Yesterday, I posed an interesting question on Facebook:
There were a lot of guesses all across the board, from Methodist to Brethren, but some of the answers were shockingly accurate...
Technically, my friend, Sanne, had it right:
Walk into (I would argue) most churches today and this is what you will hear. Sounds great, doesn't it? Talking about a personal relationship (admittedly with no definition) with God, how the only way to Heaven is Jesus Christ, and here's how we can live for Him. The children are raised "in the faith" with morally upstanding lives. Could it get any better?
YES! Because that is not Christianity. That is moralism, at best. That is not what sets us apart as Christians.
"Well", you ask, "what does? Is it Jesus?" Well, if we're just talking about how we believe He's the only way to Heaven, no. Muslims believe Allah is the only way to Heaven. Mormons believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven. And they both claim to believe in the same God as we do...so that doesn't set us apart.
"Is it our behavior?" No. Any secular can be a good citizen, do right and wrong, show love. Yes, Jesus does say, "They will know you are Christians by your love." But, unless we have what it is that makes us Christian, what looks like love to the world is actually sin. As filthy as dirty rags.
"Is it talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" No, Mormons believe in that too. Do you know how many Mormons walk around in the "It's not about religion, it's about a relationship" t-shirt? Do you know how openly heretical that saying is? 1. They don't define the word "relationship". It's just an ooshy-gooshy feel-good word that means whatever the hearer wants it to. 2. Religion:" (taken from dictionary.com). What that t-shirt means then, is "It's not about who or what you believe in, but the feelings you get when you think about whoever you're thinking about." That's not Christianity either. That's Universalism.
"Well, that's all fine and good for you. I'm glad it works for you, but I believe..." AH!!!! For the love of God, never ever say that again! Jesus said, "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life". Paul said, "There's ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism." Either the Bible isn't our source of truth, in which case you had better stop calling yourself a Christian, or the Bible is our ultimate source of truth. God said what He meant, and meant what He said. There is ONE truth. Anything else is the definition of Relativism. Also, not Christianity.
Now, I'm not saying someone who disagrees with me doctrinally is going to Hell or anything like that. This is not a denominational slam. Yes, I am a Lutheran of the Associatian of Free Lutheran Congregations. Yes, I do believe that our doctrine is the closest to Scripture's. Yes, I wish all my friends and family were part of it. But, that's not because I don't think they're saved. It is my firm belief that all who believe in what it is that makes us Christian are saved. It just makes me sad when I see my loved ones under the weight of false doctrine and the Devil's lies, when I see the affect it has on their lives. This is why I cannot say, "What works for you works for you" because not only does it deny Christ's truth, but it also is incredibly unloving to stand aside as Satan crushes my friends and family with lies and the consequential sin patterns. It doesn't actually...really... work for you.
"What does set us apart then? What do we have that no one else has?" Grace. The bloody, gory, all-fulfilling grace given to us in Jesus Christ. The fact that nothing we ever do will get us not only in right-standing, but better standing with God. When we believe that, that we will never earn God's favor on our own, but it is only by the work of Christ on our behalf, then and only then are we Christian. When we try to merit favor on our own and demand it of others, we are lost and Pharisees in our own right. That is moralism. That is the Devil's snare that the Catholics, Mormons, and many main-line denominational churches across the board have fallen for. Through the Great Exchange, all the sin we have committed was put on Christ, and all His perfect works were put on us like a spotless white bridal gown. We are perfect in the sight of the Lord, and there is no improving perfect.
Does that mean we can then live as we see fit? Does that mean that pastors don't need to preach what it is God requires of us? Heaven forbid, no! And if we truly believe that, we won't want to. "If you love Me, you will follow My commandments" doesn't mean that in order to prove we love God, we obey Him. No! It means if we love Him, we will consequently desire and begin to follow Him. We will need our pastors to preach God's Word to us, both to remind us of the Gospel and convict us of sin. Without both, we lose Christ. Just remind us of the Gospel, and we will become like the ELCA: flippant about Christian living and betraying our Lord for political correctness. If we just speak of what is required of us to the expense of the Gospel, we have fallen into moralism.
So, preach the Law (hereby meaning what God requires of us)! Preach it in it's fullness! It's not called the "Hammer of God" for nothing. Bring down that hammer on sins like gossip, worry, fornication, slander, and unforgiveness just as you do on homosexuality or murder. Make people squirm until they realize there is no way on Earth they can do this on their own so they will stop trying and turn to the Cross.
And, please, preach the Gospel! No, I don't mean the pathetic little blip that pastors tack on the end of their sermons to get people to come up to the altar. The Gospel doesn't fit in an A-B-C, or 1-2-3 format. It took God an entire book and 4000 years to bring forth the Gospel and it's taken Him another 2000 to demonstrate it to us. Preach of Jesus! Preach of the blood He wept because of the agony He bore on our behalf! Preach of the whips tearing his flesh as mankind rejected Him! Preach of the thorns piercing His brow as He demonstrated His love! Preach of the nails tearing his sinews asunder just as His communion with God was riven! Preach of the wrath of God poured on Him, causing the ground to shake and the sky to rumble because of the depravity of our sin! And preach of His glorious resurrection, giving us life and hope!
And when I say, "Preach!", I don't just mean in the pulpit. I mean live it. Speak of it as you lie down and as you rise up. Saturate your life in Jesus. Drown your children in grace!
Why? Because He died so you could die to sin! He rose again to give you life! He ascended into Heaven to interceed on your behalf! And He sent the Holy Spirit to help you on your way:reminding you of His sacrifice and grace!
"To whom much is given, much is required." or, as Uncle Ben said to my favorite superhero, "With great power, comes great responsiblity."
(PS) stay tuned for the next intriguing question...