Once Jews–Converted Christians!

“The Apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the Word of God. Now those who had been scattered in the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the Word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to The Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:1, 19-21, 25, 26 NIV)

Let me say at the outset of this post that I know and understand that Christianity–a label for those who followed Christ then began with the conversion of Jews. This post takes nothing from the fact the Jews were and are God’s chosen people and the rest of us who choose to Believe–the work on the Cross, the resurrection, and Divinity of Jesus are adopted into the family as an act of faith.

That being said, if we pay attention to the verses before the 26th verse–where people called those Jews who followed the teachings of Jesus–Christians, we will see that at first–they were simply–Believers–those who believed those who had walked with Jesus and in His purpose for coming down to earth.

Generally, what happens when we allow others to decide a label for us–we err in the teaching of truth. As with the label–Christian–we have come so far from the truth in teaching God’s Word and His love that we have become an object of ridicule. One of the reasons we are ridiculed for our faith is the fact that there are too many divisions–too many denominations and sects–all promoting their own version of truth and veered so far off the mark that many are considered cults.

I recently read a blog, by Fred, who thought he was a Christian because he became involved with the Seventh Day Adventist, and because he was disillusioned by what occurred within the religious group, he has since converted to becoming a Jew, apparently not understanding that all original Christians were converted Jews.

We are not Christians because of the church we join or hold special religious beliefs. We are Believers because we Believe The Word of God and that includes following the teachings of Jesus. No matter how carefully one inspects The Word–no denominations will be found. Man–in his desire to control others–created denominations based upon micro-selection of Scriptures. In every religious group–their foundation is based upon one or two verses of Scripture because they did not understand how all the scriptures align and none to be ignored. And in some cases, the religious group is named after the person who chose to remove themselves from the fray of religiosity–only to perpetuate more.

This is how we come to have the Baptists–who misunderstood John’s role–and his role was not his title. The Church of God–so named because someone misunderstood what Paul was saying in Acts 20 and in his letters to the church at Corinth. The Church of God in Christ–so named because someone had the bright idea to make a distinction to who they were by separating from The Church of God, but adding “in Christ” to the banner. Jehovah Witnesses–so named because they misunderstood that everyone who promoted the Gospel of Jesus Christ is His witness and the founders chose to re-write the bible to suit their purposes. This is important since they originally denied the divinity of Jesus and have for years, denied the virgin birth and so many other truths. The Methodists–so named after a person because of the method or strategy used to promote religion. The Lutherans–so named after Martin Luther–promoting a doctrine with some basis of truth, but not totally. And of course–The Catholic Church–who claims that Peter is their foundation, but deny priests to be married when Peter was married–all in an attempt to control others. And of course we cannot deny the horrors inflicted upon millions because they misunderstood The Word and warned others not to try to read it because it would confuse them. Religious persecution (forced conversions and beheading) did not begin with those in this century who are misguided, but with those who thought they were better than everyone else and chose to force their beliefs on others and killed any who resisted. 

There are so many other groups that it would take a book to discuss them at length and to point out how they have erred in their foundational beliefs. The truth is very simply this–for most Believers–we Believe The Word of God. We believe that mankind was so far from fulfilling God’s purpose for us, that He decided to come down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to demonstrate His love for us. He chose to be crucified, died, and rose again–redeeming us–giving us a chance to live with Him for all eternity, forgiving our sins and providing us with His presence at all times in the person of Holy Spirit. The inspired word of God, rightly interpreted and promoted by those in relationship with Him, is what Believers believe. Anything other than this is spawned by religious spirits that bear no truth and have no relationship with God.

I am yet a Believer with no religious hangups and my desire is to please God only. My choice–is made with information and relationship, and not coercion as some would have others think.

These Things Teach!

“These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, THEY ARE CONCEITED AND UNDERSTAND NOTHING. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (1 Timothy 6:2c-5 NIV)

One of the reasons we have so many denominations and varying doctrines that “supposedly” govern the various churches, is because somewhere along the way, people chose to develop their own interpretation of God’s Word–usually taking a passage of Scripture out of context. When followers don’t have any understanding of The Word and are gullible in their trust of those who are leading them, they perpetuate a continuation of their truths and not God’s.

For instance, one denomination teaches a “Jesus Only” doctrine which we who know The Word, know that this is impossible. There is no Jesus without God and Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus Christ–They are (the three) the divinity that should govern our hearts because THEY WILL ALWAYS AGREE. Then another denomination teaches sprinkling water as a method of baptism rather than submersion “under the water” as a symbolic act of being buried with Christ. I’ve never heard of anyone being “buried” on the surface. And then there are those who would dispute the actual words of a baptism, ignoring what Jesus said. Another denomination doesn’t allow music to be played in the sanctuary because they didn’t understand Psalm 150 or ignored it.

If we teach anything other than what is said or implied (and substantiated) by other passages of Scripture aligning with historical events, we lie and the truth is not in us. If we lie, then we are children of Satan because he is the father of liars.

To avoid misrepresenting anything God said, we must know what He said and why–understanding the events that occurred at the time something was said. We must know that historical events directed the writing of the Old Testament by those who were inclined to hear God speak. With any good history books, we can align the events to the biblical record and how God responded to people during those times.

We know that for a span of time–most believe it was four hundred years–that no one spoke for God to the people and that’s because they were too busy doing their own thing to hear Him. We are headed in the same direction where people will think that God is not speaking to anyone because so many are listening to the the enemy’s lies they cannot see or hear Truth. If we’re not willing to hear truth, we set ourselves up to be lead down a merry path of destruction and oppression. When people misuse The Word of God to control others, they are dictators and manipulators and have no place in the kingdom of God.

We are no longer under The Law, but under grace–God’s unmerited, undeserved favor–and we only need to open our hearts to hear Him, not men, who are constantly changing their minds about everything. If our bodies are the temple where the Holy Spirit lives–He will speak to us, lead us, counsel us and guide us in all truths and we have no need to be under the bondage of man’s fickleness.

Rules

Like-Minded Believers!

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2 NIV)

Being like-minded–having the same mindset towards all of God’s children, His attributes, and His way of doing all things–sets true Believers apart from those who simply live under a banner–of denominationalism.

How do we know those who are like-minded Believers? They say what God says, treat people like God tells us to treat people, and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than a denomination, a pastor or church.

So, how are we to treat people? We treat people with loving-kindness–“by this shall others know who we are, by our love one for the other.” We don’t bash people because they do not believe as we do, we respect their beliefs and keep it moving, without debate.

Just yesterday, I responded with a comment to an article about a school district demanding that a picture of Jesus be taken down from the walls of a school. Of course, with every article posted online and comments are allowed, we are bound to see the worst in some people. My comment was two-fold. One–I saw no need in people getting upset about an image–an artist’s rendition of what Jesus may have looked like and two–those who don’t believe are always talking about how intolerant Believers are, yet they don’t see their own intolerance. Of course my comment drew nasty remarks from “anonymous posters” those who are so ashamed of who they are, they never post a picture of themselves.

My reaction to the nastiness–was simply not to respond for two reasons.  My picture is always included in any comment I write on any article because I am not ashamed of who I am or what I believe and I don’t respond to those who are not willing to be known. People are entitled to their beliefs and to disagree with others.  That’s not an issue for me, but I refuse to get embroiled with a faceless person, giving them fuel to spout more venom. IF THEY WERE NOT ASHAMED OF THEIR VIEWS, THEY WOULD SHOW THEIR FACES AND NOT MAKE VENOMOUS COMMENTS–ANONYMOUSLY. They don’t deserve a comment from me and I won’t waste my time doing so.

But they are not the like-minded Believers under discussion. They are the unbelieving and since they choose not to believe, I let them. For those who proclaim to believe God, I welcome their comments and do not mind entering into engaging discussion. I have a healthy respect for those who may know more than I know since I don’t know everything, and I encourage all to get into relationship with God.

Then there are those who proclaim to have a relationship with God, but have no clue as who God is, what He says, or how to conduct themselves as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. We cannot be an ambassador for Jesus Christ–representing all He is if we don’t know what He has said or how He expects us to act. To represent someone–we MUST KNOW THEM, INTIMATELY!

Therefore, for all who proclaim to know The Lord Jesus Christ, know how He wants us to live based upon His representation of His Father and how we are to treat others--we are the like-minded Believers–the ones who know how to love, unconditionally, and are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ–proclaiming it wherever we go and in all circumstances, we are mindful of our position in the family–of all of God’s children.

No matter how the world–those walking in unbelief–treat us; we should know how to treat one another, pray for one another, and encourage each other to remain steadfast in the faith of our Risen Savior, promoting the Gospel until He comes to take us Home with Him.

The First Step To Forgiveness–Acknowledgment or Confession!

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10 NIV)

Truth and deception are in opposition with one another. If we know truth, we have no need to deceive others or ourselves. The biggest issue with some people in acknowledging truth is their limited perception of what truth is. People who have not had opportunity to experience much of life are limited by their experience to understand greater truths experienced by people who have had opportunity to broader ranges of experiences.

Truth about differences is cultural knowledge is limited to one’s experience with different cultures.

Truth about religious observations is limited to one’s experience with various groups of people and how they worship God.

Truth about sin is limited to one’s experience and knowledge of what God says is sin. If a person has no knowledge of what God says is sin, they can deceive themselves into believing they have never sinned and since they have never sinned (in their minds), they do not confess it or admit and therefore cannot never be forgiven–by God.

I have often readily discussed my “BC” time (before knowledge of Christ) and the fact that I lived in ignorance as to how God wanted me to live. Once I learned--by reading the Bible and seeking God’s wisdom to understand what I read, I had to own up to all the stuff I had done, out of ignorance–and seek His forgiveness. Now, that I know, I’m still not perfect, but I recognize my shortcomings and flaws and allow His correction to guide my tongue and my actions. This is the place where God wants all of His children to be–receptive to correction when we admit we are wrong. But if we never acknowledge being wrong, we close the door to correction and cannot receive the benefit of His love–through forgiveness.

Someone recently told me they did not have a “BC” time, but they have always followed God. There were a number of questions that rose in my mind with that statement. Did they truly know God? Did they understand salvation and repentance? Did they understand the purpose of the work on the cross? And of course, I thought, “So, you’ve been perfect all your life!” Of course that thought was sarcasm since I know there are no perfect people walking the earth. But if they think they have no “Before Christ” time, they have deluded themselves into thinking they are perfect.

Here’s the thing for me. We are not born “saved” and until we recognize our sinful state and repent, we cannot be saved. Neither are we born “a denomination,” but rather born into families who observe specific religious practices. We are not born, Baptist  or Catholic, or Lutheran or Pentecostal, or any other religion. We are born into families who expose us to the tenets of specific practices and we choose (at some point in time) to either join those practices or reject them.

Then there are some families who have never acknowledged the need to involve themselves in any religious practice and so people are born into families who have no exposure and sometimes see no need for such exposure. Never having the opportunity to understand God’s Truth is no excuse for living outside of His Will; especially when His Truth is being promoted by every true Believer using every venue they have available to them.

When people claim to not believe God, it is not because they have not been exposed to His Truth, but because they have chosen to reject His Truth and that is usually because of negative experiences with people who were not living God’s Truth.

Now, through this venue and many others like it–we all have access to Truth as God determines Truth. Having a relationship with God means we understand His Truth is truth and we have all sinned and need to confess it in order to be forgiven. If we say we have not sinned, we lie and make God’s Word of no effect and make the work on the Cross, pointless. God is not a man that He should lie and we are not so perfect that we have not sinned. If we think we have not sinned, we are only fooling ourselves because God sees and knows all we have ever done.

Therefore, we must acknowledge the sin, confess it to God, repent and be forgiven by God. We do not have to tell our business to other people, but we must acknowledge our shortcomings and flaws and know God’s love is enough to keep us from falling into the abyss when we confess our sins to Him.

Nothing to Argue!

“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly” (I Timothy 4:7 NLT).

One of the reasons that “people” have said why no one should discuss “religion and politics” is because there is so much that can be argued, but shouldn’t be.

What a person believes is what “they” believe. No one should attempt to superimpose their belief systems on anyone else because everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want to believe. Belief–in anything–is subjective–not necessarily objective and as such should be respected as an individual’s right.

Part of the problem with “denominationalism” is the fact that every denomination is a split from a foundational belief. This is why we have Catholicism, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, and a host of other denominations that “chose” to use specific segments of scripture as a foundation for their belief. What has happened is that it has all become “religious institutions” established that have little or nothing to do with Relationship with God.

So, if people want to believe there is “power in things or an object,” let them believe it. If the source of their belief system is contained or confined within man-made objects–that’s their business. However, I would point out that the prophets of Baal discovered there is no power in “the things made by man’s hands” or in “words used as chants or incantations” to evoke the Spirit of God.

If we truly want to see “the power of God operating” in our world, we simply need to develop a relationship with God, obey His voice, and see how loving others can change the environment. Now, that’s “Power” and it is not contained, but as infinite as our God is.

Go ahead–have your discussions about your beliefs, just respect the beliefs of others in the process. God responds to our faith in Him, not the things in which we have faith. Don’t argue–just love!