There is a tremendous need in the Church today. Okay, I will pause here, because I see you out there asking what that need is, I see your denominational sign around your neck, and I see your Bible in your hand ready to thump me (making you a Bible thumper like me) at the first hint of heresy. You’re making my point for me, really. This need transcends denomination and goes right to the root of the Christian faith, and has no place for the modern phariseeism that pervades most evangelical churches and traditionalism that pervades all forms of orthodoxy, be that Roman, Greek, Russian, Coptic, or otherwise. That need is so foundational that it applies to ALL forms of Christianity – it is the need to be real with God.
Do not misunderstand me. I applaud the efforts of the countless Catholic or Anglican or Orthodox priests at serving their congregations and being an example of Christ. I enjoy reading Canon Law and Church History of all sorts. I am completely onside with evangelical pastors of all denominations doing the same thing. However, following these roads and becoming a mere adherent of a philosophy, even the “right” philosophy, does not guarantee the reality God requires when He says his followers must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:24)
What does it mean to “be real” with God? The first thing it means is to come as you are to God. Some religions put conditions on spirituality like bathing in a certain river, or going on a journey to a certain place, or performing some great deed to make oneself worthy to enter into God’s presence. Christianity is unique in that it teaches that God came looking for us! We didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything, God saw an issue and fixed it Himself by sending His Son to deal with the problem.
What was the problem? I’m about to use a very unpopular word – Sin. Some have conjectured that sin is an outdated concept that results from a negative self-image. If that were true, then I wouldn’t be able to pick up any newspaper and read about sin in the headlines. Even if some acknowledge the concept of sin, they still don’t like to talk about it, and relegate it to a status of non-importance. In reality, sin is a very serious concept that affects every person on the planet negatively because it separates us from God who created us. Sin is the violation of the holy standard of God. Have you ever told a lie, even just a little “white” lie to “protect someone’s feelings? Then congratulations, you have joined the rest of us among the ranks of the sinful. Have you ever stolen something, even a cookie from the bag your mom told you was for after dinner? Again, welcome to the ranks of the sinful.
Okay, okay, I hear you out there – I have never murdered anyone! I’m not as bad as that! Oh, okay, I’m glad you mentioned that. Have you ever been angry with someone without a good reason? Jesus said that was equal to murder in His eyes. Or have you ever looked on another human being (to whom you are not married) with sexual desire? Jesus said that you have already committed adultery in your heart. Welcome aboard, sinner. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and without dealing with that sinfulness, we cannot have any kind of reality with God. That is a real problem, because we are unable to deal with our own sin. The first half of Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death,” so in order to deal with it we would have to be executed. That is not what I would call a pleasant thought. However, the second half of Romans 6:23 says, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What?!? What does that mean?
It means that Jesus paid the penalty for us. Because our sin demanded a death, He died in our place. Think of it like this – you just got pulled over by the police and were given a traffic ticket. You choose option three, meaning that you want your day in court (and we will all have one). You show up, and the officer that wrote the ticket is there and able to provide incontrovertible proof that you are guilty. The court orders that you pay the penalty, say $300. When you go to pay the bailiff, he tells you that another person heard that you were guilty, and out of the goodness of his heart, paid your fine for you. That is what Jesus Christ did for us, only on a much larger scale. He died to pay for all sins for all time. He rose again three days later to show that we had been set free from their power. For those who choose to accept that payment on their behalf, that freedom is theirs to claim.
If you are sitting there reading this and you have never heard it before, or if you have heard it and discounted it as I once did, let me encourage you and challenge you to consider the implications of all this. Okay, if I'm wrong, what am I really out? Not a great deal, because real Christianity teaches the doing of what is right for all anyway. But what if I'm right? Please - think about it honestly.
If you are reading this and you have made that choice already, but you are not living it, and you are discouraged and at the end of your rope as I once was, then let me say to you that it is not too late and that there is hope for you. You can turn to God and claim that freedom that God promises to all who will turn to Him.
If you're reading this and it makes you angry and makes you hate God because of all the wrong you have suffered in your life, I know how you feel because I've been where you are too. All I can say to you is that your pain is not God's doing, although He has allowed it in your life for some reason that maybe we don't know and can't understand. What I can tell you is that God is there for you too if you'll turn to Him.
If you're reading this and thinking that I have some loose screws, maybe you are right, but I'm not making this up. If it is making you angry at me for even addressing the topic, you're making my point for me about the phariseeism and traditionalism that has bound God's people for centuries - you need to really consider what I have said. If you can't get past your anger, I understand - I could not get past my own for many years, and I am praying for you, that God would set you free as He has me.
If your head is nodding in agreement and a smile has crept onto your face like it did mine while I was writing this, then hallelujah, brother or sister - let us walk together in the freedom that Christ's historical death, burial, and resurrection has given us and serve Him with gladness and joy in our hearts, even in the midst of our struggles and trials, because ours is the kingdom of heaven.
God bless you, no matter what category you fall into. Even if you don't believe in God, because that's coming from a really good place in my heart and meant to bless you.---
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)