In part one, of article four, we discussed the basic belief systems of the three biggest religious groups in the world today: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. In part two, we discussed how Christianity, based on Christ’s claim of deity, is the one true way for humanity to connect with God. In this post, we will explore the issue most people have with accepting Christianity as God’s truth, and that is the Christians, themselves.
Many people have said, in one way or another, “If Jesus is God’s son, and if all His teachings concerning salvation and eternal life are true, then why do so many Christians behave in contrast to His teachings? Why are Christians such hypocrites?” It can be explained in this one statement:
Christians are not perfect, they’re just forgiven.
Being a Christian, as stated earlier, means that you live by the teachings of Christ. What so many outside of the faith don’t understand, and this truth eludes many who claim to be Christians, is that perfection belongs to Christ; perfection does not belong to us. That is the very reason Jesus came to live, die, and return from the grave — we weren’t perfect and never could be, but God’s son is perfect. Christ paid our debt on the cross, because he loved us and could afford to pay it (Romans 3:21-26). Death to Him was physically and emotionally painful, as Jesus experienced separation from God the Father on the cross and as He experienced His Father’s wrath in the grave, but Christ knew He could endure it.
Again, let’s recall the Scripture passage from Romans, chapter three, verses twenty-two through twenty-four: “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” We (mankind) are all not perfect, but because of Christ’s perfection, and His graciousness, we can obtain perfection through Him. We have access to His perfection. That’s not to say that we will be perfect while living under the sun, but if we place our faith and trust in Jesus — if we daily choose Christ’s way over our way (Luke 9:23-24; Romans 6:11; Galatians 2:20) — then we can be transformed into the likeness of Christ and upon entering our heavenly destination we will be able to live perfectly under God’s son (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:24).
Even though the Bible teaches us that we are a “new creation,” once we give our lives over to following the statutes of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we must also remember that this new life is not an instant transformation. Our salvation is immediate, but this “new creation” that has entered into our lives is an re-birthing of our old, sinful spirit (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23). Just as a baby must be nurtured, taught, and raised to know how to properly act, function, and live, so too do reborn spirits have to be taught in the ways of Christ (1 Peter 2:2). Christians do not become perfect at their salvation, but at their journey’s end.
There is a popular allegory, known as The Pilgrim’s Progress, that aptly depicts the life of a Christian as a journey. This book, written by John Bunyan and published in 1678, is considered one of the most important works of religious English literature. Its importance and popularity has brought about its being translated into more than two-hundred languages.
The Pilgrim’s Progress is the story of a man, named Christian, who is living in a town called “City of Destruction.” Christian is a man desiring to live in a far off place known as “Celestial City,” but the journey to “Celestial City” is a long and hard one. For example, one of his hardships is a “great burden” that Christian must carry with him along his way. There are also many people along this journey that wish to divert Christian from his goal. At one point, a dragon named Apollyon tries to kill Christian. However, there are also those who help Christian to find comfort and strength too, from time-to-time.
Faithful, who is also a former resident of “City of Destruction,” travels alongside Christian, for a time, helping him until his death. Then Hopeful joins Christian, as does a boy named Ignorance. It’s with good deeds and kindness that Ignorance thinks he can enter into “Celestial City,” but upon reaching the gate he realizes that he cannot because, despite his good works, he has no passport. Ignorance is then quickly banished to Tophet, by the Lord of the city.
Christian, after receiving help from Hopeful, makes it across the “River of Death” and gets to enter into “Celestial City,” upon showing the Lord of the city his passport. Where did Christian receive this passport, and why was Ignorance not able to obtain one? Unlike Ignorance, Christian had earlier taken the “King’s Highway.” This highway was a small path, less traveled, that meandered through many tough obstacles, but ultimately brought Christian to a cross. It is at this cross, that Christian is relieved of his “great burden” and given his passport into “Celestial City.” Had Ignorance left the main road, and followed Hopeful and Christian along the small path to the cross, he too could have obtained his passport to “Celestial City.”
You see, Christianity is not about mystical, magical transformations. It’s not about achieving a perfect life that realizes its connection to a “Universal Spirit” by detaching itself from worldly desires. It’s not a life committed to accomplishing a greater struggle, which ultimately leads us to living a godly life. No. Christianity is the surrendering of our imperfections to Christ. It’s Jesus who willingly takes our flaws upon the cross and covers over them with His perfect blood. By doing so, God no longer sees us as filthy, dirty wretches awaiting damnation, but sees us through Christ’s holy eyes as pure, clean children clothed in His son’s perfect glory, and adopted into His family for all of eternity (Ephesians 1:4-6; 1 Peter 2:4-6).
Yes, for the world to judge Christianity by it’s carnal members is to see all that is ugly in this physical life. Many Christians struggle to totally let go of their sinfulness and allow God to make them into the true worshiper that He intends them to be. This fighting with God only slows the growth of the reborn spirit and allows Satan the opportunity to attack and distract the rebellious Christian from reaching their divine purpose (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14). So what the world sees from the carnal Christian is not Christ’s reflection, but the agitated filth that is being forced away from the spirit. Much like cleaning dirty laundry. Dirty laundry appears more soiled when water meets the filth and creates mud, so too does sin look worse to other sinners as Christ’s blood begins to remove and clean away our sinfulness (Isaiah 64:6).
There are also charlatans that exist in Christianity who, like Ignorance in The Pilgrim’s Progress, latch onto doing good works in the name of Jesus (Legalists), or they use the Gospel message to gain monetary wealth (Prosperity Evangelists). They don’t see Christianity as anything more than a religious endeavor; a means to an end. They think their legalistic actions, their “acts of kindness” will give them prestige, honor, and physical wealth, but God still sees their imperfections and judges them. Not because He is a mean and hateful God, but because (as explained earlier) He is perfect and cannot abide where imperfection exists. Again, this is the reason for Christ’s sacrifice.
Time-and-again, true worshipers and the world will see many forms of carnality and immaturity from many who claim to be Christian. In American churches we see nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce. We also, see many young people, under the age of thirty, choosing to be sexually active outside of the marriage relationship. On-line pornography is becoming a very common problem for ministers, and destroys seventy-five percent of clerics lives. The Christian churches are becoming more acceptant of homosexuality, bisexuality, and many Christian teachers are incorporating eastern religious philosophies into their teachings. The Christian church, no matter what denomination it may be, will not be affective in transforming lives for Christ if it continues to abandon the truths of Christ (Romans 6:1-3, 12-14; 1 Peter 2:9-12; Revelation 3:14-19). You can remove the many avatars of Brahman and still follow Hinduism. You can remove the prophet Muhammad from the teachings of Allah and still follow Islam, but you cannot remove Christ from His teachings and still follow Christianity. It simply can’t be done; it will no longer be Christianity.
The Apostle Paul saw early on how Christians would be a detraction from the truths of Christ if they didn’t live as the true worshipers they are purposed to be, and he gave this stern admonishment in the second chapter of Romans, verse twenty-four: “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” Christians, though called by Christ to be salt and light to a world that is deteriorating into darkness (Matthew 5:13-16), can and often do become a large part of the reason people reject the truths of God’s holy Word — Jesus Christ. What needs to happen, to prevent this? Two things.
First real Christians, true worshipers of Jesus Christ, need to stay focused on living out the truths of Scripture (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:1, 5:2; Colossians 2:6). They must be the salty preservative that Jesus has called them to be. If Christians don’t remain true to Christ’s statutes, then they run the risk of losing their saltiness and the world will decay at an even faster rate than it already is. Another part of being focused on the truths of Scripture is to reflect the light of truth, like the moon reflects the sun’s light to the earth at night. To obtain the truths of Christ from the Bible and not share them with others, is like hiding a lit candle under a bowl. No one can enjoy its warm glow, and all will remain in the dark. Not to mention that the bowl will eventually extinguish the light, as the flame burns up the oxygen.
Second, the world needs to stop judging Christianity by its members and look to its founder. This is easier said than done, but as Christians live up to their purpose, as they allow themselves to become the true worshipers God intended all people to be, then the world will have no choice but to see Christ in Christianity. They’ll finally begin to sense the preservative teachings of Jesus slowing down the decaying filth of their spirits. The world will finally be able to see the light of God’s truth shining into the darkest corners of their lives (Matthew 5:14).
The grace of Christ’s sacrifice can only be as affective as those who have already received it allow it to be. Hindus will not see the road less traveled unless the Christians light the way. If Christians continue to allow themselves to reject some of the teachings of Christ, and continue to choose to only follow some of the teachings of Christ, then their light will remain hidden and their spiritual growth will be minimal. Again, the grace of Christ’s sacrifice can only be as affective as those who have already received it allow it to be.
Muslims will never get beyond their “no-grace” mentality, and will continue down the destructive path of “jihad,” if Christians don’t shower them with grace. Only Christianity can sprinkle the salty preservative of Christ’s truths into their lives. Christ’s amazing grace can lead a Muslim to see that they can have an actual relationship with God, and they can do so without bringing destruction to their selves and others. God’s grace is sufficient, and we must live that truth.
Remember, if Jesus existed (and history proves He did) and was seen by all to be a good teacher (and all religions acknowledge this), then His truths must be realized and followed as God’s truth. Why? Because, anything less simply makes Jesus a liar, and a lunatic. Jesus has to be seen and heard as He is — the living breathing Word of God, incarnate. If any part of His message is truth, then all of His message is truth.
I’ll close with this last thought. Whether you claim to be a Christian, or not, if your faith is simply something you do. If your faith is nothing more than a religious right, then stop and ponder the cup of Christ. Jesus didn’t create you to be religious. Christ didn’t suffer and die for a pious philosophy. God’s son created you, lived as you, died for you, and conquered death — for you. True Christianity is not about religion; not at all. It’s about knowing and being known by the Creator of heaven and earth, Yahweh — the Lord, and savior, Jesus Christ. Listen to His call:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:20-22)
Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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“The Pilgrim’s Progress” (Reissue edition) © 2009 by John Bunyan
All rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press, USA, 2001 Evans Rd., Cary, NC 27513; www.oup.com/us.
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Stumbled upon your blog today. Thank you for this knowledge-filled post. It was very inspiring. I pray practicing Christians would stay salty and light-filled. I have a copy of “Pilgrim’s Progress” that I haven’t finished reading through yet – you’ve inspired me to pick it back up. 🙂
You are welcome. 🙂 Glad to hear you will pick-up your copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” too. I pray you will read it through, to the end. When you have time, please come back by and read through “The Joshua Project,” and discover how to live your purpose. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing. This has given me such an ‘aha’ moment!
You are welcome, Leah. We all need those moments from time-to-time to move us along in our journey. Come back again, soon.
I actually just wrote a post about it giving you credit for my aha moment – http://leahlambertsmith.com/2013/03/11/foolish-carnal-christians/. Thank you!
Thank you, Leah, and to quote an old Hymn: “To God Be The Glory.” 🙂
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