When is a Christian not a Christian?
Does this ring a bell? You meet someone at a Church meeting. He's a Christian and he makes an immediate impression on you. But not a good impression. Through the course of a single conversation, he strikes you as proud, judgemental, a little arrogant and very sure of his strongly held beliefs and dismissive of others. He's dressed smartly, his Bible is in a smart leather wallet and in that short time you have been fed a whole catalogue of his dislikes, from women ministers to liberals.
A word comes to mind, it's a word we tend to use for those who are entrenched in traditionalism, are legalistic in nature and take great store from outward appearances. We call them Pharisees.
We could go further and conduct a little survey of others around us at that meeting. There's a lady in the corner with a haughty expression. She has been with the church her whole life, since she was sprinkled as a baby. She serves on the Parish Council and believes totally in this church and the great work it does in the community. Trouble is that she believes in little else, certainly not in the great revealed truths and miracles of the Bible, such as the Resurrection, Heaven and Hell. Scientific rationalism and "human progress" have done for whatever little faith she had. If she had been around in Jesus' day, she would have been identified mostly with the Sadducees.
You continue with your exercise. You find quite a few Zealots, Christians not averse to a bit of political action. There's even an Essene, a puzzled young man in the corner, keeping his own counsel who, when pressed, had some very strange ideas and was not over-keen to share them. Of course there are also representatives of that 1st Century Jewish sect called The Way, disciples of Jesus and now calling themselves Christians. In fact everyone you meet in that church claims to be in that group, but only some will tick all the boxes.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
It's an interesting exercise to see the connections over a 2000 year gap but it's not a realistic exercise. Because a lot has happened in that 2000 years and most of it is not very good. Can we honestly say that we are closer to God and His purposes than those first
disciples, following The Way of Jesus? And if so, then we have to concede that the 2000 year journey has been a bumpy ride of many distractions. We wonder at the misfortunes of the Children of Israel, doomed to 40 year wanderings before entering the
Promised Land. Now multiply that by a factor of around 25 and you get to see the fate of the Christian Church.
Of course it hasn't all been bad and many souls have lived and died and will live again in the presence of God. But not as many as there could have been.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
So where is this going? Well, you'll have to tune in next week to find out!
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth: And How it Can Find it Again)
You may also find the following interesting
Watch the above video by Steve Maltz - "Hebrew Roots - Bondage or freedom?".
Watch the above video by Steve Maltz - "Jesus from a Hebraic Perspective".