This has been noodling around in my head for a few weeks. I decided the whole deal needed further study. I went to the only true source of information on Christianity and following Christ, the Bible.
I think the main reason this division bothers me is, biblically they are one and the same thing. To be a Christian, a real one, you must follow Christ. Regardless of religious rules this MUST be done because Christ commands it. One can say they are a Christ follower, or a Christian, that does not make it so. Doing good deeds does not make it so. Christ Himself says many will come to Him saying Lord Lord and listing all they did in His name, and He will say to them, depart I never knew you. So it is possible to do good, and not be Christian. Even though one is religious, even pious.
So what is the difference between these rejected followers and the accepted ones? We all know the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
Colossians 3 restates these. It goes on to say we must remove from our lives anger, greed, rage and filthy language. There is more but you can read that for yourselves. We are also told here that we serve Christ.
One thing I know for sure and true. A Christian should never have to tell people they are a Christian. It should roll out from them like sweet perfume. People should recognize us for how we act, how we speak, how we dress. Our demeanor should be calm. A quiet spirit should be evident. We are not to be bossy. We are to be different. We will not look like everyone else. We will not act like everyone else.
The modern religious church, all denominations, reminds me of Rev 3. The church of Sardis. People look at the churches and the people and think they are good. God has however declared them dead. They are doing their good deeds for religious reasons, for piety, not true service to God. Men only look at the deed done, not the root of it. God sees the root of it. What does it say that men who want to tear God from our grasp do the same deeds as many churches? What distinguishes them from the church? Please understand, I am not saying everyone who does good deeds is doing them for the wrong motives. I do not know the motives. I only know MY motives. God is the one who will judge the differences.
Above all I have prayed and studied and come to this conclusion. This whole debate with its self righteous attitude, is from satan. He has orchestrated it to divide people, make them think they are missing something, to destroy good people by getting them involved in useless arguing. Titus 3 speaks of this.
The fact is you can not be a Christian with out following Christ. You can not truly follow Christ with out becoming a Christian. To be a Christian means to follow Christ.
He gave us work to do. Study His life. He was not all sunshine and pats on the head and free meals. He had anger, He had strength, He demanded things of us. Yes He saves us with a free gift, but He gives us a creed to live by also. He demands we work for our living, not expect charity, He expects that we take care of each other as we are able. He demands clean and clear values and life style. He demands that we remember that though we live in and work in this world we are no longer part of it. It isn’t enough to just say a prayer and have an emotional reaction. If we can truly state “for me to live is Christ” then we will be fundamentally and irrevocably changed. It can be no other way. If you claim Christ and yet those who knew you before and after see nothing different in you than from before, you are not true to Christ. Being a good person is not enough. Christ has to shine through you, and that makes you His. It sets you apart, it makes you a Christian, because then you are truly following Christ.
It has taken me a long time to learn this. The closer I get to my Lord the harder I strive to make the difference apparent. When I was a child I was baptized. It was a big day… for everyone around me. I did it because I knew the Bible commands it. Not because I felt guilty about my life. I learned to study my Bible. The more I studied the more issues I had with the religion. It was not until a few years ago that I actually completely turned my life over to Christ. I finally after years of thinking I was a Christian, became one. I have noticed that the closer I get to the Lord, the more things begin to bother me. Bad language is one. I was raised by a mom who hung with a filthy language crowd. My Saturday nights until I was 10 were spent in taverns. Language did not bother me. Now it does. Even the mild forms of cursing have begun to make me cringe. I will not allow them in my home.
In conclusion it seems to me the big deal in this is some one some where felt left out. They decided that to be a Christ follower you did not need “rules” Bibles were optional (see how many folks do not have one even in church on a Sunday) sloppy dress was ok. Everyone, even those in sin, should be welcome in with opened arms. Now take that image and hold it up to Christ. It does not fit. Christ lived by rules, He turned people away from Him because they did not serve Him with all they were. I do not think you need a suit and tie nor do I think you need to walk as if you have a stick up your backside. However you do need to give God and Christ proper respect and realize they are not only love and no discipline. Teaching they are only about love, acceptance and gushy feelings is wrong. There is in this as in all things balance. Treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself. Hold yourself accountable to God for everything. Give yourself wholly to God, hold nothing back. Let Christ shine through you. Do not stop to think how the world will think of you. The world’s opinion matters not, only God’s opinion is important.
And do not be afraid of the Christian label.