Have we complicated Christianity beyond its basic elements? Have things gotten distorted along the way? Here are 2 keys to getting it right. ♦
Remember the old religious tracts that used to be handed out by Christians on street corners, public events, and churches? These little mini pamphlets covered topics like the “4 Spiritual Laws” and other assorted Biblical themes focused on educating people and converting the lost. I hadn’t seen one of these in a long time.
I found one recently on a bench at a California airport. It was titled “The Roman Road.” *
It was reasonably well done, making it’s point of man’s plight and the whole essence of Christianity in less than 4 short pages. Here’s a summary:
- We’re in a lost state relative to God. (Romans 3:23)
- There’s punishment for staying in this separated state. (Romans 6:23a)
- Humanity has been given a gift to get realigned with God. (Romans 6:23b)
- Jesus died a substitute death for us, an atoning sacrifice for our sinful state. (Romans 5:8)
- We can be restored to a new relationship with God. (Romans 10:13)
- We merely confess Jesus as Lord to receive this gift. (Romans 10:9)
- We present ourselves back to God as a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1)
- God can transform us by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2)
It struck me that this whole list is Christianity mumble jumble to many people, particularly those under the age of 35 who were raised in a diminishing religious society. Either they’ve heard all of this before and have long checked-out on their religious upbringing, or else they’ve never seen tracts like this as they never even did the Sunday School thing. So this really is irrelevant Church-speak to them. Perhaps some over age 35 are so long gone from church that their eyes gloss over at the whole “God loves” and “Jesus saves” topic.
And that’s the current state of a significant segment of our culture that views the Bible as anachronistic and having no relevance other than a belief that it’s merely some man-developed religious document with some apparently helpful teachings about loving our fellow man and preserving the environment.
Biblical Knowledge Lost
Forget about Paradise Lost, nobody reads Milton these days and people do not read the Bible either. Many even so-called “strong Christians” do not have much more than a baseline knowledge of the Old and New Testaments. They themselves see a confusing and simplistic distinction between an angry Old Testament God and a loving New Testament God. They believe Jesus is great, and really loving, but if you point out that Jesus actually does say some very specific things about Creation, Marriage, the Flood, Moses, the Law, Jonah, the Prophets, and other Old Testament references, they want to change the subject or simply choose to minimize these inconvenient truths. Why focus on reconciling the difficult parts? Can’t we all just focus on the love?
It’s like ignoring history and rewriting what makes sense to our modern and so-called enlightened minds.
Set Minds Can Be Changed
Regardless of where one is on the Christian faith spectrum (disgust to embracing), I know opinions can be altered upon further investigation. I’ve seen it and know too many people who have had a transforming heart/mind/soul transplant that started with the following 2 steps:
1. Don’t listen to what you’ve been told or taught; do your own homework. – I directed my mind to know, to investigate and to seek wisdom and an explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness. – Ecclesiastes 7:25.
God and Christianity are to be known and experienced personally. It’s not a passive exercise.
I had 2 people recently approach me vehemently lambasting a certain public figure who “said some terrible things.” I asked them the source of this information. They told me they read about it and saw it on television. I suggested they might research and watch a whole clip of the comments in context. They both individually returned to me within 30 minutes and acknowledged their misinterpretation. They agreed that careful editing had distorted their perception.
Similarly we have been told repeatedly information about Christianity that is distorted and ill-positioned. Or, we ourselves have had a bad experience with Christian leadership or other Christians who have hurt or let us down. Christianity is not about our poor selves and our discomfort. Or the poor behavior of others, Christian or not. The Larger Story is so much more beyond our personal perspective. Learn the larger context of Christianity by studying the Source, the Bible. It may take longer than 30 minutes, but give it your full attention and investigation.
2. There’s nothing you’ve done that separates you from the love of God; don’t let guilt keep you down. – Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord God and He will have compassion on him and will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55:6-7
There’s nothing like a guilty conscience to keep us out of church or away from God or to stop the praying.
I’ve heard men admit “Man, you don’t know what I’ve done. There’s no way God can forgive me.” Actually, yes He can, and He does all the time. All through history. Read the Old Testament or the New Testament. They are full of forgiven and restored guilty people who’ve done some pretty bad things. Recall the thief on the cross? Pretty bad guy who knew it, but also knew and recognized God when he saw and experienced it (See Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19). Turned out pretty well for him in the end despite a wayward life. God can do it for all of us, as “we have all sinned and fall short.” (Romans 3:23).
Romans 8:38-39 packs a pretty good punch too.
There actually is no “modern Christianity.” It’s timeless and consistent since the beginning. Man has complicated it and in some cases has made it something beyond or beside what it truly is. Certainly books, simple tracts, and even well-intentioned words can help, but God is always there for the seeker and the lost. It’s as old-fashioned as that.
*The Roman Road, The Tract League, Grand Rapids, MI, http://www.tractleague.com.
Have you sought Him? Have you let Him forgive you?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8