Over the last 2000 years of Christianity we sure have mucked things up. We’ve taken a gospel message that is so pure, simple and powerful and complicated it beyond reasoning. We’ve made being a Christian so confusing and befuddling. It’s turns people away leaving them scratching their head and not able to understand what in the world it’s all about. In fact, I would bet, if asked, a lot of Christians can’t even tell you what it’s all about!
Recently I had a conversation with a friend that really challenged me and opened my eyes to something. A concept so incredibly simple, but it holds the power to transform the world if more Believers would simply embrace it’s truth and live it in their daily lives.
My friend who has been raised outside Christianity said to me that she would like to maybe pursue Christianity but can’t seem to find an “in.” I completely understand what she is saying and experiencing. She’s visited various churches but is always turned off by them. And I know what it is that makes her feel so yuck about them. There is a Pharisee spirit operating in our church body today that is exactly what Jesus came to abolish 2000 years ago.
It is for freedom Christ has set us free yet we have so completely complicated what it means to be “a Believer” developing rules and regulations for living. Just like the Pharisees and the Law, we substitute truly knowing God with knowing about God.
We’ve made being a Christian all about adopting a set of rules and regulations. We’ve formulated being a Christian, like the Pharisees, hedging ourselves from right and wrong. Walk down this aisle and give your heart to Jesus. Raise your hand during an altar call. Memorize these scriptures. Recite this faith and message. Wear this. Don’t wear that. Drink this. Don’t drink that. We speak our own language and outsiders can’t understand us.
“Go to church” + “don’t sin” + “give your heart to Jesus” = become a Christian. Join our Christian club.
After our conversation, her comment kept rolling around inside my heart. “I can’t find an in.” But… Jesus!! That’s all the “in” anyone needs! Being a Christian and becoming a Christian is really so so easy. But, like the Pharisees, we’ve complicated things beyond recognition and created a Law that totally misses the mark.
It’s not about adopting a set of rules of regulations from which to live. It’s not about coming forward down an aisle when slow emotional music is playing to give your heart to Jesus or standing up or raising your hand during and altar call to tell a preacher you want Jesus in your heart so you don’t have to go to hell when you die.
It’s not about joining a Christian club, moving your membership letter or adding a denominational name tag to your name. John Smith Independent Baptist. Wanda Johns Pentecostal. It’s not about having correct theology or doctrine.
It’s not about being able to recite your denominational creed or faith and message. It’s not about knowing all about God from Sunday School or VBS and knowing what the scriptures say backwards and forwards. It’s not about Bible drill or knowing the latest worship song by heart. Nor is it about having a prayer language.
These are not the things that make one a “Christian.”
I think back to the days, weeks and months after Pentecost. The early Acts church members. I wonder what they would think if we could rip one of them from time and bring them to our future in a DeLorean. What would they think of what we’ve made the Church today? I find it ridiculous to think of these modern Churchisms in light of the early Christian body of Believers. For them it was so so simple. Jesus.
What does this mean? What does it mean to carve it all down to Jesus? How does one live this out?
We know from Mark 6 that Jesus is walking down the road with his disciples. While walking, Jesus poses a question to his disciples. “Who do people say that I am?”
They answer candidly saying he’s another prophet. John the Baptist. Elijah. Jeremiah.
Then Jesus gets personal. “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter. Oh don’t we all love Peter. I can relate so well to Peter. The one to jump out of the boat. The first one to respond to everything. Hot headed Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
I can see Jesus smiling ear to ear. The teacher whose classroom gets it.
“Upon this rock I will build my church.”
What exactly was “this rock?” Have you ever really sat and thought about that?
Catholics took it literary and built the Vatican upon Peter’s grave. The entire Catholic church was built upon the supposed remains of Peter. They literally built their church on Peter, the Rock.
But I don’t think that’s exactly what Jesus meant.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you… Peter. This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven… and upon THIS rock I will build my church so that the gates of hell can not prevail against it.”
I believe “this rock” was the revelation of who Jesus is. The Christ. The Son of the Living God. And it’s upon this revelation of who Jesus is that God wants to build His church.
The church is not built upon correct doctrine, getting people saved, service attendance, Sunday School numbers or any of the crazy things we build it upon today. It’s about one thing and one thing only. What a person does with the person of Jesus Christ.
Like Peter, every person has to come to the place where they determine what they will do with the person of Jesus Christ. And this and this alone makes you “a Believer.” A “Christian.” When we carve away all the “churchisms” we’ve created over the generations, it comes down to one simple question. “Who do you say that I am?”
You want to “join the Church”? It’s not about moving your membership letter or telling a pastor you want to become a member. It’s simply admitting and confessing, like Peter, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. This makes you a Believer. This makes you a church member.
It’s not about signing up to volunteer in nursery, helping lead worship, leading a small group, helping with VBS or going to seminary. I’m not saying these things are bad. Totally not! They are good things when they are done from the leading of the Holy Spirit. But we miss the mark when we add all these things to what it means to BE a Christian and make being God’s church a list of “to-dos” on a check list. This to me, sounds way too much like what the Pharisees did to the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. Men who showed their affection to God by following a check list of rules.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to have alter calls, Bible Drills or other “churchy” things. I’m merely trying to communicate what the Holy Spirit showed me that day while chewing on the conversation with a dear friend. How can I show this friend who didn’t grow up on “churchisms” what being a Christian really is? The Holy Spirit showed me you become a Christian by responding to one question. Who is Jesus? You become a Believer, by believing and responding to the person of Jesus Christ. Plain and simple.
Furthmore, being a Christian is not about responding to one’s sin. We’ve made way too much of sin and it’s caused us to look like a bunch of judgemental idiots. I’m crazy enough to believe that God cares more about our response to him than our response to the sin in our life. Respond to the person of Jesus first and then let the Holy Spirit work on the sin that entangles our lives. A friend shared this on social media today and it’s a beautiful example of a person responding to the person of Jesus above the sin or guilt in their lives. A new creation. Absolutly beautiful.
So dear reader, thanks for spending time in my heart today. Thanks for reading what the Lord taught my heart. I hope it blesses you as much as it does me. Let’s be the church together and walk in the power the revelation of knowing Jesus as the Christ brings to this world. Please share if you agree and comment with your thoughts!
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