The True Christian (Part 1)

 

 

According to a statistical survey on world religions in 2005, conducted by an organization called ‘Adherents.com.’, approximately 33% of the world’s population professed Christianity. Of all the religious groups worldwide, Christianity had the largest following. It certainly looks impressive. However, this percentage includes pseudo-Christian faiths (that is false Christian faiths as distinct from denominations) and numerous ‘Christianized’ cults (that is, systems of religious worship). Now, I have no desire to question the accuracy of this statistical estimate, but I do feel compelled to point out a disturbing fact: not all who profess Christianity are in fact Christians! What is more alarming is that excluding  those who belong to pseudo Christian faiths and the cults still leaves   massive numbers of ‘church goers’ who have no legitimate claim to being Christian.. This is true even of those in mainstream and orthodox Christianity. No doubt, every one of them displays a form of godliness, but for all the outward show, these professing Christians remain unsaved!  The modern church is in a sorry state and we may well ask, “Why is this so?”  The answer is simple. False teachers have manipulated essential truths in the salvation message, or even simply ignored them as irrelevant in the modern context.  ‘Another gospel’ and ‘another Jesus’ is preached. The concept of ‘doing’ has replaced the concept of ‘being’.  Modern Christianity bears little, if any resemblance to the church that was ‘founded on the prophets and the Apostles with Christ as the cornerstone’. Any discerning believer would observe with great heaviness of heart how low the church has fallen from its once lofty ideals. Professional expertise and methodology replaces the selfless service, and utter dependency on God, of the early church. Christian denominations today compete to satisfy the palates of self-seeking consumers. The result is a great number of unsaved people in the church who call themselves ‘Christians’. Now, this should not surprise us, because we live in the end times. Paul warned Timothy what would happen in the last days. He said, “men will gather around them teachers to teach what their itching ears want to hear”. He warned to pay careful attention to the truth, so as not be carried away by every wind of doctrine. Jesus himself prophesied a deplorable state of affairs just prior to his return, when he asked the rhetorical question: “Will I find faith on the earth when I return?”

 

A great number of professing Christians are deceived because they are content to believe popular or current views of Christianity - a bit like being up to date in the fashion world. Are you in that group? Just imagine boarding a bus in good faith, only to find when you arrive at the wrong destination, that you were misinformed! You may have enjoyed the trip, but you ended up at the wrong place! Have you thought to check if you on the right bus and on the right road?

 

You see, my dear friends, many are lost for want of the truth, not for want of sincerity. The tragedy is not that these professing Christians do not believe with all sincerity; rather they earnest believe what is not true, instead of the Word of God.  In their misconception, they have believed in vain! Misconceptions make the difference between professors and true believers –those who are not saved and those who are.

 

The first misconception is the belief that Christianity is a religious institution designed around moral or ethical codes. Christian faith comprises the doctrines of Christ and his apostles. In that sense, Christianity can be seen as a religious system, and no different from most religious systems, which espouse moral and ethical codes. However, the moral and ethical codes do not form the basis of Christianity as they do for other religions. Christianity is a way of living in a restored relationship (i.e. communion) with a personal God.  This is a glaring distinction. With Christianity, keeping the moral code is not the basis of a restored relationship with God. On the contrary, the Christian has a desire to keep the moral code because of an already restored relationship with a personal God. In every other religion, the opposite is true. Therefore, if I were to describe Christianity, I would say it is a way of life in which we live in a restored relationship with the true God.  In Christianity, restoration comes before perfection - not the other way round.

 

The second misconception is the belief that Christianity is no more than a creed (i.e. a set of beliefs about God). Yes, Christianity does have a set of beliefs about God and they are the things God has revealed about Himself in His word. Our intellectual beliefs may be beyond criticism; but we must translate our beliefs into action: “faith without works is dead” (James2:17). Christianity involves a commitment of ourselves - heart, mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him.  We must trust in him as our saviour, submit to him as our lord; and then go on to take our place as faithful members of the church and responsible members of the community of Christ. John tells us:  “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1John 2:6). Discipleship is the hallmark of being a true believer. Jesus never commanded anyone to make converts - only disciples. To the great shame of Christianity, the cults and pagan religions demonstrate a far more vigorous attitude towards discipleship than Christianity does. However, .as we know from bible history, God has always preserved a faithful remnant. True Christianity has survived the ages because of discipleship, not because of increasing membership, or faithful participation in religious rites and ceremonies, no matter how reverent they may appear.

 

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