So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
- Hebrews 13:5
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
- Colossians 3:9-11
“True Christianity is not religion. True Christianity is faith in Christ alone.
“Just because people claim to be Christian does not necessarily mean that they are Christian. Christianity is not something you add to your life. Becoming a Christian means that Jesus Christ comes into your life and takes over. It is a totally new outlook that is not satisfied with anything less than penetration into the furthest corners of the soul and the understanding.
“Christianity is not a spectator sport – buying a ticket and sitting on the sidelines. Becoming a Christian means no longer living for yourself but for God in obedience to Him. You must leave the old life behind and step into a new way of living, where Christ makes possible what you think impossible. To say you believe in Him and then continue living as though nothing has changed is to deny the power of God in your new life.
”You cannot have Jesus in your life without change.”
- Billy Graham, The Reason for my Hope: Salvation
Welcome to the 1000th post on this website, not counting the permanent pages. I have reblogged a few, so it is not my 1000th post to have written, but soon for that, probably without fanfare. I had a lot in the queue, and I was praying fervently regarding what this post should be. Also, I was praying about whether to organically take the next topic in the queue and not try to force the issue.
Before I go further, I want to thank all the readers of this blog, those who like and comment, but also those that I don’t even know about. In a way, I worship Jesus daily through writing this blog and reading the blogs and comments from others, maybe not a religious experience, but one that is meaningful.
As usual when I ponder what to write, God had me read something, and through those few paragraphs in Billy Graham’s book, it became clear.
This is something that I have struggled with my entire life. I had only been a Christian, in the true sense, for about two years when Fritz Ridenour published his book, How to be a Christian without being Religious. The book was great, but the concept was what I struggled with then and even now.
In my viewpoint, I could never reconcile religiosity with Christianity. I went to an “Evangelism Team” meeting where the leader rejected the advice of successful street evangelists for two reasons: They had no structure, and their ultimate goal was not increasing the membership in the church. Then I heard another “Evangelism Team” leader who had created a detailed procedure on how the team was going to go forth and evangelize, increasing the membership of the church. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was ever said by either leader about saving souls. Both wanted to increase membership in the church. I smiled and walked away each time, but I wanted to go to the men’s room and vomit. Maybe that is what Jesus meant in Revelation 3 when He referred to the Laodicean church. Is that what lukewarm Christianity is? We have a huge church building to maintain, thus we need paying members to pay for the upkeep. Forget your souls! They can go to Hell. Just give us your money and we’ll make you feel good, so you won’t think of your souls, ever again. Is that a lukewarm church? Then we have them by the millions.
Don’t get me wrong. I go to church, because God wants me to worship. I worship every day of the week, but I need to worship in concert with other believers, and I pray that there might be a few in a church, maybe not, but there is always hope. What is the old saying? One out of every three people sitting in the pews is a true Christian. Then the comedian would add, “If you look to your left and your right and see someone that you know is going to Heaven, then you better repent!” That joke doesn’t work well when you are sitting at the end of the pew. (I love having an armrest.)
Don’t get the wrong idea about Billy Graham either. Rev. Graham’s prep team worked with church leaders to pray for the up-coming crusade event – not just to pray for success, but to have open doors to provide discipleship for the souls that would come forward during the crusade. Rev. Graham also followed up, at least someone on his team, with each person that came forward. Rev. Graham knew human nature, and if we don’t have a means of grabbing ahold of something solid, like a true Christian friend, we will gravitate back into the sick, slimy, secular soup that is this world. Our conversion may be real, but we’ll live a defeated life without communion with other Christians.
But what is Billy Graham getting at? He used the Scripture above over the next few paragraphs after the quote. In 2 Corinthians 5, we are made new creations. The old is gone, washed away. Sure, there may be that sin that you do not realize that you have in your heart, but God gives you a new heart that seeks to find those sins and repent, purging them from the new creation. The new creation cannot live with them. I am not talking about legalism, but about a desire to be closer to Jesus.
Hebrews 13 talks of God never forsaking us. Okay, the Hebrews author is quoting Deuteronomy 31:6, but you get the point. Jesus is in our heart. The Holy Spirit is within us, guiding us. We may fail to listen at times, but God is still present there, still whispering in our ears.
And the passage from Colossians 3 is perfect. Colossians 3:10 is often memorized but reading the three verses says it all. We have a new life and that life is Jesus Christ and Him alone.
So, after 65+ years of trying to resolve Christianity and Religion, 50 years as a true believer, have I finally resolved that the two can coexist so that I can move on? NO! A thousand times NO. I am resolved to go to the imperfect church of my choice to worship God, sitting next to imperfect people who call themselves Christians.
True Christianity and Religion are totally incompatible. Religion has ceremony and confessions and procedures and church order. Religion must put Jesus into a box, and no box on earth can hold Him. You cannot create detailed procedures to evangelize. Yes, I used the Campus Crusade tracts in my younger days, but when it came to true evangelism, I set the pamphlet aside and spoke from the heart. The pamphlet only organized things in my mind, but when God wanted something said, the Holy Spirit shut off my brain to keep me from screwing it up and talked through me. He had to have done so, because I never remembered a word I said when those times happened. Should the “Evangelism Team” act upon their detailed procedures? Sure, God can bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in spite of those procedures. And maybe those procedures give people the courage to go out and spread the Word.
So, what has this post really said? The only thing that ultimately matters in life is whether you have a vital, real, passionate relationship with Jesus Christ, and that you live for Jesus and Him alone. And that you tolerate the imperfect church, attending as regularly as possible. And remember that the only perfect church is that body of true believers, living with Jesus, in Heaven.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.