Church, Christian Schools, and Christian living

It’s funny how “dry” I can be sometimes for new ideas, and then again I have thoughts pile up in clamor for expression.  One of those ideas, which, I think, should be shared with “tomorrow’s generation” is the fact that I used to console myself about the wicked world that my generation is leaving to yours with scads of problems that we created and leave for your generation to solve or suffer – such as the fiscal disaster called social “security” (of which nothing is more certainly in-secure).  My comfort used to be in the fact that each succeeding generation of the King’s men and women is better than the previous; that’s a proven fact and should be obvious to any thinking person.  (The unbelievers too improve constantly in physique and mentally, while becoming worse in their mis-use and abuse of the same.)

But actually, the assurance for the future does not, of course, lie in the inherent superiority of God’s people, who grow from grace to grace and strength to strength, no matter how God-given the superiority may be, but, as always, in the indwelling presence of Christ, who has always been the answer to victory and success in every generation, from the literal “year one” which began to be marked by His coming to earth.  To worry about the future regarding the church, God’s cause, and one’s own kin is the same as saying that Christ’s capabilities to cope are limited; that Satan and the “world” will pose problems too big for Him to handle, which is an absurdity.  As always, any generation can say in their “times,” I can do anything, everything, through Christ; God is working in me, us, to will (think, resolve) and to do, just the way he plans and wants it.

The assurance and guarantee of continuation and even improvement of the church (Christ’s people, his body, his bride, etc.) does not, of course, apply to the church as an organization, either a denomination or specific congregation.  History again proves that they all rise and fall, much like given nations, being made up of fallible human beings, many of them false members, etc.   And so, while a person should be grateful for the given denomination into which he or she is born or enters by conversion, the danger is that we identify such an organization with the invisible, united, fellowship of all (and only) God’s children throughout the world, young and old. To say that one’s own “church” is the best one, even at one time or in a given situation, is as untrue and chauvinistic as bragging about one’s own country or race, or sex.  At most, one can say that at a given time it is the best one for oneself, otherwise one should get out and join another, which is better – for oneself; and sometimes one must stay in, not out of inertia, or the opportunity to bitch about  it, which too many get satisfaction out of doing, but in order to try and make it better.   For the rest, one does not “owe” a given church anything, any more than a child “owes” its parents anything.  On that latter score the Bible says that we all, in our time, must honor our parents NOT because of all that they did for us, such as giving us life, etc. -which is for the birds, literally – but simply for the sake of good order; “this is right,” says Ephesians.  (Comparable to bad government, which is better than no government.)

One of the big faults of doctrine is the reliance on man-authored creeds and catechisms.  For example, the Heidelberg Catechism asks repeatedly, “What does it profit you?” and the entire third or last section essentially says, “Now that you realize you are a sinner who cannot save yourself, and have learned to trust in Christ alone for salvation, what must you do to show your thankfulness, prove that you are a Christian,” etc.

Both the italicized words above are wrong. You and I don’t do a thing for our salvation; Christian living, service, gratitude, is part of our very salvation.  Being saved is not just forgiveness (justification), but being made new, “divine” people (sanctification). God does it, in us and through us.  What is more, in Catholic or Boy Scout fashion, our “sanctification” or gratitude, service, is not in doing – “a good deed a day,” etc., but in being;  one’s attitude, personality, thinking.  We “glorify” God not in doing something nice for Him, such as a gift to the poor; we “express” God’s glory (love, kindness, etc.) in us and through us by who we are – by being “nice” people!  Which is something that goes on while we are sleeping, playing, etc.

Many of our Christian schools are based on the Heidelberg philosophy, and consequently have that weakness of identifying Christianity and conversion with nice living, Christian conduct, such as saying one’s prayers, not stealing, doing your lessons well, etc.  This is why so many grads of Christian schools, upon reaching the age of “decision,” do not make confession of faith or become baptized, because to them “becoming” a Christian meant living up to a bunch of rules.  It is, of course, only by becoming a new person, a son of God, that one “naturally” and automatically lives according to the “rules,” which (as we think of them) are only statements of good and wise living, be it driving sensibly, not getting drunk, or helping old ladies across the street.  Proof of the fact that a Christian is a new person, Jesus’ brother, and has started on eternal life or living already here upon the earth is the fact that he starts to live the “perfect life” now, without external rules and penalties, just as we will do in heaven.

Sometimes a young person has the notion that older people have “all the answers” regarding religion and morals, social relations, etc.  Nuts on that noise!  The problems only get bigger as one gets older, a/c more subtle.  Sometimes the rising generation thinks that the older one, in which their parents are members, are united in a conspiracy against even their own sons and daughters, by acting as though their relations to the same people with whom the kids have problems, or just simply criticisms, are hunky-dory.  The easiest course would be simply to say, “Yeah, that person sure pains me too,” etc.  BUT, as a Christian, we try to overcome (not deny) such feelings, and expressing them inappropriately only aggregates the problem, puts oneself in bondage, by which the Bible is referring to, such as tension, anger, ulcers.  And also the other person, who may be ever so wrong and who needs changing, but is confirmed in his wrongness by negative attitudes on the part of other people.  You know enough about psychology to be aware that we don’t have to call another person immoral to make them become that; unspoken attitude alone can break down any spirit.

Well that is really getting into the “deep stuff.”  Most people have never heard of such ideas, and if they have, don’t try to live accordingly.  Which is where our faith is supposed to make a difference, and, by God, it certainly can and does.  So forgive where there is failure to practice what is preached.  It’s great to have a lot of nice and true theories and to voice what is learned intellectually, but to reduce them from the head to the heart…..oh oh!


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