C, C, & A

via Acceptance

members-only

C, C, & A …  churches, country clubs, and acceptance.  Acceptance is important to almost all of us.  We all want to be included.  We all gain a great deal of our self esteem or self-perception from those who accept us.   Or, we take a huge hit personally when we are rejected.  It doesn’t matter whether it is churches, country clubs, a sports team, a club, a university, fraternity, sorority, or picking teams for Red Rover, we all seek acceptance.   Every game, team, or group has their own dogma, ideology, doctrine, code or creed to which we must adhere in order to be accepted.  We must accept and incorporate these beliefs into our fiber of life, or we are deemed unacceptable.  The paradox of acceptance, is the challenge to accept in order to be accepted.

One would think that joining a country club would be pretty simple.  Pay the initiation fee, commit to pay the monthly dues, and adhere to the club’s rules and you’re in.  However, while this may be true in some smaller clubs, the reality is that there is a selection committee who deems which of all the applicants are worthy of club membership.  These folks determine if the applicant is acceptable or not.

One would think that joining a church would be pretty simple.  While some churches make it extremely easy, others are virtually impossible to join even when compared to country clubs.  In this case most churches don’t require an up front initiation fee, but expect and often demand a financial commitment to support the church.  Indoctrination to the church’s beliefs is standard in many churches large or small today, known as “new member orientation.”  Often before a person can have a place of leadership in the church they must attend the classes and pass inspection so to speak.  I get it.  The church wants to make sure all their leadership is on the same page doctrinally, so they don’t confuse the churches message to guests or other members.

I guess my question is:  Is this how God designed it?  Is this how it was supposed to be?  Was there supposed to be some kind of acceptance process to be included as part of the church?  You only have to go to the book of Acts in the Bible to know the answer.

In Acts 15:1-35 the Council at Jerusalem were to answer a very basic question:  “What must a person do to be saved.”  Or put another way, “Who receives acceptance into the Faith?”  The question was raised because there were those not Jewish coming to accept Christ as Lord by the thousands as Paul and Barnabas went bout preaching the gospel.  So there was dissent in the ranks of the early church about who was acceptable.  The Jewish leaders wanted to impose “circumcision” on the Gentile men coming to faith, as a condition of acceptance.  In the end, the Council determined acceptance would be based on: abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, abstaining from sexual immorality, abstain from eating anything that was strangled, abstain from blood. [See Acts 15:19-21]  This was the first acceptance criteria for outsiders (Gentiles) to be included in the largely Jewish entity known as the Church.  For my more detailed bible study on this passage click: The Council at Jerusalem Acts 15_1-35.

Acceptance in the long run is not determined by the church.  Acceptance is determined by God the Father.  His terms for acceptance of any individual into His family (what we euphemistically call The Church), is more than clear in His Word.  Here are the terms of inclusion:

John 14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8
God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

These passages are the entrance exam to be included into God’s family.  All who accept these conditions, commit to them, believe them dogmatically, and yield their life to these truths… receives acceptance from God.

No other earthly entity can add to these or take away from these and still be called a church.  If they do… they are a country club, social club, fraternity, sorority, or some such other thing… but not a church.  Is that harsh?  Maybe so.  But God will be straightening this out someday for everyone.  I hope it is pretty soon.

 

 

 

 

Trendy

via Swarm

What we called “fads” when I was growing up (think bell-bottom jeans, chia pets, and disco dancing), are more likely today called trends.  However, it might just as easily be called “mob mentality” as people swarm to what’s hot at the moment.  Some easy examples might be: the stock market, fashion apparel, automobiles, music, and yes… religion.  Let me be clear.  I said religion, not Christianity.  Not many people today rush to join the movement of TRUE Christianity.

world-religions

Pundits like to lump all faith models together in a box, and call them “religion,” and in so doing deny there is ever really any difference in any of them.  Whether it’s Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Sikhism, Unitarianism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Native Spirituality, Judaism, … or Christianity… pundits say they are all the same.  They say it’s a swarm mentality that draws us to these flames.  I contend that the religions of the world have only one thing in common.  Humans are created with an awareness of God, and have tried since the world began to worship the Creator, but in twisted man-invented ways.  Humans in their core DNA are hard-wired to worship something, or someone, so in the absence of wealth, fashion, cars, and music… they create deities of their own design.

Within the construct of each world-religious system, there are variations and themes which spread their influence in thousands of different directions.  Following the trends of ancient peoples, in the 21st century it is often “fashionable” (I call it swarmy) to announce your inclusion into one of the “newer” or “more ancient” religious systems like Scientology (newer) or Satanism (ancient).  People swarm to a widely-shared but short-lived enthusiasm for something new.  Until the next “new” thing comes along.  Or until the fallacy of the bandwagon they hopped onto fails to satisfy their need for new.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus had thousands of followers swarming into every tiny village and town He wandered through.  They all sought to catch a glimpse of the miracle-working carpenter who taught the Torah and read the Prophets with authority.  The swarming, teeming crowds became so strong at one point that He had to get into a boat and push off shore just a bit to keep from getting trampled under foot. [Matthew 13:2]  Most of the crowds from His first year had abandoned Him by the third year, and were no where to be found in the end.  Thousands cheered and celebrated as He entered Jerusalem on Sunday before Passover.  Thousands yelled and cursed Him, as He carried His own cross through the streets to Golgotha.  Do you see the “swarm” mentality in this historically accurate narrative?

It takes more commitment than a “fad” mentality to be in relationship with the Creator of the universe.  Jesus told one woman, “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.  Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” [John 4:23-24]  These words apply today, at least as much as when they were spoken, perhaps even more.  Combine this thought with what Jesus said that night he was arrested, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [John 14:6]

These two foundational truths compel us to seek more than a fad, more than a trendy spiritual answer.  We find it only in the ultimate reality of Jesus’ words to one of the Jewish leaders named Nicodemus.  John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and ONLY Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”   Jesus died for the swarming mass of humanity.  When Jesus said “everyone,” everyone means me.  Everyone means you.  It requires more than just being part of the swarm.  Stepping over the line of faith, and believing these three verses, receiving the grace offered in Christ, is a personal commitment.  It is how a person fulfills their created purpose.  Living in this grace and extending God’s glory, is what true worship means.  It requires more than just being part of the swarm.