Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
In the last post, I stated that we must be rooted in the truth of who God is through a personal relationship with him in order to grow spiritually and flourish. That seems like a simple statement, but within it lies some pretty big questions that need to be answered if we are to build on a foundation of faith.
For instance, if we are going to “be rooted in the truth of who God is,” then we have to decide WHO GOD IS exactly. And then beyond that, if we are going to have a “personal relationship” with him, then what exactly does that look like? We will spend the next 2 posts unpacking these two things: The Who and The What of Christianity.
Whenever the question of “Who…?” is asked in a churchy-like setting, the answer is almost always “Jesus!!!” Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the faith that his death and resurrection has reconciled sinful man with a perfect God because man simply cannot do so himself. Christianity is also a belief that the teachings of Jesus were/still are true and a surrender to seek his wisdom and will through an ongoing personal relationship with him. And yet, walking around by the thousands, are “Christians” who are very wishy-washy about the importance of Christ in Christianity.
Okay I get it: There’s a lot of confusion between Spirituality, Religion, and Christianity and sometimes one gets labeled as the other (when in reality, these are all very different things.)
Spirituality gives us the perceived freedom to decide who God is for ourselves, and Religion gives us the opportunity to try to control and manipulate God to our liking. Neither of these is Christianity and both are attempts to make small what cannot be made small.
While Spirituality holds a belief in a higher power, it is also man’s attempt to make that belief bigger than God. Likewise, Religion holds a belief in a higher power, but it is man’s attempt to somehow earn the favor of that higher power, making man bigger than God. Christianity is more than these things, and also in many ways, the antithesis of both.
However, Spirituality and Religion are often embraced and presented as Christian walks of faith; creating a culture of pseudo-Christianity and false teaching. I think we have been easily misled because have decided – especially in American culture – that God should somehow meet our exacting specifications and expectations. We want God to look how we want him to look and act how we want him to act. So we try to dilute or distort the gospel and the teachings of Jesus in an effort to please ourselves and others. That is why, under the guise of “Christianity,” false promises are made on behalf of God from false prophets behind pulpits every Sunday, portraying God as some sort of cosmic vending machine, ready to dole out blessings (financial and otherwise) if you just claim faith and send your money in to the preacher that is bald-face-lying to you.
There are other distortions of truth out there too; things that are almost Christianity but not quite. These are brands of “Cafeteria Christianity,” “Consumer Christianity,” and “Cop-Out Christianity” These teachings allow us to pick and choose the parts of faith we like (such as Heaven and healing,) believe that this faith thing is actually all about us, and ignore the harder, sharper corners of faith (or at least compromise immediately when questioned.)
We also want to believe that faith is all fun and democratic freedom, so we make up our own doctrine and rules (i.e. religion) so that it better fits our wants and desires. Further, we have decided our churches should serve and feed us to the point of treating them like a country club we join so we can go enjoy Jesus as an amenity. We have believed the lie that faith is nothing more than living well and that church is nothing more than a place we go to get fed so maybe we can go back out and live well some more. But Jesus did not die so that we could attend a pep-rally once a week and possibly live slightly better lives. He died as a provision for all of us who fall short of perfection (hint: that means ALL of us,) to reconcile us with a perfect God, and to give us the gift of a personal relationship with him.
I understand the draw of these false teachings. I am tempted to want God to be some magical genie in a bottle, available to grant my every whim and desire. And I am also tempted to want faith to be about me and to water things down and make the gospel road seem a little wider every time I talk to someone who has some hard questions about this thing I believe in.
Paul warns the early church of this same issue in Galatians 1:6-10 saying, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Being a servant Christ means being so committed to our belief in Christ as our one and only chance at redemption that we are willing to stand for him and his truth no matter what. That can be exceedingly difficult amid a world that hates absolutes and authority. But by bending to that culture, we put the deity and authority of God in question to the very people with whom we are compromising.
So why is it that we are okay saying that we believe in God, but a little more hesitant to say we believe Jesus IS God? And why are we are fine calling him a great teacher, but often stop short of acknowledging him as The Great Teacher? And the biggest one of all: we are happy to tell others that we believe God has provided a Heaven, but absolutely terrified to say that we believe Jesus is the only way to get there.
If we, as Christians, are not clear that Jesus is THE way, THE truth and THE life, we are not rooted in our faith and we are at serious risk of being blown away by the wind of culture or shriveling up in the heat of circumstances.
I know to some, being told that “there is only one way” feels judgmental or small-minded. For yeeeaaarrrss, I felt the exact same way. But once I came to faith and really began to understand who God is and the cost of the provision of Christ, I began to see it completely differently. I think, before we are so quick to be offended that there is only one way, we should remember to be thankful that there is any way at all.
1 Timothy 2:4-6 tells us that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” And of course John 3:16 – 17 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
So how we can get mad at God for saying there is only one way to heaven when that way has been bought and paid for in-full on our behalf… and all we have to do is get on board?
Could it be that WE HAVE FORGOTTEN WHO WE ARE DEALING WITH?
God is G-O-D. As in, He is a pretty big deal. To put it into perspective, GOD IS EVERYTHING (I am not all-caps-yelling, I am all-caps-telling you what a big deal this is.) He is The Creator of the universe; the maker of all things. He is oxygen and gravity and the very reason life exists – and the very reason YOU exist. He is not a created being sent here to serve you and do your will. You are a created being, and you exist to serve him and do his will.
Yet we struggle with even believing that we should let God be the God of our tiny little lives, forgetting that GOD IS THE GOD OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. And even though He is a perfect God who knows all and sees all, He also forgives all. And He created us in his image for the very purpose of being in relationship with him.
Why do we gloss over this like this isn’t a big deal? This is the biggest deal in the history of history – that we are allowed into God’s presence and that He wants a deeply personal relationship with us! And when we aren’t glossing over it, we are overcomplicating it and making it about 1000 things instead of the one good thing. Since the beginning of time and even now in modern day religion, man has tried desperately to shrink God down to something he can understand and can use for his own purpose. And in doing so, we have perpetuated the lie that God is small, faith and church are irrelevant, and that somehow, it is all about us.
Even though He is all powerful and all knowing and completely sovereign and completely perfect—- HE. LOVES. US. So much so that He suffered unimaginably in order to provide a way of reconciliation to us, and He daily goes out of his way to make known to us the incredible depth of his grace, forgiveness, and love.
There is only one God, one gospel, and one free gift of grace, and that is through the person of Jesus. We cannot call ourselves by His name if we don’t believe his name is holy.
We have to decide who we think Jesus is, y’all. Because we can’t just believe that Jesus is our buddy or a super good teacher and call that Christianity. Jesus didn’t give up his position in Heaven to come down to this world to suffer and die for us so that we could be friends.
C.S. Lewis put it beautifully (because he puts all things beautifully) in discussing what is known as “the trilemma – Lord, Lunatic or Liar” in Mere Christianity:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”
As Lewis says, You Must Make Your Choice.
Believing Jesus to be God – The Who of Christianity – is the foundation of faith and the root of redemption, and “… no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11
His creation of us — His son on the cross for us — his spirit within us — God chose these things to call us to a love so deep and rich and pure and whole that our little human brains can scarce begin to understand. And yet, with all his power and all his might, God remains a gentleman and gives us the choice to choose him back.
WHO will you choose?