Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"It's time to get SERIOUS! What is your heritage?"

If you are a parent or grandparent, or even if you aren't, but you have people that you love and care about, what do you want for them - more than anything else?  If you could give them ONE thing, what would it be?  There are probably a lot of answers to that question, but there is only one right one!

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."  - I Peter 1:3-5

When Lighthouse Community Church left the denomination of which it had been a part for 95 years there was a lot of talk about our "heritage."  Some thought we were leaving that heritage behind, that we had lost something by adopting a new name several years earlier, and that we were now turning our backs on our heritage.  One person even told me that they would not be coming with us because they wanted to raise their children in that certain denomination.  I bring this up now because in our community, as in most communities around our nation, as well as in other parts of the world, many people have been misled and deluded into thinking that the heritage they are called to pass on to their children is a denominational name or a particular style of worship or some other tradition, rather than our true heritage in Christ Jesus!  Many find it more important to say they are Reformed, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc., than to be called a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of this, some are calling for "unity"... for those who have taken another name on them to declare their unity in Jesus Christ.  While that sounds good, so long as brothers and sisters in Christ cannot or will not sit down with each other around God's Word and discuss their differences, whether in theology or customs or traditions, there is no true "unity," no biblical "oneness," which is what Jesus prayed for in John 17 (as you have heard me talk about many times before).  The reason I say that it is "time to get SERIOUS" is because the signs pointing to the soon return of Jesus Christ are becoming clearer every day and God warns that in these days MANY will fall away and perish because they do not know or love the truth!

Jesus came to build ONE Church, and it is NOT the Reformed Church, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church or any other Church ... it is HIS Church!  When people consider it more important to be called Catholic or Lutheran or Baptist or Reformed or Presbyterian or Orthodox or Pentecostal than it is to be called a disciple of Jesus Christ, you know something is wrong!  When people don't know that the Mormons (including the Latter Day Saints version) and Jehovah's Witnesses do not proclaim Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God, we have a problem.  When even those who are "Christian Reformed" can't get together with those who are "Reformed," we have a problem.

It's not that all denominations should get together, as some would like to do, or that all the denominations should get back together with the Roman Catholic Church, which some are trying to do ... none of this lets the world know that Jesus came to establish ONE Church and that the heritage of this one Church is what Peter describes:  "In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."  This is the Gospel!  ANY other heritage is based upon man's desire to be or do what WE want, rather than what GOD wants.

When the early Church in Jerusalem was being persecuted the people were scattered and they went about proclaiming the word wherever they went.  What was the "word?"  It was the Gospel!  They went about talking about Jesus; about His death and resurrection, and about repentance and forgiveness through faith in Jesus.  What divides the one Church in communities like ours is denominations - names and labels that describe a certain "kind" of Christianity.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians:  "Make every effort to KEEP the unity of the SPIRIT through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (believers)" (Ephesians 4:3-6).

As the Catholic Church begins the process of choosing a new Pope, and a commercial, aired during the new series on the Bible on the History channel, claims more than one billion "Catholics" around the world, what is left out is the message of the Gospel.  Jesus did NOT found His Church upon Peter, but rather upon his confession that "Jesus is the Christ!"  Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Savior of all who believe in Him.  Today the leaders of various denominations, including the Pope, ignore the heart of the Gospel - the cross!  The Gospel message is that there is forgiveness to those who are born again by the Spirit of God, the evidence of which is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone.  The true Church proclaims this message without compromise.  The true Church holds no other title than "CHURCH!"  And those who believe hold no other label than "Christian."  The problem is that both of these words have come to mean nothing because of the abuse of those who claim to be Christians because they believe in "God" and who claim to be part of the Church because they go to a building called a church.

It's time to get serious!  Our heritage is not a denominational title, be it any of those listed above.  If it is more important to you to be Reformed or Catholic or Lutheran or Baptist or Presbyterian or Pentecostal or Orthodox or any other such title than to be numbered among those who are zealous followers of Jesus Christ, then you may not yet know Jesus Christ and you may be numbered among those who on that day when you stand before Jesus, He says, "Depart from Me, I never knew you!"  (Matthew 7:23).  What are you passing on to your children and grandchildren, to those you know and love?  What message are you proclaiming to those around you who know nothing of the true Church, or who know nothing of who Jesus is and what He accomplished on the cross?

Our vision/mission statement says, "We exist to proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ over all things; glorifying and enjoying God, now and forever!"  What else is there?  What other heritage really matters??  After Peter states that we have "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," and "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven" ... he goes on to say, "In THIS you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (I Peter 1:6-9).

Does that describe YOU?!  I pray that it does.  It's time to get serious because we need each other.  The time has come when many have gathered for themselves teachers to tell them what they want to hear ... that God will give them whatever they want and do for them whatever they want Him to do for them.  These teachers talk about a god that is unknown to the Scriptures and to the early believers, for he is a generic god who accepts whatever half-hearted devotion people may want to offer.  This god doesn't exist.  He is the figment of man's vain imagination.  There is ONE true God and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  There is ONE true "faith," and that is the faith that is the gift of God through His Word and Spirit that moves men and women, boys and girls, to trust in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness and life and to serve Him with love and zeal until we go to be with Him or He comes to reign upon this earth.  Any other "faith" is a false faith, a counterfeit faith, a religious faith, a DEAD faith - no matter how good or holy or precious it may appear to be or feel.

It's time to get serious and to follow Jesus Christ - even to death if necessary.  With Paul we can say, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).  May you be encouraged today as a disciple of Jesus if this describes you; but if it doesn't, I urge you to lay down any other labels or titles, and to claim this one alone:  "Christian - follower of Christ."  THIS is the heritage of those who know the true God. As parents and grandparents, if we give our children THIS, they have ALL they need, for this world, and for the next!!

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