Thursday, July 5, 2012

'No' to Civil Religion, 'Yes' to Jesus!

Living in the Dallas, Texas area is an interesting thing for a person trying to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

There are three difficulties with being/claiming to be a 'Christian,' in the Dallas Metroplex:

1.  Jesus as "kind persons" religion.  Most people, even of diverse religions (say Buddhist, Reformed Jewish, etc), will tell you they are Christian.  Translation for rest of the country, especially non-South:  Claiming to be Christian in Dallas is something like saying you're a "kind" person.  Most people in Dallas area take offense if you say they are not Christian, because they hear it as they are not "kind."  While this is most definitely not how the term should be used, it is common here.  This is very far of course from encompassing all the Bible means when it records Christ followers were called "Christians."  Rating:  widespread.  True?:  a very shallow, off course caricature.

2.  Jesus as "good teacher, prophet" religion.  Many in our area, Dallas-Ft.Worth, will even go so far as to say they are not just Christian, but believe in what Jesus taught and stood for in the Bible.  Some of these still may not be in a relationship with Jesus where they believe and trust He died for their sins on the cross, and rose again to provide them with a pattern, the promise of eternal life in heaven with Him.  In this case, saying one is a follower of Jesus' teachings means something like I use principles that He taught in my daily life.  It does not however equal the claims a Christ follower of the 1st century would acknowledge as Christian faith.  There are many fellow Metroplex dwellers I have met personally who are Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu and yet will ascribe greater and more wonderful things to and about Jesus than your average Baptist, Bible church attender.  But they still do not know Jesus personally in a saving relationship.  Rating:  Fairly common.  True?:  Jesus was more than a good teacher and prophet.  That is a limited part of it, like buying a car and bragging about how it has Micheline tires, rather than talking about the car.

3. Jesus is my "Sunday thing" religion.  These persons are the ones I knew the most commonly as a teenager years ago, and it has become less common in the Dallas area.  You'll still hear it every once and a while though in our area.  I attended a local mainline church as a teen, and a good part of the Sunday School class I was in had people who genuinely thought Jesus was a living Savior for a few hours on Sundays.  That view of Christian faith was off because those thought it was about being impressively religious for a few hours or a day, so you had better act like it then, and get right then, but then just do your thing the rest of the week.  Believe me, apart from a godly understanding of what it means to turn, and trust God, and live for Him, this is perhaps one of the worst things you could fall into, don't go this way.  Rating:  Common with irregular postmodern generation church attenders, and regular older modernist generation church attenders.  True?:  No.  Jesus calls us to believe He is Lord, not just a Sunday Lord.

What do we believe then?

So then, listen, in contrast to all of these we have a need for placing personal faith in Jesus as the only way and person to be saved from sin, guilt, and death by (look up with a table of contents these helpful references:  The Book of Acts chapter 4, verse 12; chapter 17; The Book of Romans 10, verses 9-10). 

Jesus came to earth not merely to teach good things, or kind things, but to see people radically transformed by forgiveness of their sins, so that they could then in His renewing power live transformed lives (including but definitely, God forbid, not only limited to kindness).  Please note:  Trying to live a holy life apart from this power that comes from placing trusting in Jesus is not successful.  Even after, we rely on God's unmerited favor to forgive us and start anew all the time. 

It must also be said too that "Sunday-only" Jesus does not exist in the Bible.  He may exist in the minds of people who have a form of religion, but deny its power to change their lifestyle.  However, Jesus is not described that way in the New Testament of the Bible.  Jesus is living, present with Christ followers who trust Him, and the churches they attend by virtue of His being God as well (Book of Revelation chapters 1-2).  As God He presently is with His people everyday, not merely Sundays.  This means that we live for Him always, everyday, as we motorboat on the 4th, as we grill out, as we shop at the grocery store and stand at the checkout, as we do business deals and more.  Since He will never leave us or forsake us who hope in Him, we have a call to live purer lives, and we rest in unmerited favor when we fall, so we can get back up and walk along with Him in godly goals.  Where are you today, are you following Jesus today?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to Avoid Inwardness & Be a Successful Church Story

What makes a church inward looking?  What happens when it is inward looking, and forgets the Great Commission outside of its membership?
Lifeway has a great little article on how dangerous an introverted attitude can be in a church congregation:
http://www.lifeway.com/article/ten-warming-signs-inwardly-obsessed-church?intcmp=content-LWMain-Hero3-ObsessedChurches-20120625