And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
Other than the anti-biblical mandate displayed here, what is wrong with the following headline:
“Church of Sweden to Force All Pastors to Perform Same-Sex Weddings”
The “church” of Sweden is officially the Evangelical Lutheran denomination, and until 1999, the religious institution was a part of the State. Abortion and homosexual ‘marriages’ have been legal in Sweden for years, so it’s really no surprise that the state religious organization would be extremely liberal.
The problem I have with that headline is that it makes people assume that Christ’s church is the same thing as a religious organization or denomination.
I’ve tried to write about this kind of subject for a long time, but I hate writing about something that could be taken as critical of Christian believers, instead of stressing that it is the religious institutions which are far from what Jesus calls His Church.
The early church was made up of believers in Christ, who were baptized in the Holy Spirit beginning on the Day of Pentecost. They didn’t have church buildings, they met mainly in private homes and sometimes in synagogues, and they preached the Gospel of Christ and what one must do to receive eternal life in Him, and later, they also found themselves teaching against heresy and apostasy that grew within the religious communities.
They also went out as missionaries to other regions and areas in the middle and near East and into Europe and Africa. All of the disciples of Jesus died a martyr’s death except John, who was exiled, which is when he received and wrote the final Revelation of Jesus.
Early believers were a mix of Jews and Gentiles of mixed nationalities, but they all had one way of teaching and a single core doctrine, sharing the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ and sharing His teaching and commands.
The church is not a building, not a denomination- it is the Body of Christ, those who trust in Him as their Lord and Savior, who have been born again of the Holy Spirit.
As with any human organization, religious or otherwise, tradition, rules and regulations abound, and it is no different within the Christian religion, no matter the denomination. There is also apostasy, false teaching and a myriad of other human qualities which sometimes occurs in the various denominations.
There always seems to be a whole lot of confusion on which denomination is the ‘true’ church. The Scripture tells who the church is:
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink in to one Spirit. (I Cor 12:13)
Sufferfortribe posed an interesting thought and question recently on another article, which has a bit to do with what I’m trying to articulate here, and also something else I’ve had heavy on my heart for a long time. He mentioned that he had read Philippians 1:19-26 for his Bible study lesson.
He said, “the Tyndale Life Application Study Bible NKJV, and in the notes for these passages, something stood out…….actually, jumped out…….to me.
It was based on verses 20-21, where Paul writes:
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
This is what it says:
If you’re not ready to die, then you’re not ready to live.
I looked hard at that, and the answer popped into my head almost immediately. I replied in part, “How can we live truly for Christ, if we’re so focused on “living your best life now” and not sharing the gospel unless one is willing to die for Him and His word?”
I’d like to expand on what else I had said, but first I want to clarify something. Sometimes I fear I come off sounding holier than thou, or like a know-it-all who has no business writing some of the things I write. I know that in the grand scheme of things, I am nothing more than a saved sinner. I don’t have anything special as far as wisdom, knowledge or skills. But, I do take what I learn and that goes especially for the Bible, seriously and I take the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.
Years ago when I wrote on my own blog, I was a harsh critic of many church denominations or anything that appeared un-Scriptural or heretical. After researching or learning more about different things, I felt a conviction to speak up in truth about some of the things I saw that were clearly wrong, such as the example of the headline posted above.
Many times then, just as now, I wonder seeing that many I speak out against have years of studies and degrees or more years of learning and formal education if I have the right to criticize, but then I remember that the early church believers had no formal training either. They had studied at the feet of Jesus as disciples, but none of them were superior in stature than those they preached to- in fact the opposite was true, many of them preached to those high up in political and religious leadership positions.
The thing is that many people today, religious and secular, have been led to believe that the church is the same as the religion and that the religion is what makes one a Christian, not the relationship with Christ. This is not only leading to poor witness especially from authentic Christians, but also more opportunity for religious denominations to focus on human efforts instead of Christ alone, and faith alone.
As so many Christians wrapped their religion in traditions, many of which have nothing to do with Biblical doctrine, mixed with politics, or in super spiritual experiences which is “necessary” to be a true Christian, the pure and simple Gospel has been minimized or lost.
I started this article with words from Jesus given to the first Christian body of believers concerning preaching. Share and teach the gospel. He didn’t say go collect relics of the dead, enshrine them in gold and collect money from people so they could gain special privileges. He didn’t say go and conform His message to the world, or social or political whims of the times, nor go and knock people over in ‘healing’ to prove how spirit filled they are in order to gain converts or test God with ‘seed’ offerings to see how much money they can get.
He said nothing about living our best lives now on earth, nor did He mention that He will come back once Christians regain dominion over the government, society and culture.
He said “Thy Will be done”, meaning God’s will, not human will.
And He certainly didn’t tack on hundreds of new rules to live by, as churches have seen fit to do over time. I guess the original 10 were so easy for every human to follow; they’d have no problem with more.
The religious leaders of denominations today are much as the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s time, and they like their prestige, power, money and comfort they have accumulated for themselves by “pastoring the flock” with false, extra Biblical or non-Scriptural doctrine and worldly influences.
When church leaders add on rules, they are diminishing Christ and relying on the old idea that we need to “do” in order to be saved. And when they mix in non-scriptural doctrine or conform (water down) the Bible to be more ‘seeker sensitive’ or politically correct, they also diminish Christ and it leads to apostasy such as what is apparent in that news headline above.
In the other part of my reply to Suffer’s question, I said,
“Christianity in our country where there are more unsaved than ever before when we have every available translation in Christian bookstores coast to coast, the internet and “televangelism” not to mention all the other religious organizations and church institutions- yet in countries where Christians are imprisoned and murdered for their faith- the Gospel is being spread like wildfire.
They are willing to die, and people here are mad and political because they Christians are being fined for not baking gay cakes while other ‘preachers’ are focused on people buying their books on how to put God to the test by giving a money seed and He will bless you with a house, cars, vacations and other toys.”
As Americans, we know where our rights come from, and while our Constitution guarantees our rights are protected from government, too often people turn to government to ‘restore’ what’s already ours. It’s not that our religious rights to believe, speak and think have been taken; it’s that we are too afraid to use them, and then expect the government to let us. As the old Nike commercials said, Just do it!
But because Christians in the West are used to mega comfort, café style religion that may have a smattering of Jesus’s love in them, they have all fallen short of simply sharing the Gospel of Christ. They’re so focused on the comfort of a religion they’ve been brought up in; they can’t fathom the idea of telling some SJW group, liberal judge, or politician- that Jesus loved them so much He died for their sins so they wouldn’t have to. Yeah, that would be offensive and probably land someone with a big fine, and maybe some sensitivity training, but so what? Jesus was willing to die for us, what’s it going to take for us to live for Him?
Jesus said, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
He also warned that He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. Matthew 13:22
When Suffer posed that thought, I couldn’t help but wonder about a lot of things. Just as Christian believers on the other side of the world have died for their faith, I would have say I am willing to do the same. I realize it’s a hard thing to think about- because no one wants to think such a thing could happen in the West. Yet with the way things are progressing, I can see it more happening in my lifetime than I could even a few years ago.
I think a lot of folks if they prayed and thought about it, would be afraid, but willing; but what about the denomination leaders, the important religious leaders in our time? Do they seem like they would be willing if it came to die for Christ? Or are they too important?
I’ll only say, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Mark 10:25
Don’t let church religious experiences and denominations keep you from a relationship with Jesus. The last time I looked, Jesus didn’t belong to any denomination exclusively and His message was simple. Faith alone is what brings one to a relationship with Him. As long as you are a believer in Christ that you accept His gift of salvation for your sins, confess with your mouth that He is Lord, and are born again of the Holy Spirit- you are the Body of Christ that is His church.