Overcoming differences within Christianity
The response to yesterday's post both amazed and humbled me. I mean I should have expected it - this is a big and controversial topic with two clear different sides, but still - wow! Thank you so much for every one of you who took the time to stop and comment and start a discussion. As I was telling a friend - I didn't write that post to judge, convert or belittle someone else's beliefs, but to share my own personal thoughts on the topic. And in response, I do want to hear what you think - even if it's the opposite of what I think. That is the beauty of living in a country like ours that is based on freedoms of speech, religion and press. We can have these discussions publicly without fear of reprimand or persecution. So, let's talk about it, but in order to have an enriching experience, we need to all approach it with an open mind, willing to listen and debate. Maybe in the end we'll all walk away with a little something to think about or we'll walk away even more convicted of our beliefs - either way it's a good result.
So, don't be afraid to speak up - this is a positive space for discussion and explanation.
Yesterday's post also prompted me to write about a bigger topic that encompasses beliefs and differences like the topic of homosexuality and that is the differences in beliefs within Christianity. There are dozens of different religious groups that fall into the Christian category and in the US (dare I say?!) it's almost trendy to belong to a church of some sort and call yourself a Christian or some other religious identity. To make things even more complicated, almost every church, even if it's the same religion, chooses its own rules and interprets the Bible differently - some are more contemporary, others more conservative, some just fall in the middle somewhere.
So, who is right? Is it my church? Yours? Perhaps one of the missionary churches? The biggest church? The smallest?
I wish I could tell you, but the truth is, I can't because every church has its shortcomings because the church is made up of humans and we're far from perfect! What makes a church holy though is that the head of it is Jesus Christ and because He laid down His life for our sins, He fills in the holes where we lack holiness and righteousness.
Defining what a church and body of Christ should be like would take a whole book (in fact, it does since most of the New Testament is on this very topic!), so I will resort to one experience that is helping me work through these differences to discover what is the right way.
When my family moved to Missouri my sophomore year of high school, we began going to a super conservative church. I was a teenager, so of course, I rebelled - I didn't want to go to a stuffy, old-fashion, tiny church with practically no young people. I wanted freedom found in contemporary churches with a worship band, 20 minute sermons and all my friends. After all, they always spoke about God and you feel so blessed in the midst of those worship sessions, right?!
But, God has a way of humbling us and showing us His way. Since I was still, essentially a kid, I still had to go to church with my parents and obey their house rules. I may have hated it and complained left and right, but I still did it.
That's how I once found myself a small prayer gathering - there was maybe ten people there for the sole reason of praying for a few hours. I was bored and counting down the hours till I could go hang out with my friends. But, in the midst of my "fake praying" aka trying to convince my parents I'm actually doing something, that room filled with something I can't explain.
To this day, what happened next brings tears to my eyes and gives me shivers. That night, I felt God's presence - tangibly and to the core of my being - I felt Him. Unless you've experienced it yourself (trust me, if you have, you would know - it's out of this world), it's so hard to put into words. Slowly from head to toe, you feel this warmth and lightness as if you're floating on a cloud in the warmest sunshine. My hands began to shake, tears ran down my face and I lost the ability to put my thoughts into words.
At that moment - nothing else mattered.
I got the Holy Spirit that night. And since then, I've had few more of those moments.
And after every single one of them, my heart was so filled with love for God and everyone around me that if someone told me to walk across hot coals or through fire for God, I would. And if someone told me to give up my job, a personal hobby or dream, I would do it without a second thought. For days, nothing else mattered - it's this high where God consumes you and you want to obey every commandment He ever left in His word. The world seems to be a brighter, better place because you can't wipe that grin off your face and nothing seems impossible.
That, my friends is what true Christianity is like - that complete devotion and love for God that makes you want to do anything and everything possible to please and honor Him. Most days I fall short of this, but it's what I strive for in my relationship with God.
So, that's how I determine if a church is truly consumed and led by God - if I can go in there and hear words that humble me to point where all I see, think and feel is God, then that church must be on the right path.
Also, as I wrote in my "How to study the Bible" post - every time someone tells me Christians should do this or that, I listen, but then I go home and I seek confirmation from the Lord through prayer, fasting and reading the Scriptures. And I try to do it with an open heart and a willing spirit, because I've learned that too many times, I was wrong - at some point I had accepted some beliefs that my parents, family or church taught me that were not in line with the Word, but the Lord is merciful and He is willing to show us His truth - we must simply ask, listen and obey.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. -James 1:5
Yes, some of the things the Bible and God ask us to do, seem outrageous - too radical or hard, but as Christians our life should be radically different from the world. People must be able to look at our actions, clothes, words and our lives and be able to see Christ. Just because a majority that calls themselves Christians believe something and even add Bible verses to back themselves up, it doesn't mean it's the truth.
There is such a thing as false prophets and Bible verses can be spun and manipulated to do Satan's work and lead believers astray. It's a craft the Devil has perfected over the years - he even tempted Jesus himself by quoting Bible verses to Him.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with Thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:6-10
I love this clip of one of David Wilkerson's sermon. Every time I hear it, it speaks to my heart, humbling me and making me weep in shame. I am changing. Christianity is changing - yes, it's growing, but it's losing it's power. Our churches are changing.
In the end though, this is what Christianity really is:
What are your thoughts on this?
Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit like I've experienced in church or what David Wilkerson described in the video?