Over the past two thousand years Christianity has splintered into more denominations and factions than I can count.
What makes me saddest about this is the confusion it puts into the hearts and minds of new believers, and the ammunition it gives non-believers to aim at us.
I can't tell you what denomination to follow, and you can't influence me either.
I may not agree with some of your theological teachings and you may not agree with mine.
But we Christians, we followers of Jesus, have each been adopted into one family under God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We were redeemed though sinners and made clean through Christ's sacrifice, death and resurrection. Not through any power of our own, but through HIS atoning grace.
Compared to Jesus, we are no better or worse than each other.
We are all imperfect, prone to sin day by day, and carry life legacies which influence our actions, responses and beliefs.
None of us, not one, is righteous enough to teach total truth. No single Christian denomination on earth has the fullness of the knowledge of God, no preacher is perfect, and no church doctrine is faultless.
This is why we can't sit in church and accept everything we hear.
This is why we must go home and search the Scriptures, every day discovering His truth for ourselves.
We must, especially in these times, check everything we're taught from the Word of God in context. Don't just read the verse of the day, read a chapter before and after it...what does it mean? Who was it written to? Paint a bigger picture and understanding will come.
When I was at Bible College I had a silly notion that if anyone had been a Christian a month longer than me then they must know more and I should take their opinions as gospel truth. I think the Lord had a chuckle over this because He gave me a lecturer that year who week by week turned my beliefs upside down! This teacher challenged me over and over with "Why do you believe that, Jenny? Why?!"
At first I was flustered and annoyed, but gradually I came to understand he was pushing me into the pages of my Bible to seek the truth for myself. That year changed me and I've never taken a sermon on face value since.
Example: after moving to a new town we began attending a church where the large congregation was predominantly late teens/early 20's, an age group which suited our youngest daughter who was 17 at the time. Already disturbed by the number of people around us who were texting and playing on their mobile phones all through the service, it was the sermon we heard which caused us to not return.
The pastor preached on the feeding of the 5,000 with his sole aim to manipulate the congregation (remember, they were in the 17-24 age group mostly) to give. He did this by teaching that the child with the loaves and fishes was a teenage boy who was very selfish and didn't want to give the disciples his bread and fish. He wanted to keep all he had to himself. Now, from there he elaborated more and more about the selfishness of young people and how giving to the Lord will give them an abundant harvest of blessing (a commitment card with a section to write their bank details was handed around near the end of the sermon).
Well, my husband, daughter and I looked at each other in amazement. We had no idea where this pastor had dug up that hidden bit of information between the pages of his Bible but it certainly couldn't be found in ours.
The story this pastor told came from John 6, and the incident with his 'selfish teenage' boy is in verse 9.
"There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes:"
In the original language of the Scriptures the word 'lad' is 'paidarion' which refers to a small boy, a child - not a teenager.
How many of the hundreds of young adults sitting in church that night accepted the pastor's rendition of Jesus feeding the five thousand and a selfish teenager angry about giving his food away, and have carried his story to this day as gospel truth?
I could barely find a bible in anyone's hand and afterwards there was a barbeque to attend at the beach, so I wondered if they'd even think to check this story for themselves when they got home.
I sincerely pray today's message encourages you to seek truth between the pages of God's Word where only truth resides
Remember, don't believe me. Only believe Him.