The Preacher Says....

Christendom Astray

Isaiah 45. 15 - 25

Well now. Here we are assembled, all with varying aspects of the human condition represented: the worried, the wearied, the sated, surfeited, disillusioned, the listless, the angry, mean spirited, repentant, joyful, guileless, loving, all clinging–notably so-- to a hope that is substantially the same among us. If it is true–as I believe it is-- that our hope is based on a creed which is remarkably free from error 1950 years after its enunciation, it truly is remarkable that some 2,000 years since God has spoken, and 1900 years since somebody wrote down His words, that those words are still revered as unique in the annals of world religions. Some Christians believe–and I think with some justification–that they have correctly discerned the overlays on first century Christianity because of human frailty, the aspects of which must bear the responsibility for these glosses, namely pride, ignorance, greed, superstition, and the lust for power. Right-minded theologians must agree that the things that Christians find at variance with doctrines being taught in churches today, like the immortality of man and his ultimate destiny at death, are notions owing their origin to Greek, not Bible sources. Add to these ideas the doctrine of the trinity which did not evolve among church leaders until well into the 4th century and the problems are exacerbated.

One problem that immediately presents itself to us is that if we have discerned the promises of God and the response of faith that it demands, then we must take care not to exhibit some of the characteristics that led many Christians astray, such as pride, ignorance, the lust for power and mean spiritedness. It is important that those who claim to be expositors of truth are in fact not teaching for doctrine the commandments of men nor following a tradition where scriptural support is flimsy, for this must then become Christendom astray. But think. Jesus said there was one hope and one way. Why should this assertion, made by Jesus himself, be thought a fraud? Are we asking questions, then not listening for the answers? Christendom is astray for two very simple reasons-- simple but far reaching and profound in their consequences. What happened? In the 3rd and 4th centuries the Hellenists turn Christ into God and man becomes possessed of an immortal soul.

But there is a third leg to the stool , deriving its strength from the other two legs, one of which concerns the nature of Christ, the other the nature of man. The gospel of the kingdom makes no sense if Christ is God and man is immortal. But, if Christ is–as Matthew says–the son of Abraham, the son of David, then he is the promised Messiah, David’s greater son. And if we are of this earth, earthy, then we have no place to be, as it were, except here. No soul left to fly off into space. Christianity is an Old Testament religion–the third leg which bears the weight of the stool and holds it upright. This leg is the promise made by God to the descendants of Abraham and the nation of Israel. The fleshing out of this promise is found in the New Testament. The New is largely a history, if you will, of the enlightenment of the Jews in an explanation of how Gentiles become Jews: through Isaac, not Ishmael, would the seed be called. By miracles recorded way back in the book of Genesis we learn the truth that seems to be so difficult for man to grasp–that man does not save himself–God saves him. And how do Christians become Jews?

Remember, you being in the past Gentiles, you were without Christ, aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, But now, in Christ Jesus, you are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2. 11 - 14; Also see Gal 3. 26 - 29)

Christ died for us. There is nothing meritorious in us that made it necessary for him to die for us. He did it out of love. Despite our penchant for believing we are exceptions to the rule, none of us is good. None of us has any franchise on infallibility. What we do have is a franchise on pride and selfishness. Though we believe we know the truth, we often fall short in our response by our futile faith and woeful works.

And what is faith? It should never be blind. Nor is it pure emotion, which is never dependable. Faith is a belief sufficient to alter the way you behave. It is your belief in the evidence that God will do as He has promised. When the truth of Christianity makes sense to us, and we believe it, this fact will be evident in our lives. If a principle of that truth is that God loves us–manifested in Jesus Christ–then we can do no less than to love our fellow man as he would have us do.