Friday 8 June 2012

What do you believe in?

I am becoming increasingly aware of the amount of religious material available to us in recent years.
When I say religious, I don't mean Christian; I mean things of every other religion on the world. Buddhist, Islam, New Age, eastern philosophies, the list goes on. All are being seen as "fashionable" , rather than religious as such.  I can't walk into a garden centre or landscape supplier without being bombarded with Buddhist statues and shrines, or down a weekend market without walking past a fortune teller or two, healing crystals, incense... It's all there!

 The Shrinking Church?

One would have to agree that if there is a supply it would follow that there is a demand.
And yet it appears that church attendance is waning especially in the western countries, and people are increasingly dissatisfied with what is "on offer" in the main stream churches today.
 It causes me to wonder: if churches are on the decrease because people are increasingly claiming to be Atheists (Denying the existence of God) or Agnostic (having no formal belief system or religion); and yet there is an increase of all the eastern and new-age religions, what do we really believe?
This also leads me to think that while people may say they are atheist or Agnostic, they still have a need to believe in something or someone higher than themselves.

The Need to Believe

I have heard it said that in each human being is created the need to search for its creator. We all have a "built-in God seeker" as it were. Some people choose to ignore it (atheism) others seek it out in human relationships, philosophies, religions of all types, etc. we all need to belong, be loved and be valued. This is how we are wired.
I am disturbed by the fact that people are leaving the church and the Christian faith in search for the Truth.   Jesus said: "I am the way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through me. " (John 14:6). Why are we leaving the truth in search for Him?
My thinking is that Christianity is not considered fashionable, in fact many people (especially young people) think it is definitely old-fashioned. They also see it as boring, and the "churches are just full of hypocrites". We are guilty of not showing people the Truth. In fact, we have made church a social organisation that is relevant only for a certain section of our community. An Anglican priest once told me about his church that it is fast becoming a boutique religion, suitable only for a dying group of people.  In other words, he was saying that he feared that the church has lost its relevance.
Now I want to be absolutely clear here that in no way do I believe that every church and church organisation is in decline and no longer relevant. There are some large churches that really are impacting our community and society in a very positive way, and making a real difference in people's lives.
Jesus said "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free" (John 8:32).

Do you really know what you believe?

My challenge is that knowing what you believe is about studying it in intimate detail; seeking out the paths to better understanding what you believe.
I know my wife. I spend time with her, have conversations with her, hold her hand and kiss her, I listen to her (not often enough she says) and hear her thoughts, opinions, values, fears, and passions. Spending quality time with her makes me know her. Because I invest time in our relationship, I feel I truly do know her.
My concern is that as Christians, we do not spend enough quality time getting to know our saviour. We make no time for intimacy, and through a lack of this knowledge we actually miss out on God's amazing best for our lives.
If we don't know our Saviour, who also happens to be the creator of the universe, then how can we actually know what we believe?

Carnality has taken hold in the church.

I was talking to a dear friend and mentor about this recently, and she raised this subject with me as a great concern. As Christians, we are not separated anymore, she said, we have so much of the world in the church, it is difficult to differentiate us from the world. The result is that we just don't appeal to people who are looking for truth and belonging.
Romans 8:6 "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
Here is a warning that what we have been rescued from, we are not to allow back into our lives.
Being separated from the world does not mean we are exclusive from the world, but that we set the standard that people should aspire to.
This means being above reproach! Christians should have greater levels of integrity than anyone else. Christians should know what our faith demands of us, and how the Holy Spirit helps us to achieve that.
Our faith is about relationship with the Creator of the Universe; the Saviour of humankind. We have the Answer living in us! If we really know what we believe, we know that!

I mentioned integrity. Sadly I think this is a quality that is missing in many Christians today. We just don’t walk the talk. I said before, we should be setting the standard. What was it that attracted early seekers to the church? They were different. The Bible says: “together they had all things in common.” Together. Unity. Blessing. There is great reward in intimate relationship with Jesus, but there is also a cost.

You can't give what you don't have.

 If you don't have it in you, you can't give it out.  What we believe should not only affect who we are, but also influence those we come in contact with us.  If I don't know what I believe, how can I share it with others; either verbally or by example?
This is an important question. However, a more pertinent question is: if you don't know what you believe, where will you spend eternity?
The last thing I want my God to say when I stand before Him is “Depart from Me, I never knew you”
Food for thought?

Have a great week!


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