CHURCH

Many years ago my husband and I moved to a small rural community. My husband does not attend church, so I was seeking a church family to join on my own. At that time, a new friend who had recently moved to the area was also seeking a church to attend.

So quite naturally, our conversation led to a discussion about what each of us were looking for in a church.

While I didn’t know my friend’s definition of a church, my definition of a church did not refer to a specific denomination or building. Rather, I agreed with the Apostle Paul’s definition of the church where he describes the church as being the “Body of Christ,” of which Jesus is the head,” as stated in Ephesians 1:22: God placed all things under his (Jesus) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

As we talked, my friend told me that she was not looking for what she calls “a fundamentalist church” primarily because she does not believe that salvation comes through Jesus alone or that He is the only way to God. She said that she preferred a church that is tolerant of all religions because she believes that all religions have merit.

When my friend told me that she believed all religions have merit, she didn’t tell me how much she actually knows about other religions or how she determines merit. However, my friend was a kind and caring person so I’m guessing that what she meant was that she believes all people have merit and that it is important to respect their beliefs in kind and loving ways. With that, I do not disagree!

However, merit and salvation are two different things. My friend did not believe in being born-again, nor did she want to be born again. I am not certain what she believed, but I do know that she was a very kind and loving person whereas I was a lot rougher around the edges than she was, and more so at that particular time of my life.

I tried to come to grips with our differences and determine what part those differences played in our seeking a church family to belong to.

My understanding is that biblical salvation is not based on merit or human endeavour. Rather, it is a God-given gift that cannot be earned or purchased. It is gift that is received by believing in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross; by repenting of the sins we have committed against a just and holy God, and by inviting Jesus into our heart as Saviour and Lord.

The gift of salvation is based upon personally believing and receiving God’s acceptance of the work Jesus accomplished on behalf of you and me when he offered himself as a righteous, living sacrifice on the cross to make atonement (pay the fine, in other words) for our unrighteousness before a just and holy God.

I could never earn that gift of salvation on the basis of religious beliefs, self-righteousness or merit. Rather, that gift was freely given to me when I came to God and both acknowledged and asked forgiveness for my sins. Jesus offer is open to all mankind. We can accept it or reject it. God will never impose on our freedom to make our own choices and decisions.

Jesus, who was himself, sinless, died on the cross for the sins of all mankind for every person who has ever lived. If I have never sinned then I have no need of Jesus. If I say that I am not a sinner, obviously I don’t concur with the Biblical statement: ‘All” have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) 23

For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life THROUGH Jesus Christ our Lord.(Romans 6:23 KJV)

By His death on the cross, Jesus ransomed us from the penalty of sin, which is death. In so doing, he paid the price for our sin so that we could be set free from the captivity of sin and redeemed from the penalty of death we deserve, thereby becoming a member of the family of God both now and for all eternity.

The dictionary defines ‘ransom’ as “a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity.”

Redeem is defined as “to gain or regain possession (buy back) in exchange for payment.”

By his death on the cross, Jesus ransomed us from the bondage of sin and redeemed us from the wages of sin, that being death, and opened the way for us to come in to the presence of our holy, just and righteous God, both now and for all eternity.

When someone repents of their sin and believes and receives Jesus’ offer of salvation, they are saved from the wages of their sin, that being death and eternal separation from a righteous God. It is then that they become part of Jesus’ body, the church. Not just any church or denomination, but rather ‘THE’ church, of which Jesus is the head.

What amazing and outrageous claims!

Believing Jesus’ claims do not make them true, just as not believing them does not make them false. Truth does not depend on our beliefs. Truth stands on it’s own regardless of whether we believe it or not.

If Jesus’ claims are true, then what is at stake is our eternal destiny. If they are false, why give them a second thought?

Many people who claim to be tolerant believe that all religions have some truth and that no religion can claim exclusive rights to being THE truth. And most religions do have some merit and truth. Many acknowledge the birth of Jesus, and credit him as being a great teacher, but do not accept his deity or Lordship in their lives.

Alas, biblical Christianity does not offer that option. Jesus made no bones about there being any other way to God except through himself.

Jesus specifically and in no uncertain terms stated that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Him.” (John 14:6) Which of course, means that Jesus is intolerant of religions that teach that man can come to God on any other terms.

But Jesus’ intolerance is not based on unkindness or narrow-mindedness. It is based on love and truth.

Jesus loved us enough to die for us while we were yet sinners. He took the wrath of God against mankind’s sin in our place, upon himself, so that we might be spared.

If you truly believe that the above statement is false, or that it doesn’t matter what you believe or which religion you follow as long as you tolerate everyone’s beliefs and are sincere in your own; if you think that God will accept you on the basis of your good works; if who Jesus claims to be and what he claims to have done are false, then any religion or church or denomination will do. Or even no religion or church, for that matter.

Oh, but you say: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher; I simply don’t accept his claim to be God.

As C.S. Lewis points out:

“That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
(Above quote from C.S. Lewis’ Book: Mere Christianity.)

If Jesus is not who he says he is, and did not do what he said he did, then he is a liar and a lunatic, and quite frankly, we would be daft to so much as give him or ‘this church business’ a second thought.

If we take Jesus out of the church, then why go to church at all? Wouldn’t we be better to simply join another religion or a humanitarian club of like-minded individuals? Or take the easier route and not bother to consider anything except our own needs, wants and opinions?

To use a very overworked cliche, going to a church does not make us a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes us a car. Many people go to church, but that does not mean that they are Christians. Genuine Christians are born-again believers. They are “born of the spirit” because they have opened their hearts and believed and received Jesus’ offer of salvation. In so doing, they receive God’s Holy Spirit and are born into the family of God.

Despite the wide variety of beliefs that fall under the general “Christian” label today, the Bible defines a true Christian as one who has repented of their sins, asked God for forgiveness and accepted Jesus offer of salvation by personally receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. They place their trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. They then have, and live, by the power of the God’s Holy Spirit now residing within them, and their life results in changes that are consistent with the teachings of Jesus and through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ offer of salvation is a standing invitation to all mankind. (2 Peter 3:9)

But it is an offer that must be accepted or rejected. And that choice is left to us. God is not in the business of coercion.

My friend’s decision to decline Jesus’ offer of salvation because she believes that the Bible is not the ‘only truth out there’ or that perhaps it might have mistakes, (which is another topic in itself) or because she doesn’t want to offend anyone else’s beliefs leaves me with a burden of grief in my heart beyond anything words could ever express.

That is not because I believe that my beliefs are true and hers, false.

It is because if the message of the Bible is true, and if Jesus was who He said He was and did what He said He did, then the consequences of accepting or not accepting Jesus’ offer of salvation are staggering—but in very different and eternally significant ways.

A church is not a building or a denomination. It is Jesus’ body, a family made up of believers gathered together in HIS name. God is preparing a bride for his son. That bride is the church.

Paul, in his second letter to Timothy states: “I know Whom I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

That WHOM is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world!

That “Whom” is Jesus!

If you are looking for a church, the following brief message points out some key points you might want to consider.

Definition of a Biblical Church