A common misconception among believers is that once born again, there are no more trials and tribulations in life. Over the years, I have talked to countless people who turned away from the faith because they were led to believe salvation was a magic carpet ride to eternal bliss. Of course these people found out very quickly there are no magic carpets when it comes to the true Christian faith.
Where and how the troubling concept that one becomes a Christian to enjoy prosperity, live a life of worldly bliss, never have to deal with problems, have ten thousand friends and enjoy a “Leave it to Beaver” family is beyond me. Christianity is not a self-help psychological program. Christianity is not the stairway to financial success. Christianity is not a dating service or a social club. Christianity is not an automatic “get out of jail free” card that allows its holders to live in the lap of luxury and sit around swimming pools all day drinking martinis.
The outrageous claims made by many who profess to be Christians cause me great consternation. I am a Christian. I know what it means to be a Christian. I know what many people mistakenly call Christianity is nothing but a convenient religion that promotes selfishness and error. This “pseudo-Christianity” is not limited to any particular denomination. It is a malicious cancer that afflicts people throughout the Christian faith.
The term Christian originally was used by unbelievers in reference to those who spoke of having “Christ in them”. Christians are supposed to be those people who manifest Christ within. Christians are supposed to be representative of how and what Christ would be if he were on this earth today. To be a Christian has nothing to do with going to church, singing in the choir, paying tithes, wearing nice clothes on Sunday, serving on various boards, volunteering to paint the church or fixing the church van.
Religion runs rampant in this world. Religion has nothing to do with Christianity. To call Christianity a religion is an insult to true Christians. Religion and tradition are twin brothers. Traditions form the very backbone of most religions. Religion never saved anyone, and just because a person is religious, does not mean they are going to heaven. People brush their teeth religiously. Does that mean every “religious” tooth brusher is heaven bound?
People do many things in life religiously. In this sense of the word, all it means is to do something over and over again. That is also what tradition means. When something is religiously done in the same way over and over again; it becomes a tradition and in time a religion. This is why Jesus railed on those religious leaders steeped in their traditions. The religion they invented had nothing to do with the truth. True religion NEVER has anything to do with the truth.
Almighty God looks on the heart of man and not on his outward appearance. All God asks of a person is to stay honest in their heart toward Him. He is not interested in elaborate traditions which supposedly, in and of themselves, absolve a person of sin and bring reconciliation to God. Offering a sacrifice did not automatically resolve a situation in the Old Testament. More than once, God says in the Old Testament that He is not interested in the offerings and sacrifices; He is interested in true repentance from the heart.
Jesus Christ did not come to this earth to start a new “religion”. If anything, he came to tear down the religious traditions that were keeping people from salvation. Jesus Christ is not a “religious leader”. He is the Son of God and Head of the Body of Christ. Buddha was a religious leader. Mohammad was a religious leader. Pope John Paul II was a religious leader. Martin Luther was a religious leader. There have been innumerable religious leaders who have lived on this earth; Jesus Christ was and is not one of them.
True Christianity is not a religion it is a Faith. The book of James speaks of true religion being the service to orphans and widows. Those who insist on calling Christianity a religion throw open the door to the very things that drove Judaism to the horrific state it was in when Jesus Christ confronted it in Matthew 23. What started as faith, through the traditions of man, became a religion. Religion is not able to save anyone. True Christianity is the only way to eternal life.
There used to be a time when Christians were not ashamed of their faith. There was a time when Christians were willing to face persecution, harassment and even death as a reward instead of a plague to be avoided at all costs. There was a time when Christians would rather face a hungry lion than an angry God disappointed in their compromise. There was a time when Christians were universally hated and hunted as animals because they were considered religious heretics and enemies of the state. There was a time when Christians were not afraid to be Christians; no matter what it cost them.
There once was a time in this country where those who did evil in the sight of the Lord were relegated to “closets” where they hid their wicked ways. Now they have all come out of their closets and it is the Christians who practice “closet Christianity”. Oh my, people say, I cannot afford to let people know I am a Christian, for they might not like me or take their business elsewhere.
I am not a political activist and I would never “endorse” any candidate; but I am thrilled there is at least one politician running for President who is not afraid to tell the nation he is a Christian and believes Jesus Christ is the answer to this nation’s woes. Of course he will never get elected, but at least it is refreshing to have a politician talking about good old fashioned conservative Christian themes instead of the progressive junk promulgated by most.
I am appalled at the venom so many “progressives” have for the “religious right” in this country. Millions upon millions of people absolutely hate Christians. To them, everyone who says they are a Christian is automatically labeled an “evangelical”. The degree of that hate was just manifest a few days ago when an “ex” evangelical violently shot and killed numerous Christians. In his pre-killing internet posts, these murderers vented his extreme hatred toward Christians and desire to kill as many as he could.
What are we, as Christians (not evangelicals or any other designation) to do in response to this hatred? Are we to ignore it, confront it or hide from it? What did Jesus do when Judas betrayed him? Jesus simply said, “That which you do, do quickly”. If people hate us and want to kill us, so be it. If someone stands up in a classroom and demands that all Christians step forward to be shot, I would hope and pray the real Christians would boldly step up just as Stephen did in Acts 7.
Jesus never promised His road would be an easy one to tread. In fact, time and again He let it be known that any true follower of Him faced untold persecution, tribulation and martyrdom. Those that followed Him 2000 years ago did, for the most part, pay the ultimate price for their faith and yet they never complained. They counted it all joy to be able to suffer with him.