Americans go through a rather long process when describing who they are. We have names, ages, and all the regular stuff I imagine most people on earth use to identify themselves with. But we go much, much further. Most of us know with some accuracy where our ancestors hailed from before coming to America. My mother is Italian and my father is Irish. So, I am an American, but also I will tell people I’m half Italian and half Irish should the subject come up. And it actually comes up quite a lot…go figure. I’ve never been to either Italy or Ireland, and I’m fairly positive neither have my parents or their parents. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I probably couldn’t point out Ireland on a map very quickly, and if Italy wasn’t mostly a peninsula that looked like a boot, I wouldn’t have a clue about it either. Yet, this doesn’t matter at all, to any of us Americans. Most of us have never been to our ancestral countries, but we still identify with them anyways.
Then, there is the state you hail from. This is usually where you were either born or spent the most time in when you were being raised. It never seems to be the state you’ve lived in the most as an adult. I was born and raised in Texas. So, even though I’m 11 years into living in Oklahoma, I still self-identify myself as a Texan, and when the chips are down, I remain loyal to Texas despite my present address. And incidentally, I actually really love Oklahoma. But I’m a Texan. That’s just how it is.
There are other things people identify themselves with too, like whether you are from the north or the south. Northerners are stereotypically blunter, more sophisticated, and perceived as somewhat rude or arrogant while Southerners are supposedly more laid back, more hospitable, and less straightforward. I find this whole scenario hilarious because north and south distinctions were born during the civil war, where the north were all about setting the slaves free and the south were about keeping them enslaved. I don’t know how the mix-up happened, but something went haywire there.
I have wonder if some of this complicated procedure we Americans use to describe ourselves hasn’t poured into our churches as well. We have denominations out the butt crack. Catholics, Baptists, Lutherens, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Church of Christ…the list goes on and on and on…And then even these break themselves down further. Roman Catholics, First Baptists…you get the idea. And let’s not forget the Non-Denominationals. They, too, are surprisingly diverse within their group for supposedly refusing to belong to a group in the first place.
I bring all of this up only to say this: Christians are weakened by breaking themselves off into groups of like-minded people, and given the times we are living in, we would benefit from seeing the church as the Jesus did….whole and working towards one purpose. I would venture to say, there is probably at least one real, spirit-filled, dedicated Christian in every church in this land, and yes, I’m including the Catholics, too. If the rest of the denominations are struggling with greed, sexual perversion, wrong motivations, and a general lack of knowledge about the bible in general, then I think the Catholics deserve a pass on the parts of their denomination we don’t agree with, too.
The simple truth is, arguing about whether the Christians that don’t go to church are sinning or which denomination is actually the right one is a waste of valuable time. My sins, as well as yours and everyone else’s, should not be the focal point of one’s entire spiritual life, but neither should we think they are without consequence because of our salvation. A lot of Christians spend an inordinate amount of time taking inventory of what they did wrong, making sure to list in detail to the Lord what He already knows they did, and with the time left over, they help categorize other people’s sins in comparison with our own to make them feel better about themselves.
Yet, they always seem to be the same sins, year after year after year. Now, what’s wrong with that picture? Repentance doesn’t have much to do with a certain ritual of keeping track, confessing it in your prayers, and then starting fresh the next day doing the same thing. Repentance means to stop and go in the opposite direction. God does not allow us to use technicalities on Him. He judges the heart, and eventually He deals with our sin so that we are not constantly still caught in the same ones. Don’t get me wrong. Most people will die with that one stupid thing they seem unable to conquer, but overall, there will be a transformation in the life that has truly been turned over to Jesus. If there isn’t, you are not saved. His orchard of trees bear fruit. The idea that there is no consequences for those of us saved by grace is completely false; and that reward ceremony I keep hearing about is going to have quite a few people missing who thought they could do whatever they pleased despite being God’s child. We need to remember to fear God; He isn’t human to be manipulated, coerced, deceived, or bullied. We Americans bandy about the phrase Lord without understanding what we are in that reference. We are not little gods, no matter what you’ve heard. Since Jesus is Lord, that makes us His servants. Servants.
I would encourage every brother and sister of mine in Christ to forget about the great reward ceremony in the sky, or the inability to lose our salvation, and focus on becoming an effective tool in Jesus’s arsenal. We serve a mighty God, but we are still supposed to be doing something for the kingdom, not ticking off time until we can die and go to some reward ceremony. Be agents of God, gathering people to Him with empathy, kindness, patience, and by being peacekeepers between each other.
Let’s start being honest with our fellow Christians, but in a spirit of kindness, and with a heart to not let them become irrelevant in this war. Let people be angry that you wouldn’t pretend you did not see their sin, and don’t be dismayed from encouraging each other to be accountable. By the same token, be humble when others point out your glaring sins as well. Embrace constructive criticism when it is a way to make you a little more like Jesus, and don’t bother with the grudges, shame, or bruised egos that quickly turn everything to shit.
Jesus brought a sword. This is a fight. Stop being such prima donnas. Read Foxes’ Book of Martyrs and then come cry to me about the wounds we are all walking around with. They seem damn stupid in the light of what some people will do for Jesus.
We are taking a beating these days, my friends. We are holding to a form of godliness, but denying its power. It’s time to nut up or shut up, in my opinion.
Do you understand who you really are in comparison with the Creator of all Heaven and Earth? It is a fool who doesn’t tremble at the thought of standing before Him….reward ceremony or judgement day alike. This God is the same one in the old testament as the new, and He has other names besides the God of Love. He is no one’s chump, a genie in some bottle that must answer to you. He isn’t lulled by a lot of fancy words, and He can not be fooled by insincere followers. No one is sneaking past the gate on some foolish technicality, like saying some prayer at a revival when he was 15 or going to church every Sunday. Salvation is a condition of the heart, and if real, the heart can not help but be changed. The proof is there for any of us to see.
Real Christians are all aliens in this world, and it is time to stop all the dividing qualifiers that keep us from gathering in the harvest. Satan is going to win a lot of battles, but let’s at least give him one hell of a fight in the name of our savior. I have a feeling he’s laughing at us lately.
I hate to be laughed at.