Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Christian' practices?

Some of the practices which are so ingrained into modern Christianity, yet hard to find it among the early Christians of the first century or in the Bible...
  • Senior, junior, associate, youth, music pastors
  • Pulpit-pew structure
  • Passing of offering plates to collect money
  • Worship leaders
  • Worship services
  • Miracle crusades
  • Healing services
  • Health and Wealth preaching
  • Mid-week services
  • Building church buildings
  • Seminaries
  • Hiring of professional speakers
  • Clergy ordination, resumes, interviews
  • Denominations
  • Leadership hierarchies
  • Contemporary Vs. traditional services
  • 'Going' to church
  • Preaching against certain type of sinners
  • Political endorsements, protests, threats
  • White church, black church etc
  • Pentecostal church, baptist church, methodist church etc
  • Questions such as "What kind of a church you go to?", "How big is your church?", "How many services do you have?" etc
  • Evangelism department
  • Making something into a "movement"
  • Seminars on "how to win souls?", "witnessing" etc
  • Emphasis on rituals such as Baptism etc
  • Prayer chains
  • Altar calls
  • "Spirit-led" worship Vs. Spiritless worship
  • Confession
  • Miracle water, hand kerchiefs etc
  • "If you are a Christian, you are to be perfect" mentality
  • Veneration of '10 commandments'
  • Emphasis on behavior modification, teaching of performance-based acceptance.
Okay, enough...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"One thing you lack"

I have been thinking about the issue of obedience a little further after I wrote my earlier post "Obey or burn". I was wondering if there is an accepted 'limit' for obedience. How far can we obey? What would satisfy God? Or in other words, what would satisfy you or me? And what happens when I fail to obey? Am I rejected? Am I less loved? Am I out of fellowship with God? Does it affect the intimacy of my relationship with God?

If so, What is the remedy? Beat myself up more? Do the confession thing?

Would I be able to go upto "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)? Would I be able to reach there one day and call myself as matured and finally righteous?

It seems like God is heartless to raise the bar to such a height. Remember, the rich guy (Mark 10:17-25), who came claiming that he obeyed all the law? What did Jesus say to him? Did he say "well done my son, you finally made it"? No!

He said, "One thing you lack"! (Oops!) And then continued, "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Ouch!)

Jesus's response seems like very mean-spirited and cruel. This young guy was jumping (or he thought he was jumping) a 10 ft high bar, but now Jesus raised it to 75 ft. What was the result? He was disappointed! His face fell, it says. He went away sad.

Was Jesus heartless? Shouldn't have Jesus taken pride in seeing a young person who obeys his commandments since his childhood?

He seems to be heartless for those who try to earn or maintain his favor through anything they do. The statement by Apostle Mark, "Jesus looked at him and loved him" (v21) doubtlessly conveys the fact that He wanted the rich young man to see a gift which He came to offer. Unfortunately the young man didn't see the love in the eyes of Jesus because he was so busy presenting his self-righteousness.

A gift cannot be earned. If we strive for a gift, there is always going to be that "one thing you lack". With Jesus, you get everything you ever need. You are perfected and accepted in Him and then you lack nothing; so you may stop striving and may rest in Him. It's a beautiful thing, isn't it?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Obey or burn

"Obedience". A word Christian religion (or any religion, for that matter) is fascinated about. I have searched the Bible looking for the various techniques to implement obedience as I began my serious Christian walk. Later on, I found this verse : "train yourself to be godly" ( 1 Timothy 4:7). I heard it over and over from a radio preacher and every single time I listened to his sermon, I used to get all motivated. Motivated to 'train' myself to be godly. I figured out that, what is lacking in my Christian life was nothing but a strict, hard-core obedience. if I can make that happen, I would be the most happiest person in the world, I thought.

I pictured myself as a person preparing for an Olympic race. The preacher kept on preaching about the pain, struggle and commitment each Olympic medal winner goes through before they get to their final race. He said, its all worth when we win.

I wanted to win the gold medal. You know, at the time of judgment.

I considered Bible as my coach. I looked for instructions - moral, spiritual, social, behavioral, even dietary guidelines (there was time in my life I stopped eating pork). At any cost, I had to win in the final analysis.

As I jumped through each loops of obedience, I felt so good. I felt proud about myself. I felt proud about my religion. As a result of being strong, committed and ultra self-righteous, I started looking down on people who didn't obey like I did. You know, those sinners! I knew they were going to burn in hell. I couldn't wait to see that.

I had this picture in my mind that God is going to weigh all our obedience on a scale and then make a decision about our eternity.

Can you relate to the never ending cycle of self-analysis? Analyzing each thoughts, decisions and actions. It is a pre-occupation with self. If you had to watch my life, the destructive narcissism was so evident in everything I said and did.

In all my vigorous 'godliness-training', I missed the whole point. Each day, I was dragging my filthy rags to God and making myself a fool for missing out His love and the forgiveness provided on the cross. I labored from the OT premise of "master-slave" mentality and terribly failed to see the beautiful, new covenant-based "Father-son" relationship.

Each time I declared my righteousness through obedience, I was making the cross of Christ a mockery.

Within few years, I was burned out. I felt miserable like hell. As I failed more and more in my attempts to obey, my self-righteousness started turning into self-hatred. The more I failed, the more I felt like rejected by God. My question was, I am genuinely trying to obey His tenants, why is he letting me fail?

It was a never ending cycle of self-righteousness, arrogance, pride, self-pettiness and depression.

I don't want to go there anymore. I am learning to live from the Life within. I want to to be internally driven, not externally. There are no abilities residing in my flesh to live a righteous Christian life, so I leave it to Jesus who lives in me. I am going to trust Him to do it for me, through me. After all, he has called us to a rest (Sabbath rest), not to a struggle.