For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
- Galatians 5:6
Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
- Galatians 6:12-16
I would love to quote Os Guinness, at least I think it was Os Guinness, but I cannot because after studying my notes on his book Impossible People, I cannot find the part where he says that true believers across all denominations differ very little in their beliefs.
My wife told me that she knew what my problem was. “You read too much!” It wasn’t that I take lousy notes. No! I read too much, and the quote could have originated from any one of a few books. But let’s say Os Guinness said it.
Think about it for a moment. That means that the Catholic saying the rosary ten times each morning, or more, has little difference in their beliefs than the non-denominational evangelical who would never be caught dead in a Catholic church. A Frozen Chosen Presbyterian has little difference in their beliefs than the Pentecostal who, as Tim Hawkins says, “throws their hands in the air, like they just don’t care!” (quote not in bold-italics, because I may not have the quote exact). And those Primitive Baptists who believe that if you are not Primitive Baptist you are going to Hell do not differ that much in their beliefs to the Methodist. Okay, in each of these comparisons, it needs to be prefaced that the believer is a true believer.
I used the Primitive Baptist and the Methodist combination because my mother’s parents were of those two denominations. When my grandfather moved to town, away from his church, he knew he’d go to hell is he just stepped inside the door of another church, even another “Baptist” church, and until after he passed away, MawMaw did not have a driver’s license and had to bum rides to the Methodist church, when she could manage it. And my mother claimed that she never forgave my older sister for teaching MawMaw how to drive. Hey! She never killed anybody. She probably scared a few half to death, but only halfway.
My wife said the other day that all true Christians believe in the same Jesus, we just go about worshiping Him in different ways.
Let us say that you visit a friend who is dying. The friend is slipping in and out of consciousness and the “Church of Amen” cousin is whispering a fire and brimstone sermon into the dying person’s ear, trying to convert them to “Church of Amen” before it was too late. Your dying friend had shown the love of Jesus all their lives, but they were not “Church of Amen.” So, they had to be bombarded with the “hard sell” on their dead bed. Is that not disgusting?
My wife has stood by the bedside of several dying family members. As they drift in and out of consciousness, the family member seems to not want any part of the present world. They want Heaven. They know better than the one with the Bible in their hand, quoting verses feverishly. They have seen a glimpse of Glory as they drift from one side of the veil to the other. The best that our puny minds can conger is a pathetic concept of something unimaginable – thus, pathetic.
If it is that important to convert people to a different denomination, do it every day, not on the person’s last. On the person’s last, it shows that you feel guilty for not having done so sooner. You are covering up for your faults and failures. Your feeling of guilt trumps the salvation of your loved one at that moment – also, pathetic.
The Scripture above talks about circumcision and I have no interest in talking about circumcision. Those folks in Paul’s time who did demand it are referred to these days as Judaizers, people trying to make Christianity a Jewish thing with a cross on the side. Paul fought the Judaizing of the religion vehemently, because it added “works” to salvation, when salvation is by faith alone. Get that? Faith ALONE.
None of the great and not-so-great denominations, or lack of denominations for the non-denominationals out there, have everything right – none of them. I think that the longest laugh when we get to Heaven is to the idea of “We thought THAT??!!?!?” Whether one denomination or another laughs longer, meaning they were way off the target, is immaterial. We all get the cart before the horse. In Heaven, it will become obvious how predestination can be resolved with free will and all of us will be thinking, “Why did we not think of that?!”
I suppose at this point, I should add a caveat.
“The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the afterworld.”– C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Thinking of the old Gumby claymations, I remember the Blockheads. Maybe we cannot stack the blocks in the right order because we are all blockheads here on earth.
I said that I do not wish to talk about circumcision, but what about baptism? I am Presbyterian. I was baptized in the Presbyterian church five months after I was born, almost to the day. My mother beat into me that it was an “affront to God” if I ever got Baptized again. Yet, when my son joined a Baptist church while he was going to college and staying with my parents, my parents went to the Baptist church to proudly witness the “affront to God” in that our son was being Baptized a second time. What? The Bible never changed, but somehow the rules changed? I do not buy that!
I have since thought of being dunked (re-baptized) instead of the nearly 70 year old sprinkling, but each time I think of it, I hear a voice say that once you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, is it really necessary to dilute that with water?
The problem is that there are many who have been dunked so many times that it is a miracle that they have not drowned, and those people have never been baptized in the Spirit. They do it for the ‘doing’ without ever accepting Jesus in the true sense.
Thinking of that, I heard Randy Travis tell about a drunk who stumbled into line at a river baptism. When it became his turn, the preacher asked, “Have you seen Jesus?” The drunk slurred, “No.” The preacher grabbed him and shoved the drunk’s head under the water. He repeated the question when the drunk came up. The drunk, once he had gotten a gulp of much needed air, repeated, “No.” On two more dunks into the water, with the preacher holding him down a little longer each time, the drunk finally changed his answer. He said, “Preacher, I have no idea where Jesus is, but He ain’t in that river!”
And is that not the problem with a lot of us? We wish to add something to what God requires, and we miss Jesus in the process. We can see Jesus with the faith that God gives us, but then we add something that we “do” to the mix. The Judaizers in Paul’s time added circumcision, and we each add something else. We add a special kind of baptism or saying a prayer in a certain way or answering an altar call. Or worse yet, becoming a member of the church by answering “I will” to about 5-6 questions. That requires no faith at all. It becomes ‘salvation’ by doing something.
And that is where the problem lies. When we get the cart before the horse, really adding the cart that never was there, we make the cart more important. We are saved by faith. Period. I wish there was a way of making the “.” so bold that it dwarfs the rest.
We are saved by faith●
Okay, that may look strange, but do you get the point? (pun intended!)
Another “point” is that God saves; we do not save. We might be God’s instrument at that moment, but as soon as we think we did something, we start heading down the wrong path.
So, back to the non-quote that may or may not have originated from Os Guinness, that all true believers do not differ that much in what they believe. Where does all the diversity in the church come from? I think it comes from ages and ages of generations, who are flawed human beings, adding something to what God established.
God loves us. God sent His Son to die, so that we might live. Believe it and live it.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.