Monday, August 31, 2009

WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?

What is Christianity? I mean at the very center of our faith what is there? Maybe I am talking about what C.S. Lewis called, “Mere Christianity” and Chesterton referred to simply as “Orthodoxy”. If we were to compare the faith of Adam, Abraham, Peter, Augustine, Calvin, Sproul, Miquel in Belize, Don Michael in Scotland and Thokosani in Malawi, what would they have in common? The expression of their faiths is vastly different but surely the central characteristics would be the same.

I am firmly convinced of Covenant Theology. Covenant Theology believes that the unifying idea of all of Scripture is the covenant of God. The covenant is, simply put, the terms of man’s relationship with God. We can use lots of words to describe it but the central concept of a covenant is a relationship. I think that relationship with the one true God is the heart of Christianity. God initiated a relationship with His image in creation. That relationship was broken by sin but restored through Jesus. This relationship was at the heart of the Old Testament worship which included sacrifices and feasts. In the New Testament it is central to the sacraments of baptism (in which one enters a relationship with God and His church) and Communion. For this reason Jesus describes the greatest commandments as loving God and loving our neighbor. That is to say, maintaining right relationships.

I am sad that too often relationship with God has been replaced with a reliance on religious rites. The rites are good but not as replacements for knowing Jesus, John 17:3. We read and study our Bibles confident that this is the way to eternal life all the while missing Jesus say to us, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” We list our prayer requests in bulletins and web-pages. We read the list to God expecting Him to heal our diseases and make us prosperous all the while missing that God’s plan for us includes suffering and hardship which enable us to trust Him more tenaciously. Our hope is to be His presence through the difficulties rather than the removal of hardship, Psalm 23:4. And yet we go on in our superstitious religion while God still invites us to more, Isaiah 1:14-18, 29:13; Revelation 2:4, 3:18-20.

A friend recently asked me, “How is Jesus exalted in The Shack?” At first I wanted to write about the truths found in The Shack but I hate being an apologist for men and I do not think he really wanted an answer. Non-the-less, my answer to him is this short observation. Jesus is exalted in The Shack as William Young tries to direct people away for the superstitious elements of Christianity and back to the heart of our faith, a relationship with the one true God.

2 comments:

ColoradoColumbine said...

"I am sad that too often relationship with God has been replaced with a reliance on religious rites. The rites are good but not as replacements for knowing Jesus, John 17:3."

Vince, could you flesh out this thought a bit more? I'm not sure I understand completely what you mean by 'rites' here. The word can mean a lot of different things within the church. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Cindie,

I just now ran across your comment. I am sorry that it is way out. In Isaiah 1 God tells the people that he has had enough of their religious activities. They were following precisely the sacfificial system but God took no pleasure in it because their hearts were far from God, Isaiah 29:13.

When I watch many, especially in the PCA, "celebrate" communion it appears to be a superstitious activity that we have to get right or God will be mad. The finished work of Christ that we are remembering is ignored in favor of trying to not mess up the sacrament by saying the wrong thing or forgetting to say the right thing. Christ makes our worship acceptable to God, we don't. His righteousness makes my worship pleasing to God not my faithfulness to the regualtive principle, Philippians 3:8-10.

I hold to the regulative principle but I trust in Jesus to perfect my flawed worship. That is what I mean by rites.

I appreciate you and look forward to seeing you in February.

Vince

About Me

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I have been a PCA pastor since 1993, having been a pastor in Arizona, Florida, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and as the Team Leader for MTW’s work in Scotland. I am currently the Senior Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in York, PA. As a pastor, my desire is to help everyone I meet live out Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in Heaven but You, and besides You I desire nothing on earth.” I love my Wife Robin, my two sons, Patrick and Michael and my daughters in law, Britney and Emma.

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