Deut. 31:6 - "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."
It is a good day to be sitting in the computer library. It is quiet, and I am able to relax after teaching my first class of the day. In fact, I am able to rest, really rest, while I patiently wait for the next two classes (at 12:30 and 1:55). My day ends early, and while I am usually very tired by the end of the day, I am thankful that I have a nice break in between classes. I am able to prepare for my afternoon, work on my own school work for Regent, or just blog, like I am doing now. I miss my downtime each day, and I would prefer to teach afternoons only. But this is the schedule I was offered, and this is the schedule I have until December 11, 2015. I can do this, I can make it through to the end, and I can keep my attitude up (positive). The Lord goes before me, and He has promised that He would never leave me nor forsake me. I can trust Him, rest in His authority and sufficiency, and I can rely on His provision. He is good, so very good to me.
It is a good day, such a good day. Today, I am thankful that the Lord has considered my needs, and that He knows exactly what I can and cannot handle. I am praying for my colleagues today, those who are taking exams (tomorrow and Friday), and who are struggling right now, panicking over the details, and filled with anxiety regarding their performance. I know that while I wish I were with them right now, sitting along side of them as we end our time at Regent University, I am well aware that the Lord determined my time, my timing, and that He chose for me to delay my exams until spring when I will be finished and have more time to be rested, to be refreshed, and to be ready to take and pass them. It is such a major hurdle, something that comes at the end of a very long road. My colleagues, several of them, have fought "tooth and nail" to get to this point, and for a number of them, they have no real assurance that they will pass their exams. They are trusting in their own strength, and while they are praying for the Lord to cover them, the truth remains that they are going into this last phase of PhD study without any confidence that they will pass.
It is different for me, and I don't mean to say this as though I am prideful or arrogant, but rather I simply state a truth, and leave it at that. My relationship with the Lord is different, and well, it is deeply personal. I know Him and He knows me. I have a number of colleagues who are in the exact same relationship as I am -- they are wholly devoted, completely dependent on Him, and are resting and trusting in Him to see them through this last "hurrah!" But, then I have some colleagues whose faith is not the substance of all that they do; rather it is a part of who they are, but they rely mostly on their brains, their own abilities, and their strength to see things through. They believe that if they succeed, then the Lord was with them. If they fail, then they believe He was not. The problem with this mindset is that it suggests a relationship with God that is predicated on His distance and not closeness. Let me explain...
Theism or Deism
The real issue is whether or not you believe it is possible to have a personal relationship with God. For some Christians, the idea of having a personal relationship with God seems at odds with the creedal religion they believe in. You see, for many so-called Christians, their worldview suggests that God exists, and that He is indeed the creator of the universe, but that after the creative act, He simply abandoned His creation to meet its fate (marred by sin and the consequences of that sin). Other Christians maintain that God does exist, that He is personally active in the universe, and that He does care about His creation. These two positions represent the belief of Deism and Theism. Neither are representative of Historic Christianity, but both views are categorically present in the 21st century, and are radically invested in the worldview of many people who identify with Christianity.
Historic Christianity asserts that God created the universe and that He actively is involved in the affairs of His creation. Furthermore, Christianity is based upon the teachings and works of Jesus. Jesus, the anointed One, came from God as Savior of the World. As the "Christ," He died on a cross, was buried, was resurrected to physical life. During His life, He performed many miracles as verified by eyewitnesses, and He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Son of Man and the Son Of God. What's more, Christianity holds the view that as part of the redemption process, God desires for His creation to have a personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. The person who follows the teachings of Christ is called a Christian. Therefore, Christianity teaches:
- There is only one God in all existence
- God is a Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
- Jesus Christ is God in flesh
- Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone
- Jesus died on the cross and He rose from the dead in a glorified, physical body
One of the differences between Protestant and Catholic belief is the necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus that is predicated upon the teachings and works of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. Interpretation of belief is subjective, so I don't mean to demean or suggest that someone is not sincere in their belief because this is not my place. I am simply stating a difference of interpretation between two belief systems, Protestantism and Catholicism. There are differences between these two religions, primarily in the theology of salvation and the status and/or role of Mary (Jesus' historic mother).
Matt Slick, author of Carm.org, states that the main differences between the two belief systems is:
- In Protestantism, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone without the contribution of works.
- In Catholicism, salvation is attained through baptism, keeping the commandments, and participation in the sacraments.
I read this all the time -- how Catholics do not have a personal relationship with Christ, but that they have a personal relationship with the teachings of Christ and the emblems of Christian ordinances. I am not going to make a brash statement against my Catholic brothers and sisters saying that they are not involved personally with Jesus, but there is some truth in this statement. The intention is upon the occasion of the involvement, and by that I mean, whether the follower of Christ is connected spiritually to Him on "occasion" or on a "permanent basis." To me, it is like sitting in a darkened room. There is a light switch on the wall, and when we desire light, we switch it on. In a similar way, many people who identify as Christian approach their faith relationship in this way -- they flip the switch on when they need a spiritual connection. They may be "Sunday Christians" or they many flip the switch intermittently whenever they encounter hardship, difficultly, or challenge in life. The flow of life that comes from Christ is always "on" but unless we flip the switch and then keep it on all the time, we will find that much of our life is spent in the darkness while we attempt to locate the switch again.
I know this may seem simple, but I believe it is the type of relationship many, if not most, Christians experience. It is religion-infused-spiritually that is predicated on obedience to creeds, ritual, and connection with spiritual things such as communion (the Lord's supper) or other feasts and festivals. According to Carm.org, many Catholics are apostates. Apostates are individuals who have fallen away from the roots of historic Christianity. This state suggests that there is a denial of the tenants of Christian faith or there is the "addition" of requirements to belief in order to "attain" religious status.
The sad part in all of this is that in the 21st century, the average Christ follower, generally has a mish-mash of belief all rolled into what they consider Christian faith. They may profess a personal relationship with the Authentic and Historic Jesus, but they may deny miracles. They may believe in the Historic Jesus, but may deny His involvement through revealed revelation in their life. They may choose to embrace elements of deism or even theism, but not accept the authority of scripture as to the truth of the Gospel. They may infuse religious practice, the keeping of ordinances, with faith life. They may live as though this world is all that there is, and they may envision heaven as some idea rather than a physical place.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 records Paul's encouragement to believers as they consider future events, timings, and the return of Christ. Paul addresses the false belief that said that Jesus had already returned, and he writes to remind the brothers and sisters living in Thessaloniki to wait patiently for the great apostasy which is coming prior to the Lord's return.
"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."There is currently a great apostasy occurring within the Church today. Many people who profess Christ do so with mixed understanding of the truth of Christianity. They simply do not know what it is that they believe, and as such, they are living under the false impression that they are either saved or that they must keep rules, regulations, and religious creeds in order to be saved (permanently).
I believe that one of the reasons why many people profess faith in Christ initially and then fall away is the fact that they are either told that their faith in Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation (Works) OR that once they come to faith in Christ, they must keep an impossible list of behaviors in order to remain saved (Legalism). These two things along with the secularization of our culture have led many people astray. They have infused true doctrine with apostate belief, and as a result, they have served to drive people away from Christ. The problem is that this phenomenon has been occurring since the time of Christ's death. Is salvation through faith in Christ's death, burial, and Resurrection enough? Or must works such as baptism be added as demonstration of belief? In some churches it is taught that before a person can be saved, they must be baptized for salvation to be accepted. There is much debate on this point, on the efficacy of baptism, and whether it is necessary. The problem with these ordinances (the Lord's Supper, confession, etc.) is that the dependency upon them "adds" something to the sufficiency of Christ's atonement. Is His death not enough? Must we do more than accept His free gift?
In the last days, there will be much apostasy. Many people with tenuous faith -- faith predicated on rules and obedience to rules -- will find that they are struggling against the powers of the world, the systems, and the belief that are intent to extinguish the flame of Christianity. Therefore, the way to endure, to remain strong until the end, is to grasp the significance of a personal relationship rather than a personal religion. Religion is an "organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods" (Merriam-Webster). Christianity is the belief in the teaching and works of a person, the person of Jesus Christ. While there are certain ordinances that are associated with Christian faith, symbolic representations of spiritual attributes of faith (such as communion, feet washing, baptism, confession, etc.) these are not "required" for salvation, but rather for building community with other believers.
Therefore, it is vitally necessary for the man or woman who has trust in Jesus for their salvation to know and to recognize what that faith represents. A quick assessment of faith will either determine that it is predicated upon religious adherence to principles or upon a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-25 NKJV