us to God, which is something we cannot accomplish ourselves.
You and I have ways of thinking that are arrived at because of how, when, and where we were raised, educated and matured. There are commonalities with most of us but normally we function based on the person we have become through living. I was raised an Evangelical in a poor town that was predominately Roman Catholic. A strong work ethic was common, patriotism was common, the sciences were common, but our view of God was set apart 450 years before I was born.
I was a Protestant boy living among many Catholics. I played ball with them, took tests with them, ate lunch with them but I did not go to church with them. I could not attach myself to a Roman Catholic girlfriend because we were “unequally yoked” according to our religious convictions. More than that, our little church was led by laws that would not even allow me to socialize with teens from other Evangelical churches. So I knew that if I were to ever marry it would have to be a girl who came from our church, or a church the pastor approved of.
You can imagine how this set of sociological and religious norms shaped my view of God and the Christian faith. No one was right except us! I did not know why, but I accepted it because I revered my pastor, my church and my parents (not bad things).
I remember the day I stood up to testify that God had led me to go to Bible College. This was an epiphany for me and I was excited about the future of following Jesus to a place where I could focus on studying God’s Word. After the service my pastor railed on me for what seemed like a half an hour, because the college I selected was not approved by him. Needless to say I had more than one epiphany that night: my pastor was not leading me, he owned me. I loved him and to this day I thank God for his influence on my life.
While I went to Bible College I would occasionally come home and go back to my church. My world changed dramatically and God had showed me that it was my duty as a disciple of Christ to pray that when I went to worship God would show me something from Himself. It was during this time that my faith grew tremendously. Eventually a beautiful young woman came to our church to visit; we married, we left and started an adventure of faith together. I write this thirty-three years later, married to the same woman who is even more beautiful today.
For the record I made a lot of mistakes as a Christian. I tried the spirits to see if they were of God (so to speak), I experienced varied forms of Christian worship and grew my circle of friends into areas of Christian faith I formerly believed were wrong. I even allowed myself to listen to styles of worship music that were unapproved by the little church I grew up in. I had moved from a view of God that was legal to a view of God that was gracious. I was no longer safe in my religion but free in my faith.
Faith has the unique quality of growing fruit. Attached to the Vine my little branch began bearing what God had sent up in the sap called “love.” I am still learning this today and still get conflicted when the false god of legalism wraps at my door. The old man does not die easy for religion feeds him well. I give him no hand-outs, but in moments of weakness I let him sleep on the porch. Soon, I get tired of stepping over him and send him away.
Of all the things I am tempted with it is leaving religion that I struggle with the most. I know that the intentions of God were not to have the Church so divided over what we think is most right. Christ is not divided. There is one Lord, one Faith & one Baptism. The day we begin defining how that baptism occurs in order to make our house of worship more exclusive; the day we begin to proclaim that this faith is arrived at through a specific order, that may be the day we begin to drift away from the Lord: the day faith is replaced with words written on a doctrinal statement rather than a name written on the heart.
“Beyond the sacred page I seek thee Lord…” these words taken from the hymn “Break Thou the Bread of Life” start so many communion services. How I wish seeking God was the goal of the Church, rather than seeking church goals. The True and Living God is not confined to any design of man, but man must confine himself to faith in God by seeking Him and calling on Him while He may be found. Too many of us look back to the day we called on God as the day we caught Him as Savior. Faith, regardless of your brand of Christianity, continues to seek God, not figure Him out or “secure” Him.
Job 11:7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? 8 It is higher than heaven–what can you do? Deeper than Sheol–what can you know? 9 Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.”
Job’s friend Zophar may not have been completely gracious when he visited him, but his above observation was spot on. God has made faith simple regardless of what religion has done to it. Pleasing God is attainable as we put out faith in His Christ. His work is finished so there’s nothing to add. Please be careful not to remove from others what God has so freely given to them. Find the core of their faith and if it is Christ welcome your brother or sister into your life; and for as much as possible be at peace with all men.
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