“… the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” (Col 1:26-28)
Here are snippets from an article put out by the Associated Press, Sept 3, 2011, titled,
Study: Religious faith waning in US
According to Mark Chaves in, “American Religion: Contemporary Trends.”
“…over the last generation or so, religious belief in the U.S. has experienced a ‘Softening’ that affects everything from whether people go to worship services regularly to whom they marry. Far more people are willing to say they don’t belong to any religious tradition …
“Today, as many as 20 percent of all Americans say they don’t belong to any religious group. …. [Yet] about 92 percent of Americans still profess belief in God, they just don’t use religion as part of their identity…
According to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
“Anderson thinks the change is better described as a shift than a decline, as people become more willing to leave the denominations or faiths in which they were raised and look elsewhere for spiritual nourishment.”
“Chaves agrees, saying churches are likelier today to consist largely of a ‘hard core’ of believers, and to have fewer casual or lukewarm members that use to swell the ranks.”
I have something else to offer about what is happening in Christendom. It isn’t about waning. It is about a rediscovery.
Christians are Rediscovering Their Identity in Christ Jesus
Regardless of what people may think, true Christianity has never been an issue of religion.
How easy it is to become distracted by the peripherals, non-essentials, with over-reaching doctrines of various groups, and with the denominational biases that have served to separate believers from one another. The religious world is not always very pretty.
This doesn’t negate that there are truly born again people in all Christian groups. But to look at any denomination as being the cause of a person’s salvation is to have a faulty view of salvation. Salvation will always be personal. Our walk with the Lord will always be personal and not because of our denomination.
A business person shared with me how unique his ‘Church of Christ’ denomination was. He said a Church of Christ member had car trouble while traveling, and that someone from the local Church of Christ took care of him. My response was simple. The one helping could have been a good Baptist, a good Pentecostal, a good Methodist, or a good Catholic. He helped because he was a Christian. The conversation ended on that note.
However, there is an issue that defines God’s people through all the Scriptures. This issue speaks to the faith of the Old Testament saint, to the spiritual freedom of the new covenant believer, to a love that fills the heart of all who have been joined to Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with which religious group the believer belongs.
The apostle said it in simple terms -
“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1Cor 6:17).
The major indicator that a person is born again is always an intense love for Jesus.
Concerning Christ, Peter says,
“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (1 Pet 1:8)
Now let’s take a look at…
A Kingdom Not of This World
Pilates hears this in his conversation with Jesus –
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be turned over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (Cf. John 18:33-38)
“So You are a king!”
“You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate is bewildered;
“What is truth?”
So there you have it. The rest of the story is played out at the cross. In a short time Jesus will hang on a cross with a sign above His head, saying,
“Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”
But of course the story doesn’t end here on the cross. On the day of Pentecost we hear the apostle declare quite plainly,
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)
What then is the significance of the Man hanging on a cross? If that is where he is left, there is little significance to be had. He would simply be another prophet of Israel, after the trail of the many prophets before Him. This was their lot.
But of course Jesus was far from being a prophet. He was God manifest in the flesh. The significance of His ascension and glorification is that the kingdom of God has entered into its completed redemptive stage. All of eternity will rest its case on the finished work of Calvary.
This brings us to …
What makes a Christian a Christian
When a person is truly born again, which, by the way, literally means ‘to be born from above,’ this person becomes a new creature. This new creature is not only a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, but much of what relates to Jesus can be said of this new child born from heaven.
The point is that once a person is born again their spiritual center shifts. One moment they were earthy creatures, the next moment they have entered into the kingdom of the beloved Son. And this kingdom is, “not of this world.” And its center will not be found in this world.
It is this very thing that is a rediscovering by many of the nominal church today. And it is this very thing that is breaking down denominational barriers that have been in the minds of so many. And it is this very truth that is allowing believers to realize their true freedom in Christ.
When Jesus said, “I am not of this world,” he later said the very same thing about all God’s children. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus reached across time. He speaks of all who will come to Him. Jesus said,
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)
Let that statement sink in. If we were to take Scripture by Scripture about our being from above, it would simply thrill our hearts. And this is the idea.
Our hearts need to thrill over what it means to belong to Christ. The greatest need for Christians today is that of learning their true identity as heavenly citizens. We are now heavenly citizens living in earthly bodies. We have to learn what this means to us spiritually. And this is where the ‘transformations’ of the mind come into play.
It Has Never Been About Religion
Each time a believer receives a fresh revelation of his or her relationship to Jesus and to heaven, it is often like being born again, again. The effect is a spiritual ‘upward‘ renewing. What is happening is that the child of God is simply learning to think with a heavenly centering. If there was ever a key to a true Biblical faith walk in the new covenant, this is it.
The point is that the child of God has a spiritual support base that is out of this world. The problem is that we have been trained from our youth to think like the world, reason like the world, and to depend on the world’s resources, and to think religiously. Becoming heavenly minded often means going through some shake up periods.
However, when I say it is never about religion, I am not speaking of the public gatherings of God’s people. God has ordained that His people gather into flocks of His choosing. The choosing is in His hands. God places us where He wants us to be.
Passing Through Life Gates
The walk of every child of God will always be personal and under the direction of the Lord. With this in view I want to share something by way of my walk.
I pastored my first church at age 29. (I’m 71 now.) Though I was born again, my mind had been conditioned to thinking in a certain religious pattern.
Dissatisfied with pastoring, I jumped the ship. Next I find myself evangelizing full-time. But something was still amiss. I could not put my finger on it.
Leaving the evangelistic field I settled my family down for the next three years. (1971-1974) During those years my spiritual life underwent a complete renovation. I had my business, still ministered out a bit, but the Lord was using various means to precondition me to thinking ‘heavenly.’
I had to be weaned from the worldly and religious way of thinking.
The Lord brought me to a place of total surrender. My surrender went somewhat like this:
“Lord, I want to be what You want me to be. I will go where You want me to go. The rest of my life is not mine. The only thing I ask is that You tell me what You want me to do, and not send someone else to tell me.” — I had one other request. I must have my wife.
That is when it happened —- Shortly after my contact with heaven, the Lord opened a door for me that I have often called, ‘the gate to miracle land.’ The Lord was teaching me to center my whole life on thinking ‘upwardly.’
He was inviting me to enter this new sphere of service.
My wife and I began discovering an awesome world. Even with the struggles, battles, disappointments, and mess ups, this new way of living was like heaven to me.
I like to describe this new venture as a life gate. These life gates will be many in the believer’s life. Through each gate there is a transition from where we are to where God wants to take us.
Perhaps this is what Paul is alluding to in part when he says,
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2Co 3:17-18)
Becoming Kingdom Seekers
Rediscovering Christianity means to become a kingdom seeker.
Is this not what Jesus was teaching us when He said,
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt6:33)
What did Jesus say would happen if we learn to seek the direct rule of God in our lives? The Lord said if we would learn to do that, then everything else in life, that is, all our needs, whatever they may be, spiritual and otherwise would simply be added to us.
Well, enough for now. Was the article put out by the Associated Press right? Is Christianity waning, or is Christianity rediscovering itself. I think rediscovering is the answer.
What about you? What do you think? Have you experienced any life gates. I’d like to hear about them.
How about this song from my special group titled, ‘Walk On.’ (By The Isaacs)
In Christ always,